A BILLIONAIRE West End theatre producer has launched a bid to trace the identity of an old west coast fisherman he was photographed with over 60 years ago.
Sir Cameron Mackintosh is desperately trying to track down the fisherman, who he was pictured with in his youth in Mallaig, which has since become his Highland hideaway.
Sir Cameron is even offering a bottle of fine whisky to anybody who can identify the old seadog - because it is among his earliest recorded memories of the place he loves.
“I would love to find out if anyone recognises the old fisherman with me in the accompanying picture. It is the oldest photograph I have got of me on the West Coast,” said Sir Cameron.
“A bottle of good whisky is the reward for the first person who can successfully identify him!”
The entertainments mogul revealed that some of his earliest performance experiences towards him becoming the first Briton from the world of show business to become a billionaire were sown in his beloved Mallaig.
But the 68-year-old theatre impresario admitted he almost brought the house down for the wrong reason when attending his first shows in the fishing port.
He had to be taken out because he could not stop laughing at traditional unaccompanied singing, known as Mouth Music, which is often performed in Gaelic.
Sir Cameron owes his vast fortune to the spectacular success of musicals such as Les Misérables, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon.
But Sir Cameron, who grew up in Enfield, London, said that among the earliest shows he was taken to were in Mallaig - where he now owns an estate.
He said that his aunts and grandmother first brought him to the area - where his father Robert was born - in 1953 when he was just six years old “on the romantic night sleeper from Kings Cross.”
“My early memories of Mallaig was of a bustling sea port filled with the smell of fish with masses of trawler and seagulls and grand puffing steam engines being turned on a great turntable so they could return south,” said Sir Cameron.
He also remembered visits to Morar Sands where he made “endless” sand castles.
But candidly Sir Cameron added:”In the evening I would often be taken by the family to concerts at the Old Village Hall......
“Concerts at the Old hall often featured traditional unaccompanied Mouth Music, whose haunting beauty was completely unappreciated by a giggling six year old who often had to be taken out choking with suppressed laughter.”
Sir Cameron also recounted other childhood joys of the area, which he says has a great future with new investment and “one of the top” High Schools in Scotland.
“Ironically the bygone era of the steam train, partly thanks to Harry Potter, has come roaring back bringing great new crowds of visitors to the area, yachting is on the up and everywhere tourism has replaced herring as one of Mallaig’s major attractions,” he wrote.
“Miraculously nothing has changed in Loch Nevis, though thankfully there are more lights and people in the loch - its beauty remains timeless...
“Mallaig however has changed hugely and mostly for the better.
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“There can’t be many Highland villages that are as robust and self-sufficient as Mallaig (and its romantic neighbour Morar). Hopefully the recently announced Highland Council budgeting cut backs will not force any of these valuable facilities to close.
“The word is out that Mallaig is thriving and it is a great reflection on the self sufficiency of people who live here that they have refused to let it slide along with the EU quotas.”
According to the Sunday Times Rich List, Mackintosh’s personal wealth increased by £175 million in 2013 to reach £1 billion.
Miss Saigon is now the world’s longest running musical and has been staged in 300 cities across the globe in 15 different languages.
Through his company, Sir Cameron owns seven London theatres - the Prince of Wales, Gielgud, Queen’s, Wyndham’s, Noël Coward, Novello and Prince Edward, all of which he is renovating at a cost of £40m.
Sir Cameron has been a great benefactor to Mallaig - as well, at times, a controversial figure.
His foundation has in the past donated £170,000 to the local area elderly care home - the Mackintosh Centre - £100,000 to build Mallaig Swimming Pool, £100,000 for the local surgery, £50,000 for Mallaig Lifeboat and land and other help.
Sir Cameron, who owns the Nevis Estate, also gave land for the Highland Council to build the 21-bed hostel for pupils from the Small Isles to attend the local High School.
In May, controversial plans by Sir Cameron to help revitalise Mallaig were unaminously approved by planners.
Councillors backed a recommendation to give the go-ahead to the £750,000 waterfront scheme - despite objections from local businesses - and praised the “excellent” design of the scheme, which had clearly not come out of a “Lego catalogue.”
A public meeting of more than 100 people was called in December by Mallaig Community Council in the wake of fears that that the tycoon may pull out of the project after being “deeply hurt” over claims that he was “wrecking” the village.
Sir Cameron has had past problems on his estate.
In 2011 arsonists torched the landowner’s 19-foot Orkney Fast Liner boat, with its 40-horsepower outboard engine, worth £20,000 at remote Tarbet on Loch Morar.
The arson attack came only weeks after a court ruled in the 13-year dispute between Sir Cameron and his crofting tenant, Donald Cameron, then 87.
Mr Cameron, along with many crofters in the remote community, opposed plans for a woodland regeneration project on the estate. The Scottish Land Court ruled in Sir Cameron’s favour. He was allowed to take 25 acres from his tenant’s holding - and part of the new development is on the disputed land.
In November 2000, Sir Cameron’s then holiday house on the shore of Loch Nevis was reduced to ashes in a mystery fire when nobody was at home. He has since built a £1.4million replacement mansion.
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