Home | Lineage and Birth | The early years. | Conrad the Mountee. | 23rd of August 1914 | Captivity Espionage and Escapes | Augustabad | Barry Bingham VC | Conrad meets M | Conrad Assistant Military Atache. | The ffrench Connection | The Last Tigerhunt. | The Archaeology of the Reich | From Intrigue and artifice to Art. | The names Ffrench, Conrad Ffrench. | Ian Fleming | The Black Ore of Death | An Evil Medium | Off the Chessboard. | Arbutus Point. | Conrad retires to the field | The Art of Conrad O'Brien-ffrench | The Quotient of Conjecture. | News and Gossip | Bookshop & Bibliography | Mailbag | Related Links | Contact Me

Conrad Fulke O'Brien-ffrench. Artist and Spy.

Arbutus Point.

"Goldfinger didn't take the bait....
Bond smiled. 'Oh that extra ten thousand dollars.
But I may need that if I decided to move to Canada.....' " *

St John postcard
Thanks to Gary Courthold-Miles old friends of obff
The original was hung in the Ministries Church at Loveland

Never again would he be able to act as a secret agent as he had been for MI6. He was a marked man and useless in any undercover operation against the Nazis. The Death List reproduced in Peter Fleming’s book Invasion 1940 was compiled at this time. Conrad’s name appears on it at number 28. Its inclusion was surely a nod to his former spymaster. Conrad settled his affairs in Britain and resigned from SIS. He then looked to finding a home for himself. He had long since decided that he would return to Canada to live. In March 1939, he sailed to New York on the Queen Mary and after a long leisurely journey he came again to British Columbia. Through friends, he was shown a property called Arbutus Point on Maple Bay overlooking the Pacific which came with a large plot of land. He bought it and proceeded to make it his own. But war was imminent and he had the intention of offering his services in some capacity when it finally broke out. He mentions meeting. During this time, he met Lord Martin Cecil. He was involved in the creation of spiritual movement with a Lloyd A. Meeker, the movement’s leader, who was called by them ‘Uranda’. The Ministries of Divine Light (also known as the Ontologists) were to become a crucial influence on Conrad. He recalls going to his first lecture by Uranda in Vancouver on 15 April 1940. He was intrigued and attracted by his lecture, and through subsequent correspondence and meetings with Cecil and Uranda, Conrad was drawn closer and closer to the movement.

When war came, Conrad made plans to return to London to seek some war work. He left Arbutus Point in the care of an old Finnish sailor, Fred Bjerkbom. Fred was quite a colourful character, full of yarns about the sea. These usually began in a seaport tavern with plenty of grog and a good fight to finish them off; they all seemed to end with Fred being carried drunk back aboard his ship just as it cast off. Conrad himself cast off on May 10th 1940 aboard the SS Scythia bound for England. Back in London, Parliament was having a sticky time dispensing with the services of the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, as Conrad took turns at submarine watch, his binoculars fixed on the horizon. Safely in London, he met Rudolfo again. He had been with King Leopold and had details of the actual facts behind the collapse of Belgium. He also said much of Hitler’s designs for the invasion of Britain, which later proved to be a true appraisal of the plans the Nazis had in place. MI6 were aware of his intelligence. It was pleasing for Conrad to see his friend and to know he was safe and still in the intelligence loop.

Conrad was offered a choice of jobs and accepted one as Inspecting Officer of Censorship. He had the whole of Scotland as his area. It involved inspecting firms and individuals who had applied for export permits to countries under the scrutiny of the British Wartime Censor. Scotsmen did not like having to open their ledgers to Government officials and Conrad spent much time smoothing ruffled feathers both before and after his investigations. The hours were long and there was no secretarial support, so he was up till the wee small hours typing and collating his reports. He says he worked every day for six months to bring the records up to date. From Maple Bay, he heard that Fred had suffered a stroke and was in hospital paralysed. He sent word that he was to be given anything he required. He was to learn later that Fred had requested a bottle of Champagne and that he had died in a very contented frame of mind.

Conrad was lodging in a village pub in East Kilbride in the hills to the east of Glasgow. Unknown to Conrad this was on the route the Luftwaffe flew when bombing the Clyde. On his first night he was roused at two in the morning by the wailing of air raid sirens – his first experience of an air raid. He leapt out of bed and hurriedly pulled his clothes on in the darkness, banging his head and skinning his shins in the process, only to find when he burst out onto the street that he was alone. The bombers were heading for Glasgow. The sky became streaked with tracers of the anti-aircraft batteries and the air was filled with the deafening reports of bombs as Glasgow suffered another raid.

He was in many air raids after this. One of the worst occurred while he was in South Kensington visiting an American Ambulance Corps. It was one of the worst raids on the capital of the war. He says the house jumped and rocked as the bombs fell, plaster falling from the ceiling and causing general panic in the room. After the raid in East Kilbride, he disdained the dugout shelter in the basement. He reasoned he would rather die outright than be slowly buried under the wreckage of the house had it suffered a direct hit.

“I remained seated in my chair, unswayed by the human emotion rampant about me, coldly and determinedly preserving my sense of identity. I felt I must at all costs not become subject to the hell that was set loose around me.” (DM p. 208)

Radiating a stoic self assurance he sat calmly in his chair. A young nurse called Crookie crawled to where he sat and held his hand and was comforted as the raid did its worst. A few months later, he was caught in another raid in Edinburgh and stepped into a doorway to avoid falling shrapnel. In the reflected light from the searchlights he saw he shared the doorway with a girl wearing the uniform of the American Ambulance Corps. “Alright, alright, it’s only me!” said Crookie. He hoped they might not meet under these circumstances every time. They became friends, but despite Conrad’s impulses they were never to become lovers.

In April 1941, Conrad was summoned to London by his boss and given new orders. He was to go to Trinidad as an Imperial Censor. He decided to go by way of Arbutus Point to see all was well after Fred had died. He sailed aboard a whaler this time. A few days out, they heard news of the sinking of the Bismarck; it was May 27th 1941. Arbutus Point was in very good order. He met Martin Cecil and continued his conversations about the Ministries. It was just after Pearl Harbour, when, in early 1942, he eventually made for Trinidad. Trinidad was crowded, and Americans, who had established a base there, had all the good rooms. However, the mention of ‘Imperial Censor’ seemed to work like magic and he found a place. His work as Censor was different here as they were also dealing with passengers passing through the ports of Trinidad. He tells of a young Indian girl of about sixteen he shared a night of passion with.

“A flower of India, her pretty face framed in a sari . . . Never had I seen such beauty . . . The lemon-coloured sari had slipped back from her dark hair. Gold ornaments adorned her small neck and ankles. She gazed at me steadfastly and presently her eyes burned like fire. . . . Her heavenly face, her body so thinly veiled, made me want to merge with it. . . . Sweet and involuntary influence seized us, breaking through the thin hedge of resistance into a warm and smooth paradise.” (DM pp. 223-224)

This romantic encounter was to live in his memory and cause him pangs of both desire and regret – perhaps not quite the same attitude Bond had to his conquests. Generally, though, he spent his spare time bird watching, and he did some paintings and drawings. One of his relatives, he says, was the author of a book on Caribbean birds – an interesting aside, albeit he gives no details. The eminent ornithologist James Bond’s book on Caribbean birds is long recognised as the source of the name of ‘007’. Bond’s book was full of excellent photographs and it became the recognised authority?. Is it possible that the book it superseded was by an author called ffrench?

Conrad fell ill with malaria in the summer of 1942, and in October he resigned and decided to return to England. Again he went via Arbutus Point and was delighted by the Scottish couple he had placed there as caretakers. They had painted and varnished the house and everything was in perfect order. Yet, he felt something was still missing. After many delays, he set off for England perhaps with Crookie in his thoughts.

left, Cecil Middle, Meeker and wife & Mrs Cecil

hand written text circa 1943

Next Page

* Goldfinger by Ian Fleming. Penguin Books 2006. Page 173
The ten thousand dollars he won from Goldfinger playing golf.

Supporting Reference

 Copyright. Paul Atkinson 2007. 00brien.com 
              all rights reserved

<meta name="p:domain_verify" content="24e78e98fd1688e8f57d32b1f5e36e79"/>