Tom Peterkin: ‘Lord of Fun’ was a great sport

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LORD Fraser of Carmyllie was a guinea a minute. He was also an accomplished skier. I know, because over 30 years ago he once guided me down a treacherous slope (Cairn Aosda, Glenshee) in the foulest conditions imaginable.

In horizontal hail and on a slope that, to me, resembled a vertical ice rink, I tentatively followed his immaculate stem Christie turns. Stopping occasionally to pick me up after yet another fall, the MP for Angus got a rather scared boy off the hill.

Lucky enough to be a Fraser family friend, I knew a man who was patience itself with young people and was always keen to see them get on in life.

Perhaps that was why he agreed to help me some time later when I had started working for a press agency that filed freelance copy to the major Scottish newspapers.

Around that time one of his eccentric sporting chums got hold of some luminous golf balls from America.

These tended to be produced on a smart golf course in the Carnoustie area as dusk fell. The devices, which flew like glowing tracer bullets, meant that winter rounds could be completed in the dark.

The extension of the golfing day meant there was no need to skimp on lunch in the clubhouse.

The fact that the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Lords was playing “night golf” struck me as something that might make a few bob for the agency.

Gamely, Peter agreed to help what is laughingly described as my career by being photographed on the 18th green after nightfall clutching some glow-in-the-dark balls.

The quote he gave me for my article on this craze for “night golf” was pure P. Fraser. “My lissom and willowy swing is more in evidence in pitch darkness than during the day,” he said.

Back in the office, I wrote what I thought was an erudite piece. I compared modern “night golf” to a round played after darkness in 1876. The St Andrews professional Davie Strath was bet that he could not play the Old Course in under 100 strokes. Strath went round in 95 guided by the light of the moon.

Over the weekend, my efforts were duly sent to the Scottish daily papers. Gratifyingly, reputable newspapers like the Scotsman, ran the piece in full with the photo.

The tabloid press, however, were less sympathetic with their sub-editing. All mention of the historical vignette involving Davie Strath that I had unearthed was taken out.

What’s more, on the flight down to Westminster on the Monday, Peter casually picked up a red-top paper.

“Loopy Lord Plays With His Balls at Night” ran the headline.

Thankfully for me, Peter was a terrific sport. His sense of the ridiculous was as highly developed as his intellect. Despite his exalted position in public life, he was the unstuffiest person and time spent in his company was never anything other than fun...fun...fun.