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BBC Scotland's Morag Kinniburgh reports
"The argument for repatriating Stevenson's body has met with firce opposition"
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Gavin Bell, Stevenson expert
"The finest memorial you can have to him is his own work"
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Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 19:48 GMT 20:48 UK
Call to bring Stevenson's body home
Stevenson and family
Robert Louis Stevenson with his family
An expert on Robert Louis Stevenson is calling for the writer's body to be disinterred from its grave on a South Pacific island and brought back to Scotland.

Writer Gavin Bell says it was one of the author's last wishes to be buried in Scotland.

But other Stevenson aficionados disagree with his interpretation of the author's wishes.

They argue that the man who penned classics including "Treasure Island", "Kidnapped" and "Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde" DID want to be buried on the island of Samoa where he had made his home.

I feel I shall never retain my resting grave unless it were to be on one of our purple hillsides under one of our old, quaint and half-obliterated table tombstones

Robert Louis Stevenson
However, Mr Bell - who traced Stevenson's Pacific travels for a new book - has pointed to a speech made by the writer in Hawaii a year before his death.

He said Stevenson told the Scottish Thistle Club: "I feel that when I should come to die out here amongst these beautiful islands I shall have lost something that had been my due - my natural, predestined and forfeited grave amongst the honest Scottish sods.

"And I feel I shall never retain my resting grave unless it were to be on one of our purple hillsides under one of our old, quaint and half-obliterated table tombstones slanting down the brae."

Mr Bell accepted there was an argument that Stevenson's body should not be disturbed.

"Certainly the finest memorial we can have to him is his own work," he said.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Stevenson was buried in Samoa
But he said that, three months before his death, Stevenson wrote to an old friend saying that it was a "wrench" not to be buried in Scotland.

Mr Bell said the letter was "a genuine cry from the heart".

And he added: "This is the 150th anniversary of his birth. I just wonder if it is time for Stevenson to come home."

However, Lady Kathleen Dunpark disputed Mr Bell's claims.

She said: "Stevenson would not have wanted this palaver of coming home."

And is it unlikely that the Samoans, who revere his grave as a monument, would even consider such a request.

Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1850, but his ill-health kept him away from Scotland for long periods from his early twenties onwards.

He also lived in Switzerland, France and America before embarking on a voyage to the South Pacific with his wife Fanny and his widowed mother Margaret.

The poet, novelist and essay-writer died in 1894 in Samoa.

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