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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 878

Naked Rambler of Britain

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

naked_rambler.gifImagine a Royal Marine commando, a member of one of the most elite military units in the world, in full combat suit: muscular, 6-foot tall, cheerful individual on one single mission – to scare a potential adversary to death by sheer presence. Now, visualize the same individual without a stitch on him - the very spectacle, according to the law enforcement authorities in Scotland that should not be in the public domain in any part of Britain.

That is exactly what Stephen Gough, the ex-Royal Marine, well-known as the Naked Rambler of Britain, has been doing since 2006 while exercising what he calls his right for freedom - to walk naked up and down Britain without being disturbed.

He was released from a Scottish prison a few days back, after serving a prison sentence for refusing to wear clothes in public; he had been in and out of Scottish prisons for almost six years before the latest release.

Between 2003 and 2006, he had walked the whole length of Britain twice in birthday suit, from Land’s End to John O’Groats – the two extremities of the main British Isle. In England, the police had been much more lenient to Mr Gough when he was in pursuit of his freedom to roam without any clothes on him. In Scotland, however, the police took a firm stand against Mr Gough, while citing his nudity in the public as a breach of the peace.

At some point, Mr Gough had a female companion when he was walking naked in England. On the surface, the union appeared to be an inevitable case of opposites attracting each other.

Their personal chemistry, however, displayed a stronger attraction between the two – something way beyond their shared philosophical stance. He proudly introduced her as his girlfriend to a television crew who were making a documentary on him – and his unique travels.

The pair was seen walking naked, side by side, along narrow country lanes while evoking the scenes of the Garden of Eden when Adam met Eve. In response to a question raised by a member of the TV crew, Mr Gough even admitted to have eaten the ‘forbidden fruit’ when the pair was alone.

When the pair entered supermarkets in small towns to buy their daily essentials, the reaction of the onlookers was rather mixed: some women confronted them while urging them to put their clothes on; women with young children struggled to keep straight faces while closing the eyes of their children with their palms; young men and women often found the pair amusing.

On numerous occasions, the police cars came behind the pair and warned them against causing a public nuisance and then let them off the hook with mild warnings. As a result, the pair managed to walk the length of England without a significant hindrance. Between 2003 and 2005, they managed to walk the length of the country in their preferred way with minor law-breaking ‘hiccups’.

Mr Gough, however, ran into trouble in Scotland when he tried to repeat the adventure in 2006 on his own. He was arrested multiple times for breaching the public peace and sent to prison. By refusing to put on his clothes before the Sheriff, he was charged with contempt of courts too.

His time in prison was punctuated by a series of brief spells in which he was allowed to walk free. His stubborn refusal to wear any clothes, however, reduced some of those spells to series moments as brief as a few minutes: there were times he walked out of a prison, only to be arrested by the police, minutes later, for going out naked.

The authorities have given up on their determination to persuade Mr Gough to wear clothes. Mr Gough is refusing to wear clothes whether he is on a plane, in courts, in prison or on major roads.

Keeping Mr Gough in Scottish prisons, meanwhile, appears to be turning into an administrative headache for the Scottish authorities: on one hand, it is a costly operation; on the other hand, keeping Mr Gough, an otherwise decent individual without a trace of aggression despite his military background, in prison for a non-criminal offense is slowly evolving into a moral issue. So, the Scottish authorities appeared to have collectively made up their minds to break the cycle of release-and-re-arrest – for good.

After his latest release, Mr Gough was seen talking to Scottish villagers while heading south, to his native England. The public have not turned hostile to him in an organized manner. On his part, Mr Gough seems to be determined to leave Scotland while keeping the breach of the peace to a minimum; he is still naked despite the plummeting temperatures with the onset of autumn.

If he walks along narrow country lanes while avoiding major roads, the police may turn a blind eye on his mode of travelling, until he reaches his final destination – his home in Hampshire, in England.

Mr Gough is yet to declare what his next mission is going to be. He may want to walk the whole breadth of Britain while in England, now that he has already walked the whole length. It makes perfect sense too, as far as Mr Gough is concerned; the widest part of the main British Isle, much to Mr Gough’s delight, lies in his native England.

- Asian Tribune -

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