Scots adventurer was never a spy, reveals widow

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HE WAS one of Scotland’s last great adventurers - a warrior poet who was reputed to have been the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s legendary secret agent, James Bond.

Sir Fitzroy Maclean, who died in 1996, was the epitome of the fearless, intrepid hero - a diplomat, politician, author, historian, traveller and soldier who helped found the Special Air Service.

But his widow, Lady Veronica Maclean of Dunconnel, has now spoken publicly to deny continued speculation that her husband was ever a spy.

The claims that Sir Fitzroy was involved in espionage began after he was parachuted into Yugoslavia in 1943 with Sir Winston Churchill’s orders to "find out who’s killing the most Germans, and how we can help them kill more". As commander of the British military mission to the partisans, he became a personal friend of the late Yugoslavian leader Marshall Tito.

The Soviets later assumed he was a spy because he travelled extensively throughout Central Asia without a permit.

But in an interview, to be broadcast tomorrow on BBC Radio Scotland, Lady Veronica defiantly states that while "Fitz" revelled in the idea that he had provided the template for 007, he had never been a spy himself.

She states: "He used to love that rumour. He enjoyed it very much. We always had a travelling vodka set wherever we went, and that was very Bond-like. But Fitzroy was never a spy.

"We did once take on a spy journey on the south coast of Turkey, but Fitz’s job then was simply the job of an ex-soldier, to see if there were good places where British forces could rally. So we motored all the way along in a secret Jeep, with a real spy. I loved it. I was wildly excited."

Lady Veronica also reveals that Sir Fitzroy, like Bond, had "an eye for the ladies and was very, very brave" but was scarred by his experiences behind enemy lines during the war: "If there was a noise in the night that woke him, he’d roll out of bed with his hands in a defensive position."

Lady Veronica, 82, tells her interviewer, Edi Stark, that she did not regret the loss of the Lovat-Fraser ancestral home, Beaufort Castle, in Inverness-shire, which was sold to the bus tycoon Ann Gloag in 1995.

She says: "At the time we were all very saddened. It seemed so final. As it’s worked out, it hasn’t been so final because it was sold to a very remarkable lady who is a quarter Fraser."

Sir Fitzroy, who died at the age of 84, entered the diplomatic service, serving in both Moscow and Paris, after being educated at Eton and Cambridge.

He enlisted as a private in the Cameron Highlanders in 1941 but, following his promotion to lieutenant, he was one of the first officers to be recruited by David Stirling to join the unit that was to become the SAS.

Following his deployment to Yugoslavia, Sir Fitzroy convinced Churchill’s War Cabinet to back Tito’s partisans. He then went back into Yugoslavia to fight alongside them in the mountains. After the war, Sir Fitzroy, who was made a baronet in 1957, became the Conservative MP for Bute and North Ayrshire.

• Stark Talk, featuring Lady Veronica, will be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland tomorrow at 11:30 am.