Mountain Rescue Magazine Winter 2021


DR HAMISH MACINNES OBE BEM The world of mountain rescue – and particulary the world of search and rescue dogs – was saddened to hear of the death, in November 2020, of possibly one of its most pivotal characters through the latter half of the twentieth century. Dave ‘Heavy’ Whalley looks back over the life of his great friend and colleague.

There will be much written about Hamish, by many, his exploits are legendary and so impressive. He had climbed all over the world yet his passion was Scotland. He wrote so many books about his exploits, including Call Out (a ‘must read’), and the International Mountain Rescue Handbook . He designed new techniques for technical rescue and took part in so many films and used his engineering expertise to develop equipment like his stretchers and metal ice axes. He was a true mountaineer and an innovative thinker who made breakthroughs that changed the face of mountain rescue and mountaineering. Truly a legend. I got to know Hamish through mountain rescue where he was known as the ‘Fox of Glencoe’. His incredible pioneering work within the early days of Scottish Mountain Rescue and the formation of the Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) and Scottish Avalanche Information Service are renowned but, in the early days of rescue, he was also key to the formation of the Glencoe team – the ‘Glencoe Mafia’. Yet this world-class mountaineer was one of us. I got to know him well over the years. I’d be in the corner of the room as a young lad as he talked about rescues and other tales and, working with him on the hill, was amazed at his endurance. He never seemed to feel the cold. He was ice cool in any drama, moving over steep ground in winter like no one else I had met. I got to know him better when I became team leader of the RAF mountain rescue teams. He was full of advice and listened to you and shared his knowledge readily. With his many contacts in the military, he could get anything done. He worked with the helicopters, improving systems, the man they could trust on a rescue. He had contacts in the Special Forces too and easy access to so much of the state-of-the-art gear he used on searches.

If you had a problem, Hamish was the man. He had an incredible memory, able to produce at any time a picture of some first ascent or famous climber on an expedition he was part off. His stories were incredible and when he took ill a few years ago I was honoured to be part of the network he spoke to. These were terrible times for Hamish but, amazingly, he recovered, regaining his memory by re-reading his own books. As I visited, the stories kept coming back. He’d drop the names of the famous into conversation: Chris (Bonington), Clint (Eastwood), Sean (Connery), Michael (Palin) and so many others. He was involved with a number of Hollywood films, as a climber, climbing double and safety officer, including The Eiger Sanction with Eastwood, Five Days One Summe r with Connery and The Mission with Robert De Niro. On his recovery he seemed so happy and well looked after by his local carers, whose praises he sang. He was fighting back to health. When he died, he’d just celebrated his ninetieth birthday and, despite Covid-19, on that day had been surrounded by his Glencoe MRT pals in the garden. A special day. I saw him recently in Glencoe, still on fine form but I think he knew we wouldn’t meet again. He asked if I could sort out a flypast sometime. He missed his pals in the helicopters. My last words were ‘take care’ as he sat by Tom Patey’s desk amongst the pictures of the mountains he loved. I will miss our lengthy chats, the huge emails, the visits to his home, his incredible memory and his stories, but also his true friendship. He did so much for so many, especially those in trouble on the mountains. I feel honoured to have been a small part of his story. The morning we said farewell to him began with pouring rain and awful weather. I headed over to Glencoe where I met many old pals – from

Above: Hamish in his workshop © Hamish MacInnes.

SARDA, Lochaber and Glencoe – and many of his friends and neighbours, gathered in the bitter cold. Sadly, there would be no helicopter that day due to the weather (Hamish would laugh at that!) but, as the time drew near and his hearse arrived, the skies cleared and there was snow on the hills. There was a spontaneous clap as he passed by. On top of the coffin were two of his ice axes and a piece of heather. So simple and so special. RIP Hamish. Glencoe – and mountain rescue – has lost a special man. ✪ David Heavy Whalley MBE BEM, is ex-team leader of both RAF Leuchars and Kinloss .

Editor’s note: You can read more about Hamish on the following pages, where we take the opportunity to revisit Jonny Dry’s interview with him, as he recovered from illness (published here July 2019), and also look back at the inspiration that led to the formation of SARDA (extracted from Search and Rescue Dogs ). We may never see Hamish’s like again so I hope readers will forgive the indulgence.

Keswick team said farewell to a much-loved team member in October. Ellie Whiteford pays heartfelt tribute to her ‘beautiful Search Dog Meg ’. Meg was nearly thirteen years old. She was a pretty tri-colour collie girl with foxy pricked ears and spotty nose and legs, expressive amber eyes and a beautiful banner tail. She started training in November 2008 and would only bark for a dustpan brush wiggled on the floor, but soon moved on to proper toys, with balls and squeaky toys a favourite. She graded in April 2011 in the Howgills and was a team member for eight years before developing arthritis and retiring in March 2019. In that time, she attended 84 call-outs with me, often working as a team with her search dog partner Bracken. Many were in the dark – wet, raining, windy and poor visibility – searching for lost walkers, runners or despondent and vulnerable people. Working a dog in those conditions builds a bond and understanding that cannot be explained. In late 2015 she and Search Dog Ginny were tasked to find Pudsey Bear, who was lost on Catbells, for Children in Need. She was quite taken with Pudsey’s feet which, in her eyes, were very large fluffy toys, several times trying to get hold and run off with them! She was such a character: loving, fun, playful and cheeky but also stubborn, awkward and analysing, a real thinker who pushed my patience to its limit at times, but she made me laugh and I adored her. She was vocal with a ‘Woo Woo’ which could escalate to an excited bark when playing. She loved water and would be down at the water’s edge of any lake or river waiting for a toy to be thrown in and would often swim alongside me. She taught me so much as a search team partner and as a companion, and life is so much emptier without her. I am heartbroken to lose her and miss her enormously. She was always there and life is very quiet. Time will heal and I have many good memories of all the good places we went and the things we did together. She will always be with me. ✪




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