Authors and Book Reviews  

April 10 - 17, 2000


 Coastweek   Kenya

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Coastweek - - One of these 'names' was alive and well and living in Ireland.

In 1941 Gouldbourn had acted as this officer's escort, during his court martial in Nairobi.

Because he had been the youngest officer in uniform, clemency had been exercised.

Had he been older he would have been shot for colluding with the enemy; I was told, that this anonymous fellow, was vital to further research.

Faced with this needle in a haystack situation, I did not know where to turn next.

Luckily, I happened to be lunching with the Peter Lydon the film director that week, whose documentary about Peter Sellers, was acclaimed.

We hoped he would direct a documentary on the Erroll mystery too.

Peter consulted his Irish telephone directory and produced two alternative numbers.

I have to confess that when I dialled those numbers it was with a thumping heart.

Even if this 'contact' turned out to be the right person, I feared that I might easily scare him off.

His wife answered, calling out the man's Christian name (-Ah - correct): Her Irish brogue was pure McCourt, instructing, "Hold On."

As if nurturing second thoughts she demanded:

"Why, do you want to talk to him ?"

I was researching for a book set during the Second World War in Kenya where I also lived, I explained and since her husband had been stationed in Nairobi I knew that he might be able to help me, according to one of his brother officers.

The result of this brief exchange produced a corres-pondence which continues today.

At first, my contact had tried to fob me off with the same old 'Happy Valley' theme; when I stood my ground, he admitted eventually that he had been in 'counter-intelligence'.

Generously allowing me to use his cover name, in the narrative S.P.J. O'Mara agreed, 'so that those who are still alive and sufficiently interested, would recognise me as bonafide.'

Even so, the most astonishing contact of all was yet to come and was also another total stranger.

A Kenya born woman, Anthea Venning, had responded to an advertisement which the editor of a magazine, 'The Overseas Pensioner' had kindly placed for me, inviting readers to come forward with photographs or anecdotes about Lord Erroll, for my biography.

Only after corresponding for months, upon meeting her face to face, did I discover that she was sister of Eleanor Fazan, the choreographer.

It so happened that Eleanor had been a dear friend of mine for some twenty years and yet our friendship had focused on dance and theatre even though I knew that Eleanor Fazan had been born in Kenya, I had no idea that she had several sisters.

It was through Anthea Venning, that I was to meet Tony Trafford, the man who provided me with an astonishingly detailed information of a highly secret exercise to eradicate the Earl of Erroll, known as 'Operation Highland Clearance'.

Tony Trafford told me about the 'hit' but as the exercise was highly complex and impossible to follow verbally, he put in writing all that he knew about the killing.

We had spent a day discussing the murder in Old Portsmouth and afterwards, I had imagined that he would post to me a dozen pages of sketchy detail.

Instead he provided me with some 25, 000 words, revealing also that an entirely separate team of people, retired government servants in some cases, had been brought out of mothballs so as to work on a separate agenda, under cover and behind the conventional police investigation of the murder in 1941. 




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