The Angry Corrie 6: Mar-Apr 1992

The Truth About Hamishes

Much merriment has of late arisen via the vexed question of why so many male hillwalkers sport beards. Muriel Gray has broached the issue both on screen and in print, whilst TAC4 offered the most in-depth analysis thus far. Yet perhaps we have all only been scratching at the surface. Perhaps there is a deeper, more profound issue at stake here. Such as why do so many of these selfsame betesticled hillwalkers, bearded or otherwise, go by the name of Hamish? Time to take a random sample of ten Hamishes and discover the truth...

1. Hamish Brown

Perhaps most famous and ubiquitous of all living Scottish hillgoers, about whom TAC has already had much to say. It remains only to point out that had this particular Hamish been born outwith Scotland, he would have been named James Brown, would have been known the world over as The Godfather of Soul, and would have wasted several walking years festering in jail for all manner of low-life convictions. As it is, the only festering known to Oor Hamish is the kind done in bothies, his convictions are all noble, upstanding ones, and he associates the word "gaiters" with gentle Ochil strolls rather than with the 'gators of the Georgia swamplands.

2. Hamish MacInnes

Similarly famous hillgoer. Notorious hardman of the Creag Dhu, conqueror of Zero and its neighbouring, negatively-named gullies, inventor of various fearsome ice tools, pioneer of rescue techniques, vertiginous adviser to various Hollywood Epics (Ben Hur, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Shaft), bestrider of Glen Coe like a colossus and - er - maker of kailyardesque TV progs featuring semi-domesticated eagles, lost-for-something-to-do Monty Python stars, and dreadful plaintive warblings by half-baked songstress Moira Kerr. The latter's omnipresence in all of Hamish No.2's recent enterprises, along with his insistence on pompous set-pieces such as pipers atop the Cioch and his persistence in publishing out-of-focus picturebooks therefore tends to colour one's original perception of his achievements. Put simply: how can one so mighty have so little taste?

3. Hamish Barbour

Little-known recent spouse of the aforementioned Ms Gray. Does he himself go bagging? Don't know. Does he have a beard? Don't know. Does he allow himself to be pushed around in a pram like Ross the Researcher? Don't know. In fact, apart from an occasional namecheck in the credits of various trendy TV progs, we know bugger all about Hamish No.3. Apart, that is, from his being son and heir to the company which manufactures gentrified jackets beloved of the Izaac Waltons and Jack Charltons of this world, but not donned by any self-respecting hillwalker since the days of Walt Poucher.

4. Hamish the Goalie

Now we're talking. Forget the first three, this is the real item, the Hamish of Hamishes, a mustachioed man amongst boys. Who he? We hear you cry. None other than Hamish McAlpine, ex-Dundee United goalkeeper who, in the words of Michael Marra's inspired song, "stokes young men's dreams into a burning flame". Nor is the hillwalking context spurious. Consider the name: McAlpine. Son of the Alps. Offspring of the mighty Summits. So tear up your copy of Company magazine, wipe your thirtysomething videos: here he is, the New Man made flesh, amongst us, in our midst. God be praised.

5. Hamish French

Another footballer: erstwhile Dundee Utd striker now earning his corns with Dunfermline Athletic. First came to light in the highscoring cowsheds of the Highland League - which, having been brought up in the absolute backwater of Methlick, must have seemed like bright lights, big city. Regarded as an "enigmatic" player - i.e. he had a good game once. Promising hillclimbing career blighted by spate of broken legs caused by hammerthrowing fullbacks.

6. Hamish Henderson

From footballing heroes to genuine folkies. Scotland's songwriting nonpareil since the end of the last war, some way clear of a pack that includes Marra, Woody fae the Rollers and Ronnie Brown, the original Angry Corrie (shhh... that's meant to be secret - angry Ed.). Whilst there is as little hill-content in his "Freedom come a' ye" and "John MacLean March" as in his definitive biog. of Italian socialist Gramsci, his "Seven Men of Knoydart" has become one of the great Mass Trespass anthems of our time. And whilst on the subject of mass trespasses, the most infamous of them all - that by the Nazis in 1939-45 - was in some part ended when Hamish No.6 was chosen to translate the acceptance of Mussolini's mob's surrender. Not a lot of people know that.

7. Hamish Imlach

Another folkie, but not of the same stature as Henderson in more ways than one. I.e. he's as famous for his paunch as for his songs - the Don Whillans of the traditional music scene. "Cod liver oil and the orange juice" has long since inveigled its way into the national psyche - or at least that part of the nation given over to smoky bars, woolly jumpers and so-called "real ale". No genuine hillwalking connection, apart perhaps from his song "The Cumbie Boys" concerning a street not a half-brick's throw away from the Gorbals nerve-centre of TAC itself. Other than that, one fears for Hamish No.7's dicky liver should he ever venture off horizontal ground.

8. The Hamish

Obscure American Midwest climbing club depicted in early-eighties Harrison Ford movie Witness. Members easily identifiable as hardened hillmen and women: males sport copious growths of beard whilst females cover their heads at all times as though forever ascending breezy Bennachie. Community discipline as rigid as that on a Glenmore Lodge climbing course: no smoking, no dancing the hoochie-coo (that'll be right - sceptical Ed.). Set against all this is the suave, urbane, clean-cut Ford - a man who, for all his Indiana Jones and Star Wars posturing, has clearly never climbed a hill in all his days. What a wimp.

9. Hamish Tertambourine Man

Famous sixties anthem penned by Bob Dylan, supposedly in an LSD-induced haze but actually inspired by a weekend spent up north. That this is a hillsong par excellence - worthy of the Mountaineering Melodies column as much as this article - is clear from the lyrics: "My weariness amazes me...", "My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin'". Mind you, it would thus appear that not only was Bob unfit at the time but he also possessed an extremely ill-fitting pair of Scarpa Trionics which nipped his toes something awful. Maybe he should have traded them in: Zimmerman in Zamberlans, now there's a thought.

10. Dennis Hamish

Warwickshire and England opening batsman from mid-sixties to mid-eighties. Test career included an epic 262 not out in Jamaica to salvage the 1973-74 West Indian tour, and a lost-cause 203 against the same opponents in 1976. Last Englishman to reach a hundred hundreds, he never quite gained the stature and reputation he deserved, partly due to self-effacing, un-Boycott-like modesty, partly through being something of a feartie against extreme pace bowling. Was horrendously felled by a Thommo bouncer in the Edgbaston test of 1975, a match which the now lionised Gooch made a pair. Absolutely no connection with hillwalking.

TAC 6 Index