Last night I did a talk for The Tayside MRT at there new base in Blairgowerie! it was an interesting night and very enjoyable! I travelled down early and visited a few friends on the way sadly there was no snow on the hills! I met a friend Heather for a coffee in Blairgowerie and then on to Brian and Kathy who I was staying with in town. Brian is an old pal from my RAF days in Mountain Rescue. I also went to meet Helen MacLeod my pal Al Macleod’s Mum (Al was sadly killed on the Matterhorn) his Mum Helen still lives in Rattary. We had a great catch up about life and lots of magic memories of Big Al it was a wonderful visit and one I will cherish. Brian took me round as he knew Al well and to see Helen and it was lovely to get the stories of Al and memories of someone so full of life. As I walked out I noticed a great photo of a young Al high on the French Spur on Everest, its a poor copy but the original is a dynamic photo of one of my best pals in his prime.
I will be back at New Year hopefully to see Helen what a lovely visit it was and so many thoughts on the way home.
We had a great chat and then to Brian’s and Cathy for dinner and then went over to the Tayside Mountain Rescue Team Base in Blairgowerie! This Base is just opening and has been donated by the Order Of John a charity that has done so much for Scottish Mountain Rescue. It was a great night and there new building is impressive and it is great to see the plans that the team have for the future. I had been down to set up a few hours before and when I got back my power pack had blown out?
Lucky I had a back up of my chat on a flash drive and the wee talk went ahead with another laptop. I spoke as I said before about many of the great characters in Mountain Rescue who had helped me and taught me so many valuable lessons in the past. It was good to be back speaking to Mountain Rescue team member’s and I hope they enjoyed it.
It was amazing how short the memory is as I spoke about an aircraft crash nearby at Balbeggie where the Tayside team, SARDA RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars were involved and after an all night search we located the aircraft with 4 survivors all badly injured . This was one of my few recoveries from an aircraft crash of live casualties.
This was a letter I wrote to the Order of St John
Many, Many thanks.
Firstly please accept my sincere apologises for not writing before to thank you for all your great work for the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland over the years. I was the Chairman of the Mountain Rescue Committee in the early nineties when we were first approached by the Order of St John who wanted to assist Mountain Rescue in Scotland.
I was at that time in the RAF and serving at RAF Kinloss in Morayshire. I was the Team Leader of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and was the first military member to serve as Chairman. In the RAF we are extremely well equipped and even had 5 full –time staff, our primary role is to assist in the recovery of crashed military aircraft in the mountains of the UK. The RAF Teams are well funded by the government unlike our civilian counterparts who at that time had to raise all their funding through Charity. I felt it was one of my main tasks as Chairman with my Executive Committee to try to get additional cash or sponsorship for the civilian teams. This may sound fairly simple but to Mountain Rescue in these days this was very radical! Sponsorship financial assistance many thought would come with strings attached and many in Mountain Rescue were wary of their independence.
Mountain Rescue as you are aware is made up of civilian volunteers all who are all unpaid and to some, sponsorship was the first route to professionalism creeping into Mountain Rescue. This was a great worry to many as things were changing at this period of time Health & Safety was raising its head and litigation was a worry in the care of casualties.
I spoke to the Executive Committee and we all agreed that any help from the Order Of St John would be a huge benefit not only to Mountain Rescue in Scotland but far more importantly to the casualty. I had a meeting at RAF Kinloss with from Sir James Stirling Of Garden and explained that there may be a “hearts and mind” exercise ahead when he met some of the teams. I was very frank but was so impressed by the attitude and desire of the Order to help. Many Sponsors would have left it there but incredibly The Order agreed to speak to a few of the “Characters in Scottish Mountain Rescue” especially those who were very wary of this new idea. He travelled far and wide and met some of the characters who make Mountain Rescue so unique. This was not an easy task. Due to this magnificent work of the rest is history. This was a key point in Scottish Mountain Rescues development.
I retired from the RAF in 2007 and for 3 years was a member of the Torridon & Kinlochewe MRT, who are in the process of building a long overdue base for the team. I am still very active as a mountaineer and it is incredible to see MR Bases all over Scotland from Skye, to Glencoe to the Borders and the Islands. The new Base in Arran looks wonderful and this is where my family started me on my “Affair” with the mountains, nearly 50 years ago. What you have achieved is incredible for the Order and a wonderful addition to Mountain Rescue. I spent nearly 40 years many as Team Leader having to talk to casualties in the back of a land rover or an old building during searches. Even worse is speaking to relatives after a fatality and to have some where warm and secure to speak and comfort them in nearly every MRT area was so needed and is a huge improvement. As important is having an area for Team Members to train and debrief after an operation and store and service equipment is a wonderful accolade to the Order. In addition the Team bases are now part of the local facilities in some areas, this gives especially the remote areas locals the opportunity to share in teams facilities. I do wish more people realise what the Order has down for Mountain Rescue and I hope the small logos on the buildings and Bases are testimony to your great achievements. The Bases and vehicles you have supported over the years had made a superb difference to Mountain. I have heard that you plan to continue this support of Mountain Rescue in Scotland in the future, long may it continue.
The Order of St John I salute you.
David “Heavy” Whalley MBE. BEM.
Burghead December 2011. updated Dec 2013.
I am in the process of writing a book on my life in the mountains and hope to explain the part you have played in Mountain Rescue. I also have a website and do various lectures on the mountains and try to explain to my audiences what you have done for us all. Again many, many thanks.
Please edit as you see fit!