Magician's vanishing act splits hometown

HE WAS known as the Wizard of the North, idolised by Charlie Chaplin and an inspiration to Harry Houdini.

But now the monument that Walford Bodie bequeathed to his adopted hometown is set to perform a contentious vanishing act of its own.

After a dazzling career, which saw him perform to tens of thousands and become the toast of Edwardian London, Bodie retired to Macduff, where he erected a public fountain.

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Now, plans have been lodged to move the monument to the Aberdeenshire town's newly-created maritime garden at a cost of around 20,000.

But the proposal has divided residents of the coastal community, with Bodie enthusiasts claiming the new plans are directly contrary to the wishes of their most famous son.

The Aberdeen-born magician gifted the fountain in 1909 and it was situated in the town's busy harbour to provide refreshment for fishermen and thirsty residents and visitors.

The monument was removed from the waterfront in the 1960s and rebuilt in a rarely-visited side street some distance away on Duff Street.

Over the years there has been a clamour to return the fountain to its original location, but now Banff and Macduff Community Council has lodged plans to relocate the landmark to a different site, at the town's Crook O'Ness street.

Chris Earl, who wants to open a small museum to Bodie in the property the magician had built in the town, was astonished at the decision.

The Bodie enthusiast said: "From being in pride of place at Macduff Harbour, the fountain was basically just slapped down on some concrete in a side-street where nobody goes and forgotten about.

"I was delighted when I heard there were plans to move it to a more suitable location, but I was amazed they weren't going to return it to the harbourside where it belongs.


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But Ian Page, the chairman of Banff and Macduff Community Council, claimed the waterfront was not appropriate: "It is still a working harbour and there is a lot of activity there.

"We think the maritime garden is the right location as it is a nice open space with a good view over the harbour."

Bodie became hugely famous at the turn of the 20th century by harnessing the new technology of electricity to create breathtaking stage shows.

The young Charlie Chaplin came to see his performances and impersonated the dapper magician, who wore a cape and a waxed moustache, in his own stage shows.

Houdini was a great friend and admirer of the Scot and even purchased many of the props from his shows.