Tributes pour in for this great man but it is fitting that just as his death marks and end of a venerated British Institution, his secret passion is flourishing and may be the best legacy of his life. Beavers are finally returning to Britain.
And the story of beavers in Britain looks like a script for a future film; this battle of cinematic proportions is breaking out as we speak to save these beavers form the dark forces of dominion and insidious privilege that Sir Richard so detested.
Many of Sir Richard’s most ardent admirers are today mourning his parting, but the many who understand his beaver obsession are preparing to do battle in the British countryside and stop the dark forces about to be unleashed upon the beavers in an attempt to remove them from the riverbanks of Devon’s river Otter.
Sir Richard, though not immediately taken by the profound story of the beaver was fascinated by his mother’s and brother David’s (the famous conservationist and BBC wildlife presenter) captivation by the speech of Grey Owl they saw as children in the 1930’s, later so beautifully shown in the film Grey Owl, portrayed by Pierce Brosnan. Grey Owl brought to light the plight of the beaver and how whole ecosystems would collapse without the beaver to manage the water ways of Canada, just as they collapsed when we hunted the beaver to extinction in Britain and Europe.
“Not surprisingly, Dave's memories of Grey Owl's lecture are very different to my own. He was bowled over by the man's determination to save the beaver, by his profound knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Canadian wilderness and by his warnings of ecological disaster should the delicate balance between them be destroyed. The idea that mankind was endangering nature by recklessly despoiling and plundering its riches was unheard of at the time, but it is one that has remained part of Dave's own credo to this day.”
Sir Richard’s mother was equally taken by Grey Owl and after his death after he was exposed as Archie Balaney, and said this of him:
"His identity doesn't matter a damn," she, who never uttered an oath, said firmly. "The only important thing is what he came to tell us."
The great actor and directors life has demonstrated a hidden obsession with beavers and their positive virtues.
His London home he called the beaver lodge, where he lived from 1949 until October 2012, in Richmond Green in London (only leaving due to his failing health)
His production company, Beaver films, is renowned for some of the greatest cinematic works in the history of film.
Once Sir Richard’s career was established he sort out a retreat to write his films in solitude, again his obsession came to the fore when he purchased Rhubodach estate on the Isle of Bute. His office was known as the beavery, in the castle, famed because of the old Duke’s love of beaver, who built a ‘beavery’ in the grounds when her tried to reintroduce beavers.
Sir Richard’s greatest work was carried out in the beavery overlooking the real beavery, sadly devoid of beavers. But the island has seen the possible return of the beaver with the nearby Knappdale beaver reintroduction project. One beaver was found washed up and it may not be long before beavers once again surround the castle and its grounds and the nearby beavely hills.
Sir Richard’s life is a model of hard work and dedication to all that is best in humanity & the arts. We must try to live up to his example to continuously ‘beaver away’, never giving up, if we are to create a better world. The story of the beavers obsessed Sir Richard, just as it has obsessed so many conservationists including myself, we must never give up in our quest to rewild the countryside and bring back the functioning ecosystem that beaver, and other keystone animals, can bring about.
The one project Sir Richard never completed was his life-long ambition to make a film about his hero Thomas Paine, whom he called "one of the finest men that ever lived". He said in an interview that "I could understand him. He wrote in simple English. I found all his aspirations - the rights of women, the health service, universal education... Everything you can think of that we want is in Rights of Man or The Age of Reason or Common Sense”.
Not surprisingly Thomas Pain was an advocate of Land Value Tax, the collection of publicly created rent and its fundamental importance to abolishing poverty. This interestingly is the economic model I propose that would save all the wildlife of Britain and help foster the return of the beaver, although I do not know if Sir Richard ever made this connection between the economics of land, wildlife and the betterment of society.
Good bye Sir Richard, A life well lived & thank you for all your hard work.