“Bond island” buyout confirmed for Great Bernera

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A HEBRIDEAN island once owned by a count said to have helped inspire the character of James Bond is to be purchased in a community buyout.

Robin de La Lanne-Mirrlees, a multilingual Scottish aristocrat with a reputation for globetrotting and womanising, worked with Ian Fleming on the 1963 Bond novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

He was said to have inspired much of 007’s personality and heritage, and is even credited with authoring his notorious motto: “The world is not enough.”

The eccentric count retired to the 8.1 square mile island of Great Bernera after buying it in 1962, remaining there until his death in 2012.

Great and little Bernera 2
The island was owned by a man said to have helped inspire Ian Fleming’s most famous creation

 

Now, after the remote island’s 252-strong community voted overwhelmingly to buy the land, they have secured £100,000 from the Scottish Land Fund to buy the idyllic estate from the count’s grandson.

Great Bernera originally put itself on the map in 1874, after island crofters rebelled against rent hikes and evictions.

The residents went to court to win their case, spurring developments in land reform across Scotland.

Robin de La Lanne-Mirrlees, a descendant of King Louis Philippe I of France and godson of the 11th Duke of Argyll, acquired the island in 1962 without ever having laid eyes on it.

The count was a long-time friend of Bond author Ian Fleming, with Fleming consulting him on various aspects of the MI6 agent’s fictional heritage.

In the 1963 novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 007’s cover as “Sir Hilary Bray” was based on Count Robin’s then position as a heraldic researcher at the College of Arms in London.

And the Oxford educated Count Robin also worked on a book with Fleming, outlining Bond’s genealogy.

He is even widely credited with authoring the Bond family motto, “The world is not enough”, which went on to be the basis for the 1999 film starring Pierce Brosnan.

But Count Robin’s role as the inspiration for Bond seems to run deeper, and many speculate that his womanising ways laid the foundation for Bond’s notorious romantic prowess.

The count was linked to several beautiful women including Fiona Campbell-Walker, a top model who married Baron Thyssen, one of the richest men in Europe.

He lived on the island for much of the latter part of his life, adopting a Buddhist faith and opposing Sunday ferries on the grounds that one day of the week should be reserved for quiet reflection.

The count died in 2012, with the island passing to his grandson, Cyran de la Lanne.

The family recently indicated that they were willing to sell to the island’s 252 inhabitants, and in March the community voted overwhelmingly in favour of the buyout.

Now the Scottish Land Fund has agreed to provide £100,000 towards the purchase of the estate.

Tom Macdonald, chairman of the community development trust, hailed the securing of the grant as a success.

He said: “That we are so close, with this grant, to achieving ownership is a tribute to the work of local residents.

“This completes the circle of land reform. It started here on Bernera, so it’s satisfying to see that the present residents can benefit from the acts of our predecessors.

“We hope that our actions now will be of similar significance for the future and will kick-start the social and economic regeneration of the Bernera community.”

Minister for land reform Aileen McLeod said: “These communities have developed their own plans for their local land which ranges from estates to small key pieces of land that will help them to transform their communities and bring a host of benefits – economic, social and environmental.

Scottish Land Fund chair John Watt added: “Today marks a significant milestone for these remote island communities.

“With its latest support of two large island estate buyouts, the Scottish Land Fund has now helped put the majority of Lewis on to the path of community ownership.”

Scotland has a long history of links with the Bond franchise.

The literary character of James Bond was born to a Scottish father and educated at the prestigious Fettes College in Edinburgh.

The most recent film, Skyfall, also staged a dramatic finale at a fictional Scottish lodge, and filmed in various locations around the country.

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