Scotland

Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor's archive opened to the public

Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor and Dirk Bogarde Image copyright NLS
Image caption Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor and film star Dirk Bogarde

A lifetime of diaries, letters and photographs of a man described as a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene has opened to the public.

The archive of travel writer, war hero and adventurer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor has been catalogued by the National Library of Scotland.

The collection includes letters from Prince Charles and Truman Capote.

Sir Patrick, who was known as Paddy, died in 2011 at the age of 96.

He published several books on his travels around the world and one of the most prized items in the archive is the only surviving notebook from his 1933 trek across Europe.

Image copyright NLS
Image caption Sir Patrick's passport from his European trek

The trek provided the material for his most famous books, 'A Time of Gifts', 'Between the Woods and the Water' and 'The Broken Road'.

Thousands of items which occupy 16 metres of shelving took a year to be catalogued by library staff.

Along with letters from notable 20th century figures they also uncovered literary manuscripts, sketches and what appears to be an unpublished John Betjeman poem on the back of an envelope.

Sir Patrick spent much of World War Two on Nazi-occupied Crete. During his time there he disguised himself as a shepherd to organise guerrilla operations against the Nazis. He led one of the most daring feats of the war in 1944, capturing the commander of the German garrison on Crete.

Image copyright NLS
Image caption Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor in Greece in 1946

The 1957 film starring Dirk Bogarde 'Ill Met by Moonlight' was based on the operation.

Graham Stewart, the library curator who worked on the archive project, said: "It is a history of the colourful life of a celebrated writer. He was undoubtedly a superstar of his day and his books have, if anything, grown in popularity over the years.

"There has already been a lot of interest in the archive and we expect this to increase now among Leigh Fermor fans and people interested in the 20th century more generally."

The library is working on digitising some of the archive so it can be viewed on its website. They are also considering holding exhibitions and displays of the collection so more people will be able to see it.

The archive was given to the library by the John R Murray Charitable Trust. John Murray was Sir Patrick's publisher and the trust also supported the cataloguing of the collection.

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