Readers of previous references to Mount Blair may be interested in a spooky coincidence. In the 1960s a Texan family spent summer holidays in Glen Isla, at Wester Brewlands in the shadow of Mount Blair. The father and one son became the presidents Bush. George W's career between youth and becoming president shows little evidence that visits to Glen Isla shaped his thinking, but isn't it a bit spooky that prime minister Blair proved to be his strongest ally in the Iraqi war?
Grewar, in his book on the history of Glen Isla, mentions that the summit of Mount Blair was the meeting of the lands of three lairds and was thus one of the few places where a suicide could be buried. Many years ago when the cairn was moved a skeleton of a very tall man was uncovered. The cairn was again moved more recently to make way for a repeater station for modern communications. The last time I visited the summit, people were hang-gliding from the top and making a proper arse of driving down in a Land Rover.
Nick Aitken, Kingussie
I stopped renewing my Mountain Bothies Association membership many years ago when Colin Scales took over from Dennis Mollison. I'd had misgivings about the way Mollison was taking the MBA, so initially I welcomed a new chairman. But Scales was even worse than Mollison. Centralised control. I left the MBA.
I lost touch with the MBA, I haven't read an MBA journal or newsletter for years, but I did still spend many happy nights in MBA bothies. Then TAC56 and TAC57 came out, and I caught up a bit. I don't feel tempted to rejoin just yet, but there are signs that the executive is going to let the members run the show, which is how I'd like to see it.
My ideal format for the MBA is that it should restrict its activities to education, information and entertainment only, no more organising or running the show. The MBA should be 100% reactive, 0% proactive. It should respond to demands and desires coming up from active bothy types on the ground, and should not seek to create these demands or desires. The MBA should encourage individuals to take all the initiative necessary to get bothies renovated and maintained, and these individuals should have a free hand to do this any way they like, in partnership with the bothy owner or estate. The MBA should stay out of all involvement with any bothy project: no more rules as to health and safety, or regimented lists of rules posted up on every bothy wall. Work party participants will know they are on their own as regards safety, and they will have to look out for themselves, just as when they are hillwalking, climbing or hang-gliding.
I noticed recently that hard hats have been laid in at Strabeg bothy. So the Strabeg Maintenance Officer [MO] will be OK if an accident occurs at Strabeg - he supplied hard hats. But what about the bothy where an accident happened and there were no hard hats available? The injured person or his/her bereaved family looked at the Strabeg situation and said the MO of this bothy was negligent in not supplying hard hats, therefore we have a case for suing the MO. The result of laying in hard hats at Strabeg is to oblige every other MBA MO to similarly lay in hard hats. More than this, the presence of hard hats at Strabeg sends out a message to all work party workers that they need not concern themselves with safety issues as the MO will take care of safety arrangements.
Who wants to be an MO now? I believe the responsibility for the safety of MBA work party workers lies with the workers themselves, not with the MO, and this should be made clear to everyone on any work party. You take part at your own risk, no one else is looking out for your safety except you, so be very sure what you are doing is safe before you agree to do it.
These anarchic arrangements will, in my view, lead to more job satisfaction for the renovators and maintainers, more and happier bothies, plus it will remove the dangerous "handle" now sticking out of the MBA waiting to be grasped by the local planning department, the environmental health department, the Health and Safety Executive, the Council Tax list compiler and the MBA committee power freaks.
Roger Boswell, Annat
"We hope it has not spoiled your enjoyment too much" is a doom-laden phrase. You hear it when the train pulls into Waverley two hours late because of the wrong kind of leaves on the line at Peterborough. You hear it after the break in transmission of a live football match that causes you to miss the only goal. It was the response I got from one of the co-editors of the new Corbett guide after I sent him a list of 23 errors that I had detected in a fairly rushed first reading.
With depressing honesty, Rob Milne admitted: "unfortunately there are more errors than you have noticed so far". He stated that he and Hamish Brown had "proofed it so many times, we could no longer see the errors!"
I thought the first rule of publishing was to use an independent proof reader because it is so hard to spot one's own errors. Having said that, my rudimentary Word 97 puts a wavy red line under any word it cannot recognise.
Was the spellchecker turned off because of all the Gaelic? If so, Dr Milne had not reactivated it by the time he wrote to me because there were two typos in his eight-line response as well as his omission of the village name from my address - fortunately, the post code did its job!
Andrew Hyams, Knayton, near Thirsk
PS - I'll willingly email the list of typos to anyone interested.
Ed. - Read Rob Milne on page 15.
Anybody out there got a scientific/mathematical factor for the improvement of visibility due to refraction? I've always wondered if, in the words of the song, from "...the Bidean's snowy crest..." it's possible to "...view the hills of Derry".
A very nice man at the OS did some sums for me on the actual distance between Bidean nam Bian and Sawel in the Sperrins. This is slightly more than the combined horizon distances from the two hills, so on that basis it shouldn't be possible to see the Sperrins from Am Bidean. However, a surveyor friend tells me there is an appreciable addition due to refraction.
Right, who knows the correct answer? Put up your right hand if you do; your left hand if you don't. (The [im]possibility of seeing Norway from the Cairngorms was discussed in TAC39, pp4-5 - Ed.)
On the subject of midge/midgie (TAC57, p17), I've never heard "midgie" used for anything but the plural. I've never met them on their own, the wee cowards! You know the way PE (Posh English) people say "boxees", "casees" and "bridgees", instead of boxes, cases and bridges like ordinary well-spoken folk do? Could this be the PE pronunciation that's been picked up by the Morningside/Hyndland crowd and fallen into common usage? (There's surely nothing so uncouth as a "crowd" in the either Morningside or Hyndland - couth Ed.)
I ask this only in a spirit of linguistic inquiry, and not as part of some class war campaign (though I hate the toffee-nosed xxxxs).
Mick Furey, Maltby
Graham Benny (TAC57, p17) seems upset that I did not join the Reclaimers for a stroll up Dumgoyne during the foot and mouth outbreak. Actually, Graham, I had already bagged the wee hill and got the tick.
During the crisis I did not attack the position of those like the Reclaimers who disagreed with the MCofS approach and I won't start now. It is clear that the behaviour of walkers, mountaineers, farmers, and other land managers convinced the Scottish Executive to drastically alter the access legislation to the generally satisfactory outcome we see now. I leave it to others to decide whose approach was most effective. This country has a long and entertaining history of protest, peaceful and violent, and not much evidence that governments up to now pay much attention to the peaceful variety.
The ugly and growing scar up the front of Dumgoyne indicated that we as recreational users of the countryside have responsibilities as well as rights. Now, Graham, if you have any ideas on what we can do about that, let me know.
John Donohoe, Blanefield
Just after reading Chris Bryant's letter (TAC55, p16) about photographing shoes on hills, I visited the top of Meikle Bin. Beside the trig pillar was a pair of trainers, with socks inside - but no person in the socks, or indeed anywhere in sight. I did not feel the urge to take a photograph, however.
Eventually, after perhaps 45 minutes, I saw from afar someone visit the top, though whether connected in any way I could not say.
Ken Stewart, Coatbridge
I recently visited the trig point on Best Beech Hill south of Royal Tunbridge Wells, Landranger 188/620315 (royalty counts for something down here in the poncey south, before the Ed says anything). The trig is located on top of an underground water reservoir, but it's not just one trig: there are two, about 10 metres apart. The northwestern one is perfectly normal, with flush bracket number S1827. The other, to the southeast, appears to be of the same age but seems never to have had a tribach. It also lacks a flush bracket but has a neat bracket-sized indentation where one would expect to see a flush bracket. There is no sign of it having been prised off.
Curiouser and curiouser,
Barbara Jones, Guildford
This February, I carried out a winter hillwalking course through Tiso which took place in Coire Cas. On completion of the day, I checked (more out of politeness) with the instructor to break off from the group and go up and bag Cairn Gorm. Off I went, up the opposite side from the restaurant, up to find the summit, and then decided to walk down the path to the restaurant and get the funicular down. I wasn't fully aware of the access arrangements but thought I'd bluff it.
When I got to the Ptarmigan it was to all intents and purposes closed but the lights were on, so I chapped the door. A very polite man came to the door, looking a bit surprised to see me, and said something along the lines of, "You shouldn't really be here. We're closed, but I'll give you a lift down with the staff." So I waited for about ten minutes, the staff boarded the train and down we went. I took a photo from the funicular of some deer we passed over, and the driver said I should have told him and he would have put the lights off for me! And no, I didn't pay!
I do agree it's quite an imposition on the landscape - however I feel the whole corrie is a mess with skiing fences, chairlifts etc. So in that sense it's not as much an imposition as if it had been constructed on another (relatively) untouched hill.
R Knight, Ayrshire
TAC 58 Index