A story about a criminal poaching adventure by a local Henley man, Robert Atkinson has been published on the 20th anniversary of his death. His son, Ed Atkinson who also lives in Henley said, “This is a great tribute to my Dad. He wrote up his adventure of poaching a stag but never put it forward for publication as it was an admission of criminal activity. Only close family knew about this and my family bequeathed me the stag’s head that was in the family house attic which is hung up in my hallway.”
A Stag from Rum tells the entertaining account of when Robert and his university friends; John Naish and Hugh LeLacheur undertook a dare to poach a stag from the then privately owned Hebrides island, Rum. Ed continued, “The year was 1938 and Rum had a reputation like a fortress island from a James Bond novel, such was the guarding employed by the hunting estate. What more invitation would a group of English University friend’s need?” The story tells of their challenging quest from hiring a boat which sunk into the sand, to hiring a rifle and poaching the stag which none of the three had any idea of what to do, to finding a taxidermist to stuff the stag’s head. The book also contains some brilliant photos which capture the ‘criminal’ adventure.
Robert was born in 1915, grew up on a dairy farm in Checkendon (now the Equestrian Centre) and then in Rocky Lane, Rotherfield Greys. He studied Botany at Cambridge where he met John and Hugh. After graduating he returned to the Hebrides for many summers and was hired as a photographer by an art college in Scotland. In the years before WW2 he travelled throughout the islands, reaching even the remotest of the uninhabited outliers. As an escape from the stresses of wartime he wrote both Island Going and A Stag from Rum while on active service in the Royal Navy Reserves. The former became a travel classic and is still in print while A Stag from Rum lay unknown and unread until just before his death in 1995.
A Stag from Rum by Robert Atkinson has been published by The Islands Book Trust and is available to buy for £7.99 from www.theislandsbooktrust.com