Mountain Memories – Post Script

I think I must hold some sort of record for good weather on Skye.

In those days, the Kinloss Shackleton squadrons were tasked to shadow the Warsaw Pact (The Soviets) naval forces, who held their exercises in the Atlantic around about May and August grant weekends, so our holiday grant times were often shifted around accordingly when max effort was needed on the pseudo-war front. Fortunately for us, this seemed to line up our long holiday weekends with a good weather window in Skye. The odds of this happening must be millions to one, but it happened!  Even the call-outs seemed to follow this pattern as once we spent a whole week in glorious weather searching for an ex-commando on Sgurr Sgumain and the surrounding corries.

That Sgurr Sgumain callout was the first time we were paid our “Queen’s shilling” on a callout and we promptly scuttled into Portree to spend it all on the newly discovered Talisker whisky. Had we not been on the hill with the police, I think we would’ve been nicked for putting several new routes up on the Portree police station after the pub shut whilst being under the influence! We were too dram’d up to realise it was the police station.  Fortunately, we were whisked away back to Glenbrittle before the station sergeant had to take any serious action.

Derek Bottomer, an ex- Kinloss team member was subsequently to become the manager of this aforementioned Talisker distillery in later years. Al Ward christened Derek’s Talisker drams “the fumes” and I can confirm first hand that it was indeed “the water of life”!

Fortunately, after leaving the RAF, while I was at university in Dundee and living near Montrose, Derek was at that time the manager of the maltings at Hillside, just outside Montrose, so I managed to get some practice in there, before qualifying for the premium Talisker “fumes” later!

Derek had a fair variety of visitors at Talisker, including W/O Iain Brunton AFC, an ex-KMRT member and, at the time, a Master Winchman in the SAR helicopter Flt at Lossie.  Whilst overflying Skye he managed to convince his SAR helicopter pilot that they needed to do a sub-unit check on the Skye Mountain Rescue Team at Talisker. (In all honesty, at that time, Derek was a member of the Skye MRT and an early Munro “compleater”). They duly landed nearby for a strupac (cup of tea and a chat), much to the surprise of the Carbost folks! I can tell you that Derek’s wife Grace, like many MR wives, is an expert at feeding vagrant MR troops who “drop in” for a strupac – even in a helicopter!

It should be borne in mind that during the 1960’s KMRT could only visit Skye for training during the long weekend breaks, nominally in May and August, as there was no ferry on a Sunday across from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin, or anywhere else in the highlands for that matter! This also meant that we couldn’t exercise on Skye unless we came back on Monday. Dispensation for Sunday travel from the civil authorities would only be given for call-outs.

I was eventually initiated in Skye beside Macrae’s barn. I duly confessed my sins, glad to be removed from the water tester’s roster, and the egg was cracked – unlike John Hinde and Goldie, who visited the shit pit outside the same Macrae’s barn for their respective initiations!  ( Photo of Goldie in team album )