I just read that a good friend Paul Rosher of Skye Mountain Rescue is retiring after nearly 40 years with the Mountain Rescue team. I first met Paul At Camusunary bothy near Loch Coruisk. It was in winter December 1982 and an USA F111 had crashed above the bothy. Paul and his mates from Newcastle were staying in the bothy and thought that a nuclear war had started. It was at the height of the Cold War. We landed by the bothy in a Seaking Helicopter it was a wild dark night. Paul took us up to the crash site on very steep ground. The hill above Diminutive Sgùrr Na Strì may be reach 494 metres in height, but it’s proof that – when it comes to mountains – size doesn’t matter.
The guide book days : Reaching it requires a long and quite rugged walk, but the rewards are immense. the final ascent to Sgùrr na Strì is rough, rocky and pathless and requires careful route-finding.
Many walkers reckon that the view from the summit – over Loch Coruisk, the Cuillin and the sea – is the finest in all Britain. In winter and in the dark with fresh snow it’s a wild place. I spent a lot of time in Skye on the hill and some incredible call outs. To me Skye is the wildest place in Scotland and the team has always been in my highest regards. It is such a serious place to work in and in wild weather so serious. All mountaineers owe a huge debt to those folk like Paul who give so much and never hit the headlines. Thank you big man.
From Skye MRT – “Long serving team member Paul Rosher has finally decided to hang up his boots after nearly 40 years voluntary service with SkyeMRT. Paul joined the team in 1984 when it seemed to be stuffed with memorable characters, and Paul was certainly one of them. He could have you in stitches or shaking your head in wonder with tales of his misspent youth, or keep you awake half the night on some God-forsaken ledge with his incessant Geordie chatter!
Paul took part in numerous epic rescues – many are now part of team folklore. He was a strong man and always willing to hump the stretcher or other heavy gear up the hill, which always endears you to your fellow team-mates!
Later he designed the Secure Casualty System – an ultra warm casbag with extra protection for the patient. This was tested and developed with teams across the country and he was subsequently awarded a Winston Churchill award and a placement with Yosemite Search and Rescue.
Once, famously, Paul was on the winch wire when it was cut due to the helicopter aborting it’s hover. Fortunately he was still close to the ground. Most of us would never have gone near a helicopter ever again after that, but it didn’t seem to put Paul off! On another occasion our exhausted stretcher party made it down to Coruisk after a 20 hour search and carry. Paul arrived pre-dawn like our saviour with bags of much needed provisions. Unfortunately they weren’t quite as fresh as we were expecting and he didn’t get the praise he thought he deserved…!
Exhilarating helicopter rides, satisfaction at jobs well done, the embarrassing cock-ups, and the sadness and frustration at less happy outcomes – when you’re on this rescue team as long as Paul has been, you go through it all. And he did, for even longer than the rest of us!
Paul, we salute you for your long contribution to the team. We hope you will treasure a lifetime of happy memories of all your friends and colleagues in Skye MRT and wish you, Meg and Tom all the very best in the future.👍”
Great words about a top guy.
Paul wrote this piece when he met us on the USA F111 Crash on Skye he gave me permission to use it.
Recollections from November 1982.
The three of us, John Foggin, Paul Robson and myself had been out on
Blaven that day and had been thoroughly soaked, the fire was on and
macaroni cheese was cooking. Paul Robson, who had been attempting to
pot a rabbit with his air pistol was cleaning his gun when the sound
first occurred. Everything happened really fast after this.
A bright red light lit up the whole bay, we could see right across.
Everything started shaking, doors, windows, tables and objects on the
tables. Then there was a shock wave, not a sound but a physical
pressure which moved from left to right and when it did the fire went
out, the air was briefly sucked out of the room, our kit was flying
through the air madly and part of the ceiling fell on Paul Robson,
who ran out into the white light, covered in plaster.
I remember distinctly the thought that a nuclear war had started, after
all it was very much still the Cold War years and Holy loch did
shelter nuclear subs, well I thought it had taken a hit! I have an
uncle who is ex-army artillery and I recalled him telling me that the
thing to do was to cover your ears and open your mouth, so this is what I did.
My brother Johnny thought it was an alien spaceship! He had been cutting
the cheese into the pasta and jumped back into the corner of the room
staring at the white light glaring around the door frame. I later
pointed out if it had of been aliens and they would have traveled an
awfully long way to visit earth only to get chibbed by a freaked out
Anyway, John and I dashed outside to find Paul Robson and see the whole top of Sgur na Stri ablaze, the diameter of the fireball I estimate at
about 200 meters plus and constituted of every colour imaginable. We
had to drag Paul Robson back inside as the white hot bits of metal
falling out of the sky began to land all too close.
We took turns standing in the rain waiting for another aircraft to
return. We could hear it out in the murky night, but no visual
contact was made. The hours passed.
Eventually we heard a helicopter approach and that is when I met Dave “Heavy” Whalley.
The snows up on the tops had by now extinguished the flames so his first
question to me was, “Okay action man, do y`know where this plane
crashed then?”, and of course I did and took them to the exact
spot. Sgurr na Stri was always our warm-up mountain, and so it is
very familiar and well loved.
When I took the RAF and MR lads to the very place one RAF guy said
“Shouldn’t we get the civvy out of here Sarge? There could be
UXB`s around” He was referring to me and the UXB`s would be the
target bombs which may not have exploded, which does not seem very
likely considering the speed this bird was doing when it collided
square on with the crag.
Paul Robson took another group of RAF to the base of the West Gulley where they illuminated the hillside with massive spotlights.
I recall my brother Johnny was most disgruntled that I didn’t take
him with me and his job was keeping the fire going, this menial task
was more than compensated the next day when John saw an American
officer fall in the river.
John would only be 18 when this happened and our mother, being still alive
then, used to emphasise that I must not get him injured or killed
when we were out on the mountains. Fair enough, this is why I told
him to stay put. Early the next morning whilst Paul Robson and I were
still sleeping Johnny went for water. The best place for good water
near the bothy is over the river. Now there was a very battered
bridge there in those days with many of the tread-boards missing it
was a kind of hop-skip-jump affair to get across. John had just
returned with two canisters of water, the central section of the
bridge was underwater as the tide was in, but Johnny knew where the
remaining tread boards sat. When the little fat American general
tried he took one small step for man and ended up floating away out
to sea. John said he saw two squaddies on the other side just look at
each other, shrug, and then rescue their commander. Shame we missed
In those days bothy rations consisted of dried foodstuffs occasionally
brightened up with a rabbit or a bucket of shellfish. We were given
masses of army rations and kit for our assistance but also told not
to leave for a few days, but we didn’t intend to.
We were interviewed first by RAF rescue in the bothy by Heavy, a very
relaxed matter of fact thing. Then we had a visit from the USAF who
again interviewed us in the bothy and basically just took down what
we said had occurred. After this USAF Intelligence wanted to
interview us which afterwards seemed a bit daft as it was exactly the
same as the interview we had just given. The final interview was the
only one where we were separated and taken individually into a
Chinook which had the cargo bay filled with technical kit and recording
equipment. This was the only session where we were told it could not
have happened as we said it did as this was not the flight path.
These guys in unmarked NATO parkas insisted that it could not have
flown in over Elgol and up into the Bay the way we recounted. We all
just stuck to our story about what happened because that was what
Years later, after I moved to Skye and got involved in Mountain Rescue work
I found out from a team member Ewan MacInnon who lived then at Elgol
that the plane was so low some glass cracked and ornaments and plates
fell from their place. It must have been dangerously low and
critically close to do this.
I still visit Sgurr na Stri at least once a year. It is one of my
favourite mountains with unrivalled views of the Cullin and many wee
crags and sections to explore or scramble. I am still finding debris,
especially in the West Riven Gulley at the top where it divides into
loose, dangerous fingers of grassy, chossy rock.
Paul Robson died in 1999, he didn’t even make it to forty. His love
affair with booze caught up with him and in the end took him away
from us like most bad lovers do. Memories remain though and I can
still recall him before the alcohol took his vigour and health away,
a tall fit young lad who loved his climbing and survivalist and those
nights by a bothy fire telling yarns and recounting past adventures.”
Those were the days we lived.