I wrote a piece on the death of Hamish MacInnes at the age of 90. I was amazed by some of the lovely stories that came back many via Facebook and other media. I have put them together so that others including Hamish’s family and friends can see them.
As the news broke the next day I was looking after my Grandkids. They are very young and we told them I had lost a special friend. Ellie Skye aged 6 when she saw the tribute on the tv said “ it’s that your friend Hamish ? He was feeding his ducks. Ellie asked who would look after the ducks now ? I must admit that hit me and she gave me a cuddle.
Hamish used to pop into our Base Camp in Glencoe Village Hall for a brew. Many of the young lads had no clue who he was but he always spoke to them with his dry sense of humour. He made a huge impression on so many.
Over the years many Ex team members visited Hamish one even landed his helicopter at Hamish’s house. A few got involved in his films one parapenting of the Ben. He loved how they were doing such things and as the Tram leader I was terrified .
I have collated a lot of the words below from some of the tributes that arrived thank you all. I am sure like the Ducks many will miss Hamish. Comments welcome
Jim Higgins – Exit Hamish
“Stob Coire nan lochan had won the final hand. The waist deep snow had encased the lower half of their bodies like a freezing, solid wet stookie and they decided to return to the shepherd’s cottage they had left from some two and a half hours previously. Two very inexperienced young teenagers had eventually given into the blue wet snow. For that short time they had played the game that they had left Stewarton to do, swinging the homemade ice axes into the grotty remains of the winter.
They were shattered and even though they didn’t know it yet, they had learned their first lesson on the realities of the Scottish winter mountains. They returned to the old derelict shepherd’s cottage that had offered them an easy forced entry the day before. The rain had been relentless since leaving home on the Friday night before when Stewart’s dad had given them a lift as far as the Drovers Inn and they had found their way in the dark to Beinglas Farm. Here they had bummed shelter for the night from the obliging farmer in his barn, long before he had capitalised on the emerging west highland way.
After hitching several lifts up the A82 to the house which was the headquarters of the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team, Stewart informed them that this was the residence of non other than Hamish MacInnes, the man himself. If anyone was going to empathise with three weary mountain men, well boys, it would have been Hamish and maybe he could offer them a shed or something that was a little more substantial than their Woolworth tents. Alas he was not at home, so the derelict cottage next door was to offer the three desperate lads the dry roof they needed.
On their return Stewart decided to walk to the snow line to get a little practice with his new ice axe. Being from a slightly more affluent family he was the owner of a Camp Interalp hickory shafted axe care of his father’s wallet. Johnny and Jim had settled for their pocket money alternatives which were two creations supplied at a fiver apiece from Jim’s venture scout troop leader. The axes had been made by a leader from the Ardrossan Scout Troop and were constructed from anodised mild steel. They were a sorry excuse for an ice axe, weighing a ton and had been roughly fashioned on the MacInnes Pterodactyl designed by the man in the neighbouring house. For two boys who were in a constant dream of mountain adventure, they were beautiful.
The fire in the cottage was blazing and wet clothes hung ceremonially before the fire to dry as we stoated about on the muddy floor, supping from a fresh brew of tea. Jim leaned against the open door post warming himself from his cup. He immediately withdrew inside as a sinister figure wearing a great long khaki cape almost flew over the gate leading to the road. Casually warning Johnny of the impending conflict he flicked his chin over his right shoulder as if to warn him of the arrival. The figure suddenly eclipsed the grey afternoon light coming in the door as Johnny uncharacteristically offered him a brew from the mess tin.
“ I’ll bloody cup of tea you”, snapped the bloodshot face of the figure, his bushy side burns holding back the wrath of his handlebars moustache. “Get your little arses off my property before I kick them down that bloody road to Glasgow.”
We had more or less bundled the half dry clothes and everything else into the packs as he swore constantly in his English accent urging us into a conflict of fear and pissing ourselves laughing. The local bobby swished his way toward the cottage as handlebars moustache made sure he was the first to give evidence. Looking down the lane we could see another arriving in a waxed cotton type jacket and a pair of wellies. It was none other than Hamish, the man himself.
Three utterly star struck boys stood on the fringe of the company trying their very best to get a word in to Hamish. He stood with arms folded laughing with the handlebars moustache as the local bobby took down our particulars and ordered us into his patrol vehicle. My bowels loosened slightly at his orders and yet as I watched Hamish laughing I had an inward hopeful chuckle. Hamish waved to Mr Moustache as he came alongside me offering his hand. A strange sense of importance suddenly overwhelmed me as three pound notes unfurled into my open palm.
“You get intae the motor wi the polis”, he said “and he will take you over to the bunkhouse.”
His last offer of help was to pick up my ice axe handing it to me.
“What’s this”? he asked me.
“My ice axe”, I answered. His look was one of a rather puzzled nature as I enlightened him.
“We got them from our scout leader, homemade, a fiver each, no bad eh. They are actually designed on your Pterodactyl axe”. My face beamed with pride.
“Cheeky wee bastard”, he said as he wheeled away back toward his house.
Years later I read a very favourite book, Always a little farther by Alistair Borthwick. The first chapter is entitled “Enter Hamish” I laugh to myself as I now remember exit Hamish and the way he left us that day. Now with breaking news today I will remember with glee the day when I had the pleasure of Hamish MacInnes calling me a cheeky wee bastard. My hero, my claim to fame.
Rest in peace Hamish.”
Jim Higgins, remembering a great man and a great mountaineer. 23rd November 2020
◦Peter “ Chalky “White ex RAF MRT and Glencoe MRT
Nice words Heavy. I have some happy memories of his company, ‘working’ and other. His humour was one of the best and driest ever and often misunderstood. As you and others mentioned he was a hard man with a heart of gold and a great mentor. RIP old fella
Pete Kirkpatrick RAF MR team leader
Its lovely to see Hamish’s passing rekindle people’s fond memories and admiration of him. He was certainly a gnarly special individual. I’m not sure I feel any sadness though. I feel more gratitude that he, unlike some of our ‘Hero’s’ lived that long. He was 90 when he died and had avoided many ‘bullets’ in his time. May all us admirers do the same.
Donald Watt Ex Lochaber MRT team leader – RIP Hamish, I remember some rescues with him, great guy will be sadly missed. Going along to Clachaig will pass his house, strange to think he will not be there.
Paul Wilson Ex Kinloss MRT – I remember you taking me to meet him in his workshop in glencoe. We chatted about his stretcher projects and how his old kit was sent overseas to help disadvantaged countries. I was quite young and in awe of Hamish at the time. But I remember him being extremely open and welcoming. What a humble and extraordinary man.