The Angry Corrie 19: Jul-Sep 1994

Mainstream Publishers win 1994 Bookerror Prize!

TAC literary editor Charlie McDixon reports from the Guildhall in London:

I can bring you some very late news of a remarkable achievement set to rock the world of publishing. The most prestigious of all literary prizes, the MhicChoinnich Bookerror Award for 1994, has been won by Edinburgh-based outfit Mainstream.

The Bookerror is particularly difficult to adjudicate, as not only do candidates score points for the numbers of errors and omissions in their publications, but their points are also multiplied by the number of months which pass before detection. The short leet is always compiled of books which appear under the guise of sober, responsible and thoroughly accurate guides in some specialist field. Books of tables are often the means by which candidates really shine. There was thus great shock when the Scottish Mountaineering Club editors failed to qualify with their reprint of Munro's Tables. Much to the surprise of their supporters (who they? - Ed.), the SMC had failed to demote a pointy summit or elevate a pimple on a plateau for eight consecutive years.

The eventual prizewinner, Mainstream, had put forward their Scottish Mountain Guide, the back cover of which stated: "The only guide to list all hills over 2000ft including a complete list of Munros and Corbetts." In reality, the SMG proved useless for research, but instead was immediately a very serious contender for the Bookerror prize.

The first hint came when I found that the delightful 1118m northern outlier of Ben Lawers, An Stuc, was missing. Having just conquered its east face with my dad on his 70th birthday only a month before, I was shocked not to see it. Delving further into the chapter on OS Sheet 51, I found that all three tops of Meall nan Tarmachan were also missing, plus a Graham/Marilyn - The Shee of Ardtalnaig (or Ciste Buide a'Claidheimh from the 1:25k) - which has a full 220m of reascent all around. By this time sensing a scoop, I wrote to both the author and the publisher challenging them to admit they were actually angling for the Bookerror prize. Neither replied - which of course gained them valuable extra months of points multiplication credits. In the meantime I was delving deep into the publication to study its potential as a prizewinner. The results were staggering. Space will not permit me here to shower accolades on every error and omission, but just let us highlight one of the finest error-strewn chapters.

This takes as its subject OS Sheet 25, and has to be thoroughly admired for the sheer audacity achieved in cramming so many errors and omissions into just six pages, viz:

2 Munros which belong elsewhere -
Ruadh Stac Mor from Sheet 19
Fionn Bheinn from Sheet 20

4 Corbetts which belong elsewhere -
Beinn Dearg and Beinn Damh from Sheet 24
Aonach Shasuinn and Carn a' Choire Ghairbh from Sheet 34

2 Corbetts missing altogether -
Sgurr an Airgid and Sgurr Gaorsaic

14 Munro tops missing
19 other tops between 2000' - 3000' missing
1 Munro listed but not credited as a Munro

One other gem deserves a mention. The chapter on OS Sheet 33 has gained two new Munros called Meall a'Bhuiridh and Creise, which must have had a fairly arduous 41 kilometre walk from their usual position on the bottom edge of Sheet 41.

Six months later, still having received no reply from author or publisher, I wondered if Trading Standards in Edinburgh could help break down their shyness and encourage them to come forward and declare their candidacy for the Bookerror prize. This elicited a very cunning response. Apparently the author had told the editor that he had only included in the guide named and numbered spot-heights on OS 1:50k sheets. This really was the coup de grace, and immediately increased their points total still further, because they had patently not stuck to this brief at all. It would of course have been a very strange brief for a bona fide mountain guide anyway, as most mountain lovers know just how accurate the OS isn't about naming and spot-heighting the Munros and Corbetts, let alone "lesser" hills. However, this was the brief they gave, and a cursory glance at the book showed many hills included with name and no spot-height or spot-height and no name - and also some with neither name nor spot-height. Am Fasarinen, 927m in the superb chapter twenty-five must have thus left many amateur readers hunting their OS maps for long hours in sheer frustration looking for it.

So now the Bookerror prize has been presented at a glittering dinner here in London's Guildhall, with both the Late Show and the Munro Show cameras present. Fears for the prize in future years seem unfounded, as Trading Standards tell me no actual legislation covers books.

Remarkably, the runner-up prize also went to a hill-related book, the Scottish Mountaineering Trust's Cuillin Ridge Scrambler's Guide. The cover of this carries a nice picture of the "gendarme" on the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean, plus mention in the text (pp20, 34 and 35) of this exciting and difficult obstacle - fine except that the most recent reprints were in 1990 and 1993, whilst the crazy shattered eminence concerned fell into a side corrie way back in 1987! It would appear the southern end of the Cuillin Ridge is the place for the SMT, as they Scored an Egg on their faces here.

A final footnote emerged later. I can reveal that Mainstream almost won the Bookerror three years earlier, with Muriel Gray's The First Fifty: Munro-Bagging without a Beard. In the first edition of this book, our favourite platinum blonde relates her spindly-shanked ascent of the most northerly 4000-footer, Cairn Gorm - only for Mainstream's junior map boy to insert a map of Carn Gorm, south of Loch Rannoch, next to the text!

Previous hillwalking winners of the Bookerror Prize include:

The Southern Highlands (SMC, Donald Bennet) The Bookerror Jury cited for especial mention the crazy suggestion on p124: "There are some remarkable fissures in the ground on the north-east and east sides of [A'Chrois], and care should be taken if one is descending in this direction in the dark."
The Munros (SMC, Ed., Donald Bennet - again!) p77, opening sentence: "Stob Ban is a remote hill, far distant and invisible from any main road." Ahem. Remote maybe, but in full shapely view from the Laggan dam and a substantial stretch of the A86 thereabouts.
Climbing the Corbetts (Gollancz, Hamish Brown) p8: "The name [Meall an t-Seallaidh], it is suggested, celebrates the view, especially of the four lochs: Loch Tay, Loch Earn, Loch Lubnaig and Loch Voil." A special Bookerror ascent was made to confirm that whilst the last three of these lochs are in full view, Tay is completely blocked off. Hamish must have been there on a cloudy day!

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