The Corrour Tragedy 60 years on.

The Black Cloud a dark but interesting read!

I am in the process of an article for the Scottish Mountain Rescue Magazine Cas Bag on incidents in 1951 in the mountains and came across the Corrour tragedy on 29 -31 December 1951. Five members of the Glencoe Mountaineering Club form Glasgow decided to spend New Year at Ben Alder bothy. All were fairly well-known mountaineers at that time. I spoke to Hamish McInness many years ago about this tragedy and he knew some of them as mountaineering was a small sport then. They had planned to get the train to from Glasgow to Corrour Station near Loch Ossian a lonely but beautiful place to the North of Rannoch Moor.  They arrived after the afternoon train and got a lift from a lorry to Corrour Lodge at the end of the loch. After a meal cooked in the woods they set off for Ben Alder Cottage some 11 kilometres away over a high pass at 2030 hours. They were carrying large packs with 3-4 days food as the bothy at Ben Alder Cottage is very basic. After about 4 kilometres the party became tired and 3 decided to bivouac in the lee of a river at about 500 metres. The other 2 pushed on and tried to cross the beleach W.S.W of Ben Alder but due to deep snow they also bivouacked.


They woke at 0600 and with the wind now and a gale  blowing behind them tried again to reach the beleach, they turned back and met the others at 0915 near a small lochan. The weather was so bad that they found it difficult to pack their kit. They all then tried to head back to Loch Ossian only a short distance away. The wind was in their faces and weather were extremely wild, winds over 80 -100 mph recorded across Scotland, one by one they succumbed to exposure and died. The only survivor was the wife of one of the fatalities who reached Corrour Lodge where the local keeper and the SMC were staying and mounted a rescue party. Nothing could be done, it was a terrible tragedy and rocked mountaineering in Scotland for many years. They must have had such a hard time dealing with such a tragedy. There is an account of this  in the book the Black Cloud (L.D.S. Thomson) and the SMC journal Vol 25 No 143.  It must be noted that some of the accounts are taken from the survivor who had lost her husband and will still in a state of shock even a few weeks after the incident. Weather forecast in 1951 were very vague and exposure was unheard of in those days. In the same SMC Journal  Doctor Donald Duff a pioneer of Scottish Mountain Rescue wrote an article on Exposure Tragedies, much is still relevant today.

This is a very sad story but I feel worth remembering, this tragedy happened in a Glen under 2000 feet. RAF Kinloss MRT were called to assist  and I have read their report that the train was delayed taking the team to Corrour due to fallen trees on the line such was the weather. The damage all over Scotland was incredible, the equipment worn by the walkers was very basic and nowadays we have all the great gear, good weather forecasts but the hills can still take their toll in lives. The power of the weather and nature never changes. Today’s tip: we can always learn from the past,worth knowing.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Book, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to The Corrour Tragedy 60 years on.

  1. Brian Steel says:

    John Alexander Bradburn, who died in this accident, was a relative of my Mother’s and is a truly tragic event. I have photographs of another expedition in the Swiss Alps, that John Bradburn was a part of, and it shows the equipment and clothing they used and wore. Very basic compared to the equipment we can buy relatively cheaply today. Hemp rope and fisherman’s sou’westers. The old photos are a demonstration of the experience of the people who died in this tragedy and that it just goes to show that even with all that experience it just takes a small change to turn an ordinary climb into a tragedy.


    • heavywhalley says:

      Yes – it is amazing how limited the equipment was in these days. A sad event and one that reminds us of the power of Nature.

      Thank you for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Whyte says:

      Hello Brian. I’ve just read your post. John Bradburn was my late father’s cousin. I’d be interested to know how he was related to your mother. Are you willing to tell? Thanks

      Liked by 2 people

      • heavywhalley says:

        Can anyone help?


      • Brian Steel says:

        Hi Linda. I haven’t been back to this web page for a wee while but John Bradburn’s Father, also John, was married to Marrion Bradburn nee Gorrie. My Great Grandmother (my mother’s Grandmother) was Annie Gibson nee Gorrie. I think that Marrion was Annie’s Aunt. It’s one of those Cousin twice removed things. I have a lot of John’s photographs from an album of his, given to my mother by one of her cousin’s, and it took me a while to identify all the people in the photo’s but I managed to speak to Anne Williamson nee Tewnion, survivor of The Corrour tradgedy and wife of Sidney Tewnion, who Died along with John, James Grieve and John Black. I was then passed on to another person who was a member of the Glencoe Mountaineering Club and she knew all the people in the photographs. It was a piece of detective work but I am fortunate that thes people are still alive and happy to talk about the past.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Elizabeth Bradburn says:

      John was my dad Joseph Bradburn’s cousin they were very close

      Liked by 1 person

  2. F.Meek. says:

    Guys, Jackie Bradburn was my mothers cousin also, his fathers mother or his mother was a Forbes?
    His father went to the US for work and after the tragedy his mother moved in with her sister.
    The New Year was never celebrated in that house again,


  3. Brian Steel says:

    Hi heavywhalley, I am sorry if your Blog has become a coversation surrounding this event. I will try and get a hold of your article as I haven’t read it yet.
    Brian Steel


  4. Linda Whyte says:

    Sorry I’m a bit late back to the party, and apologies to heavywhalley for muscling in and to Brian Steele for not acknowledging his earlier response; totally forgot to check. I have a couple of photo albums which belonged to my father which contain pics of Jackie and others climbing here and in the Alps. Very poignant. To F Meek, Joe Bradburn was married to Phoebe Forbes (my grandparents). Joe and John (senior) were brothers. Interesting details about John and Marion Gorrie can be found on the passenger records for Ellis Island. Fascinating stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. junius45 says:

    Heavy, maybe Linda knows more than me but Annie Forbes was despatched to Kamloops by her maw to nurse her sister Jean’s man, Robert Black, & help with the kids. Jean subsequently died and Annie married Robert. A cousin has tried to trace these folks with little success. Did the Yukon diggers not bail out to California & Oz once they had eaten the last husky?

    “This is the Law of the Yukon, that only the Strong shall thrive;
    That surely the Weak shall perish, and only the Fit survive,
    Dissolute, damned & despairful, crippled & palsied & slain,
    This is the Will of the Yukon,-Lo! how she makes it plain!”
    Robert Service.

    A bit like the old Garngad really! 🙂

    Forbes Meek.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Chris says:

    I have read this with great interest. I would appreciate if anyone could get in contact with me.
    Currently, I am writing a book about the WW2 service of the 73rd Anti tank regiment. Sydney R Tewnion served with this regiment. Hoping someone could help me identify him in photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jForbes Meek says:

    Thanks to Heavy for the nudge, I had another crack at Kamloops today and found this on “Find a Grave”.
    Ann Forbes Black 1897-1986 age 88
    Robert Black 1884-1975
    “Till We Meet Again!”
    Hillside Cemetery ,Kamloops ,B.C.
    So that’s solved a mystery then, they never got far from Kamloops.

    @ Linda, Phoebe & my granny Maude’s sister Ann.
    I remember Phoebe & Joe a family weddings as a wean, I had an aunt named Phoebe after her, called herself Fay but was still Phoebe in the hoose!



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