Locahber Diary – Gordon Ballantyne 

During my tours of duty at Kinloss during the 60s, I was fortunate enough to be chosen to instruct on the annual winter courses run by RAF Mountain Rescue run by John Sims & John Hinde.  Luckily for me in those days, the instructor selection process was fairly informal… 

It was a great time and I treasure the memories of days out with the guys from Kinloss & other teams – it was also great fun. Here’s a few of the outings that I can remember on the easier routes that us mortals did back in the days of Smocks Drab & Jackets Cold/Wet – unless you bought your own gear !  Also a couple of call-outs that I took part in, and the odd “incident”.    

Dates and names are a bit hazy, so if anyone remembers either or any, let me know for the sake of accuracy !  

It’s worth mentioning at the start the Ben Nevis observatory & Hotel, as many a probationer has been “encouraged” to complete the ascent to the top by a promise of a cup of tea in the hotel – long closed !  

Oh, we were cruel !  

Below is the picture from the 1969 edition of the SMC Munro’s tables, which nicely shows the Ben path zig-zags  and the short-cut down by the side of the Red Burn.


Ben Nevis Observatory & Hotel   1884  

There were 3 Nevis observatories – One on the summit, one half way up at a place called the Half way Lochan – Lochan  Meall-an-t-Suidhe near the Red Burn and one in Fort William, near where we catch the steam train nowadays.  

  • Pilot project 1881 driven by Clement Wragge. (He walked up to the top every day for a year to make observations )   -Scottish Meteorological Society launched an appeal & raised £5k.  
  • Path constructed – cost £800  

– Observatory built 1883 & extended 1884. Timber framed, walls 12ft thick at bottom.  

  • 9 Months construction, supplies ferried up in summer by ponies.   
  • Observatory Road Surveyor took up mail every 2-3 wks.  
  • Telegraph installed.    –  Hourly observations.      
  • Visitor charges of 1/- per person or 3/- per horse for using the track to the top of Nevis.  
  • 1890   Ft William observatory started.  – Half way Lochan Obs  1894?   
  • Highest Temp = 19 DegC.   Lowest Temp = -16 DegC    Highest Wind = >150kts (anemometer broke ),    Highest Annual Rainfall = 142 inches   


Ben Nevis Observatory  

1883 – 1904 

Note where the snow piles up to – the main building walls are about 10ft high.  



Opened soon after the main observatory in 1882. Staffed by girls who walked up and stayed for weeks at a time.  


Climbing etc  

NE Buttress of Ben Nevis  

The Mantrap – a wee step on the crest of the ridge.  


                                                                                                        NE Buttress                             Observatory Ridge              Douglas boulder of Tower Ridge   

                       The Orion face of NE Buttress from the CIC Hut  

Possible winter ascent of Northeast Buttress with Jim Craig, 1967ish.  

We’d planned to do NE Buttress before the winter set in, but when we reached the CIC Hut, it was evident that there had been a fresh fall of snow during the night. Looking up, it didn’t seem too bad, so I headed for  the start at the Coire Leis traverse to the first platform with my buddy Jim Craig. It had a fair bit of snow in it, but it was fairly wettish at the bottom, so didn’t present any problems, but needed a lot of care. Traversing from the first platform on snow covered ledges to the bottom of the groove leading up to the second platform wasn’t too bad as the snow started to firm up a bit as we gained height. The grooves were a mixture of ice and snow, but weren’t too difficult, just needed a bit of care due to the paucity of decent belays. I’d done the bottom bit without gloves, so as I belayed Jim, the circulation started to return to my fingers with the attendant pain, which made me skirl. Jim thought I was greetin, but I was just being a jessie & loupin around.  After the second platform, the ridge starts to ease back a little, so the increased amounts of unconsolidated snow on the crest didn’t provide too much trouble.  

The next barrier was the mantrap, a 15 ft awkward bit on the crest of the ridge and is the crux of the climb and many a hardy soul has had a good wrestle with it. It was now our turn. The alternative routes round it are allegedly more difficult, so it has to be tackled straight on.  

The mantrap lived up to its reputation today, as my first attempt at it had me jumping off at the first move. Having swept and melted the snow on the handholds at my first attempt, they quickly froze into ice, which meant they were  too slippy for my next attempt. We had a scran break to re-evaluate our strategy…….. !   Arms rested, I returned to the problem, knowing that a failure would mean a very long abseil for us back down the ridge. Jim offered himself  for the bottom half for combined tactics – a little hazardous in crampons, I might add. One sack was placed on his knees and the other on his head/shoulders, allowing me to gain some height to reach the upper holds. As I clung on to the icy holds, I found that if I lifted some of my fingers up after their heat had melted a bit of the ice, it allowed the ice to refreeze on my woollen mittens, thus giving just enough friction on the handholds to make the next move. The Mantrap is only a couple of moves to get over the difficulties, and this strategy worked well to get up it, much to our relief.  Jim came up on a tight rope so that he didn’t have to phaff around like me and anyway by this time he was getting cold. Above the mantrap the ridge eases right back onto the top, with lots more snow, so the going was easy and we made it to the top with our perforated hillbags. The tussle with the mantrap made a straightforward autumn ascent into a semi-winter ascent. I’ll let Jim decide whether it qualified as a winter ascent – it certainly tested my friction-on-ice creativity !  

Probably about Grade II  with the mantrap about Grade IV.  

The Joy/Gracie callout –  edited from J.Hindes‘ diary by Fiona Wild  

CallOut to N.E. Buttress (Mon 4th Mar 1963)  

Two climbers left the CIC Hut in good weather on the morning of 3/3/63 and climbed to above the Second Platform, by the Direct Route from the First Platform on the N.E. Buttress of Ben Nevis, when they decided that the ridge in winter conditions of iced rocks was too difficult and they retreated.  

A party of two (Keith Stanley and Ian Sutherland of Lochaber Mountaineering Club) climbed the N.E. Buttress the same day in 15 hours. They had passed the other two and they had seen them descending competently from the Second Platform, not by the way they had climbed , but by a gully and traverse on the West face of N.E. Buttress. However, they found this retreat too hard and reascended to the Second Platform. At 2310 hours on 3/3/63, they had shouted to Stanley and Sutherland (by now above the Man Trap) that they were O.K. but that they intended to bivouac, so that when Stanley and Sutherland had completed the climb and were descending by the Allt a’ Mhuilinn, they turned back police and other rescuers who had been alerted by two friends to look for the overdue pair.  

However when I arrived in Fort William at 0300 on 4th, I was worried because the two men had only one 120 ft rope and no crampons and they were unlikely to be able to descend after a cold night what they had failed on the previous day. At 0500 I sent one party round to the foot of the buttress and I went to the summit with another party. We had excellent radio contact between the two parties though no radios were taken on to the actual buttress.  

Three civilians had been alerted by KMRT at 0900 at the CIC Hut and they climbed rapidly up to the Second Platform where the pair had been seen exercising to keep warm.  

Myself and McKerron were lowered down 500 ft of the ridge. Sykes and Mackie, Bell and Ballantyne, with another two civilians ( Spider Penman & partners ) had climbed up to within a few hundred feet of the Second Platform, but they descended when I fired a green Verey signal, normally used to mean “return to base” (in this case it was a prearranged signal for the summit party to release the rope used for lowering). It was just as well however since there were already enough men, and waits between abseils were protracted enough.  

When McKerron and I got down, the two were being brought up, but we had so much rope that we decided to abseil down instead. The benighted two were quite fit to abseil and were none the worse for their night out, though they had no bivouac equipment and they were fortunate that the night had been reasonably mild. They soon warmed up when they got moving.  

All seven of us made three long abseils of 250ft each to the snow traverse below the First Platform on the east side of the buttress. During the abseils the weather worsened and soft snow fell for the first time, though it did not build up sufficiently to avalanche. We were protected from the strong winds blowing across the summit plateau.  

We climbed down the snow traverse in darkness, the pair moving very well considering that they had no crampons but only tricouninailed boots. There was one 60ft stretch of steepish clear ice, on which we were protected by pitons left behind for us by Sykes’ party.  

We all got down to the CIC hut by 8.30pm, and to Glen Nevis by 11pm.  


From the bottom end…  

As previously mention, Chiefy Hinde had split the team into 2. A summit party and a CIC Hut party.  

I was in the hut party with Dinger, Spike & Mackie. We walked up the path to the CIC hut, to find it occupied by some climbers. Spider Penman and his mates immediately volunteered to come with us up NE Buttress & led the way.  

We traversed in from Coire Leis to the first platform across a frozen waterfall . Spider led off up to the second platform with Spikes rope following. They reached Joy & Gracie and started to climb up the ridge. Spike Sykes had reached the 2nd platform, when he saw a green flare which he interpreted as all clear, so abseiled back down to where Dinger Bell & I had just started off. We all retreated back to the hut to wait for the abseilers. The summit abseilers, John Hinde and Ross McKerron  –  on reaching the Dundee climbers Joy & Gracie, being led up the buttress by Penman & his mates,  elected to continue abseiling down on their  500ft terylene ropes.  

Joy & Gracie had to brush up on their abseiling technique as few people had experience of such long abseils.  

It took a wee while to complete the 2000ft Abseil down the buttress, and it was getting dark as they traversed off into Coire Leis & down to the hut. Joy & Gracie were heated up at the hut before everyone  walked back down the path to Glen Nevis.   



 Observatory Ridge with Geordie ArmstrongFeb 1967ish  

During the pre-course warm-up on an RAF Mountain Rescue winter course based in the Glen Nevis youth Hostel, Geordie Armstrong and I hatched a plot to “have a look” at a winter ascent of Observatory Ridge on Ben Nevis.  

We trogged up to the CIC hut by the halfway lochan and then up Observatory Gully to the lowest part of Observatory ridge, not realising that the guide book start was a wee bit further up to the left at the bottom of Zero Gully. Anyway the ridge was plastered with snow so it probably didn’t matter.  

I lost the toss, again, so Geordie led first up an innocent looking groove. He seemed to take ages on what looked like an easy pitch, but when it became my turn to lead, I quickly understood why it had taken so long. The back of the grooves were pretty holdless, so we just had to rely on a dusting of fresh powder compacted into meagre holds to make progress. This went on for 3 or four pitches, with each groove easing us to the right side of the lower ridge. Eventually we were forced to make a traverse to the left to gain the crest of the top of the lower ridge to avoid getting on to the steep west face of the ridge near Hadrian’s Wall. It was my turn to lead, so I edged along this wee ledge, trying to reduce my weight on the fragile steeply banked up snow. Eventually the ledge petered out and I was faced with a tricky retreat or an intimidating move round the corner and up onto the crest of the ridge. Managing to get a bit of the shaft of my trusty McInnes axe into a hole somewhere over the top, I then swung out & up slowly and GENTLY to find more holds   ( a wing and a prayer comes to mind ).  I seem to remember grovelling into the powder snow above for a few more inelegant moves onto some good snow and a safe stance. Ramming in a home-made AL72 dead man belay, to secure our position on the crest of the upper ridge, I started to bring Geordie up.  

Unfortunately, I must’ve weakened the snow on the ledge below, as I heard a shout from below        ” I’m off loon”.   Fortunately, I had a good stance and belay plus quite a bit of friction on the rope, so Geordie just stretched the rope a wee bit then quickly regained new holds and finished the pitch. The top part of the ridge was plastered with snow which covered all the rock so we eventually drifted into the top of Zero gully to finish off, as it didn’t seem to matter where we went. Altogether the most satisfying of the classic Ben ridges, with continuous difficulties on the lower section.  

 Probably about Grade IV in old money.  

The REBUKE…..  

I’d just got back into the hostel and had been excitedly recounting our climb to John Sims and John Hinde when I rather over-exuberantly thrust my McInnes axe forward and said to John Sims “hey this ice-axe has been up Observatory ridge”.  John Hinde immediately put me in my place by reposting that John Sims could show me one that had been up Rakaposhi – with a few Derbyshire colloquialisms in support.  I slunked off with my tail between my legs to re-evaluate my misplaced self importance – stinging from the rebuke by my hero and mentor John Hinde.  Fortunately for me, John Sims just smiled sagely as he often did at our youthful  and often erratic behaviour.  In my defence, I was only a loon at the time !  I think I employed a bit more humility after that lesson – ouch !  

Observatory Buttress  

Did this summer route as preparation for a possible winter ascent ( which never came off )  

Fairly easy to meander about on the face of the buttress. Quite steep on the lower section, but easing off at the top.  

Nonetheless an enjoyable route on a reasonable day while some other troops hurled abuse at us from Tower ridge !   


Gardyloo Gully  

The winter course was in its second week and the pupils were getting stronger, so we thought Gardyloo gully was appropriate as a reasonable test of progress. In the summer you can see why it’s called Gardyloo because of all the junk from the observatory that was heaved down it. This was winter and all the junk was well covered. It was a straightforward plod up Observatory Gully and the bottom of Gardyloo to the steep bit where we roped up. A good belay was sought as the chockstone hung ominously out above our heads some way above us – appearing to stick out a long way into space. After a few moves step cutting and handhold hewing, a good runner was placed just below the chock stone which gave me the confidence to do an airy bridge out around the chockstone and back into the safety of the gully bed above. It didn’t seem very far to the cornice from here, so I kept going but just as I reached the cornice, the rope went tight. Drat these 120ft ropes !   “Move up a bit ” I yelled downwards, relying on our one and only runner for security. A few feet of slack rope allowed me to get over the cornice and on to the top. Great pitch !  A good belay was engineered in the summit iron-hard snow, with an axe driven in full length. The wind was blowing a wee bit so as my buddy made his way up, my anorak, which was damp from the recent exertions in the gully started to freeze. By the time my partners’ face appeared above the cornice, I was hardly able to take in the rope, being now clad in a suit of ice armour from the snow that had adhered to my anorak, dampened during the climb and added to by the spindrift being blown over the summit snowfields. A congratulatory hug helped to break off some of the ice, with an ice-axe beating helping to crack off the rest  so that we could coil the rope and head off down.   A short but really good climb that exits right next to the Ben summit cairn & observatory ruin.        Good Grade IV pitch on the day.  


Tower Scoop & Gully with Pete McGowan  

I teamed up with big bad Pete to scout out the snow conditions prior to the winter course official start…..  

Our objective was to check the snow conditions in Tower Gully, but  Pete suggested the Scoop, as an interesting approach to the gully, so we trogged up Observatory gully until the outcrop of rock emanating from Tower Ridge barred our way. I lost the toss again, so Pete led off up the obvious shallow scoop to the left of Tower Cleft. He climbed steadily up to the central snow scoop without any bother, belayed and brought me up. As I watched him climb I had an un-interrupted view of all his crampon points being forced into the ice by his substantial frame & monster rucksack that weighed a ton. I couldn’t help musing that if he came off he’d do a pretty good job of nailing me to the bed of Observatory gully ! However, when he’s holding the other end of your rope, a warm flow of confidence oozes up the rope towards you, as you’re pretty certain he’d hold you if you came off. That, along with his encouraging shouts of ” Whit are ye hangin’ aboot fur – flower “!  There was a mixture of good snow, rock and ice for the second pitch, which didn’t present any problems and soon we were both on top, exchanging pleasantries with a rope of guys negotiating the Tower gap. A short walk up Tower gully to the top allowed us to meet up again  with the Tower Ridge party and a walk down to Glen Nevis YoHo.  Another nice wee outing with the big yin.  

Grade II/I  

Glens’ winter ascent of Tower Ridge. 196768 ish    (Glen was my border collie dog)  

A couple of parties decided to try Tower Ridge as it was allegedly in condition. We trudged from the CIC Hut, up the Douglas boulder East gully to gain the crest of the ridge, with Glen dutifully following in my footsteps ( as he usually did ). We climbed in coils over the little tower on good snow. When we reached the bottom of the  great tower, we elected to do the eastern traverse route option.       As I was at the front, I led around on to the ET, which in summer is a ledge on the left side of the great tower, but in winter is normally banked up with snow. I’d just belayed in the middle of the traverse, when Glen appeared behind me, having plodded solo along in my footsteps. Next thing he snuggled up behind me, between my belay & me, nearly easing me off my stance into Observatory gully below ! The next guy came along and belayed so that I could finish the traverse before it got too crowded. Sure enough, Glen followed along in my footsteps again, which meant I had to scramble quickly with my belay, otherwise Glen definitely would’ve eased me off my stance into the gully. (He seemed to be in a hurry to get up ) We quickly made it up to the top of the great tower and everyone gathered there, exchanging a few choice words with some troops who had appeared on the summit of the Ben. We crossed the gap and Glen was manhandled across the tower gap by the troops and pushed up so that I could pull him up to the stance on the other side of the gap. At this point, encouraged by the troops on the summit, Glen made his way up the last section and nipped onto the top at the un-corniced bit and made it to the top first – some dog – eh ! Everyone else followed him on to the top to celebrate another great day on the Ben !  

Probably about Hard Grade II in the Gap  


Glen & Gonk on top of somewhere in the clag.                 



Tragedy on the Italian Climb –Tower Ridge of Ben Nevis  

This was a particularly poignant eventas one of those killed was an ex- WRAF  lassie from Kinloss, Mary-Anne Hudson, who many of the MR team members knew.  

The local Lochaber MR team were first on the scene, climbed up to rescue the stranded climber and subsequently other members of LMRT evacuated the other casualties to the helicopter.  

I was airlifted with others to below the CIC Hut by helicopter and was met by Hamish McInnes. Hamish & Has Oldham had already been to the base of the climb where the party had fallen and following some exposed ropes, had dug down to the casualties to establish their status. Unfortunately they had not survived the fall and had been swept into a small gorge in the floor of the corrie, which had then filled with snow from the avalanche. Hamish took us to the site where the casualties were, but it was obvious that that  had they miraculously survived the fall, the fact that they were buried under such a depth of snow which had become densely packed made the incident doubly unsurvivable.  

The casualties were extricated and carried to the CIC  and evacuated by Helicopter.  

KMRT support wasn’t needed in this case & it was handled by the Lochaber team , Hamish,  Has & John Ellis Roberts.  

The article below summarises the incident:  



From a report by the Lochaber guys who made the rescue of John Grieve, it was thought that a temperature inversion had made the snow unstable on the higher part of the climb, causing it to avalanche under the weight of the leader Jim McCartney.  


 Tower Ridge        Garadh  Gully         No2 Gully                   No 3 Gully   

(Italian Climb )                                    Coire na Ciste – Ben Nevis from the CIC Hut  



Garadh Gully and 2 Gully.        

Garadh gully affords a more interesting way up the corrie to the routes higher up and on this day, it was fairly well banked with snow, so no pitches ( at least I don’t remember any )! It became an exercise in travelling in coils with a bit of stepcutting for practice. At the top we headed over to  the bottom of 2 Gully, hoping for some better sport. The gully starts quite innocuously up a narrow defile until it fans out at the top. Suddenly we realised that it was quite steep, so we quickly belayed on a dead man and moved up towards the cornice. It was a massive cornice which had formed and melted, then re-frozen several times throughout the winter, so it was a bit saggy looking in the middle, about 1/2metre thick in places and curled right down to touch the snow slope below, forming a wee cave behind it. We had the options of burrowing through, which seemed like a lot of effort, climbing over the overhanging bit with the help of a few ice pegs or turning the cornice at its edges, where it didn’t overhang so much, but was much steeper. Thick as it was, I wasn’t sure if the cornice in the centre would bear our weight and it seemed an awful lot of snow to go trundling down the gully with, so elected to turn it on the right. Anyway, I only had one Stubai 8″ ice peg with me. With my buddy tucked under the overhang of the cornice in a wee cave, I edged out to the slope on the right which got steeper until it became vertical at the point where we had to break through. With a few blows the windslab tip of the cornice was disposed of and a few steps and handholds fashioned, so that I could reach over the top to use my axe as an anchor to pull myself over the top, where I lay like a landed fluke, without the flapping. My partner made short work  of this pitch and asked why I took so long – ungrateful youth, didn’t he realise how tense I was!  

Grade I & II  

3  Gully – up & down & the CIC  temperature experiment  

We were staying in the CIC hut during another winter course, which in those days had a coal burning stove for heating and primus stoves for cooking. The weather was evil the day we arrived so we drew lots to empty the outside elsan toilet as the frozen turds were piled up in a pyramid high above the toilet seat so that the next person to use it would have to stand on the seat. ( in fact a few people must’ve already achieved this precarious task successfully ) I lost the toss again, so with my other bog walla, a witness and a shovel, we headed off up the slope of CMD. We cleared some snow & tipped the contents onto the ground and covered the pile with rocks, as we couldn’t make any impression on the frozen ground with our shovel – Yuck !  

Later that night, after our evening meal we got the hut stove going so well that it started to glow cherry red and everyone was back against the beds away from the heat. Someone had the idea to try to max out the thermometer (129Deg F ). Working as a team, we stoked the fire with a shovel tied to a brush handle until even the lum was red all the way to the roof. But still we were a few degrees short, so someone fired up the primus stoves and hung blankets up to stop the air moving around from the drafty door. Yes – we made it ! Quickly the door & windows were flung open , lest we all suffocated. Someone then measured the temperature outside since there was a blizzard in full swing and it was somewhere around 15DegF, so we convinced ourselves that we’d cracked the biggest temperature differential record for something-or-other ! Anyway, we didn’t try to record it with the Guinness book of records as we thought that the SMC would exact some retribution on us for burning all their coal ( which had to be hand carried up part of the way, because the resupply vehicle can’t get all the way to the hut) – and for also annealing the stove.   

Next day, the weather was fine, so we headed off up Coire na Ciste towards 3 Gully. The approach is up a steep snow covered scree cone which gets quite exposed until you get into gully proper. Near the top we had the choice of passing to the left or right of the central pinnacle. We chose the left exit, as there was plenty snow and no ice. As part of the training, we taught our pupils how to climb down, including cutting steps down, so we headed back to the hut down the right fork, taking some care, as a slip would have meant a considerable skite into the corrie !  Soon we were back in the hut, hanging on to a brew. A grand day !  I must’ve done it a few times during the winter courses as it was an ideal training gully.  

Grade I  & Stove stoking Grade V  

No 4 Gully   

I don’t remember ever climbing up 4 Gully, as it was always used as the descent route back down to the hut, being the easiest of the Bens’ main gullies. Occasionally it had a bit of a cornice so it was good fun leaping over it into the gully yelling “banzai”, much to the alarm of passing walkers, who must’ve thought we’d gone loopy and were committing suicide !  

Grade I  

Moonlight Gully, 5 Gully and down South Castle Gully  

Another winter course and I had a pupil with me, so we decided on Moonlight Gully as better sport than walking up the bottom of 5 Gully. There was plenty of good snow with only minor pitches, so it was an excellent gully to be dragged up by a competent pupil. At the top we moved on up to the cornice on 5 Gully to practice our cornice technique. Unfortunately, the cornice wasn’t very big, but nonetheless we managed to summit without any problem. As we headed off CD NW, we spotted another group exiting from one of the Castle gullies, so we walked over to make a social call. After some scran, we decided to do some descending practice, so I jumped over the cornice of S Castle gully to test if my partner was alert. Unfortunately, there was a lot of snow in the gully, which covered the pitches, so we just walked down in coils to practice moving together. I think we headed back down the glen that day as the CIC hut was full of SMC-ers.  

Grade II,  & I  

North Castle Gully  with Geordie Armstrong          

We were early in the season this time and gazed up from the castle corrie at the spindrift wafting over the top and drooling down the gullies. We were sheltered from the wind, but the effect of the spindrift was soon to have some impact. Having chosen North Castle gully as the most promising, of the two, Geordie  and  I made our way into the Castle corrie, trogged up the bottom of the gully and roped up below a chockstone which was blocking progress. I  lost the toss again, ( I’m sure he had a double sided coin for this exercise) so Geordie got himself up to the lip of the chockstone where he was met by an waterfall of spindrift. He retreated with his face, mouth & hood choked with snow. After dusting himself off and refusing my offer to have a go , he tied the hood of his cold/wet jacket down and with a deep breath, hurled himself over the top and managed to brave the rush of spindrift long enough to get his body above the “waterline”, and on to easy ground. He, in turn, laughed like a drain as I floundered up after him, arriving at his belay, coughing, spluttering and shedding spindrift from every orifice of my clothing. We walked up to the cornice, which was very disappointing, as we just stepped up over it onto the top. The sun shone as we descended to the half way Lochan, posing for a couple of photos on the way down before descending the Ben path to Cameron’s Barn. I keep one of these photos in my office at home to remind me of when I was slim, fit and had hair  


Grade II  


Geordie Armstrong on the slopes of Carn Dearg NW above the half- way lochan – Ben Nevis 

and GB on Carn Dearg NW after N.Castle Gully 1963ish.  


The Ben Path “Incident”.  

Some -time during the ’60’s, another RAF group from somewhere “down south” were attempting to complete the 3 peaks of Snowdon, Scafell and Ben Nevis. It would seem that the organiser had good connections with Kinloss, as the team were tasked with providing safety coverage for this expedition on the day they ascended Ben Nevis. These jobs were hated by the team as it usually meant freezing one’s nuts off somewhere on the Ben path for a day until everyone got up & down.  

Jack Baines and I were tasked with providing some markers on the path, which infuriated Jack, so he purloined some of Her Majesty’s best yellow paint from the Ground Equipment section at Kinloss    and after picking me up headed for Fort William in one of our Land Rovers.   We were up early from Cameron’s barn, so started from Achintee splashing this yellow paint at 50yard intervals (pre-decimalisation) all the way to the summit.  This of course raised quite a furore among the local folks, with indignant articles in the Lochaber press about this vandalism. I try to absolve myself of responsibility by saying I only carried the cans of paint for Jack. ( I was only following orders ! ) Unfortunately Jack is no longer with us to defend himself and would probably tell a different story, but in the end , the RAF “Southern group” made it to the top and back down again without losing anyone and the paint has weathered away over the last half-century. Jack & I also had to wear gloves and turn our jerseys inside out, for a few days afterwards to hide the evidence of our yellowy hue !    However, for a good while afterwards, Jack and I skulked in the corner of the Imperial Hotel bar behind our pints, hypocritically joining in with the locals’ condemnation of this terrible desecration of our premier mountain!   

The  burnt Scrotum   

In the winter of  62-3 we were looking for new routes away from the main climbing areas so Robin (Dinger) Bell & I teamed up to have a look at the North-East Ridge of Aonach Beag. For some obscure reason, we started from Killiechonate near Spean Bridge. The long walk up the Alt choire an Eoin seemed to pass uneventfully – as I don’t remember much about it –  and soon we were stood at the bottom of the ridge, which was plastered in snow and hoar frost. We could see a substantial buttress blocking the top part of the crest of the ridge. We roped up and scrambled up to the bottom of the steep bit. After a few fags and a half hearted attempt, we decided it was too hard for us and we needed more gear. In those days of diretissima, a less direct line we considered to be cheating, so we retreated back down the glen – completely deflated by our lack of achievement.  

The sun was starting to set by this time and we tried to speed our return by missing out the many meanders of the river by walking over the interlocking spurs. However this didn’t seem to have any effect, so we continued  the walk down the glen which seemed to go on forever, to get our pickup in Spean. A round trip of some 20km with only a frost nip to my right big toe to show for it. (I’d worn a hole in the toe of my Arvons Tiger boots kicking steps in snow earlier in the season )   

Following dinner in Cameron’s barn we went to the pub with the rest of the team, after which I went back to the barn for a gonk.  Dinger, being made of stronger stuff, elected to go on to the dance.  

Al Ward related this story to us next day………….  

Dinger got into the dance hall and parked himself on a radiator to dry his climbing breeches properly and promptly fell asleep. Sometime later he woke and felt really sore in the ” nether regions ” !  

It soon became apparent how badly burned he was when he could hardly walk out of the dance hall. After an agonising night in Camerons Barn, Dinger was driven to Belford hospital in the land rover next morning by his party colleagues  Goldie & Al.  A nurse asked him where he was burned. He said it was the thighs & bottom, in response to which she probed ” is it your scrotum too ? “.     Not having come across this medical term for his ball bag  – he vaguely looked at his hands back & front and ventured  ” I….. don’t think so”. At this point Al, being a typical troop  demonstrated his empathetic skills by falling off his chair laughing, and still delights to this day relating the story  to anyone who hasn’t heard it!    What are friends for – eh !  

The Witches stone & Climbers Graveyard  in Glen Nevis  

We have Jack Bains to thank for this one !  

I’d previously walked up Glen Nevis many times in various states of inebriation, totally unaware of the dangers that lurked around me………  

One night we were sitting in the Imperial bar in Ft William when Jack started to relate how he used to run past the “Climbers” graveyard about halfway up Glen Nevis between the Nevis bridge turnoff and Camerons Barn. ( Most of us didn’t even know there was a graveyard there). He then went on to explain that if you ran 3 times round the Witches stone, at the side of the road,  not far from the Climbers cemetery, you wouldn’t be attacked by the witches, warlocks & kelpies that lived in the river. ( Many a Bedford truck had scraped some paint off on it whilst tearing up the glen ! )  

As  fate would have it, I walked alone up   Glen Nevis  that night, having missed the transport back to Cameron’s Barn again. It was a cold moonlit night, and as I reached the Witches stone, I remembered Jacks story and with a chuckle, walked round it three times, getting my immunity from otherworldly attacks. Richt enough it worked – nothing happened –  so I walked on to the Climbers Graveyard. It was a little spooky, as there was a knee-level mist covering the ground making only the tops of the  gravestones visible in the bright moonlight. Suddenly -there was a movement among the gravestones which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. There it was again…….. !!  

Jings, crivvens & help ma boab !! – that was it…… I was off & sprinted all the way back to Camerons’ Barn to the comfort of the roaring cooking bomb and familiar faces of the team. I never stopped long enough to find out what was moving in the graveyard and of course I never mentioned why I was out of breath when I got back to the barn!   

We were Kinloss MRT, for goodness sake and feart o nothing !  Aye….. right!  


The Coire Leis abseil posts 1966  

Hamish McInnes had chatted to John Hinde & suggested that it would be a good idea to mark the descent route into Coire Leis, as a number of walkers had descended the Carn Mor Dearg arête from Ben Nevis in poor visibility conditions in winter  and had missed the easiest descent route into Coire Leis, continuing to the lowest part of the arête. This also happens to be the steepest part above Coire Leis and is very rocky. Some walkers attempting this route had fallen into the corrie –  usually  with fatal results.  

The following article in Mountaineer by Heather Morning summarises the history.  




On the day previous to installation, an RAF Wessex chopper had dropped the posts off on the ridge. Next day we were lifted up by the chopper  to the crest of the ridge with the cement etc, but it was too gusty to drop us off on the crest, so the pilot dropped us off in Coire Giusbhsachan, about 500ft below the ridge.  

We then manhandled our gear, initially humping  the  cement and finally 5gal cans of water to the crest of the ridge in shifts, before collecting the rocks to form into cairns, which were cemented together once the poles had been inserted. Later we mixed the cement down in the corrie and lugged the mixed cement up to the crest of the ridge as a more efficient way of getting the task done. We were obviously not builders, because the cairns had to be recemented several times before they were eventually removed, as described in Heather’s article.  

However, the hope is that we prevented some accidents that may have happened, had the poles not been there. I even used them  once myself as a guide in later years when I descended by this route with a party of work colleagues.  

Sad to see them gone after so much effort by the guys that day, but the new cairn will probably suffice and look more natural instead of our “engineered ” solution !  


Any time we were hung over or the weather was really foul up high, we gravitated to Polldubh at the top of Glen Nevis. This was also a favourite spot for any  PR shots as the camera crews didn’t have to venture far off the road with their winkle picker shoes & trenchcoats.  

Pinnacle ridge was usually chosen for a demo stretcher lower and there are many pictures in the  MR photo album of posers. (See an example below)


Hector McLeod, Dave Voisey,  ?  , Gonk Ballantyne, Ron Low, Jack Bains  

Dinger & Spike had done Storm, but I didn’t have a strong second to attempt it, so bumbled along to Phantom slab – just remember one 80 ft pitch with no runners  that I could find, anyway. Fairly bold lead – would’ve been as well soloing it. Did the usual standards of Sheepfank wall, Tricouni Slab, Pinnacle ridge etc         



Some activities in Glencoe……..  

I didn’t do much in Glencoe apart from numerous traverses of the Aonach Eagach ridge when we stayed in Hamish’s barn in the early days.  Glencoe was actually Leuchars territory, as the boundary between the two areas of responsibility went from Aberdeen in the east up the Dee   to Braemar, then a hazy line  across to Kinlochleven in the west.  Kinloss area of responsibility  to the north of this line and Leuchars to the south.   

The Aonach Eagach.  

This ridge became synonymous with the Glencoe SYHA & it’s female occupants. Our usual KMRT training discipline was usurped by conspiring huddles in the Clachaig Inn. The plan went like this…..Do a night-ex along the ridge after the pub closed,  practising our nav-in-a-fog skills – ( yeh – alcoholic haze more likely!) have a quick gonk in the early part of the morning, then visit  Ingrid at the Youth Hostel  to see if any good looking chicks were engaged on chores, to line them up for the evening dance.  

Many of us had never seen the ridge totally sober – summer or winter. This also resulted in a paucity of climbs achieved in Glen Coe !      Ah –  the bloom of youth………  

Gear Aonach  

Rock routes on the east face of this photogenic buttress  gave a spectacular view down into Glencoe and an eagles eye view of the ant-like people & vehicles scudding up & down the road, snaking its way  along the floor of the glen and  through the pass out onto Rannoch moor.  Seem to recall doing some easy routes like Quiver etc on the E face.  

The Buchaille  

During one winter course we managed to get round to stay in luxury at the SMC cottage of Lagangarbh ( it being equipped with  “the electricity” ), making it a short walk to get to the gullies on Buchaille Etive Mor. While walking round the Buchaille, we could keek up Ravens Gully, which looked really fearsome. We’d heard wild stories of Hamish’s escapades whilst trying to do it earlier.  On the contrary, Great gully served as a  good area for basic snow techniques warmup  – but we were soon heading for Crowberry Gully. The Left fork was a good challenge similar to Gardyloo Gully on the Ben. However, at the crux I placed a runner under the chockstone without extending it and by the time I’d climbed over the chockstone, the friction on the rope was multiplied many times, forcing me to make a stance on one of these seemingly all too common psychological belays to bring my second up. I emphasised to him the need avoid falling off !  He seemed to understand my terse tones & with a few balletic moves, including deftly recovering the offending runner, moved up in full compliance, so that we were quickly reunited and able to gain the safety of the top another few metres above our tenuous stance. Next day we did the easier right fork of Crowberry Gully on which my partner easily led the awkward slabby left hand bend in the gully.   

With our tenancy of the luxurious Lagangarbh Hut ended ( we’d run out of shillings to feed the electric meter )  we returned to Glen Nevis Youth Hostel.  



The Chasm – Buchaille Etive Mor.  

Geordie Armstrong & I took a party each up this climb in summer, which has one or two pitches and a good bit of chossy scree in between.  

The first climbing pitch was this massive jammed boulder.  John Sims had been working hard to get us some decent gear and his efforts had begun to bear fruit, so we were beginning to look the part in our red anoraks and moleskin breeches mit shiny hard hats.  


1st Pitch of The Chasm  

Geordie Armstrong & Hamish Hamilton  

I can’t remember the middle of the gully, but the final pitch had 3 variations of differing difficulties, so we elected to exit via the easiest route on the S side, as there was quite a bit of water coming over the direct route.  

We all had a go at the overhanging start of the exit route and luckily, my attempt succeeded, so made my way up the relatively easy wee ledges to gain a stance to bring everyone else up. Don’t remember managing to get many runners on.  


Gobby Brown coming up the easy exit from the Chasm  

Buchaille Etive Mor  

A wee bit disappointing, as gullies often are, with good  pitches interspersed with walks up loose scree.  

Clachaig Gully  

For once we were sober enough to try this classic. I’d been up once before with Iain Doig and had proved that getting out of the gully was more difficult than completing the climb. Iain led a hairy pitch using,  half- inch Birch sapling psychological runners on VS grass to escape to the path, somewhere around the great cave pitch.  I’ve no idea why we bailed out – probably a call-out or running out of daylight.    

Next time we’d managed to pass the Clachaig hotel, without a “warm-up” pint.  

I was always mystified by W.H. Murrays, description of retreating from the Great cave pitch, identifying all the rock minerals while allegedly being gripped up ! Most of us would have been content with being gripped up ! Mind you – Murray  was in nailed boots I think .  

Our passage up the great cave pitch was uneventful and passed without  incident, in our modern vibram – soled  footwear.  

Jericho wall was a crumbly wet bridge up the dripping sides, trying to avoid getting too soaked from the water drooling down the sides of the chimney.  

The final Red wall pitch was the crux and because I’d cheated by planning our ascent during a dry spell, I managed to bridge up above the spootie of water  emanating from the gully bed, completing a dry ascent. The final bit up to the open chute was on loose scree, to reach the path that descends at the side of the gully for our customary pint or three in the Clachaig – that is, until we were unceremoniously interrupted by another call-out.   Most unsporting !  


           Clachaig Gully                                                                                           Photos from Alan Halewoods blog.  


The Voodoo Callout  


At the risk of being boring, I’ll repeat the salient points here from a website, as I was one of those KMRT members who spent quite some time searching over what seemed like half of Scotland for this aircraft – such was the pressure to locate it for our US friends. We searched first Ardgour, then started to spread out away from the  original locus where the aircraft had disappeared. Soon joined by most of the other RAF MR Teams from around the UK . Sunshines’ comments about the weather being poor during most of the search was an understatement. I can recall getting up every morning to don cold damp or wet clothing, before heading out on another fruitless foray.   

Summary from an aircraft crash website…..  

At the time of the accident, the F-101C Voodoo featured here was on a training flight from its base at RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk, England. Voodoo 56-0013 was flying in formation with two other Voodoos.  


However, while flying over the Scottish highlands at 28,000ft, fighter 56-0013 exploded in mid-air —apparently without warning— the pilot had no opportunity to eject from his stricken aircraft.  


Wreckage from the fighter-bomber was strewn over a wide area in the vicinity of Maol Odhar (Creach Bheinn) in the Kingairloch area of the Scottish Highlands, about 15 miles SW of Fort William. An extensive search was conducted by the USAF, RAF and mountain rescue teams. However, the crash site was not discovered until 10 days later.  


Involved in the search were no less than eight Hercules aircraft from Prestwick; eight HC-54s (Skymasters), and eight C-47 (Skytrain / Dakotas), together with other aircraft and ground search teams.  


Sunshine’s comment on Heavys article on this incident…..  

Ray Sefton ( Sunshine) says:  

May 16, 2013   

You told the story well Heavey. What started the search in the Glen Finnan area was a report of a jet belching flame and smoke disappearing into cloud on a hill adjacent to Loch Shiel. It took 3 days for a Scimitar pilot to admit he was beating up the Glen Finnan viaduct.  

My lasting memory of this call out was the absolute squalor that the troops lived in and still maintained their morale. Apart from the first night in the old shed the rest of the bases were in tents. We had little kit and usually stood astride the “bomb” (Hydra Burner) tunnel, until we were dry. On call outs, we were always on compo rations for the first three days and then went onto fresh rations, if we were lucky. Because, this operation was of national importance our support from Pitreavie RCC, after the first day, was exceptional.  

The bonus in Glencoe was that big Ingrid, the wife of the Youth Hostel Warden, made us very welcome and dried out as much kit as she could. (This huge lady became a friend of the team over many years and it was not unknown for her to crash out in the ATC hut in Fort William, much to the consternation of the newer troops.)  


My take in the callout…..  


I can’t remember every day out, as they all blurred into a wet , soggy , claggy trudge in typical west coast horizontal rain, straining our eyes into the mirk so that we hopefully, didn’t miss anything.  

On the first day of the search, I was in a party led by Ross McKerron, that was dropped off to search the head of Cona Glen, south of Loch Eil. We had to cross the burn to reach the south side of the glen, so tentatively searched for a way across the river for a few minutes until Ross decided this was no way for KMRT troops to pussyfoot around and set off to splash across. Unfortunately, he chose a bit of the burn that was deceptively deep at this point and was soon wading chest-deep to reach the other side – much to our amusement. To add insult to injury, the rest of the party found a crossing point a few yards further upstream, to keep  ourselves  dry for a little longer. As usual , we all had a good laugh about it then set off to search the appointed Corbetts to the south and west of Cona Glen. (the rest of the party were soon as wet as Ross before we arrived back to Glenfinnan for pickup )  

This was an excursion to eliminate the  sighting of an aircraft in Glenfinnan ,which eventually turned out to be the aforementioned Scimitar highlighted by Sunshine, which was long back at its base. The teams scoured the  rest of Ardgour out towards  Rois-bheinn, then covered the east side of Loch Linne -Beinn a’ Bheithir,  Bidean,  Aonach Eagach, the Buachailles, the Etive hills followed by the Mamores , the Ben, CMD,  the Aonachs and the Grey Corries – being hosed on every day by the unrelenting west coast weather.   I seem to recall troops being out in Glen Gloy & Glen Roy and the Creag Meaghaidh area too from our camp at Aberarder Farm. The search area got bigger every day. About the middle of  the search I was sent by John Hinde with others  to search  the Aonach Mor ridge of Stob Gabhar from Glen Etive. We started the day with a find of antlers which we thought had been thrown out of an old cottage (Alltchaorunn).  It turned out they had been stored at the back of the cottage while it was being refurbished !  However one of our party carried a good set  back for the wall of our briefing room. They all seemed to have been shot by the Marquis of Breadalbane – he must’ve been a bit of a bloodthirsty  geezer, judging by the stack of antlers.   

We sweep searched up the broad ridge of Aonach Mor of Stob Gabhar to the top, trying not to lose anyone . Heading down the other side of the hill we dropped down  into Coire Ba and negotiated the worst 2 miles of deep peat hags I’ve ever encountered. Having to climb out every few hundred yards to check our navigation, back to Wades Road. Fortunately the midges and clegs were not yet in full song, so we escaped with most of our blood ! I seem to remember doing Beinn Achaladair & Ben a Chreachain with Spike as the furthest extremity of the search to the south west. (must’ve been running out of places to look).  

Little did we know that on day 2 of the search, a party  had been in a coire of Maol Odhar below the crash site, in thick cloud where some wreckage had fallen !  They must’ve missed seeing the wreckage by a whisker in the thick mist & rain.   


A view taken in about 2001 up the glen the aircraft crashed in, snow can be seen near to where the aircraft impacted  


The point of impact is in the centre of this photograph.

A panel from below the F101’s cockpit– looking back just below the sky line down the glen towards Glen Tarbet and the Strontian – Ardgour road.  



Pieces of wreckage  on the summit have been built into the cairn which marks the highest point of the mountain. The cairn has collapsed a little since 2003 but most of the wreckage is still around it.    

The pictures above were taken in 2013 by a member of the peakdistrictaircrashes.co.uk website.  

After a week of searching, all the teams were beginning to wonder of this aircraft really did exist,  as we’d scoured a vast area ! We were back at base to regroup after 10days,  when a C-47 aircraft spotted the wreckage during the first break in the weather. Some team members went to the site, but the US military took over to remove the pilots remains and any confidential material, leaving bits of the aircraft scattered around.   

I intend to visit the site when I’m over in the area doing Corbetts.  

The RAF Kinloss  206 Sqdn Shackleton MR3 XF702 crash on Creag Bhan above Loch Ailort  

21st Dec 1967  


A Shackleton MR3 from 120 Sqdn – also based at RAF Kinloss  

We were called out at Kinloss under a veil of secrecy. I went ahead in a land rover as part of the advance party.  It wasn’t until we checked in at the police station in Fort William that we were told that it was a possible aircraft crash. We then headed west towards Mallaig, to a grid reference, where a fire service  tender and a police constable met us. They let us know that a shepherd had been up to the site and confirmed that there were no survivors. The tender returned to Ft William soon after our arrival.  

We waited for the rest of the convoy to catch up. This was when we found out that it was a Shackleton from Kinloss that had crashed.  

When  Chief Hinde arrived it was dark, so  he assigned Tony Bradshaw and I to take the  first watch at the crash site.   

For those who aren’t aware, a  Shackleton has 4 Griffon piston engines and uses petrol ( AVGAS). This aircraft had the addition of 2 jet engines to assist takeoff with heavy loads for long patrols ( a jet engine uses a form of paraffin – AVTUR ) The ground at the crash site was saturated with fuel, still smouldering and every now and again would spontaneously catch fire, giving an eery atmosphere among the wreckage. We noticed that the shepherd who had been first at the scene, had collected some classified ship silhouettes and some identity cards into an officers Service Dress hat.  

We had a quick reconnoitre of the area, then looked through the material in the hat and to my shock & surprise found an ID card containing a picture of one of my neighbours from across the square in our married quarters.  Now we understood why we had been mobilised in such secrecy.  

We sat on a rock that had been heated by the fireball from the initial impact, somewhere in the middle of the wreckage pool, trying to shelter from the rain. After a couple of hours we were relieved by  another couple of team members, who informed us that we were to be billeted at Loch Ailort castle West wing ! ( The owner, Mrs CameronHead made us very welcome )  

Fortunately, the crash site wasn’t too far from the A830 Ft William to Mallaig road, so we were soon fed and bedding down for what was left of the night.  

At daylight next  morning we all went back to the crash site and made a thorough search of the site and ” recovered” the 13 aircrew bodies. We could see that the impact had been catastrophic  and that an outline of the aircraft had formed an impact crater in  head-on view . Also the aircraft had cut a small knoll in half vertically, showing that the angle of impact had been very steep .  

The Air accident Investigation team arrived and we received instructions to search the wreckage for any instrumentation or hydraulic jacks, which would establish the state of the aircraft at the time of impact.  

The area was mapped out to identify where each part came from. As most of the Rescue team had worked on the maintenance of this type of aircraft they were particularly useful in identifying various parts. By this time the Leuchars team had arrived to help. They were accommodated in the east wing of Lochailort Castle. The most palatial bothy I’d ever experienced for a call-out !  

( It was one of these secret training locations for clandestine operations during WW11 )  

The next phase was to search the track of the aircraft to establish whether any parts had fallen off prior to impact. Several parties swept the area around Loch Beoraid.   

Some troops with John Hinde searched the area at the head of  KinlochMorar gaining access by boat from Morar at the west end of the loch  

John Hindes’ diary entry gives a detailed account. The search areas below were drawn by John Hinde.   




Next we dug & levered out  the propellor reduction gears from where they had embedded themselves 2 ft into solid rock.  

The Viper jet engines  – normally about 2 meters long had been compressed into about 1/2 meter by the force of impact. The biggest part to survive was the nose wheel undercarriage strut which was nearly intact, but with a big lump broken off it.  

Eventually, most of the parts were helicoptered down to a truck which took them to  the AIB at Farnborough.  



It was subsequently deduced that the aircraft had iced up and stalled, with insufficient time to recover before striking the ground.    13 crew died. A very sad Christmas for us all, as some of the crew were known to us.  

Later I was to be a member of the guard of honour for the aircrew of Shackleton XF702 who were buried at Kinloss Abbey with full military honours. Quite moving, marching behind the coffins to the cemetery, then a piper playing Floors o’ the Forest  at the end of the burial service !  

Later it occurred to me that on this incident Kinloss MRT helped trained the aircrew, serviced their aircraft, searched for their aircraft, helped investigate the accident and honoured the aircrew at their burial service.  The full service !   

Later an Ice-warning indicator modification was fitted to the Shackleton fleet.  

The Battle of Ballachulish  

One weekend whilst at Fort William, a party which had been out on the hill in the Ballachulish area and were driving back to the Fort when they  noticed a house at the side of the road with a garden full of gnomes and knick-nacks.  

What attracted the troops attention, was a miniature brass cannon in pride of place in the middle of the garden. What a trophy for our briefing room, they thought !  

Later that night when they returned from a dance at Onich, they  spirited this cannon away in the back of the land rover and back to Kinloss. Back at base on reading in the press how heartbroken the owner was at losing her prized possession, remorse set in – not a very common response at Kinloss. It was decided to return the cannon the next weekend, but to marked the occasion, one of the troops had a brass plaque made stating ” This cannon was captured at the battle of Ballachulish “, which was duly affixed to the cannon.  

However, on the very friday night that we were about to set off to return the cannon, the RAF police were tipped off and searched the vehicles. It was a fair cop. It was explained that the cannon was about to be returned, so this was allowed to take place. The snatch team then appeared in front of the Station commander to get the customary “responsibility” lecture and their wrists slapped, emerging with fewer shekels than they entered with.   

Unfortunately, the local police were then invited to search our briefing room and subsequently removed most of our trophies to solve all the outstanding cases from the last few years – much to the glee of our local snowdrops !   We had to keep a low profile for a wee while after that – again !  


Myers revenge and the dreaded ’66 World Cup  

When the team went to the pub in the evening, we normally bust into a repertoire of  various  songs. The singing was fairly good, because at that time , if you started a song and couldn’t finish it, you ended up in the nearest river or loch on the way back to base camp !  

We sang  all sorts of songs from Scottish Jacobite ballads, Russian revolution troop rousing choruses ,  Climbing/Rambling songs, Irish Rebel ballads, Geordie songs, even some comic songs – (The hole in the Elephant’s bottom springs to mind), Scottish east coast bothy ballads and a few military classics later in the evening as the words were usually  fairly unprintable, but fortunately mostly lost in the haze of alcohol. The variation of songs reflected the diversity of troops in the team, who brought their local ditty’s to the party.  

One evening, probably in the Clachaig Inn Glencoe, having worked our way through the repertoire of the team members present, culminating in “The Buchan Bobby” by Geordie Paterson and ” McGintie’s Meal an’ Ale” by Ross McKerron, we were thinking about ordering another round, when our colourful Wireless Operator – Pete ( Sweet) Myers, who had been unusually quiet up until this point suddenly announced that he’d had enough of this guff with t’ foreign words and would sing a proper song. Maybe his brazen attitude was due to the six pints he’d just downed or was a culmination of years of  smouldering  mystification……….  

Anyway, he launched into  D’ye Ken John Peel – I think in the key of B flat, changing to F sharp half way through the first verse . The rest of the Lakes contingent, Goldie, Dinger & Al Ward  – showing great camaraderie –  lustily joined  in the chorus – I think in C natural  – belting it out in sheer defiance of all musical protocols .  

Notwithstanding our Englandshire comrades right to assert their national identity and  for us to accommodate Manchester ramblers whilst being led by a Derby ram – I still won’t vote for Indyref2 !  We don’t dislike das englanders that much, although “the Mullach” ( Ian Russell from Tobermory) may contest that, after Goldie bit his leg when England scored at football, while watching the ’66 world cup in the Glencoe Youth Hostel on a black & white TV in Ingrids lounge.  The signal was  so weak,  multiple “ghost” images caused by the signal bouncing around the glen before being received by the glenners’  TV sets,  the teams  appeared to be playing in a snow storm and with twice as many players – 44 a side  !  Remember 405 lines ?  

However, on both occasions they made their  point by asserting their national heritage and to put the jocks back in their  place.  

D’ye Ken John Peel  sung out of tune then became Pete’s signature performance and always sung after a good few pints, usually after he’d been pissed off by the Jock Cong ! And of course we jocks have to suffer the interminable replays of “that match” on BBC TV.  

True Lochaber entertainment for all !  

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