Count Robin’s family offer to sell Bernera to community     16/2/13

The family of Count Robin Mirrlees, who died last year, is offering the island of Great Bernera to its 230-strong population.

They are offered first refusal on the 7,000 acre island off west Lewis which Count Robin purchased in 1962, sight unseen.

Bernera has been bequeathed to his grandson Cyran under the terms of his Count Robin’s will.

Now, as executor of his estate, Count Robin’s son and only child, Patrick de la Lanne, is offering islanders an exclusive opportunity to buy the land.

Stornoway solicitor Ken Macdonald who is acting for the family, which live in the town of Delmenhort in the north of Germany, has written to islanders saying the island will be sold on the open market if the community does not wish to take it over.

Mr Macdonald wrote: “Distance alone makes the prospect of maintaining and developing Bernera estate very challenging.

“Consequently, it has been decided that Great Bernera should be sold and, given Robin’s great affection for the island and its people, the executor wishes to offer the community the opportunity to purchase the island.”

The letter continues: “The family is acutely aware of that Great Bernera meant to Robin and would be happy to meet with islanders to address any concerns they may have in relation to the sale fo the island.

“The family has asked that the community indicate their interest in taking over the island by April 1.

The lawyer stressed that the “island will not be offered for sale elsewhere until the community has indicated its view on purchase.”

He pointed out “separate arrangements” are being made for the small neighbouring uninhabited island of Little Bernera in accordance with Count’s Robin’s will.  The 341 acre island of Little Bernera in Loch Roag has been left for the nation to the National Trust of Scotland. But the conservation body previously said it would reject the offer as it could not afford the running costs.

Great Bernera residents were already preparing for a potential buyout of the island and are conscious that Scotland’s Land Reform laws permits them to stage a hostile takeover if ever desired.

A community trust is being mooted to drive forward the economic development of Bernera and it had been considering buying the island for some time.

Its steering group is distributing the solicitor’s letter throughout villages this weekend and will stage a public meeting soon.

Count Robin Mirrlees of Great Bernera left £1.3 million in his will with his three grandchildren getting the bulk of his estate.

The French-born, Oxford-educated aristocrat died aged 87 years in the Blar Buidhe nursing home in Stornoway in June.

Count Robin is survived by his son Patrick de la Lanne, the mayor of the town of Delmenhort in the north of Germany - from a long-term relationship with a German duchess, Margarethe of Württemberg, and three adult grandchildren.