The mountains are not just about the beauty of the wild, the adventures and the days out but the characters you meet on the way. I was very lucky as I travelled Scotland for nearly 40 years most weekends staying in village Halls as our Base Camps in the mountain areas. These were to ensure the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams knew the area and the mountains they may or could be called out. We had Base Camps all over and made many great friends. We paid each hall a fee for their use and even helped put showers in and on many a night shared the hall with a Dance, Bingo, Sale of Work or even a Church Service! These were the days before mobile phones and the Police would arrive on many a night to tell us that we were needed for a Rescue, often in the middle of the night. We relied on those who looked after the halls from Skye to the Borders to look after us and be a point of contact. Nan was a one of these and became a true friend to us all.
This is a small tribute to a true Highland lady!
1997 – Nan Simpson, “ Highland Lady” of Roybridge Village Hall (Died 25 June 1997)
Nan was the Caretaker of the Roybridge Village Hall for over twenty years and was a well-known lady by all the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams when they were training in the area. The Hall was always spick and span and a massive pan of home-made soup was always ready on our arrival whatever time of day or night. My first recollection of meeting Nan was when the late Jim Green and myself had been trying to finish off our Munroe’s at Corrour, it was winter and the weather had been abysmal. We had been very lucky to get the last train out to Roybridge before the line was blocked by snow and managed to get a fair few drams in at the Roybridge pub before closing time. Nan met us in the Pub and offered us a place to stay, dried our clothes, made us a meal and we finished a great night of with a wee dram by her fire. This was not the first time that this had happened with team members and by now Nan was a legend of Scottish hospitality within the RAF Mountain Rescue.
Every weekend the team leave one of the troops at the Base camp to cook, this is one of the most difficult tasks for the newer team members, who can get into considerable panic cooking for twenty team members. There was never any problem at Roybridge, where Nan took many a team member under her wing and saved the day on countless occasions. The team often had to leave the Hall in the middle of the night to assist in a Rescue in another area and as Nans house was attached to the Hall she would hear every noise. Nan would be up with us and would tidy the hall for us, she would not take a penny in return. In the days before mobile phones, her house was the point of contact with the Police for Call – outs, she accepted this as normal and it was fairly regular for her house to be as used the main control point for the call – out. Many a time a Callout would start this way and would finish with a cup of tea or a dram by the fire with Nan, with members of the Team telling her what had happened in the Call – out. After a difficult incident or a fatality the Team would unwind in the Hall and Nan never complained about the noise as long as the troops were happy. On the occasion when someone went over the top you certainly knew in a few short sharp words, but this was very rare.
When Nan retired as the Hall Keeper the six RAF Teams presented her with a picture of The North East Face of Ben Nevis. She was very proud of her relationship with Mountain Rescue, which meant a lot to her. The last time I saw Nan was in her wee house in Roybridge where she had retired and was very happy.
At her funeral, which was held in the Chapel at Roybridge, the whole village turned out for the Requiem Mass. I went to represent the RAF MR and Kerr and “Scooter” two other troops attended in our uniforms, the Priest gave a great Eulogy on Nans life which was an eye opener to all of us. She was a local lass born and bred, who had even driven caterpillar trucks for the Forestry during the war years along with working in many hotels from Dalwhinnie to Roybridge. She was much loved in the Village and was always helping the school children and those less fortunate than her.
There were many tales of her kindness to all, but the Priest mentioned how much she loved the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams when they visited. I was very honoured to be asked if I would like to speak for a short time on behalf of the teams at the funeral. Her many friends enjoyed meeting us in the Hall, where the reception was held after the Funeral. Nan was a typical Highland lady – we won’t see you again, but thanks for the memories, you were one in a million. Roybridge will never be the same.
Thanks Nan xxxx
Flt Sgt Heavy Whalley – BEM RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team.