A FRESH investigation has been held into of the mysterious disappearance of a Harvard millionaire who vanished without trace on a remote Irish island.
Arthur Kingsley Porter, 50, was last seen alive by his wife Lucy on the tiny Gaeltacht Island Inis Bó Finne or Inishbofin off the northwest coast of Donegal on July 8, 1933.
He disappeared while out walking but no body was ever recovered. An inquest – the first held in the Irish State without a body – accepted his wife’s opinion that the internationally-renowned academic slipped, fell into the ocean, and was washed out to sea.
However, many of the islanders and a surviving relative of Porter’s believe he may have staged his death to create a new secret life for himself abroad.
“What I believe happened, to put it simply as possible, is that he faked his own death,” Porter’s grand-nephew Scott Arneill told a documentary highlighting the latest investigation of the case which was broadcast on TG4.
A leading expert in his field, Arthur Kingsley Porter taught art history at Harvard.
He and his wife Lucy bought Glenveagh Castle in Co. Donegal in 1929 for £5,000 which today forms a key part of Glenveagh National Park.
The mystery of his disappearance has been re-examined by veteran investigative journalist and filmmaker Kevin Magee.
In the hour-long documentary, Magee uncovers new information about Porter and his disappearance including some previously unseen material that lay undetected in a Harvard archive for decades.
“As part of my investigation I travelled to Boston and found some papers and other materials that Porter’s wife deposited in an archive at Harvard University where he’d taught.
“Among the papers were some historic photographs of the island taken days after Kingsley’s disappearance.”
He added: “The documents them- selves were very revealing. One showed that a fishing boat that was not mentioned at the inquest was in the bay of the island the night before Kingsley disappeared.
“He actually got his feet wet helping prepare the vessel for its departure, so he clearly had the chance to quietly slip off the leave if that was his intention.”
Porter’s disappearance made international headlines in 1933 with the first newspaper reports saying he had left the island in a small boat and was caught in a violent storm.
The documentary includes the first broadcast of a tape recording of a late friend of Lucy Porter’s speculating on what happened to her husband.
The programme also reveals that the millionaire had changed his will not long before he disappeared.
On July 8 1933, Porter was staying in a small two-roomed cabin he owned on Inishbofin, some 15 miles from Glenveagh Castle.
Within hours of him going missing, Porter’s wife Lucy told a friend “Kingsley will not return tonight. Kingsley will never return”.
Last year a memorial was unveiled on the island to all those lost at sea off the island’s coast, but Kingsley Porter’s name does not appear on the memorial.
Mr Magee explained:
“I came across this story of Arthur Kinglsey Porter when I first started visiting Inis Bó Finne about twenty years ago.
“Talking to people there, I heard lots of folklore and many different stories and theories as to what had happened to him.
“When the memorial was unveiled on Inis Bó Finne last year without Porter’s name on it, I thought it’s time to investigate this remarkable story and try and bring it to a national audience.”
“Hopefully the viewers will be able to draw their own conclusions as to what happened to the American millionaire on the day he disappeared without trace.”
Programme director Méabh Fields said:
“It is a wonderful story that criss-crosses the Atlantic from Inis Bó Finne to Boston and back to the island. As well as a compelling narrative, viewers will also see a dramatic reconstruction of the fateful day when Kinsley disappeared.”
Ar Iarraidh/Missing was produced by Clean Slate TV, with support from NI Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund. It is available to view now on TG4 Player, at www.tg4.ie.