Lord Lucan launched my (brief) media career

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Since watching ITV’s “Lucan”, the unedifying saga of Lord Lucan’s gambling, marital disharmony, (alleged) blundering murder of his children’s nanny and mysterious disappearance, I’ve been tracing how this scandal set off a chain of events which led as far as Toot Rock.

When, in 1976, Private Eye suggested that Sir James Goldsmith had some part in Lucan’s escape from justice, Goldsmith responded with an armada of writs which threatened to bankrupt not only the magazine but also its then-editor Richard Ingrams.

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Although the case was dropped, Ingrams was out-of-pocket so Fay Godwin, who had a  house at Toot Rock, suggested he write the text for a book she planned to produce about Romney Marsh. (They had met while she was photographing for her book on The Ridgeway.)

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Richard stayed at Toot Rock while writing and I was asked to suggest some themes he might investigate.

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When the book was finally published in 1980, I appeared in a shockingly frank image on p21.

This is me below. A record shot. I recall the day well enough – it was in the days when we used to have cold winters, so much of Pett Pools were frozen over. Fay was so engrossed in taking the photo that appears on p25 that she didn’t hear my approach, my footsteps muffled by the snow, so when I said hello she jumped and gave a startled yelp. In fact the picture she was taking at that point probably ended as a blur, that on p25 no doubt taken once she had regained her composure.

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For a couple of years after this, on the basis of my identification in the book, I got occasional calls from researchers wanting to do Yet Another programme about Romney Marsh. They only ever wanted to do the same old stuff, sadly never wanting me to star in a Panama hat or follow in Thorndike’s footsteps on a penny-farthing bicycle.

Later, the Ingrams bought Toot Rise and once they got divorced in the early 90s, Mary lived there for some years with her Pekingese dogs, throwing some memorable champagne-fuelled parties. At that point Toot Rise was a humble small dwelling of interwar origins but has now been eradicated in favour of a Grand Design.

The chain of events continues, some parts of it more fully narrated elsewhere.

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There’s another Pett Level link to Lucan’s coterie: Arthur Spencer Roberts,who lived at The Haddocks till it fell into the sea and then at The Boat House, decorated the drawing-room of Port Lympne House in 1985 with a mural of SE Asian wildlife for John Aspinall (alleged to have been the architect of Lucan’s disappearance). Arthur had had a colourful life and was an accomplished wildlife artist but I am not clear how Aspinall came to commission his work.

4 Responses to “Lord Lucan launched my (brief) media career”

  1. Hey Cliff, I always knew that you associated with some pretty cool and high-powered people, but Lord Lucan…… hang on perhaps I didn’t read this post thoroughly…?
    (Wow – a fascinating anecdote!)

    • No, you didn’t read it thoroughly, Phil. I never met Lord Lucan. I am neither wealthy nor an aristocrat. I come from Sidcup. And, before you ask, I don’t know where he is.

      • Phil & Lyndsay Says:

        Mmm… That’s what you say Cliff.
        I wonder about the strange social phenomenon of all these aristocrats becoming interested in animals and wild life in the 1930s, 40s and 50s: Aspinall, Gerald Durrell, T.H. White.. etc. Was there some eccentric nature-loving Tutor at Eton or what??

      • You implying there’s something “eccentric” about loving Nature? Three people in as many decades is hardly a mass movement, though your theory may repay further investigation.

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