Roger Fairbrass is dead. He died three days ago. Discovered in the armchair of his Mayfair flat by his housekeeper. He was 86. I only found out this morning by reading his obituary in the Telegraph. His full title was Sir Roger Fairbrass, CBE.
I hadn’t seen Roger for a number of years and hopefully it was just old age that finally caught up with him.
I first met Roger in 1950 at Cambridge. He was a gifted student, far more self-assured and intelligent than me, but for some reason we hit it off immediately and became firm friends. If it wasn’t for Roger I doubt if I would ever have passed my exams and obtained my degree. It was no surprise to anyone when he was recruited by the Foreign Office in 1953. I have no idea what he said to his superiors but thanks to Roger I joined him in the service in 1954.
Roger was a raconteur. Put him in a room full of strangers and he would have a crowd around him in minutes, hanging on his every word. He drank like a fish and smoked anything and everything that was possible. He quickly rose through the ranks and wherever he went he would make sure there was a place for me.
The fifties and sixties were all about the war. Not a real war of course but the fake one. The cold war. We were men of secrets. All kinds of secrets. Because of Roger we mixed in the company of the rich and famous. It wasn’t uncommon to sit next to a member of royalty and chat about everything from fishing to sexual preferences. We became part of the elite. We were members of “Clubs” and “Societies”.
Roger had an appetite for life. An appetite that had no limits. It was an appetite that was shared by many of his friends and at certain parties they would gorge themselves.
I am ashamed to say that I attended some of these parties and even took part in some of their ghoulish rituals. But please believe me, it was a different time, a different place, a different world back then.
Roger married in 1972. Her name was Shirley and she was the daughter of a well-known television presenter. It was all a sham of course. Roger needed to look presentable to the outside world. He needed someone to take to dinner parties, social events and royal functions. It didn’t look natural for a man in his forties to attend on his own. Shirley was well aware of Roger’s preferences and welcomed them, because she had certain appetites of her own. On the outside they looked and acted like the perfect couple. But their lives were in fact completely separate. They shared the same house in Surrey but it was so large that they only ever saw each other for social events. They both enjoyed a certain “lifestyle”.
Roger held lavish parties at his Surrey home. They were by invitation only. Just six invitations were sent out. The people they were sent to were called “The Keepers Of Secrets.” Each Keeper was allowed to bring three guests. The guests were carefully chosen and were sworn to secrecy. They were made very aware of the consequences if they discussed the party with anyone outside of the chosen few. Roger always organised the “Entertainment”.
Once again I have to admit to being a “Keeper Of Secrets.”
Once you were in that group of six it was impossible to get out. The risk to the others was just too great. The guest list at these events were household names. Stars of stage and screen. Current and ex Politicians and some even higher up the food chain.
He was rewarded for his loyalty (and silence) in 1989. He was knighted and became Sir Roger. Shirley was delighted as she became Lady Fairbrass. Unfortunately she died in 1994 after a long illness.
I last saw him at a garden party in 2006. He looked well and, as always, was surrounded by an entourage listening intently to his stories of daring do.
These past few years have been difficult for us “Keepers”. Certain people have begun to look closely at what we did in those dark days when “anything” was possible. There was a time when those people would have been dealt with swiftly by our powerful friends. But not now. Things have changed. One by one “The Keepers” have been falling. Now Roger has gone I am the last of the six still alive. I fear not for long.
So rather than wait for that visit that comes in the middle of the night. I have decided that I will go of my own accord. I sit here with a glass of whisky and my old service revolver. Once my glass is empty then my days on this earth will end. The world no longer needs “The Keepers Of Secrets”. Perhaps it never did.