When I saw this news, I made a stupid joke about Tom Leppard dying as he lived—loving leopards. It was especially stupid, because it was untrue. Reading more about him, it appears that the 80-year-old’s true love was solitude, and he went to extreme measures to find it.
The Guardian interviewed Leppard (née Tom Wooldridge) in 2008, after he moved from his private bothy on Loch na Bèiste to live in an actual village with other people and electricity. A bothy sounds like something Airbnb will try to market us any day now, but it’s actually a very basic shack if shacks were built of stone:
To describe the ruined cottage which he had made his home as primitive would be an understatement. It had an earthen floor and no windows. The thatch was gone, and the metal sheet roofing that spanned the drystone walls would not allow an adult to stand upright. He slept on a bed fashioned from polystyrene board, and cooked on a primus stove.
But this was the place Leppard was happiest. He’d kayak to the mainland for supplies, then spend his time alone in nature or reading books. Leppard was a soldier for twenty-eight years and said he’d always enjoyed the solitary activities like “parachute jumping, sailing and canoeing.”
Most other people also assumed he loved leopards, but it turns out that getting spots tattooed on your skin is relatively inexpensive while being a famously tattooed man is lucrative enough to support life in the bothy:
“I would get an income from being the most tattooed man in the world, and would be photographed for the Guinness Book of Records, or featured on TV. I had a spare set of dentures, shaped like fangs, that I’d put in for the publicity shots. But it was a necessary evil to supplement my income support, or latterly my pension. It’s not something I enjoyed.”
He also didn’t really like cats.
Rest in peaceful solitude, Mr. Leppard.
Screenshot via YouTube.