Never take for granted our Families and how much they give us! Thank you all.

When I started Mountain Rescue in 1972 I was in the RAF had few responsibilities. I was like many very driven (looking back obsessed) by Mountaineering. Nothing else mattered at that period in my life. My family at home suffered and I was always away chasing the next hill and climb rarely going home often only once a year. I regret thus now as I lost my Mother and Father a few years later and always feel that despite phone calls and letters I was not there for them.

I was also in several relationships over the years but most faltered due to my obsessive desire for mountains and I lost a few loves of my life! My life was not right and how I messed up. Yet I am lucky that Yvette and Ashleigh treat me as a stepfather and I am a Grandpa to Yvettes daughters one of the joys of my life. Later on I did try to help the families in the team by starting Families weekends where we got them out to various Base Camps. Gairloch was a favourite as was Aviemore and Killin when at Leuchars. Off course we had leaving parties that our partners came to but later had Christmas ones and Barbecue as well.

These were great times and despite a few Call outs on the weekends the families saw what we did and a bit of our life then.

In these days we did 3 full weekends out in every 4 a month only later did we cut it to two weekends. They were full weekends from Friday night to Sunday night. Add to that Callouts all over Scotland and we were hardly at home. One period we were away for 8 days on Rescues.

I cannot imagine what went through the wives partners heads. Looking after the families mostly alone as we were away. It was crazy as even our Annual Reunions til the 90’s were male only but despite some moans we changed that.

We knew little about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in these days as some of the incidents dealt with trauma in a huge scale. Many of us came back and did not want to talk about what we had done or seen. It was a difficult time for the troops and the families. As we learned more we tried to include the families more and try to explain better what we did and how it effected us.

To me the true heroes of not only Mountain Rescue but all of the Rescue Agencies is the families. They give so much and especially those early years for children can effect them when Dad or Mum is away. It took me years to understand that many families worry about our safety as we are out out in all weathers. After all we are not invincible as many of us thought.

So every time the Mountain Rescue Teams are out or any of the Voluntary Services think of the families they leave behind. Only a few years ago I had a few folk in when one of their pagers went off. Dad went of to speak on his phone and left his daughter and my Stepdaughter talking. I could see she was upset and asked her what was wrong she said it’s my birthday tomorrow and Dad will not be here as it looks like he is off on a rescue. I really felt for her but Ashleigh my stepdaughter told her she felt the same when she was younger. She and Yvette missed many birthdays etc and I never really knew how much it effected them. I wish I had the wisdom then of age that you gain later in life.

I am sure things are a lot better 50 years on but we must never take those who love us for granted. Thanks to all fir their comments .


Pete Kirkpatrick / Ian Ellis posted this photo recently and my wife said. “Those were some of the best days of your life, weren’t they? She added quickly. “I’m not sure they were the best of mine – I never saw you.”

Confession time. I definately was going through a selfish bastard phase of my life when MR took up most of my time, energy, focus and thoughts. It was great. I ponder now. What, if I was more aware then, of the sacrifice other wife’s, partners, parents etc etc made to allow us ‘troops’ to do our thing would things have been different in some ways, for them and me?

Ponder time over. I think I was lucky to be in a time and place when us ‘troops’ could do what we did, and in the way we did it – and have a wife who understood what made me tick.

Keep sane and nearly safe everybody.

S Atkins – A fascinating post Peter. The MR monoculture was almost unique in military terms. Fascinating, creative, people who perhaps sought a less prescribed military experience. I always felt troops were somewhat characterised by the ‘gallus’, in the eyes of our bosses. It was educational and, for me, utterly inspirational. I joined Greenpeace and Amnesty following insightful chats with people such as Mick Anderson, John Chapman etc. A true crucible of innovative, and somewhat outlandish, thinking. My old landlord and teammate, Spy, referred to MR troops as ‘social misfits’. Cannot really argue with that! Hope you are well.

We were totally consumed in the moment and everything rock, and we were lucky enough to be doing it together. Too heady a mix. Any deity would forgive us, our loved ones not so much.

Nina Shanks – Don and I have been married for 46 years….it’s wasn’t always easy bringing up 2 girls mostly on your own. Made me a whole lot stronger. Sometimes I think it’s because we saw so little of each other that it’s lasted as long as it has!!! Lol.

Paul D – Pete Kay and David Whalley Peter Kirkpatrick – Chatting here now…. 3 of the many great people who inspired me the most during my MR shenanigans. From Trialist to Team Leader, a 20 year rollercoaster of happiness, interspersed with emotion and the seriousness of the job at hand. A life never to be repeated. If I had one regret, I wished I had respected and dealt with the death we witnessed on occasion with a little more respect remorse and compassion. It occasionally plays with my mind. Thanks to all the great troops, ones in a million.

Mark H – Great points guys. Were were basically selfish bastards. Our wives and girlfriends semi widows much of the times. But it formed who I am and what I pass onto others, and my dog, don’t we have some incredible memories.

“2ba, catch this stretcher if I throw it down to you” ( at the top of Idwal slabs)

“Er, Pete, I don’t think that is a good idea, lower it” ….”Tight, tighter, puuulll “

Peter Kirkpatrick thanks Pete. I use this example simply for the Love of all the experiences you, Heavy, Bill and the 100’s of guys (and girls) I came across gave me, either leading or following them, and the adventures/ epics we had, plus the few saved people. Beasting the hills chasing Andy Fowler, Steve Price and Steve Heaney laid the way to my hill running days recently. Your ‘death marches’ or ‘see how far can you go in 24 hrs’ gave me the confidence to run Tranter’s, Ramsay’s, Skye Trail, Hadrian’s…and 50+ others giving nice wee days out post the MRT. Recent biking and swimming just give the knees a rest and extends the adventures into new areas. My fingers, elbows and shoulders have had a few years break so maybe get back climbing again!. There are a few climb-runs if fancy…. and swim, run, climb, bike…

So having been a selfish MRT git, I am still a selfish git sometimes. I am very very grateful of the wonderful Fiona Hartree for suffering my addictions.

Bill Batson – Hi all. I’ve loved reading everyone’s comments and it’s brought back all sorts of – mostly happy- memories. I’ve never been a big one for looking back at times gone by but reading these posts really does make you realise how important and life changing/shaping/affirming our MR days have been. Would I have wished for anything to be different? Not at all.

Martin Gilmour / Certainly was a commitment for troops and family. The missed birthdays, Christmas and school days. Without a doubt would do it again. My son is stationed at Lossiemouth would I recommend MR to him not sure..

Martin Garnett – We had a telephone land line fitted in our married quarters’ told the BT installer to fit it in the bedroom. Jill Garnett asked why the bedroom? I answered, we get tanoyed in work for a call out, its just in case there was a call out in the night. Obviously no thought of Jill on how inconvenient a telephone in the bedroom was for day to day answering the the phone or making calls during the day.

The sitting room would have been better for the phone Yes we were selfish.

Thank you all.

Comments welcome.

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 Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Never take for granted our Families and how much they give us! Thank you all.

  1. bob hankinson says:

    I recall that there were some troops who joined because they saw the team spirit that was missing in almost all other areas/trades/squadrons; they did not (at first) have any great inclination for mountaineering. It reads across to my view on Munroists: not to be scorned, because after you have done all the Munros in Scotland you have become a mountaineer, because you will have been caught out in bad weather, difficult nav choices and mistakes, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

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