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It’s elementary my dear Welshpool!

Created on 03/10/2010 @ 14:56
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Welshpool criminals beware! The spirit of one of history’s greatest ever crime sleuths is alive and well and closer to home than you might think!
A quiet corner of the town is HQ to Wales’s first Deerstalkers Society, a unique organisation celebrating the life of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes who was delivered this year to a new generation through BBC’s new Series and Guy Richie’s Hollywood blockbuster.
But the bustling cobbled streets of London are a far cry from Welshpool’s Little Henfaes Drive where Roy Upton-Holder (pictured) regularly dons his deerstalker, Inverness cape and lights up his pipe to relive and capture the work of novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“He wrote four novels and 56 short stories about Sherlock Holmes and I have read them all many times,” said Roy, who began his fascination almost 60 years ago.
“I was in hospital when I was 20 and my father brought me a Sherlock Holmes book to read and I just couldn’t put it down. I remember reading all night! I was hooked and have been a great enthusiast ever since.”
Roy’s home is a shrine to the fictional character that first appeared in print way back in 1887.
Even before entering the house, the sign on the wall welcomes you to Baskerville (from the classic The Hound of the Baskervilles) and you are immediately met in the hallway by a mirror cut in the famous silhouette of Holmes along with an array of framed memorabilia.
“This is an actual tile from Baker Street Station,” Roy points out one of the myriad framed items covering the wall to the staircase.
The legendary detective is present in every room of the house from the ‘Sherlock Holmes for Dummies’ book to dolls and toys clothed in his famous attire.
Holmes and Dr Watson fridge magnets are features of the kitchen along with the ‘Sherlock Holmes cook book’. And just when you thought you had seen it all, the garden shed is 221B Baker Street (Holmes’s address), a flower patch is sign-posted Grimpen More (from The Hound of the Baskervilles) and even the cat lives in the Diogenes Club complete with published ‘house’ rules at its entrance (fictional gentlemen’s club in The Greek Interpreter). The cat, by the way, is named after Holmes’s brother, Mycroft.
“I wouldn’t say that I am a Holmes purist,” joked Roy. “I do know all of the characters and a few years ago I could probably answer any question asked about him but there are some people that live and breathe the character.”
With the support of his wife, Joan, Roy launched the Welshpool Deerstalkers Society when they moved to Montgomeryshire in 2001. They discovered others shared their passion and haven’t looked back since.
“We welcome people of any background to the society that share an interest in Sherlock Holmes,” he said. “It has become a great way of bringing people together and has also helped to integrate people into the community that have moved here from away. We hold gatherings through the year.”
While Welshpool is home to Wales’s only Deerstalkers Society, a further 20 exist in England but none in Scotland, which Roy describes as ‘outrageous’ considering it is the birthplace of its creator, Conan Doyle. There are hundreds of societies that operate across the world from the USA and Russia to Japan where Roy claims that Holmes is a ‘phenomenon’.
Richie’s box office smash starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as his suffering sidekick Dr Watson ensures the story will continue as a billion-dollar business but the film did not go down well with the character’s die hard fans.
Roy said he can understand their reaction but added: “In order to keep the character alive you have to keep attracting a new audience so if the film succeeded in doing this then I don’t mind. I wasn’t a particular fan of the film and it wasn’t one for the purists!”
Roy’s mastery of everything Sherlock Holmes knows no bounds. He can tell you that the character smokes more cigarettes in his books than a pipe while you can only spot a ‘true’ Holmesian when they can name book number two as ‘Sign of the Four’.
Roy explained: “That was the original name for the book but Hollywood chopped it to ‘Sign of Four’ for release. This is our way of knowing if the person you are speaking to really does know what they are talking about!”
His knowledge makes for a fascinating interview. His passion is backed up by literally hundreds of books, and his quirky Holmes collection of nick-nacks and ornaments creates a captivating impromptu tour.
So if Sherlock Holmes was alive today what sort of a reaction would he give his disciple? Hopefully, not the same one that he got from someone sharing the same name in the USA.
“We were trying to track down a Deerstalkers Society in Washington when we were there, and saw a Sherlock Holmes was listed in the phone directory. We decided to call him but he was not happy and very rude before slamming the phone down! He can always change his name to Tony Blair or something!”
The Society has a busy period ahead and Roy says it is open to new members.
Did you know:
1. Sherlock Holmes was a habitual user of cocaine which was legal in the 19th century
2. Holmes retired into beekeeping
3. He is based on Edinburgh practitioner Dr Joseph Bell
4. His disguises were so good that even sidekick Watson couldn’t detect them
5. Roy Upton-Holder has never actually solved a crime
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