TAC 34 Index
Democracy this time starts with an apology/correction. Readers will recall that this same slot in TAC32 (p11) included a paragraph on the ongoing plans by Gairloch Estate to build a hydro scheme near Shieldaig, a scheme which is, controversially, no longer being objected to by the NTS. The plan, if it comes to fruition (hardly the word really) would be a real mess. However, TAC's piece on the matter was a mess too. We implied in-cahoots-ery between the Gairloch landowner and the NTS Chair; and, while this still stands, we got our names in a fankle. The Gairloch landowner is, as stated, John Mackenzie; but he is not, as also stated, the John Mackenzie who is the Earl of Cromartie. The latter lives on the other side of the country, in Strathpeffer; also, crucially, he lives across the other side of the access watershed too, since he's a member of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland Executive which is actively opposing the plans of his western namesake. This was perhaps a predictable mistake to make, given the preponderance of John Mackenzies in the north (witness the famous nineteenth-century Cuillin guide also of that name). But that's no excuse, and TAC shouldn't have got its Two Johns muddled: this isn't a TV comedy show, it's a magazine which, although fond of a jaunty tone and a bit of wide-and-fast playing, also prides itself on the precision and accuracy of its information, be it pedantry over hill-heights, a lack of spellcheck typos, or, as here, the facts around which an access-related story is compiled. So, the Gairloch John Mackenzie is not, repeat not, the Earl of Cromartie John Mackenzie. Apologies for any embarrassment caused.
And while we have humble pie heaped high on our plate, we might as well take a second fork-full, since another error in the same TAC should likewise be righted. Oddly, this also relates to John Mackenzie Earl of Cromartie, although peripherally this time. In Mick Furey's p17 letter commenting on the fifth Wilderness Walks programme, he mistakenly allocates to Val Hamilton a bit of Gaelic etymology re various placenames in the Reeks and on Arran. Again, your Ed was sleeping when DTPing this, since the programme in question, with Lesley Riddoch, was reviewed by Pete Drummond. Val's review of course concerned the preceding Wilderness Walk, featuring ... John Mackenzie, Earl of Cromartie. So apologies to Val this time. With your Ed having mistakenly let these two fish through the great trawl net of his mind, he's now fearful of the superstitious "rule of threes", and any future Mackenzie-mentions will most likely be run past the Earl for pre-checking, just to be on the safe side.
And one final correction while we're in the mood: the address for objections to the Ben Venue chalet given on p19 of TAC33 was also awry: complaints should be sent to John Milne, Stirling Council, Viewforth, Stirling, FK8 2ET.
It has been widely reported that the new chair of the Cairngorms Partnership is Gus Macdonald, media exec and a man with a promising history of listening to what people have to say, since he was once the presenter of Channel 4's Right to Reply. What has been less widely reported is the Partnership's overall crisis: it failed to meet between March and early autumn, and four board members approached the Secretary of State to voice concern about the then chair David Laird (see TAC30, p6). Laird has fingers in a wide variety of non-humble pies, and there was a strong feeling that the Partnership was going nowhere, even backwards, with him at the helm. A central concern was Glen Feshie, where Laird's son had a vested interest; now the glen is again on offer. ("A magnificent Highland estate of great conservation importance and a famous deer forest ... 42000 acres ... 1300 acres of commercial woodlands ... annual average of 161 stags ... 95 hinds ... 181 brace of grouse ... 37 salmon ... deer larder".) Last time round, in 1994, a joint RSPB/JMT bid was rejected in favour of a commercial-interest front group, the Will Woodlands Trust. But now the chief WWT benefactor has died (TAC still doesn't know her name - any suggestions?), and the remaining trustees are cashing in. The asking price seems to be #7 million: five for the actual purchase, a further two for running costs. One plan already looks unlikely to happen: a six-handed joint bid involving SNH, Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, NTS, Forest Enterprise, and the JMT, since FE would run the whole estate, not just the arboreal bits, and this not surprisingly worries the JMT. The future of Feshie is a crucial test case for the way things might progress under a supposedly more conservation-friendly government which includes a cabinet member who has climbed the Sgoran Dubh and surely knows the area's worth. Yet the problems and compromises bedeviling wild land bodies faced with such prices are further highlighted by Dundonnell having come on the market too: #2 million for the Scoraig peninsula plus the northwestern part of An Teallach.
Good news from the Corrieyairack, where the road/track/quag over the Pass has at long last been closed to use by so-called 4x4 drivers. Until recently this was technically still open as a public road, although scarcely available to the general public since it was necessary to have a large bank account and an even larger Boy's Own Fantasy Garage to possess a vehicle capable of lurching over its ruts and hairpins. Many humble proletarian walkers, trudging grimly over the Pass in the rain and the wind, have had to dive into the nearest grouse-filled ditch as a Daihatsu or a "Disco" or a Donington Park Tonka or whatever came slide-slipping down the hill, headlights ablaze, bull-bars bulging, "controlled" by some Jeremy Clarkson wannabe waggling his gear-stick. Now all that should change: as of 15th September, the dozen miles between Culachy and Melgarve have been indefinitely closed to motor vehicles.
Talking of fantasy worlds, TAC's newly-invented Grow Up A Bit award goes to Ian Hitchin, proprietor of the Lawers Hotel on the side of Loch Tay. There has been a long history of unfriendliness in this village generally (residents under the delusion that it's okay to make walkers pay for parking before heading off up the hill), and in the hotel in particular, which was once dubbed the least friendly in the country. Hitchin has been Mine Host (or maybe Obergrüppenkommandant) of the hotel only since January, yet already the litany of ways in which he gets his kicks has allegedly included deflating the tyres of visiting cars, superglueing (An Stuc-ing?) wiper-washer jets, and, most bizarrely, the fate suffered by a Carolyn Noble from Kirrieuir. She came off the hill in a party delayed by an injured ankle, only to be met by a raging Hitchin demanding payment for having used the hotel car park (which is gateless and open to the road). He also brandished a pair of shears, which he insisted Noble used to trim the grass underneath where she had parked. Oddly - perhaps simply scared - she complied, and so Hitchin was able to spend a happy half-hour drooling over his new-found power like some kind of malign, voyeuristic Basil Fawlty. As of late September, Tayside Police had received five different complaints re car vandalism here, and a report has headed the way of the Procurator Fiscal, with lawyers lining up to discuss Lawers. Hopefully Hitchin will soon find out what it's like to have the ground cut from under him.
TAC 34 Index