Tom Taylor MBE A MAN OF MANY TALENTS – “The Machine” Retires

Tom Taylor MBE A MAN OF MANY TALENTS – Retires



Unfortunately I will not be able to say farewell to Tom Taylor as I head South for my sisters funeral as Tom retires this week after a lifetime of Service to SAR.

To so many within The Mountain Rescue/SAR family not only in Scotland but all over the UK the name Tom Taylor is treated with great respect. Tom has been part of this system since he joined the RAF and the Mountain Rescue in the late 60’s. He has served at Valley, St Athan, Leuchars and been the Team Leader at St Athans and RAF Kinloss and is a stalwart supporter of the RAF teams. When Tom left the RAF joined the ARCC and became a huge part of the Mission Control Centre.  He also served on many of the UK SAR Committee’s fighting Mountain Rescues corner always.   His knowledge of SAR within the UK is second to none due to his incredible knowledge and front line experience of it.

I met Tom when I was a young lad when he was with his great mate Pete McGowan on the Big walks across Scotland  that were then part of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team Leaders Course. Tom was an extremely powerful mountaineer with the biggest calves in the world and one of the kindest men in Mountain Rescue.

1988 tom taylor on ben with Dan Carrol with the Milton Mountaineers, the Blind group!

1988 Tom Taylor on Ben Nevis with Dan Carrol with the Milton Mountaineers, the Blind mountaineering group!

Tom was a machine on the mountains and along with Pete ran all on the Course ragged. Huge hill days very day competitive and I was supporting the course by Meeting them for a few nights in remote bothies and cooking for them. After the day was over Tom always had time for me and ensured we were well looked after. On the hills he is so powerful, knowledgable and loves the Scottish Mountains.

He is one of the real characters of Mountain Rescue but so laid back and never chased the limelight and trying to get a photo of him is not easy. As a Team Leader he was exceptional leader and all round mountaineer and always looked after his team. I took over from Tom as the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team Leader and inherited a highly trained, hugely experienced team and superb bunch of people.

1987 The RAF Kinloss MRT - Toms boys

1987 The RAF Kinloss MRT – Toms boys

Tom has been some mountaineer with trips to the Alps,Himalayas and New Zealand where he climbed Mount Cook, the Mountaineers Mountain. He rarely spoke of any of his accomplishments that is not the “Tom Taylor” way. This is from Pete McGowan “

 “1972 took both of us on the RAFMA Expedition to the Mount Cook region in New Zealand, where we climbed over 10 major peaks, including the ‘Big Boy’ and managed to avoid being avalanched in the process!

In 1974 we were in Western Nepal for nearly 4 months, with another RAFMA Expedition, attempting to climb the North Face of Dhauligiri 4, 25,064 feet (7,640m) – at that time the highest unclimbed peak in the world! Unfortunately, an early morning ice avalanche between camps 1 and 2 (17.000ft?) caught 8 climbers on fixed ropes in a steep couloir, killing 2 Sherpas and injuring another two Sherpas. Despite the gallant efforts of our doctor, a third Sherpa died during the night.

Had it not been for Tom’s communication skills in making contact with a very remote Police outpost in India, the fourth Sherpa would not have been rescued from camp one by helicopter and evacuated to Kathmandu, where he recovered fully from his injuries.”

1977 tom big walks

1977 tom big walks

I met Tom on many RAF MR Courses and he was always the same 100% for all he did and learnt so much from him. He looked after the new troops and always had time to ensure that they were given that bit of extra help. Tom by trade was a communications experts and his knowledge was incredible. He drove forward huge changes in radio communications over the years and when he left the RAF he was the perfect fit for the ARCC Mission Control Centre.  We had some laughs as he tried to teach me about the complexities of radios and their uses! He was always a step ahead of communications and when he left Mountain Rescue as we all have to do and go back to his trade he was the ideal choice for TSW as a comms expert, a task in which he excelled.  From here he moved to the ARCC at Kinloss


The ARCC embraces the UK Mission Control Centre (UKMCC) which is the UK facility responsible for the detection and notification of emergency distress beacon alerts. The UKMCC operates within the Cospas-Sarsat framework and is able to detect beacon activations world –  wide through a network of satellites. The ARCC carries out its roles using an extensive array of communications and a highly capable IT-based Rescue Co-ordination System. The ARCC is extensively linked with other organisations and interacts closely with numerous emergency response groups and agencies across the UK and internationally. Annually, it receives more than 3600 requests for assistance, deploying assets on more than 2600 occasions and directly assisting over 2100 people.

Tom was the perfect fit in this new job and is without doubt became a World authority on beacons and SAR. I was lucky enough to work with Tom during my last few years in the RAF and he was a great help to me, looking after me like he had done nearly 30 years before. He continued to help the Mountain Rescue by being the ARCC representative at all the committee meetings. Tom was the contact for the teams and the first port of call if a rescue had problem. This is never an easy task and Tom used the Wisdom of Solomon on many occasions keeping everyone happy.      Despite the constant changes in leadership within the ARCC ,Tom was always a constant and guiding figure for even the Bosses, never an easy task.

A rare photo of Tom

A rare photo of Tom

Tom is settled in Forres, recently marries and along with many of us loves the Moray Coast as a local boy it will be great to maybe grab a day with him out in the hills sometime. There will be many words spoken by others as Tom retires but to us in RAF Mountain Rescue Tom is a special man and it has been an honour to have worked and been with you over the years. So many have been Tom Taylor trained a badge they carry with great honour.

Tom has been rightly honoured by the authorities in his long life in SAR.:

“Thomas Alexander Taylor MBE, Higher Executive Officer, Ministry of Defence.
For Services to Search and Rescue Operations.
The Queen’s Birthday Honours list of award recipients was published on Friday 14th June 2013”.

I and many others throughout the UK and around the world (for Tom is widely travelled in the SAR family) would have been absolutely delighted to read of this well-deserved and long overdue award. Tom is without doubt one of our most respected members and has been an outstanding ambassador for the RAF Mountain Rescue Service for many years.

Congratulations too Tom, on your Distinguished Service Award in 2012, from Mountain Rescue England & Wales. Tom is the 66th person to be honoured with this special award since 1958.


These words above have been taken from your great pal and mentor Pete McGowan.

Have a great retirement and live every day, your pals in the local area would love to meet you for that meal we promised you once all the parties calm down. No one has a bad word about Tom, he is that good kind man, yet he will stand up for what he believes in. What a man to have in your corner.


Regards to Tom “ The machine” from Heavy who tried to follow a little in your wake! See you soon!

Some of the words from the troops well deserved#

Tom Taylor

Dan Carrol – Well said Heavy! Heartfelt words from one kind and generous Troop to another. Tom was a mentor and inspiration to me in my early years in RAF MRT and, throughout my career, he continued to offer sound advice, diplomatic guidance and always made time to share his wisdom and knowledge. Cheers Tom, wishing you a happy retirement smile emoticon.

What a man! Ditto to Heavy and Dan’s comments. Here’s to you Tom – a great friend.

Damon Powell Best wishes Tom

Jim Fraser My friend Tom was there on my first callout in 1989 and I am still asking his advice today.

Kim Ash Great words as always Heavy. When you see Tom next, give him my best wishes for the future.

Bill Rose A great friend to all in Mountain Rescue. Best wishes Tom.

Kev Mitchell All the best Tom – a better advocate and supporter of Scottish MR would be hard to find.

Bob Sharp Well done Tom. A great friend, a superb listener (to all my crap) and just a really, really nice person. Remember those late evening stories with John HInde? The whiskey bottles were emptied and all was well with the world.

Michael Gibson Heavy, please pass on my best wishes to Tom who, as others say above, was a great friend and advisor during my time in MR.

Kenny Tait Best wishes to a great guy ! Happy retirement Tom.

Mike Rodgers Privileged to work with Tom for 4 yrs in the ARCC. A man of many wise words.

Peter Kirkpatrick Here’s to many future happy days to come Tom. Great memories of many past ones with you.

Well said Heavy & ‘job well done’ & happy retirement to Tom who I served with on the Leuchars team in the early 70’s when he was our WOp .

Clive G. Swombow Have a great retirement Tom.

Stephen Atkins Lovely tribute piece to a top man. I last bumped into Tom as I flew from near the top of a route at Shepherds Crag. In typical Tom fashion his comment was along the lines of ‘well, that was impressive’

Jim Groark All the very best Tom. See you at the reunion mate. Cheers, Jim

David Mitchell Great tribute Heavy. Tom ‘tuned’ a generation of WOps – his sigs truck was always the one to which we aspired.

Jason Taylor Tom Taylor… top man! All the best for the future!

Eric Hollister Good man!!

Martin Garnett All the best in your retirement Tom.
I was a novice on the winter course in the 80’s Tom and I spent the night in a snow hole. He give me a good right up because I taken a wee dram and had the Dubliners on my walk man.
Thanks Tom what you taught me about avalanche awareness and snow pack. That saved my sorry arse a few times over the years.

Huw Birrell All the best Tom, hope retirement is everything you dreamed of Huw

David Barrett All the best Tom, may you have a long and happy retirement.

Eric Joyce – Good write up Heavy. Those calves are legendary

Woody Woodyatt What a man, great write up
Happy reirement Tom.

Terry McDevitt Aye. Good write up indeed. He won’t remember me or this incident but he failed me on my practical climbing on my winter course then, because we had time, took me back up castle ridge filled with the knowledge he had given me. A long, long day on the hi…See More

Richard Foster Have a long and happy one Tom. Great memories of you looking after me on the hill.

Neil McNeil Aye – WOP in Valley team when I was there – Cheers min



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 Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, SAR, Scottish winter climbing.. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Tom Taylor MBE A MAN OF MANY TALENTS – “The Machine” Retires

  1. Clive Swombow says:

    A great guy. Have a great retirement Tom.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. michael carroll says:

    Well said Heavy! Heartfelt words from one kind and generous Troop to another. Tom was a mentor and inspiration to me in my early years in RAF Kinloss MRT and he continued to share his wisdom, knowledge and guidance throughout my career. I wish Tom all the very best in his retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don Baggett says:

    I remember taking over from you on that team leaders support party Heavy with Paul Harryman.
    And was on the team at Saints with Tom a very very nice gentleman if ever there was.
    Best of luck on you retirement Tom.
    Don Baggett

    Liked by 1 person

  4. graham stamp says:

    Gentleman and top mountaineer, one of the nicest guy’s I have had the pleasure to meet in my time in the RAFMRS. All the very best best in your retirement Tom.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. pete kirkpatrick says:

    So many good memories of Tom. He certainly was, in old money – a gentleman. On my Post Covid Grand Tour of Scotland, I’d love to knock on his door and relive some of those moments. Well written Heavy.

    Liked by 1 person

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