Robin Bryans

Robin Bryans (24 April 1928 – 11 June 2005), born Robert Harbinson Bryans, was a prolific author of popular travel and autobiographical works under the pen names Robin Bryans, Robert Harbinson, and Donald Cameron. Involved with the Anglo-Irish Establishment throughout his life, in his later years he achieved a degree of notoriety for allegations made about a number of public figures.

Early life and careerEdit

Robert Harbinson Bryans was born on 24 April 1928 in Belfast, into a Protestant working class family. In 1940 he was evacuated to Fermanagh and then worked briefly as a cabin boy on a dredger. In 1944 he began studies at Barry Religious College in Wales. It was at this time, as a teenager, Bryans was befriended by the flamboyant Evan Morgan, 2nd Viscount Tredegar.[1] Later in life, Bryans was to become openly bisexual; Guy Burgess amongst his casual partners.[2]

After college, Bryans taught in Devon, before moving to London. In the 1950s he became a missionary in Canada before becoming involved in diamond prospecting, which he also pursued in South America. He lived as a trapper, and returned to London to work in the theatre, before living and working in Grenada, and Europe and elsewhere.[3][4]

In the late 1970s, after falling out with publisher Charles Montieth of Faber, Bryans began a campaign of harassment, including denouncing Monteith as a homosexual in letters to judges, MPs, and other prominent figures. In 1979 Faber was awarded damages, and after throwing a jug of water at a barrister, Bryans was imprisoned for three years for contempt of court.[5]

In 1988, Bryans appeared (billed as Robert Harbinson) on a notable edition of the television discussion programme After Dark "in which the author discussed secrets and scandals with H. Montgomery Hyde, Merlyn Rees, and others."[6] The programme can be viewed here.

In April 1990, Bryans publicly stated in the Dublin-based magazine Now that Lord Mountbatten, Blunt, and others were involved in an old-boy network which held gay orgies in country houses and castles on both sides of the Irish border, as well as at the Kincora Boys' Home.[7][8] Similar to the Faber case, Bryans sent letters and postcards to the rich and powerful in British establishment circles but once the postcards began to circulate there were complaints to the police and he was warned that he would be prosecuted for criminal libel.[9] A not untypical example of Bryan's letter-writing style is copied here.

John Costello, the author of Mask Of Treachery, a study of the Soviet Cambridge spy ring, wrote: "Bizarre though some of Harbinson's [Bryans] theories may be, those that could be checked mesh with an established record."[10]

In later life, he worked as a librettist and was also involved in a school of music.

Travel writings, novel and poetryEdit

In 1959 Bryans published Gateway To The Khyber, followed later that year by Madeira, Pearl Of The Atlantic.[11] During the 1960s and early 1970s, Faber and Faber published a series of travel books celebrating Iceland (1960), Denmark (1961), Brazil (1962), The Azores (1963), Malta (1966) and Trinidad & Tobago (1967).

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland described his Ulster: A Journey Through the Six Counties (1962) as "long...regarded as a perceptive introduction at a critical moment in the history of Northern Ireland and a classic of the genre".[12]

As Robert Harbinson, he wrote Tattoo Lily And Other Ulster Stories (1961), The Far World (1962), the novel Lucio (1964) and a collection of poems, Songs Out Of Oriel.[13]

As Donald Cameron, he published The Field of Sighing and Sons of El Dorado.[14]

Another pen name Bryans allegedly used was Christopher Graham.[15]


Bryans published four volumes of autobiography as Robert Harbinson:

  • No Surrender (1960)
  • Song of Erne (1960)
  • Up Spake the Cabin Boy (1961)
  • The Protégé (1963)

The Times described these autobiographical writings as "on all planes at once; humourous, detailed and objective as a Breugel village scene; quietly indignant over injustices practised by the toffs; puzzled, exploratory, expectant as a growing boy … He writes as one with a true sense of poetry."[16]

As Robin Bryans, he self-published a further four volumes of autobiography:

These works detailed his involvement in "sensational and sometimes scandalous events among Britain’s political aristocracy",[17] Bryans having "intelligence connections (and being) a friend of Blunt" and an "ex-jailbird".[18]

The books were characterised by Fortnight as follows: "The reader expecting these pick up the narrative of the author's life where The Protege left off would be disappointed. They are barely of the same genre...Bryans is most effective in linking together, in unexpected ways, apparently unconnected worlds; the back streets of Belfast and the big houses of Fermanagh; evangelical fellowship and the intelligence services, homosexuality and religion. He reveals the intersection and interpenetration of these different spheres...These volumes seduce the reader by exploiting our inability to resist gossip."[19]


Bryans last years were spent in London. He died on 11 June 2005.[20]


  1. ^ Bryans, Robin. The Dust Has Never Settled. p. 54.
  2. ^ Summers, Anthony; Dorril, Stephen, The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward, Headline Publishing Group, London 2013
  3. ^ Arts Council, 13 June 2005
  4. ^ Obituary in The Guardian, accessed 13 May 2015
  5. ^ Carey, John William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord Of The Flies, Free Press, New York, 2009. p393
  6. ^ Ivan Herbison, Fortnight magazine, September 1994
  7. ^ Now, Doherty, Frank & Byrne, John; April 1990 pp 13-17
  8. ^ The Crabb Enigma: The True Story of Commander 'Buster' Crabb, Welham, Mike & Jackie; Matador/Troubadour Publishing, Leicester ISBN 978 1848763 821, p41
  9. ^ Chris Moore, The Kincora Scandal, Marino Press, 1996; p88
  10. ^ Mask of Treachery; Costello, John; William Collins Sons, London 1988, p467
  11. ^ Obituary in The Guardian, accessed 13 May 2015
  12. ^ Arts Council, 13 June 2005
  13. ^ Obituary in The Guardian, accessed 13 May 2015
  14. ^ Author website, accessed 13 May 2015
  15. ^ Francis Wheen, The Independent, 9 September 1990
  16. ^ Arts Council, 13 June 2005
  17. ^ Arts Council, 13 June 2005
  18. ^ Francis Wheen, The Independent, 9 September 1990
  19. ^ Ivan Herbison, Fortnight magazine, September 1994
  20. ^ Arts Council, 13 June 2005