Mountain Memories – Early Days

In the 50’s I loved camping, even the organised stuff experienced with my local company of the Boys Brigade that camped in Fife every summer at Dairsie near Coupar. I preferred wild camping and my first attempt at about 13yrs old was at Lumley Den in the Sidlaw hills behind Dundee in the mid 1950’s (not really very wild – but a start). It was the simple things that I loved – brewing up “tinkie” tea or frying up sausages and bacon in a mess tin and usually burning them into a frazzle, as we cooked when the fire was blazing due to our inexperience (no Ray Mears in those days). My first outing on the hill was as a member of the Air Training Corps in 1958 (Jim Morrison was also a member of 1232Sqdn in Dundee at this time). We walked up Auchterhouse Hill of the Sidlaws range just behind Dundee. The leader had an old aircraft altimeter and used it to gauge our height.  (Little did I know that I would repair and calibrate these instruments when I enlisted in the RAF.) We wandered along the ridge over the highest top, Craig Owl with its radio masts, down across the road at Lumley Den, over Finlarig Hill and down for a pickup near Glamis at Arniefouls. It was great!  From the Sidlaws we could see the Angus Glens to the north, seeming to beckon me towards them – I lived at the bottom of the Dundee Law, an extinct volcano in the middle of Dundee, and often walked to the top to gaze over to Fife in the south and the Sidlaws to the north. From there I could see Gloster Meteors taking off from RAF Leuchars My basic climbing technique was developed climbing around the yards and factories of Dundee’s jute mills, which usually had to be accessed (illegally) by climbing over walls, up drainpipes or gas lights. Gutters were often made of cast iron which could hold the weight of a young lad hand traversing. Negotiating across corrugated iron roofs in tackety boots taught me how to use the bolt heads as the only means of ascent – handy for slab climbing in later years! Mantleshelfing on to the roofs of air raid shelters proved useful in later times too.