TAC 28: Aug-Sep96

TAC 28 Index

The hill formerly known as ...

Following on from investigations into the Munro Top and Murdo status of Lord Berkeley's Seat on An Teallach, the same peak has cropped up in another controversial context: that of renaming hills in more ethically-correct terms. There has recently been a strong lobby to remove the massive, overbearing statue of the Duke of Sutherland at Golspie on the grounds that the 19th Century landowner and general abuser of his tenants was an utter bastard. TAC supports this campaign, but wonders if it shouldn't be taken further.

Little is known of the mysterious Lord Berkeley, but even though the current incumbent is a Labour peer, it's likely the first four letters of his surname applied to the original. And even if he was a half-decent bloke, why should one of the country's most spectacular summits be named after an aristocrat? The same applies to Lord Reay's Seat, a pinnacle on the south ridge of Foinaven, and even more so to the various King's Seat Hills dotted around the Central Belt. Queensberry would have to go too, as would Earl's Seat in the Campsies, the Duke's Pass, etc. Only the self-descriptive Lord Hereford's Knob, on OS161 near Hay-on-Wye, would be retained.

Politics would be more problematical, for although MPs of all parties are often more devious and scheming that any number of blue-bloods, it would be difficult to even-handedly deprive them of eponymous hills. But a start could be made with Meall and Mount Blair, two Grahams in Lochaber and Angus respectively. Thankfully there aren't any examples of the Buachaille Etive Major sort, but the Marilyn of Heath Mynd in the Welsh Albion borders would have to go. Indeed, as with Tory peers generally, there is a worrying preponderance of right-wing prime ministerial names amongst our hills: Robert Peel / Peel Fell; Frederick North and Andrew Bonar Law combined in North Berwick Law; Charles Grey (a Whig, whatever one of those was) had the Grey Corries - and later, as Earl Grey, arguably had Ben Tee named after him. Of the current Cabinet, only the Environment Secretary gets a mention, with Gummer's How at the south-east end of Windermere. Our sources at Southampton report that in anticipation of "New Labour" being elected sometime next year, the OS have already prepared a revision of Landranger Sheet 96, renaming this summit as Frank Dobson's How. Elsewhere, Howard's End is fortunately a movie, not a hill.

The English Pond District, predictably, is full of this kind of stuff, and is ripe for revision. Sergeant Man is both militaristic and sexist, and could be switched to either Women's Peace Camper or, more simply and appropriately given Walt Poucher's fondness for the area, Ordinary Pedestrian. A few years ago High Street would certainly have been renamed Nelson Mandela Place, whilst High Spy could satisfyingly become The Height of the Cold War. Further south again, Kinder Scout becomes Kinder Woodcraft Folk, whilst Gun, in Staffordshire, would be abolished altogether.

Individuals such as the mysterious Andrew Gannel and Andrew Hinney, both possessors of eponymous Donalds, would retain their claims unless something unseemly was unearthed by knowledgeable TAC readers. And if there is a worry that all this is more than a little reactionary, bear in mind that the most "recent" wave of Scottish hillnaming was pleasingly egalitarian. This was in the Skye Cuillin at the end of the last century, when previously unnamed and unclimbed summits acquired Gaelicised versions of the names of those who first tackled them. Hence Sgurr Alasdair (Alexander Nicolson), Sgurr Thearlaich (Charles Pilkington), Sgurr Mhic Choinnich (John Mackenzie) and Sgurr Thormaid (Norman Collie): all worthily named after mighty summiteers rather than after rich fat bastards who stole land and money off the locals and who shagged their cousins. Besides, there has been a move towards ethical renaming already, not just in the linguistic backwater of social work but in the mainstream pop industry: why else would Prince ever have opted for ?

Indeed, this provides a possible solution to the problem of how to rename all these hills. Rather than invariably pursuing the Skye model and changing Lord Berkeley's Seat to, say, Tom Patey's Bum, this and various other peaks could be replaced by squiggles such as .


TAC 28 Index