Love of Scotland inspires Vegas tycoon to leave fortune to National Trust
Published 05/01/2011 | 10:46
He may never have visited the fabled land of his ancestors, but for one reclusive millionaire living out his days in the heat of the Nevada desert, the Scotland he loved remained locked in a time capsule – a Brigadoon of windswept castles, skirling bagpipes and lassies in tartan bonnets.
A retired investor by the name of William Roberts Lindsay, who never married and whose closest friends were his barber and his pet pug, bequeathed his entire estate to the cash-strapped National Trust for Scotland (NTS) before shooting himself at his home in Henderson, near Las Vegas, in November.
The amount bequeathed by the curious 79-year-old donor is expected to at least match an earlier gift of $4m (£2.5m) he gave the charity just 18 months ago.
Fundraising consultant Johanna Gurland, who works for the NTS in the United States, said that Mr Lindsay's conception of Scotland was one very much of the imagination rather than real-life experience. "Like many Americans he had a fantasy of Scotland based on the movie Brigadoon and not too much else," she said. Brigadoon was a hit post-war Broadway stage musical from the creators of My Fair Lady, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, which later became a film starring Gene Kelly. It tells of two Americans out hunting who discover a Scottish village which, along with its inhabitants, emerges mysteriously from the mist for just one day every 100 years.
"It was many many generations ago but with a name like Lindsay that was where he came from," Ms Gurland said. "I think he was very fond of his idea of Scotland and for him it was the image of the country and the buildings and particularly the castles. His first question to me when I showed him pictures of Scotland was always, 'How old is it?'"
A decade ago Mr Lindsay donated £1.2m to fund the William R Lindsay chair in public health at Glasgow University – but only after another Scottish seat of learning had turned him down, believing him to be a crank.
Mr Lindsay moved to the desert from Los Angeles when he retired in his mid-50s to make the most of the climate and the low tax regime. A fan of politics and history, he had met Dwight Eisenhower while a student, and was fascinated by the former US President's passion for holidaying at Culzean Castle in Ayrshire.
Mr Lindsay had been ill. His body was discovered by his friend and barber, Elton Marvin, to whom he left his dog Midget. "If you saw him on the street, you wouldn't think he had a dime," Mr Marvin said.
"He left me a bunch of treats and a couple of bags of food and a vet bill. As far as monetary, no, nothing at all. I love the dog, but so far it's cost me about $300. The folks in Scotland are doing all right."
The NTS has been in the grip of a major financial crisis and was forced to sell its Edinburgh headquarters and lay off 45 staff amid claims it was on the verge of collapse.