Climbing Pubs – Another Era ?

My first insight into a pub for climbers was in my first weekend at Kintail at the Kintail Lodge Hotel where I sat in awe with my shandy as the Mountain Rescue Team and the locals sang lots of folk songs and there was great craic. Over the years the Pubs became a place for us to get some heat from the tents or the village halls with limited heating we were staying in. You met many of the local characters and other climbers, most of us could write a book on the nights as we travelled over Scotland every weekend, meeting so many folk. We had the odd bit of trouble usually over the local lassies but that was quickly sorted out and the pubs and ceilidhs were good fun. The team knew many of the local characters and we brought some money into the local area through the pub and dances. We met many keepers great contacts and a dram could open a locked gate to the hills. We also met some other climbers the climbing community was a small one in these days. We all have memories of these days, how the pubs have changed nowadays but I will always be thankful for the help they gave us. This was especially true after a big call out when we arrived off the hill in time for last orders. It was a place to unwind and we were looked after.

I will never forget the soup and sandwiches or the very salty chips in the Braeraich Hotel in Newtonmore to make you drink more. Long gone are the Police coming into the Pub and telling us we had a Call -out always a nightmare involving a night drive to another area to help another team. The local teams went home on the long call outs we were stuck away from our families sometimes for several days once 10 days as we moved form Call – out to Call – out. It took a toll on our families these were the days before mobile phones and advice on PTSD. Things have moved on nowadays and for the better but I still have great memories of these pubs and Hotels. The characters and locals who helped us over the years. You know who you are here is a few places. Please feel free to comment and add. your tales.

Lock Ins – a few places that looked after us.

Cubby – Such as the infamous Clachaig lock – ins! Problem with the Kingie was that they lasted about three days. It was dubbed the Kingshouse triangle by the young lads (as seen from the Buachaille), as folk literary disappeared!

Imp in Fort William, Jacobite and the famous bell?

Phil Morrison – The PUFFER AGROUND with Libby and Graham who closed their Restaurant and opened it to the Kinloss Team over Christmas 1975.

John Hubbarb – Brodick Arms on Arran, Easter Grant, I asked when do you close, barmaid said October 

Ian Mathison at Kintail Lodge was the man for after hours.

Angus Jack – Aultguish, followed by a traverse of the fireplace.

Pete Kay – Sligacan  Skye  6 in the morning after a night stretcher carry from the Bastier tooth 71 ish

Portnalong – Great music and craic.

Andy Craig – Ogilvie Arms Glen Clova – lock in, stovies, singing and back to the village hall without falling into the burn off the single plank bridge.

John Thompson – Don’t forget the cook shack combo around the bomb.

Dave Gerrard –  Fort William, 70,s Imperial, Fairly late, in walks PC Angus McLean “Are you boys for staying all night” ? Silence “Cause if you are I’ll be joining you.”

Graham Golding – Fife Arms at Braemar. Definitely wouldn’t happen now.

Ballahullish local pub and the Onich Hotel full of lovely lassies..

Newtonmore – Braeraich Hotel – free chips with lots of salt to entice you to drink!

Roybridge Hotel – wild nights “the battle of Royfridge” very good after call outs.

Scouse Atkins – Cairndow and Lochinver I am still recovering to this day/

Rum – Post Office after a call out, no money with us and got drink on tick !

Eigg – party after Call – out

Islay party after a Call – See Don Shanks Comment they shut at 2200 ON THE DOT.

St Kilda – Puffin Inn.

Wales –

P. Winn  – Padarn lake me and weasel Kennedy listening in to Joe brown and Don Whillans

Douglas Hotel Bethesda – they charged you in old money, looked after us

Cobbies – Capel – wild nights after Call -outs

 England – Davie Walker –  Tweedies Grasmere. Well  fed after many call-outs at any hour of the night.

Jon Kerr – Great Strickland Arms near Penrith and Gosforth West Cumbria

Roger Jon – Great Strickland was always colder inside than out… even in the depths of winter

Alaska – Talketna – when does pub close – winter was the answer.

Dougie Crawford – Self medicating for PTSD….not the best strategy, but all we had at the time….memories for life. So true!

After a night in the Corrie Hotel – Police said that there were some tramps sleeping outside the village hall !

I may have missed many but any tales are welcome.

Don Shanks – One place we Didn,t get a lock in was the Scalisaig hotel on Colonsay on the Atlantique call-out, miserable sod closed at 10 and we hitched a ride on the back of the council lorry to the cowshed billet we were staying 

Stay well stay safe.

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One week in Of Lock – In .

The world has changed priorities have as well as we enter the second week of Lock down. I like many call it a “Lock in” Memories of Highland Bars staying open after a long Call out. These were great days and some wild nights unwinding after a long Call out.

The great Fisher field wilderness.

I am lucky as I live on my own but miss my friends and family. I am speaking a lot more on the phone or by FaceTime/ Skype. I have heard from many friends who you lose touch with. We have time now.

I have many friends in the village and the shops in the area are doing superb as are all those who supply them. This new lifestyle is now showing us who is important and I hope there is a change in priorities and wages after this is all over.

Destitution Wall on Beinn Dearg.

I am enjoying my local walks /cycle in the forest and beach. I rarely see anyone so it’s easy to self isolate. It’s wonderful to be out on the fresh air. Spring is on the air and the beach is busy with birds as the tide changes. I watched a Curlew yesterday it was stunning with its huge beak at the shore edge. Little things are so great to see . The smells of the forest of cut wood are another as I pass where trees were cut down before the virus. It lingers and is a smell that always reminds me of Arran. Coming of Goatfell and passing the saw mill at the end of the day with my Mum and Dad. Funny how things come back in the memory.

I only listen to the news once a day that helps I feel. I listen to the radio podcasts and have brought my CD player down into my sitting room.Music can give you so many pleasures. I am lucky we have shops in my village that look after us all. As does the folk that live in the village there is a lot of kindness about.

Every day I call my friend Wendy who is in lock down in Sheltered accommodation. It’s a worrying time for her as she finds it hard to come to terms with the Virus. It’s important to stay in touch with those who are lonely. She celebrated her 85 birthday recently. I am thinking og so many involved in the NHS what a time they are having we must never forget what they are doing for us all and fight to keep this wonderful asset. I hope all those that moan about taxes have a look and see what we need to help make things work.

Take care, thinking of you all, stay safe and inside we can all do our bit to keep the virus away and get the care for those that need it.

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Kevin Woods – Winter Munro’s completed. A superb effort/

Well done Kevin Woods on his completion of his winter Munro Round, its been some effort through winter by Kevin. He is only the third person to complete this huge effort. Martin Moran and Steve Perry were the forerunners. I have been following Kevin’s journey through the winter his updates are exceptional and a huge amount of wisdom can be gleaned from his journey about winter mountaineering and safe travel. I am so glad that Kevin is safe and hope he can write about his wonderful journey. It was a winter of storms, heavy snow and unique conditions the journey was a hard one that tested Kevin to the full. Due to the Virus there was no one to meet him at the end but maybe once things get back to normal he may have a party with his family and friends.

Stay well Kevin you deserve your rest.

This is from Kevin’s Face book page which he allowed me to share via my wee blog.

“Rocking it out at home in Glasgow here, with Mr Drum and sheep on the moon.

Last week, I pulled back from social media as it didn’t seem correct under the building circumstances. I was also really close to the end: foot to the floor through the northern ranges and I finished my Winter Munros.

This pic sums up more recent times and the foreseeable future: lots of tea and computer time. Although I was quiet to the end, I’d still like to say a big thanks and gratitude to the many that did help me out through the winter.

Truly mental times. Looking forward to being back on the hills one day when it’s over. But much enjoying the family and home time again”

Again a superb effort Kevin and some amazing help by your family, many pals in support all unsung heroes, I look forward to your book.

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A great Scottish climbing word “Padding” some padding routes on Arran, Skye, Etive Slabs.

A great Scottish word “Padding”


I am not much of a rock climber though was lucky though to climb many of Scotland’s classic routes but I still enjoy climbing. One of the first and best climbs in my early days was in Arran on the incredible Cir Mor Sou’wester Slabs. Its an incredible piece of Granite and for an easy route it takes an impressive line up the rock. This is where I learned the famous word padding.

Ar1976 John Cosgrove on West Flank rte Arran.

There are so many great climbs here its a special place. My Dad and me met some climbers one day as I was a young boy in the early 60’s I was 10 and watched them climb on the cliff it was something I will never forget.

Sou’wester Slabs Arran.

The holds on the slab are sparse in places and you have to trust your feet and the palms…

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A visit to Rockall in July 1982 – a interesting tale?

Perfect Isolation on Rockall.


The Rockall Club recognises the named individuals below as having landed on Rockall

1982 – B Tucker & L Turner (Dept of Trade), John Coull, Derek Scott, Steve Ross, Dave Whalley

Rockall the middle of no where

Last night I had a drink for the first time since Arran a few weeks ago, I was with a great pal Lyle Brotherton and Al Swadel. We had a few drams and as always the tales started. We were speaking about Islands and some adventures and I told them the tale about our “Mission to Rockall” in July 1982.  I have written about it before but when I look back it gets better and better as a unique experience. It was with 3 other great people 2 who are now sadly gone, these years were special in my life and I feel they are so worth re telling?

The Press cuttings


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First Impressions.

A skinny wee lad.

This is my attempt to write about my life involved with the RAF Mountain rescue mainly in Scotland. A few have managed before me, some have done a fantastic job of it and some have not!  I feel this is a unique insight into my life within SAR in the UK and RAF Mountain Rescue Service for 40 years.

Where the civilian teams have a local area they know well, the RAF Teams (who are there primary for the recovery of aircraft that crash in the mountains) come in and assist them all over Scotland. This makes it an incredibly difficult job as the calls for assistance are usually in the worst of weather where local area knowledge is invaluable. A unique training was needed to ensure that we were up to the task.  This is the story of the training, the rescues all over Scotland, the effect it had on me, my family and friends.

I found some of the incidents especially the tragedies very hard to write about. This is why this book is so long overdue; I had great problems going over it all in my mind. Yet I owe it to all those involved to try to tell my story.

I hope the other side of Mountain Rescue comes through in this book, the joy of finding someone and saving a life is incredible and after all these years, it still heartens me. I have been heavily involved with many of the families of survivors and especially of those who were killed and still have contact with many to this day. I regularly hear from a family member who wishes to know what may have happened after an accident. The grieving process can take so much time to impact; some take 20 – 40 years to contact.

Mountaineers are in the main very selfish who are driven by their sport at whatever level they achieve, it is like a drug and close relatives and partners, wife’s and husbands sometimes cannot understand what makes us chase these wonderful places.

I hope to help explain why we do it. In these days of changing attitudes, it is still wonderful to know that mountaineers will still go out to assist there fellow man or women who are in trouble, hopefully that will never change. There is defiantly a story here so I am going to try and tell it as best I can. This book is dedicated to my friends and family in Mountain Rescue and the other Agencies past and present. Also to our families who bear the brunt of our addiction and passion and affair with the mountains.

Please be aware many mountain tragedies are brutal I have seen more than most of all over this incredible country it has made a huge impact on me and I will try to tell the story as honestly as I can. There is no way I can mention everyone involved but I hope that this book is the start of some of the journey I have been on and its effect on me and who I love.

I join the RAF

David “Heavy”Whalley Burghead Moray

After leaving school there were limited jobs in my own town and I was pretty wild and decided to join the RAF. I had a great upbringing one of 5 kids my father was a minister and I was very close to my Mum. I was hard work being young and a Ministers son and a rebel. It was the best thing I could do at the time. After joining the RAF and training as a Clerk Caterer?  I was posted to RAF Kinloss in Morayshire, Scotland in October 1971 a new world awaited me.  When the postings came out no one wanted Scotland I did as this was where the Mountain Rescue Team was.  That had been my plan as I had seen the wagons in Glencoe as a young lad as my Dad and Mum took me on the hills. It was some journey to Kinloss, which seemed the end of the world in the train and took hours. I was immediately taken by the area and was put straight on duty that weekend working with In Flight catering, rationing the Nimrod aircraft. I was given a quick brief and left to it, this was after a game of cards where I lost all my weeks’ pay.

I never did that again. The job was okay but not my trade really as very little paperwork and I was put on shifts straight away, this meant I got lots of time off and made the most of it. It was awful work a lot involved making sandwiches for the aircrew of the Nimrod aircraft, little thanks and at times treated like dirt by some. A few were good guys and they were looked after, the old adage if you treat people decently they will look after you. Some of the aircrew thought they were the “chosen ones” and should be treated differently, especially some of the officers who mainly lived in a medieval class system that should have been sorted out years ago.

In Catering you saw this system at its worst with the way they were treated in their messes like some top class London club with all the perks, it was awful. I wanted to join the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and went down to the section to meet them on my day off. I was at this time a small 5 feet five, very skinny about 7-8 stones, young lad. They took one look at me and told me to get lost. I was heartbroken but amazed how non – military they were, there seemed no rank but they all looked hard as nails. I later found out that I did not meet the Team Leader but some of the young full time Mountain Rescue staff who worked there.

I vowed to join the team somehow. They team had just completed a huge callout in November the Cairngorm Tragedy where they were heavily involved in the recovery of 6 fatalities 5 that were children from the Cairngorm Plateau. This was Scotland’s worst mountain disaster. Naturally the team were very shaken by this tragedy and were fairly close like a family group and they did not want any other new members at this time. 40 years later I was to interview the young survivor of the tragedy.

None of this stopped me wanting to join and when I met the team leader when he came in to collect the team rations for the weekend exercise I spoke to him. Flight Sergeant George Bruce BEM was the team Leader. George was a small, laugh a minute man, he was as  hard as nails, a Physical  Training Instructor a Scotsman from Edinburgh, a  teetotaller who spoke and led the team like the famous Bill Shankly the Liverpool Manager and a humour like Billy Connelly what an incredible combination.

George Bruce my first Teamleader.

George immediately took to me and said come out this weekend we are going to Kintail on the West Coast and we will see what you are like. He had a charm and an amazing personality and when he spoke he was so authoritative, the team were all in awe of him, I was over the moon.   He was also a fanatic Rangers man and loved the West Coast banter on football and religion which was lost on many of the team. He was also a very proud Scotsman and this is also another great bonus to me. 

The RAF Mountain Rescue was founded during the Second World War to rescue aircrew that crashed in the mountains. In these days teams were very basic and proved their worth saving many aircrews from the mountains. It was decided after the war to keep the teams and they were six teams in the UK when I joined in 1972. The majority of incidents teams were used for were for civilian climbers. The RAF Teams at one point were the backbone and founding members of the Mountain Rescue Service within UK. They had a team Leader and 4 full – time personnel, a wireless operator, store man, a motor transport driver and deputy team leader. These were made up of any trade within the RAF and the Team Leader was usually a Sergeant or Flight Sergeant. The rest of the team was made up volunteers from any trade or any rank within the RAF, who in those days had to train with the team three weekends out of every 4 and be on callout apart from leave 24/7.

There was no pay or time off for team members. To join you had to do a three weekend trial or you could be posted to a RAF MR team for 21 days to see if you were up to the job.  The majority lasted one day on the hill and decided it was not for them, it was an all-encompassing trial, not only fitness was essential but you also had to show a drive and determination to keep going and also fit in with the team personnel on the hill and socially. This was all after a full weeks work.

2004 Many Years later with George Bruce at the Old RAF Kinloss Block.

I was kitted out with all the gear from an Aladdin’s Cave of a store. It’s to a young climber with no gear was incredible. Yet little fitted as I was the smallest in the team all the gear was for bigger team members.  It swamped me but I was so proud of my gear. I was now ready for my first weekend.  What would that be like?

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Difficult Times Ahead

Well what can I say it going to be a hard time ahead and I am thinking of family and friends. With the lockdown comes a huge change in life for us all. I have had so many calls from family and friends and I thank you all.

Let’s keep an eye on each other and look after those we can help.

I will continue with the Blog as best I can maybe I will try to get on with the book.

Please stay away from folk heed the advice given and think of those a lot worse than many of us. Think of those risking their lives in many so Agencies for us.Many folk are struggling to come to terms with life just now. Who knows what the future will bring?

I am sure we will get through it. The Blog will continue.

I am so glad where I live there are so many folk looking out for each other. Possessions and “stuff” mean nothing compared with Health and kind folk. Look after each other and stay in touch.

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments