Gnome at last: Stolen garden elf is returned after a 7-month adventure around the world
By Beth Hale
Last updated at 10:50 AM on 12th August 2008
If only he could talk there would surely be extraordinary tales to tell.
He's been swimming with turtles off the Great Barrier Reef, scaled a glacier in New Zealand and toured the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat.
Unfortunately the gnome formerly known as Murphy is giving nothing away - save for a singularly enigmatic smile.
Sydney Harbour: Murphy in front of the world famous Opera House
The adventures of Murphy, now Barrington (of which more later), began back in September after the best part of a decade spent in 'quiet reflection' in a simple flower bed in the 'Shire'.
Owners Eve and Derrick Stuart-Kelso were stunned to discover the 10-inch high stone leprechaun they had inherited when they bought their Gloucester home, had disappeared.
The couple, both retired, assumed the gnome had fallen foul of students from a nearby college and would never be seen again.
Taking a dip: Murphy cools off in Thailand
Both keen travellers, the couple never dreamed that the humble green-hatted garden ornament was setting of an around the world jaunt taking in 12 countries and three continents.
And oblivious they would have remained if Murphy had not decided that there really is just no place like home.
The 8lb gnome appeared on the Stuart-Kelso's doorstep on Thursday last week, some 11 months after disappearing.
A little the worse for wear, the traveller was standing next to a mysterious and tightly-wrapped parcel.
Once unwrapped it revealed a leather-bound photo album containing 48 pictures of the gnome's trip around the globe along with a note putting his impromptu world tour down to 'itchy feet'.
The painstakingly compiled album, complete with index, showed their gnome - renamed Barrington by his travel companions - abseiling down a mountain, standing in a shark's mouth, swimming in the sea, and riding a motorbike.
On top of the world: The gnome takes a cable car ride in Singapore
Also with him were immigration stamps for all the shores he had been taken to visit - South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and Laos.
A witty note, purporting to be from Barrington, referred to his 'travelling companion' only as The Bear, and told the couple how he attracted unwanted attention from customs officials and took up 25 per cent of the party's luggage allocation.
The only clue, however, to the identity of those companions was a photograph of a group of grinning young men.
As for the letter it began:
'Hello! First of all I feel I should explain my prolonged absence. A gnome's life is full of time for reflection, and whilst surveying your garden one summer morning, I began to get itchy feet.
'I came to the conclusion that the world is a big place and there is more to life than watching the daily commuter traffic, and allowing passing cats to urinate on you.
'So I decided to free myself from the doldrums of the Shire and seek adventure. My travels have taken me across three continents, 12 countries and more time zones than I can possibly remember.
New Zealand: Murphy joins some ice-climbers
'There have been high points, low points, and positively terrifying points. But I have survived - small thanks to the companion with whom I have shared all these moments.'
The bizarre crime echoes the French film 'Amelie' starring Audrey Tatou in which a gnome belonging to her father is taken around the world and photographed to show him how much he is missing out on in life.
Last night grandmother-of-three Mrs Stuart-Kelso said: 'The leprechaun went missing many, many months ago and I had forgotten about it.
'Then I opened the door on Thursday and saw he was back. It was such a shock.
'Murphy was quite badly damaged and there was a tightly wrapped parcel next to him. My curiosity eventually overcame my alarm, because I did wonder if it might explode.
'Then I saw it was a beautifully bound photo album and opened it up.
His feet were missing, but that's no real surprise given that he was sent abseiling down a mountain.'
Stunned: Grandmother Eve Stuart-Kelso found her gnome on her doorstep, with a letter and photo album of his travels
She said while strange, the gift had sent the family into fits of laughter.
She said her grandchildren, Sophie, 14, Ellie, 13, and Piers, 13, would be thrilled to hear of the gnome's adventures. The trio give the green-hatted gnome a fresh coat of paint every year.
Gloucestershire police took a less amused view of the adventure.
A spokesman said: 'Any theft of a person's property, even if it is carried out as a joke, will be treated as a crime by police.'
As for Murphy, his wanderlust satisfied he is now back in the flower bed where he belongs - only this time he's out of temptation's way in the back garden.