On another blog I used to have, I wrote about my brother Fergus, who went missing in Switzerland on 9 September 2014 (you can read the post here).
He was due to attend a work conference with colleagues in the Swiss town of Martigny, and although he arrived in Geneva and bought a train ticket at the station there, he failed to turn up to dinner in Martigny that evening. He also failed to appear at the conference the following day, and had not checked in to his accommodation.
Nothing has been heard from him since 9 September 2104 and we’ve been left wondering what happened to him on that day. Searches were undertaken in the area in which he was believed to have disappeared, but nothing was found.
Earlier this year, someone out walking on a forested hillside beneath steep cliffs in an area just outside Martigny came across some bones and a passport. The passport was in Fergus’s name. The Swiss police contacted their Scottish counterparts, who gave us the news, but said they were unable to confirm that the bones belonged to Fergus until DNA testing had been carried out. The testing took several weeks, and although we were convinced the bones were Fergus’s, it wasn’t until a few days ago that we received confirmation.
There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death, and the cause remains unexplained. The two obvious solutions are that he met with an accident on the cliffs, or that he took his own life. He had a history of depression and had attempted to take his own life once before, in similar terrain in Scotland, but had been unable to go through with it. My dad believes that in Switzerland he faced the same situation, but this time achieved a different outcome. My mum prefers to believe it to have been an accident. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know what actually happened that day.
We’ve decided against having a traditional funeral for Fergus, and intend to have some kind of memorial in Scotland that would reflect his interests and values. He was a passionate supporter of environmental issues and an active member of the Scottish Green Party. He was also a very keen croquet player, and was involved for many years with the Scottish Croquet Association. They have set up a trophy in his name, known as the Fergus McInnes Tankard, to be awarded annually for completion of a ‘triple peel’, a particularly tricky croquet achievement.
Although it’s very sad to have definite news of his death, it’s a great relief to have some sort of closure. Some families of missing people never get this sort of confirmation, and I was more or less convinced we’d remain in that category. We still don’t have all the answers, but we’re fortunate to have the knowledge we’ve got. Being in this position allows us to obtain a death certificate and finally take care of his affairs.
My dad is working on a booklet about Fergus, which he hopes to publish in due course. Fergus himself was a very thoughtful and creative person, and enjoyed expressing himself through writing. He kept an online blog of sorts, which is kindly still hosted by the University of Edinburgh where he worked. He called it his ‘brain online’ and it contains many short articles on topics that interested him. I like what he wrote about Being Scottish, and I’ve included the link in case it interests any readers of this blog.