Today the Arran Mountain Rescue Team will celebrate their 50 year Anniversary with a well deserved function on the island tonight. I was given the great honour of being asked to speak at the dinner, unfortunately I could not make it as I am just recovering from two operations. I fell terrible for letting them down as I love the wonderful Island of Arran and its people after spending much time there in my very early years on this magnificent place. My father a minister in Ayr and mother regularly took us a young family (5 children) with little money available on this fun Island.
I spent so much time on the beach on the rowing boats the sea and the great hills, these were the highlights of my early years and I climbed most of the peaks as young boy of 10 and even younger. I got to love the long walk out of Glen Rosa and Glen Sannox , the great peaks of Goatfell, CirMor, A Chir and linking these great hills with what were mammoth walks for a wee boy. Everyday we saw different wild life always looking for the illusive White Stag and visiting the many crashed war-time aircraft that litter this mountain island. My Dad would regal me with many stories, the murder on Goatfell and the early ascents of the incredible rock climbs that this Island is famous for.
I loved the views of the sea and mountains something very unique always to me and I would often see Arran from Ayr my home town at sunrise and sunset and wish I was on these peaks. The days on the hill would end with a swim in the river amongst the granite slabs in Glen Rosa that years later I was to enjoy climbing Every year I went back and when I joined the RAF Mountain Rescue as an overconfident young boy I caught taught a few lessons on my ability to climb Arran granite on a 10 day holiday.
The gullies chimneys and slabs were always a wild adventure for a rock climber trying to improve his skills. I even managed a rare complete winter traverse many years ago one of the finest days I have ever had in Scotland. To end the day with a winter sunset, the hills snow plastered and the sea is a special once in lifetime experience. This was a wonderful adventure and one that really taxed me and my partner. Over the years I have climbed many of the popular rock climbs and most of the other cliffs introducing many RAF Team member’s to this wonderful climbing and mountain paradise and never had a bad day even when the rain and the famous midges give the day a bit of adventure.
At times there was the rush to the last ferry and to see the magical Goatfell with a wisp of cloud always takes me back to when I was convinced it was a live volcano as a wee boy. My parents would be happy that the joy of the wild places keeps bringing me back to this Island they introduced me to 50 years ago.These mountains will never change for me I have so many wonderful memories.
I have also been very privileged to have worked with the Arran Mountain Rescue Team over the years and even on a few call – outs some happy some sad and watched the team grow in stature. It is good to know that the RAF Kinloss Team where I was a team Leader over the years was involved in the early days of the Arran Mountain Rescue Team. The team has a great asset at Gannet where the Navy Sea Kings have served the Island so well and are a great team together.
As always in a small community the Team is built of all types of people and is a huge asset to the Island. The Team is not just involved in Mountain Rescue but during the recent wild weather last winter they did as always and incredible job when the Island was at total lock down. The talents of the team are incredible and in 50 years it has done great service to the Island and those who need help in the wild places and in the local area. The job has changed in many ways since 1964 .
Nowadays the team is involved in urban and rural searches many for local visitors and also local vulnerable people who go missing. The Team has changed in many aspects but as I have always been told ” the kit and the equipment on the outside may have changed but underneath the heart and soul of the team remains the same”
It is wonderful that all these new skills that the team has nowadays is a true Island asset and a wonderful addition to the Islands Emergency resources. In my last few years in the RAF I worked in ARCC at Kinloss sending military helicopters to assist the local people who needed transport for life saving and medical reasons. These happened often in the middle of the night and the Sea King would land in some of the remote parts of the Island to transport a pregnant mother ill baby or sick adult. I spoke to many people on the phone at night telling them the helicopter was on its way and what to expect. It was great being a small part of a team and I always got superb support over the years from the Coastguards, Police, Ambulance and local people. Island people are a different breed when help is needed.
The support for the Team on the Island is superb but the special support from families and friends when the team are out in training and call – outs is what makes Mountain Rescue the family it is. They as always deserve a special thanks for 50 years of unconditional service and should never be taken for granted.
I am sure you will have a great night and I hope to be able to visit Arran and climb these special peaks and climbs again.
This is an adapted poem from the RAF Kinloss 70 th Anniversary
1964 you first were formed.
A bunch of men young and strong
Kit was simple, the job was hard
Many brought off hills alive!
Tales in storm and snow
Where others would fear to go
climbers stuck on lofty crags
Plane crashes where many died,
You never knew for those you seeked
Unknown folks on mountain peaks
Yet every time you did your best
So many tears for those at rest!
Families waited home alone
At times there was no phone
To say that all was well
At times we had been to hell!
Loved ones were with is all the way
Their support was every day
As we chased the mountain dream
In Scotland’s greatest teams
We love the wild and mountains high
Friendships made in times gone by
We tell our tales of these past days
Yet the team in many ways
Will never change
This soul that makes us all the same
No matter what the year or game!
Mountain Rescue you are the best!
I am sure you all know the rest!
Heavy Whalley Nov 2014
This is from the Arran MRT Website.
The Arran Mountain Rescue Team was formed in 1964 with an initial group of 15 members. The first Team Leader was the Arran Estate Head Forester – Alistair Douglas
We were formed as a unit of RAF Kinloss and this allowed the Royal Air Force to maintain our ropes and equipment.
The Team inherited a Thomas Stretcher which had 8 lifting points and was easy to carry. Initial training for the team was again received from RAF Kinloss – this took place at the Blue Rocks area at Sannox. The Team was initially based at Brodick Fire Station. Helicopter assistance (Wessex Choppers) initially came from RAF Leuchars (this was before HMS Gannet became operational). Insurance for Team Members did not exist and therefore a team member had to join the Special Constabulary to obtain Insurance cover. Prior to the formation of the Arran Mountain Rescue Team volunteer groups including Arran Estate workers made up Rescue parties.