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updated 18 Dec 2018

Hamish Brown recalls 1973 and the founding of the BOFMC

Time doesn’t just fly;  it seems to become jet-propelled.  BOFMC is surely only a few years old not 30.  But I’ve just dug out my log books for that year.  It is all recorded.  The main impression I get is how very busy and active a year it was for me, a superb one as far as hills went, but one that was already proving frustrating as County Advisor for Outdoor Education.  A year later I packed that in and set off on the Munros-in-a-oner trip, a trip in which the young BOFMC was a great help.

As county Advisor my biggest wish was to get people into the hills and doing things, an effort often frustrated by monolithic bureaucracy.  One useful aid envisaged would be a new club based in the Kirkcaldy area.  In May 1973 we ran a “West Highland Expedition” for teachers and senior pupils.  This ranged from the Falls Of Glomach over most of the Affric hills, the Saddle, Glenfinnan and the Ben etc.  At Steall we had to cope with coming on 3 lads whose faces had melted in a camping gaz explosion.  George Luke and Dave Simpson were part of that trip.  The rest of the summer seemed to range up the best peaks of the NW :  Torridon, Shenavall, Assynt, the Eas Coul Aullin, Klibreck, east of Achnashellach and Torridon again.  A good training for the Alps.

My first Sunday home I was “cutting stencils on bumph for the BFMC meeting – application forms, constitution, agenda, etc.etc.”  Tom Weir agreed to come for our “launch”.  On Tuesday (25 Sept) we had our “first official committee gathering : 20 point agenda romped through, including constitution, meets and plans, etc.  President, Hamish Brown; Vice President, Ian McLeod; Treasurer, George Luke; Secretary, Val Dunsire; Meets Secretary, Mary McLeod plus Bob Binnie, Ian Davidson, Lorna Marsh, Elwyn Rees and George Allan (equipment secretary).  Amost convivial evening thereafter”.

I then headed for Glenmore Lodge to help with MIC Assessing which meant going out with candidates on long hill days and reporting on their doings.  Having gone through the mill I understood their sufferings;  I hold MIC certificate No.1, thanks to a B surname.  That ended with a fantastic overnight expedition with candidates and assessors homing in on top of Braeriach at midnight for a bivouac.  Deep snow and a full moon made it one of life’s great experiences, brought down to earth with a joint board meeting with the English MLTB.  Two days later I was off to Ethiopia.

This was mainly motor-travel with camping and walking when possible, a trip milestoned with romance:  Debre Dano, Axum, the Taccaze Gorge, the Semyen Plateau, Gondar, Tissiat Falls, Lake Tana, the Blue Nile Gorges……  I had to get back I decided.  So I roughed out a letter to an old schoolmate, one Alexandra Desta, grandson of the emperor Haile Selassie, to see if a few strings could be pulled ( he was i/c of their navy) but before I got round to writing the letter he was put up against a wall and shot – the start of the revolution.

Back from that it was also back to the nascent BOFMC.  George, Ian and Mary came along to tea with Tom Weir who then gave a public slide show “Climbing At All Heights and Seasons” to an audience of 80 – 90 :  the real launch of the club.  No one left without an application form !  That was Wed 7 November and on and on Friday there was a committee meeting.  My log notes, “All there except Elwyn and George A.  Tartan came with Ian and some were still at it when I left at 12.45 !”

 There was a quick visit to bag Clisham, the Quirang, Glamaig and Sgurran Airgid (guess who was Corbett-bagging) before what was to become an annual November spent as a temporary instructor on the Captain Scott  - basically O.B. courses uinder sail just to make it harder.  The three shore expeditions took in Ben Nevis, Goat Fell and an Arran Crossing, and days across the Cape Wrath country before finishing with the Pentland Firth.  Responsible for the mizzen I was in the deep end as much as anyone else.  But what real adventuring !  Tall ships have been a love ever since.  This chance had come up in the spring when I’d visited the Scott at Loch Eil and met Victor Clark her extraordinary captain.  In the war he was on the Hood when it was sunk. His lifeboat took on a Japanese destroyer !  After POW years he sailed round the world and dreamed of impelling others into outdoor experiences.  On that trip I found out how badly a tent can leak :  one pint and hour and November nights are long.

 A swim up Curved Ridge had started 1973 but good traverses of Liathac, Beinn Damh and An Teallach made up for that.  Winter weekends gave Glen Lochay Munros, climbs on the Ben, Culra doings, Ben Avon, Gulvain, Sgurr Mor and Ossian Hills besides many of Fife’s wee hills midweek as part of “work” – but I was living for the weekends as much as anyone else.  Over the Easter holidays I went through the hard toil of alpine ski training with Swiss guides based at Schwarenbach ( where, when you flushed the loo, the lights wnt dim !)  That was a certificate hard won.

 “Work” also took me to our Fife centre at Ardroy and there were various climbing days / courses ranging from Maiden Rock to the Buachaille.  With longer daylight weekends took we took in  the Bridge of Orchy hill, the Conbhairean group to stay at Prince Charlie’s cave, Corbetts east and west of the Great Glen and Ladhar Bheinn reached by canoeing across Loch Hourn under the stern of Britannia.  The year was seen out running a couple of “Winter Training” courses at Gerry’s Hostel at Achnashellach, the Hogmanay hill being Fuar Tholl.  1973 wasn’t such a bad year, all in all, and who, then could have envisaged ourselves, or the Braes O’ Fife thirty years on ?  Roll on the next thirty.