One hundred years ago, on May 6 1920, a little fellow was born called Lawrence Alexander Robertson. When he died, on August 4 1994, he was Lawrence Alexander Durdin-Robertson, 21st Baron Strathloch in the peerage of Ireland, and Priest of Isis.
How did he make that journey?
I believe that it was a voyage of self-construction. I think it was rather like the life of Athelstan Riley, who re-invented himself by acquiring noble status through the purchase of a property on Jersey which carried with it a feudal title Seigneur de la Trinite; who had the arms his father had acquired redesigned and regranted to appear more medieval; who transformed a Cornish Church so that it looked just as if the Reformation had never happened and contained a distinctly attractive Riley Chantry Chapel; and who rebuilt his property in Jersey so that it looked just like a traditional Norman Manor House (the German CO lived there during the Occupation).
But Riley, for all his pretensions, remained an orthodox Anglo-Catholic. What happened to Robertson?
Trinity Dublin; BA and MA; Wells Theological College; Ordained in the C of E in 1948. He married in 1949; held a living in the County Wicklow (Aghold, 1951-1952) and then in Norfolk (East Bilney, 1952-1957). Then his career took off. As his obituary in the Irish Times, surely crafted by sources close to his family, was to put it, "He returned to Ireland ... religious convictions led him to withdraw from the Anglican Communion in 1970 and, in 1972, to receive the priesthood of Isis and to found in 1976, with his wife and sister [sic] , the Hon. Olivia Durdin-Robertson, the Fellowship of Isis."
He appears to have augmented his surname by deed-poll. Not difficult. But whence the Barony?
The Obituary carries on: "In 1979 he established, by genealogical reearch, his claim to the ancienrt Gaelic title of Baron Strathloch, which was matriculated by the Chief Herald of the Irish Genealogical Office, on May 7th, 1979".
I apologise to his shade if what I now about to surmise is wrong. But here is my hypothesis.
I think he may have secured a grant or exemplification of Arms (anybody with adequate money for the fees can do this). The Grant included Supporters. In English heraldry, supporters indicate noble status. So he interpreted the Grant as acknowledgement that he was a peer of the Kingdom of Ireland.
But in Irish Heraldry, this is not quite so. For example, the head of the Liberator's family used Supporters, as anybody can detect by looking carefully at the silverware displayed in their romantic property at Derrynane in the County Kerry.
To continue the story in the Irish Times: "He devotedf a great part of his life to scholarship, as might be expected of a cousin of the poet Robert Graves [the Ascendancy gentry, not strangely, were much intermarried], and was the author of some 15 books, in the main dealing with goddess worship throughout the world".
He died on August 4 1994. May God have mercy upon the soul of the poor silly old apostate.