Two much-loved and respected hill men died towards the close of 2007. Both completed rounds of Munros back in the 1960s, when such things were rare, but both also did much more than that. Andrew Fraser and Findlay Swinton remember them
DICK WAS A HARTLEPOOL LAD who came to Edinburgh University about 1959 to study geology and chemistry. He liked Scotland and lived in Edinburgh and then Inverness for the rest of his life. I first met him at Moray House teacher training college, not through hill interests but through rugby. We had not a bad team, which included (when selected) a certain J W Telfer who went on to rather greater things.
It was a mutual interest in hills, however, which led to our lifelong friendship. Our first trip together was to Skye where we explored the main ridge as preparation for a full traverse which was thwarted by the weather. (See TAC70, page 5 - Ed.) In those days Dick had a good head for heights, a relic of his time in the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club (EUMC), and he tended to lead the tricky bits. The rapport that we struck up that week would lead to many more hill trips and days together.
Non-teachers tend to claim that teachers are always on holiday, and we certainly made use of having more free time than most, particularly when we were both on our first Munro round in the 1960s. Easter 1965 gave us a week which yielded 17 Munros and well over 30,000 feet of ascent, while Easter 1966 saw us on a four-day visit to Knoydart which included perhaps the best hill day I've ever had in Scotland: brilliant blue skies, lots of snow and Ladhar Bheinn at its most magnificent. In those days Dick smoked a pipe, not something I would normally welcome, but a lifesaver when stuck in a tent on a wet and exceedingly midgy day in Glen Carron one August.
Dick completed two Munro rounds, the first ending on Ben Lomond (19 October 1969); the second, contrastingly, on Ben Hope (19 August 1979). He also completed the Corbetts (12 August 1989) with Ben Loyal. I am glad that I could attend all three occasions, as he was the only person present at all my own various completions.
The pursuit of Munros was partly inspired by Philip Tranter. Though Dick was not a member of the Corriemulzie Mountaineering Club which Philip founded, he knew quite a few of us who were, and was present when the Scotblot plan was hatched. Scotblot was a scheme to get the club's 36 members up all the Munros in the same 24-hour period. We were all assigned prodigious days, Philip himself taking on the round of Glen Nevis, so we could have done with Dick as a participant. The attempt never took place because of the untimely deaths of Philip and of Alastair Park in 1966, but the idea lived on and has since been achieved, though never by so few people.
Dick had a fearsome reputation for being fast on the hill. My log books are full of references to 'Dick going like the wind today', or 'Dick left me far behind...'. He wasn't really competitive about hillwalking, but he did confide to me once how, at an EUMC new year meet based at Gleann Lichd in Kintail, he and Robin Smith, perhaps the outstanding hill man in Scotland at that time, got involved in what became a race along the South Cluanie Ridge. Being students, it had been preceded by plenty of drinking and then a late start, so it was a race against darkness, too. 'Smith just beat me,' was his comment about the occasion.
His public protestations against competitive sport fooled nobody and caused great hilarity within his family. So it was with stated reluctance that he tried orienteering about 1980. He was soon hooked and became one of the most formidable competitors in his age group. Though twice narrowly missing out on the British title, he twice won the JK (Jan Kjellstr÷m) which some consider a greater achievement, and in 1995 he won the Scottish Six-Days Championship, despite competing on only four days. The JK is an Easter event for individuals and teams which attracts Scandinavian stars as well as the best from the UK, so the standard is particularly high. Dick was not just a competitor, and built up a much-respected reputation as a planner and controller of big events.
He was also well known on the hill running scene, taking part not just in the 'classics' such as the Ben Nevis race and the Karrimor, but also in less well-known events in both Scotland and northern England. He celebrated his 64th birthday when he recorded the impressive time of 22 hours on Tranter's Round of Glen Nevis. As with orienteering, he ran for Scotland in the home internationals. For his achievements in orienteering and hill running, in 2005 he was named Male Personality of the Year in the Inverness Sports Council awards.
Dick simply loved being out on the hills, whether it was taking out youngsters from school, or finally persuading his wife Lesley there was something to this hillwalking game, or 'just pottering'. The latter meant pursuing his interests in geology, fishing hill lochs, watching birds, or searching for mountain plants. He became particularly knowledgeable about plants, and it was our mutual interest in them that took us to the mountains of central Spain in May 2006 on what proved to be our last major hill trip together.
He died after a run in woods near Inverness. He went suddenly and quickly, doing one of the things he loved, and many of us would settle for that. But he went too soon.
DON GREEN WAS BORN in Blairgowrie, and the family moved to Dundee when Don was 14. He eventually completed his schooling at the Morgan Academy, after which he commenced his journalistic career with D C Thomson in 1940.
During the second world war he served with the RAF as a bomb aimer and flew against Japanese targets in Burma and Siam. After demob, he rejoined D C Thomson, retiring in 1987 as editorial manager.
His love of the hills and wild places was a constant theme throughout his 85 years, beginning with his childhood in Glen Esk, where his father worked at the Burn House, now a conference centre catering for students from universities and colleges throughout the UK. He met his wife, Jean, when both were on cycling holidays in Scotland and they met by chance at Glen Nevis youth hostel.
Don joined the Grampian Club in 1949 and quickly became a more than competent performer as a hillwalker and rock- and ice-climber. He never owned a pair of crampons and stuck to tricouni-shod boots, which he reckoned were more versatile in most situations. He completed the Munros on Beinn Dorain, 20 October 1966, being the 69th recorded person to do so. He finished the Furths on Brandon Mountain, 10 July 1969, and added the Corbetts, starting with Morrone in 1949 and finishing on Beinn Odhar, 13 August 1992.
Not content with this impressive list, he began a round of the Donalds with Ben Cleuch (sensible man - Ed.) in 1972 and completed on Tinto, 4 April 1998. At a party to celebrate this last event, Don was presented with a tankard engraved with a list of his climbing achievements to date.
Don had never climbed Suilven - a mystery that a group of us decided to rectify a few years ago. One attempt had to be aborted due to adverse weather, but the following year he reached the summit with a party based at the SMC cottage at Elphin. (Don was an SMC member, having been admitted in 1963.) On returning to Elphin, after an excellent meal we were gatecrashed by a prominent SMC member (now deceased), with his then partner and a mangy-looking dog. The atmosphere became tense when (I understand that this was a fairly common occurrence) the gatecrasher bumbled on about how he had tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with the hut custodian to ascertain if another party was in residence. Things took a further turn for the worse when Jean Green shoved the dog outside. The three left and did not return that evening, but a note appeared in the cottage logbook to the effect that 'We were forced out by SMC members and their wives!'
Relations between Don and his SMC colleague were more than somewhat strained over the ensuing years, and I regret that the following encounter occurred not much more than 24 hours after Don's death and I was thus unable to recount it to him - he would really have appreciated the incident. I was picking up my baggage at Dundee airport after a Christmas visit to family down south when a chap approached. 'I never forget a face,' he said. 'You were a lecturer at Strathclyde in the seventies in the chemistry department, and I was one of your students.' After I had agreed that this had, indeed, been the case, he then said: 'You are Malcolm Slesser.' He must have wondered why I burst out laughing, but the image of Don at Elphin came immediately to mind.
Don also often climbed with the Perth section of the Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland, now known as Perth Mountaineering Club. Latterly he was also an enthusiastic member of the Munro Society. In the course of his long climbing career Don amassed a large collection of slides and photographs, several of which have apppeared in print (eg of the eastern Lawers peaks on page 34 of the current SMC Munros guidebook, and of Brown Cow Hill and Meall na h-Aisre in the SMC Corbetts guidebook, p122 and p136 respectively). I always looked forward to the arrival of the Greens' Christmas card, as this invariably had a photograph, taken over the course of the previous year, that depicted me in a humorous or embarrassing situation.
When the Grampian Club first rented Inbhirfhaolain in Glen Etive from the Forestry Commision in 1962, Don volunteered his services as custodian, a post he was to hold for 20 years. To begin with this involved organising the considerable work required to convert the building such that it could be used as a climbing cottage both for Grampian Club members and for visitors from kindred clubs. Over the years that he was in charge, Don attended to the booking of places and to the maintenance and improvement of the property, and in this he set standards that future custodians found hard to equal. The club's debt to Don and Jean was and is immense and, in recognition of the contributions that they both made, they were made honorary members in 1981. In addition, Don was elected to the post of honorary president in 1982, succeeding the legendary J H B Bell in that capacity.
Don contributed articles on climbing and on the outdoor scene to several publications, written in his inimical style with beautifully constructed phrases and absolutely no grammatical infelicities. He continued hillwalking, albeit at a slower pace, right up to the end. His final Munro was Mayar on 27 March 2007, the 80th anniversary of the first outdoor meet of the Grampian Club. He was assisted by Dougal Roy and several dozen others and his delight at reaching the cairn was a joy to see.
The respect in which Don was held by fellow climbers, ex-work colleagues and family friends was emphasised by the large number who attended a celebration of his life held in Dundee on 19 January. He will be sadly missed as a husband, father and grandfather, and as a climbing companion with whom it was always a pleasure to be on the hill.
Ed. - Whereas I once met Don Green, and corresponded with him over some years (he was a great help from a research point of view), I never met Dick Amour. I was however aware of him, both through his status as an early Munroist (he is no.94 in the published list and probably around no.120 in actual terms), and because he was, and remains, one of the best examples of someone whose name is persistently misspelt in Munro's Tables. Look there (page 76 of the 1997 edition) and you'll see that he appears as 'R Armour', despite at least two attempts to get the SMC to remove the stray consonant. There are certainly people named Armour - I've several times played chess against a chap named Jim Armour - but Dick Amour was evidently rather proud of his old Northumbrian name and it seems a shame that it never appeared accurately during his lifetime. Maybe the SMC could fix it in the next edition of the book by way of a small tribute. (The online version of the list, at http://www.smc.org.uk/Munros/Compleatists.php?T=2, already has it right - for which Ken Crocket deserves credit.)
And as TAC goes to press comes news of the death of Monsignor David Gemmell, administrator of St Mary's Roman Catholic cathedral in Edinburgh. Gemmell's death, at the age of just 54, came in a Barcelona hotel as he was supporting Celtic FC in their Champions League campaign. Plenty of priests follow the Hoops; fewer complete the Munros. Gemmell finished his round on the Quoich Sgurr Mor, 18/10/96, and as mentioned in TAC64 this formed part of the largest, er, mass Munro-finish, with four others completing at the same time (see nos.1644-1648 in the list).
More on Fr Gemmell at http://www.stmaryscathedral.co.uk/david.html, http://ww.indcatholicnews.com/suddt325.html and various football sites eg the http://www.hibs.net/ messageboard
TAC 73 Index