TAC 36 Index
The most bizarre hill-related story in a very long while was splashed across an early-Feb issue of the Daily Record. The broadsheet and broadcast media had already covered the matrimony-acrimony of Jimmy Wray, 59-year-old Labour MP for Glasgow Baillieston, with the basic story being a dispute over alleged domestic violence by Wray towards his estranged wife Catherine. Wray counter-claimed that she was fabricating the story to make money from the papers, and that it was her drinking which had caused him to walk out in 1995. The Record story - by Graeme Smith and Jamie MacAskill - was awash with cracking tabloidy quotes, such as this from Wray: "I used to box and if I'd ever hit my wife, she would have known about it." Or this, from Wray's pregnant 35-year-old fiancée Laura Walker: "I'm sure nothing would please her more than for Jimmy to have a heart attack and me to have a miscarriage."
But what only the Record appears to have unearthed is that Catherine Wray has a new partner in life too. And it's appropriate that Jimmy's fiancée is named Walker, because Catherine has shacked-up - or should that be bothyed-up? - with a genuinely famous walker, "superfit" Craig Caldwell, 37, he who made the first Munros+Corbetts traverse in 1985/86. This undoubtedly fine walk was written up - with substantial help from the late Max Hodes - in Climb Every Mountain, arguably the worst Scottish hill book yet published, and which TAC has slagged since its very first issue (TAC1, p14). Ghost writer Hodes - now a ghost himself - was, ironically, once a Record columnist, and also wrote The Max Hodes Joke Book. A recently diaries anthology, Those were the Days, includes Kenneth Williams telling of a visit to Glasgow in 1984: "... interview with a journalist ... idiot called Max who gave me his joke book ... oh dear."
Anyway, the "bearded" Caldwell ("Boyfriend is man at his peak!") now seems to be an item with the ex-boxer's ex, who reportedly "often spends weekends at Craig's home". Home is "part of a plush converted stable block" - somewhat removed from Caldwell's earlier stint as bothy MO for the less than plush Leacraithneaich.
Even without the gleeful Anderston Quay hype, TAC isn't unduly interested in the ethical rights and wrongs - which may all eventually come out via the courts. But a few specifically hill-related aspects can't be allowed to pass without comment. The first is to note that Caldwell was once spotted on the fringe of that looseknit knitted-brow faction known as the B anch Bothidian - a grouping which repeatedly worms its way into TAC's pages despite our best efforts to feign boredom. The second is that your Ed once met Caldwell, the setting being Glasgow Mitchell Library in the early 1990s; and, without saying too much for now at least, the initial approach of the "rugged mountain man" was hardly endearing. More pertinently, the Wray story raises several questions about the future lives of all concerned. Is, for instance, Jimmy Wray (more superfat than superfit) secretly in cahoots with Caldwell in a bizarre quest to become the second MP - after Chris Smith - to complete a round of Munros? Unlikely maybe, but the aspiring West Highland Wray bears Caldwell no malice. WHW might describe his ex-wife as up to "all sorts of wickedness", but speaks well of the man who once bagged 424 Marilyns in a single session: "Good luck to him. I hope he knows what he is taking on." Caldwell might however be kept from the hills through domestic worries - eg, if and when Jimmy and Catherine divorce, does she become an ex-Wray? Or if Catherine has to pay Jimmy alimony, would that be a case of Cath owed Wray? And (to bring in a gratuitous mention of football), if Jimmy let Catherine go without complaint, would that be Wray Clemency?
Anyway, that's all in the future. TAC merely wishes happiness on all concerned, whilst your Ed is relieved that a mid-thirties longdistance-walking book-writing bearded hill man has hit the scandal sheets, but it's not him. Phew. His own secrets are safe for now at least.
Back in the early 90s, TAC started its search for what variously became known as Boring Squares or White Squares: grid squares on maps containing little or nothing by way of cartographical content. A spinoff of this was to campaign against maps which comprised massive amounts of ocean, or large quantities of map-overlap. OS12, featured in TAC16, is a Scottish prime example. Now Hamish Brown has sent a Moroccan 1:100000 sheet dating from 1968 and entitled Oued Branès. This lacks formal gridlines, but shows a stretch of the border with Algeria. It's not clear whether some hardline political statement is being made, but "Algeria" is utterly blank, a veritable desert in fact, such that the overall white:land ratio works out at over 8:1. Not much data for your dirham.
Marilyn Hall of Fame stuff next time, but for now brief congrats to Charles Knowles of Sheffield, who became the fifth known 1000er on Cademuir Hill in mid-Feb. Your Ed's Baggerwatch in TGO May will feature much more detail on this. At present, the number of folk known to have climbed over 600 Marilyns has jumped to 24, whilst a further 34 are known to be past 400. Another good indicator of the healthy extent to which TACers climb a wide spread of hills is the surprising number of readers to have mentioned finding Peter Lincoln's calling cards on some summit or other. Thus far, James Lamb has found one on Andrewhinney Hill, Craig Weldon likewise on Creag MacRaineach, and Grahambagging quizwinners Barbara Brodie and Stuart Benn have found two: Cnap Cruinn and Hill of Wirren.
Oh, and Irvine Butterfield / Frank Dobson is running a dance as a Knoydart Foundation / Beinn na Caillich fundraiser (see TAC35, p20). It starts at 7.30pm on Saturday 18th April, in the Atholl Suite, Atholl Palace Hotel, Pitlochry. Tickets cost #3, and are available from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (01738-638227), or from Irvine himself (01738-583318).
TAC 36 Index