On Saturday night I will be with Braemar Mountain Rescue Teams Anniversary Association and will be doing an after dinner chat for the team. It is a great privilege to be able to speak to such a great bunch of people on their Anniversary of 50 years of Saving Lives. In these sad days it is still uplifting to have so many good people in our society who rarely reach the public spotlight but just get on with a job of helping others. The team covers a great swathe of the Cairngorms and have an incredible history over more than the official dates of the team forming. Much of my chat is taken from the superb book “Mostly Happy Returns” celebrating 50 years of Service by the team since it was officially formed in May 1965. (This would be a great stocking filler for any lover of the mountains and wild places and helps the teams funds.)
- In Scotland there were many call -outs before the Team was officially formed as the Cairngorms are a place many love and enjoyed. In these very early days it was and still is the local keepers, police and climbers that helped those in trouble on these great mountains. The first recorded call – out was in 1862 in Glen Kander a retired admiral fell whilst looking for geological specimens and lay for 52 hour before being located “by a body of young men and guides who found him.” The photo below shows the job done in those early days and the simple gear.
- There were so many local people involved in these Rescues and a few that I have met including Johnnie Robertson the Keeper from Loch Muick,who with his brothers did so much in the Lochnagar area along with many others. There was also Bob Scott of Mar Lodge Luibeg another incredible person all great characters of Mountain Rescue History. This to me is classic Mountain Rescue Keepers,Locals, climbers from local Clubs and the Police all trying to help those in trouble. In 1959 there was the tragic Glen Doll Disaster where five died on the trek from Jocks road to Glen Doll. The Chief Constable decided to from a Police Team after this as mountaineering was becoming so popular. There was some basic rescue gear held in the Police Stations at Ballater and Braemar earlier at this time to assist Rescues. It was simple kit but had a Thomas Stretcher, basic first aid kit and a few ice axes etc. The RAF Mountain Rescue also supplemented these post with some more gear including crash axes to get into aircraft!
- The RAF Mountain Rescue Teams at this time were formed during the war and was one of the main Rescue Services available. They were there primary for aircraft crashes and would assist in Rescues and searches in the Cairngorms and all over Scotland and were the mainstay of Mountain Rescue in this period. The early Braemar Team trained with them on Liathach on the West Coast.
- In the 60’s things changed and the local Policeman John Duff and a few others were involved in a tragic avalanche on the remote Ben A Bhuird. When the survivor in a party of 4 got out to Mar Lodge it was dark and John Duff and several others went to help. They had such simple gear in these days: 1 tilly’ lamp, 3 torches, coal shovels and two walkie talkies that never worked. Compare this with todays gear? It involved for transport for the search party comprising of a keepers land rover for the searchers involved. It is a tale well described in many mountaineering journals and in “Bobbie on Ben MacDui “by John Duff a wonderful insight into Rescue in this era. They located I fatality and worked until the middle of the night and went back next day with no sleep in daylight. They located a live casualty incredibly after over 22 hours under the snow and then the found the final fatality not long after. They gave the casualty “Fags and whisky and transported him out in a Tractor and trailer. In 1965 the Team was founded after another tragedy when two youngsters were found near Derry Lodge one aged 15 this was Bob Scott the Head keeper of Mar Lodge last call- out a man and a legend in the mountaineering world. From these incredible early days the team has gone from strength to strength. The Team training and gear improved and many successful call -outs and were heavily involved in a big Rescue on Lochnagar and a huge lower in 1969 with a climber on the winter cliffs tested the teams new skills and training. The tragic Cairngorm Disaster in 1971 where 5 young school kids died of exposure along with an instructor on the Plateau involved the team and after this many changes in Mountain Rescue and Mountaineering occurred. Mountain Bothies high on the Cairngorm plateau were demolished after heavy heated discussions by various agencies, the Police, Mountain Rescue teams concerned and many outside agencies and experts. Things had changed from the early days when it was a borrowed land rover and a tractor for incidents. The Fire station was taken over and a Base built one of the first in Scotland and a new Land rover was gifted by the Order Of St John. The team was involved in a huge carry -off from Bunting Gully on Braeraich that involved 9 hours of stretcher carrying, the conditions were that bad they averaged a mile and hour. No helicopter in these days. Things were changing but still the team was still based on the ethos of these early days and the great people involved. To be continued!