The Angry Corrie 48: Jan-Feb 2001

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Roll away the stone

THE SAGA - or, rather, the palaver - of the Dumgoyne stone has continued through the autumn. As mentioned in TAC46 (p19), the Strathendrick Rotarians were given permission by the hill's "owner" to hire the marines to plonk a plinth on top of this previously cairnless summit at the west end of the Campsies. The outcry was considerable, but - as various south-sea islanders have found to their cost over the years - it's not easy to argue eco-ethics when faced with military helicopters and large amounts of concrete.

The Scots Magazine has covered the Dumgoyne story in its letters pages, initially with Eric Drew of Killearn writing in praise of the stone. "It was the crowning moment of a Millennium project by the Rotary Club Of Strathendrick," Drew wrote in the August issue, "who obtained the kind permission of the Laird, Sir Archibald Edmonstone of Duntreath, to site the stone on the very summit - later in June to have an indicator added." Drew gushed with plaudits for the "erection team of Marines" and for Roger Short of the rotarians "who masterminded the project". He ended: "The hillgoing folk who in future make their pilgrimage to the top will have [the rotarians] to thank for this fine initiative which adds even more character to one of our noblest wee hills."

Hmm. Drew, it should be noted, is believed to have been the SMC member who allowed the rotarians to claim that there had been consultation with the hill community (even though the MCofS - and indeed the body of the SMC itself - appear to have known nothing about the stone until after the erection team had been hard at it in late May).

Drew's views were echoed in a "Dumgoyne Millennium Stone - A good idea?" by Alex Slimon, published in the Winter 2000 issue of the Boots Across Scotland newsletter. (Slimon is vice-chair of Boots.) "Many new-comers who struggle to the top", Slimon suggested, "are disappointed to find [Dumgoyne] lacks a summit cairn. Also the splendid view attained is spoiled for some by their inability to pick out features other than the familiar shape of Ben Lomond and the many islands in the southern end of the Loch." Slimon found it "gratifying [...] to learn of the initiative" and regards the stone as "an enhancement". In the course of all this enthusiasm he mentioned the stone's donor: David Young of Killearn Home Farm. It would be interesting to hear whether Young has made any money, either directly or by indirect rotarian favours, through his philanthropy.

Numerous hill folk are known to strongly disagree with the apologetics of Drew and Slimon, as shown by a sub-sequent Scots Magazine letter from Neil MacGregor of Bearsden who declared himself "dismayed" at what had happened. MacGregor pointed out that the stone was financed by Millennium funds and argued that further funds be raised to remove the offending object. He ques-tioned whether Short and his associates had "any real affinity to the great outdoors or if they had bothered to research the history of the mountaineering characters who cut their teeth on these wee hills - Tom Weir, Johnny Cunningham and Alistair Borthwick, to name but three".

Fiery, feisty stuff, and in the tradition of Cunningham et al there has been action on the ground. The stone's viewfinder plaque vanished in late September and remains unreplaced. At the time of writing the stone itself is still there, but various tidy-minded folk are con-sidering a bit of summit cleansing and TAC wishes them well. As yet, however, the logistics of surreptitiously upheaving a large cemented block have not proved easy.

One final comment is worth quoting. It comes from a friend of TAC who recently popped up Dumgoyne to check things on the ground. "The stone doesn't bother me much," he wrote. "However, the concrete base surround is awful, and there's a mess around it." Indeed. Since when has it been OK to use public money, allocated to a purportedly charitable organisation, to trash a hilltop?

BRIEF THOUGHTS about the funicular. In light of the Austrian tragedy, what safety provision has been made on Cairn Gorm? OK, so "our" tunnel is 300 metres long and tilted at 13, as opposed to 3km at 45 in Austria - but it's still a bloody big chimney the instant something goes wrong. Hell's Lum, in fact. And more generally, we now have a situation where the three prime movers behind the funicular - Highland Council convenor Peter Peacock, Fraser Morrison, chair of HIE, and Iain Robert-son, chief exec of HIE - have all moved on. Their replacements - David Green, Jim Hunter and (for now at least) Sandy Cummings - are all believed to be less than convinced as to the railway's merit. And with a genuine hard hill man, Sam Galbraith, now holding the environment portfolio, isn't it time for a communal rethink?

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