photo sharing and upload picture albums photo forums search pictures popular photos photography help login
Marisa Livet | all galleries >> All My Galleries >> The itinerant story teller's desk > How far is Hollywood...
previous | next
27-AUG-2007 Marisa

How far is Hollywood...

Céligny - Canton Vaud (Switzerland)

The scene is set in a very small and rather obsolete country cemetery of a Swiss village.
The main characters are two men in front of each other.

The one standing on the left is Uncle Harley, a Swiss beekeeper who was born in 1922 and has been living in this village (for the full report, the name of the village is Céligny) for most of his life.
The other man, three years younger than Uncle Harley, has been lying underground, in this calm and remote place for over 23 years.
He’s not Swiss; he was born in Wales, U.K.

The two men knew each other very well; they had shared many daily happenings for years, in this village.

Besides the inhabitants of Céligny and few other Swiss, very few people have an idea about Uncle Harley’s existence, while many, many people, all over the world, still nowadays, remember the name of the other man.

Many things make Uncle Harley different from the other man, besides the fact that he’s still alive and the other one is dead.

Uncle Harley cannot say a single word in English, but he speaks French much better than the other man.
Uncle Harley likes drinking, but the other man liked drinking much more than him.
Uncle Harley has never had any love affair with Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor, while the other man got
married to her twice.
Uncle Harley has never read any poem by Dylan Thomas,
While the other man had asked to be buried with a copy of Thomas’ Collected Poems.

Uncle Harley had worked as gardener and factotum for Mr. Richard Burton until his death.

I think they respected each other.

Richard Burton liked living in Céligny, where he could feel free from the obligation and the constraints of celebrity.

He used to go to the unpretentious local bar and he drank with the local people and nobody disturbed him.

Many times journalists of tabloids and “people” magazines had offered money to Uncle Harley to know all possible gossips about Mr. Burton.
Uncle Harley had always refused.
He has never told that much about Mr. Burton to the family either.

When Mr. Burton suddenly died, in 1984, journalists, reporters and photographers from all over the world invaded Céligny to capture an image, to see some celebrities…
They were waiting for Elizabeth Taylor mostly, even though they were divorced, everybody knew she still had a deep link of affection for Mr. Burton and she would have come for the funeral

Uncle Harley helped her to cheat the paparazzi, hiding her under a blanket on the rear seat of his old car, while the press looked for a limousine…
There is another funny anecdote on the relationship between Uncle Harley and Mrs. Taylor.
She used to hug warmly uncle Harley, but he allowed her to kiss him only on his cheecks.
This is another deep difference between Mr. Burton and Uncle Harley!

Other rather high sums of money were offered to him in exchanged of a "secret", a clue…

Uncle Harley had not to think over about, he simply slammed the door at they faces and refused to answer.

Mr. Burton left him most of his wardrobe, they had the same size.
And some pieces of furniture and all the items he had used in his daily life, while he was in Céligny.
I remember to have seen Uncle Harley wearing an extravagant and smart crimson jacket… “It was Mr. Burton’s one” he explained calmly, always low profile.

Mr. Burton had several electric razors, since he always bought new ones; I think several male members of my family have “inherited” them.
I don’t know where they have been now, but I’m sure none of them was put on sale on “E-Bay”…we are all low profile people over here…

So Mr. Burton’s wish was to be buried in this small and quite cemetery, into the plain ground, with only a rough and simple tombstone with Dylan Thomas’s poems as only long lasting company.

There are oddities also in the most banal reality, so for mysterious reason the very small village of Céligny has two cemeteries, the official one, where it’s easy to get by car and where many tourists every year still look for Mr. Burton’s tomb (of course without finding it) and the old, small hidden one, where Mr. Burton had decided to be.

Uncle Harley, who keeps his beehives nearby, in a field by a wood, goes to greet him often and clean a little the ground around the stone.

He doesn't tell us anything about all what they had told each other.

Someone took a flower to Mr. Burton and put it into a bottle of mineral water, to keep it fresh.

“Uhm, a bottle of mineral water on his tomb – Uncle Harley said – Mr. Burton should be very, very annoyed, he has never liked mineral water. I would go home and find an empty bottle of whisky to keep his flower fresh. He would prefer…”

I don’t know if he has done it, probably he has.

Canon EOS 350D
1/20s f/4.0 at 20.0mm iso200 full exif

other sizes: small medium original auto
previous | next
Pamela 06-Jul-2010 16:00
A beautiful, touching & unique story of devoted kindred spirits, friends to the end and beyond. I remain in constant awe of the love between Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor, the love that I like to believe, still endures.
Máire Uí Mhaicín21-Jan-2009 22:40
I like the way this story is presented: the human dimension is the strongest element in it, and it is anchored so beautifully in this image.
Barry S Moore31-Aug-2007 22:36
Every so occasionally in life a special moment happens. This is one of those. It is not our business to judge the rich and famous and your tale, told so well, is reason enough to keep true to this ideal.
veraferia31-Aug-2007 21:38
Marisa your images are always wonderful and your texts are always very, very well written! Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were a charming and unique couple. It is interesting to know some innocent stories about them.
chrisse31-Aug-2007 16:58
What a wonderful story Marisa !
Guest 31-Aug-2007 16:47
I think I would like Uncle Harley. Thanks for sharing this story and photo. v.
Marjan Schavemaker31-Aug-2007 16:30
Excellent story, Marisa, I enjoyed it very much, very well written! -V-