My mate Tom Mac Donald RIP.

Tom MacDonald

I have the just had the sad news of my pal Tom MacDonald died on Thursday at his home in Dundee. I have no other news as yet. It was a huge shock as I thought the man was indestructible.

Tom in Skye

Tom joined the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team at the same time as me in the early winter of 1972. We were called the “Terrible Twins” at one time as we were both small in stature but stood up for ourselves. These were great days, Tom was a very gifted mountaineer being brought up in the hills round Aberfeldy. He was a strong climber and an even stronger mountaineer. We chased our Munro’s together on any weekends of from the team. As we both did not drive at the time we had some epic journeys into the Rough Bounds of Knoydart and other places.camping bothying big days and hard nights

1973 Ben More Viscount call out

It was on our first attempt at a traverse of the Skye ridge in 1973 I was that tired I nearly abseiled of my gear loop. Tom spotted that and saved my life. We did Tower ridge in full on winter conditions the same year. Tom was so safe and competent especially in winter we had a magic day. We did many of the classic hill walks big days with big bags. Trips followed to Arran taking the hire bikes up Glen Rosa climbing on Cir Mor and other cliffs in 1974 and bothies all over Scotland including Galloway. Tom went to the Alps often excelling in these mountains I went with him on a couple of trips one where we witnessed a bad accident.Tom was very cool throughout and a big help on a sad day out.

Tom in Skye

We stayed with each other’s families when chasing hills my Dad was a minster Tom could not believe it and we had some laughs. Toms Mum and Dad made me so welcome as we chased the Munros their kindness and hospitality was immense. We both completed our Munros in 1978 numbers 147 & 148 on the same day with a party in Braemar. In these days we were so fit and competitive on the hills, Tom was a natural mountain man but always there for you. Tom became full time Deputy Team Leader at Saint Athans in South Wales whilst I was Deputy Team leader at Valley in North Wales. We met often and there was some friendly rivalry including the famous Snowdon Horseshoe Bike Race . As we were Rock-climbing we met a lot also during that cold winter when we climbed many of Wales greats ice routes. Tom was climbing very well and climbed many new routes in this period.


We both ended up back at Kinloss and rock climbed a lot of great routes. Super days on Centurion on Ben Nevis The Minus Buttress also. many of the Glencoe classic’s and Glen Etive with the “ Bad boys club” . What a time that was in the early Tom 80’s. There were so many routes in these weekends I will never forget them.

Not long after this Tom left the RAF and was guiding in Glencoe based at Onich and the Kings House. He guided on so many of the Classic routes and when not guiding climbed so many routes solo. I met him often at this period he was so fit and strong. He also climbed a lot with notable worthies including putting a bolt in the wall near the Squirrels hut in Glencoe!

It was on a trip to Canada in winter in 1984 that Tom had organised ice climbing. Tom had read about this wonderful place with hundreds of hidden ice falls. We had the trio of our lives climbing in basic gear of that time we climbed many of the routes of the day. We met many of the greats of that era in Canada climbing all week and having the weekends off meeting many locals. That was the best expedition of my life. Terrifying at times but so rewarding. I was amazed I was asked on that trip but what an incredible period.

Tom in Canada wearing Footfangs revolutionary at the time.

Tom always had a love of the wildlife and botany and he excelled in botany ending up working in this field where he was well respected. He located many plants due to his skill as a cragsman and worked and knew these hidden Corrie’s and their secrets.

We met a lot even later on in life had some great days and Tom took me into wild Corrie’s in Beinn Alder and the Cairngorms showing me plants and things I had missed over the years. His photos of plants and animals were superb and he was a true craftsman sharing his knowledge with so many.

As he aged He was still strong and fit moved on steep ground so well he got to places high in the Corries with so much confidence, He spent lots of time with his sister Janice exploring Scotland. They did Munros and big walks and were a great brother sister combination. His photos and tales from this part of his life were eagerly awaited.

Thank you Tom for all the great days every time I see a flower on hill I will think of you. I will also laugh at some of our escapades like the “Church Bell” episode at Kinloss. Crazy days in our youth we were a team leaders nightmare always pushing the boundaries but I would never change a minute of it.

About 20 years ago I was out in Glen Affric and had trudged out to a remote Munro. Who did I meet on the summit but Tom alone he had just been in a remote Corrie doing some botany. We trudged back over most of the Affric Munro’s chatting it was just one of these days. We met often after that I even did 3 days resettlement with Tom on the Cairngorm plants with Tom as my guide. This followed other days always into remote Corries and getting information on plants and flora we had seen on the hill. It is so hard to believe that Tom is not with us now. Many of my pals and others have stories and photos please share them and I will pass them on to Janet his sister.

Thinking of you Janet, Tom loved you very much and you him. Tom,s many pals are all thinking of you.

Rest easy “Wee man”

Dwarf Cornwell

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 Articles, Avalanche info, Bothies, Corbetts and other hills, Family, Flora, Friends, Ice climbing Canada, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Plants, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to My mate Tom Mac Donald RIP.

  1. Donald Shanks says:

    So sorry to hear of Tom’s passing. I remember the night in the Buchan NAAFI !!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pete Kay says:

    Cracking write up Hev’s, Tom was a one off, taken to early. No one saw this coming, that alone has made it such a shock. It was just a few days ago he posted a photo from our Peru exped. A trip that will stay with me, if only for the fact it very nearly didn’t come off. The command P Ed O, wanted to know if it was safe, we of course assured him it was safe as houses, with the straightest of faces. Two car bombs in Lima, a night stop in a village shot up by Shining Path insurgents a couple of weeks before, a climber from a Belgium party, dead from pulmonary odema , and of course running into the Touching the Void party on the walkout. There was more, but I think I’m in enough trouble as it is. RIP Tom Mac, never a dull moment mate.


  3. Alistair Todd says:

    Upsetting & so unexpected to hear of Toms passing. I first met him in the mid ‘80s when hanging out with the rock steady crew, aka the Glen Nevis cruisers. Then in later years kept seeing him up at Weem, Polney etc. We regularly conversed about shared interests & incredibly whilst botanising he found a missing ice screw I’d lost on a new route on an obscure crag on Ben Chonzie. A great man with a wonderful knowledge of his Perthshire hills who I’m sure will be missed by those who knew him. I didn’t know her but my thoughts go out to his sister Janice.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Terry McDevitt says:

    RIP Tom.

    This is true Tom MacDonald:
    Mid 70’s and the Leuchars team were on a joint-ex with the Kinloss team at Fort William.
    We all had a good night on the Saturday thanks to Zoonie’s efforts in herding most of us into the same bar at the west end of the main street. (There’s a good tale to be told about events in that pub!!)
    When we all got back to the ATC hut the rivalry surfaced. Tom was giving it big licks and I couldn’t stop myself from giving it back. I know, I know! I was prone to gobbing off – but I did learn eventually.
    So one thing leads to another and we both went at it until we were dragged apart. I thought I’d done quite well but the next day I still had a fat lip and a lump just under my left eye and there wasn’t a mark on Tom!!! Lesson learned.
    The next day was a techniques day in Glen Nevis. The team leaders (I think it was Sunsh and Spoons) put me with Tom as a climbing pair. I know Toms was as pleased as me !!!!!!!!
    Anyway, we got to the foot of the first route when we both burst out laughing. Great man management wouldn’t you say?
    I learned a lot about a lot from that weekend.
    We met a good few times after that and we always got on well.

    I didn’t know him very well but I do know that I was fortunate to know him at all.

    God bless you bud.



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