Mountain Rescue Magazine Winter 2021

from the

The somewhat ‘controversial’ rescue of writer, author and TV personality, Tom Weir Archive

When Tom Weir passed away in 2006, we lost a National Treasure. Indeed, Tom was an iconic Scottish figure. If you met him in an outdoor setting then, most likely, he’d be wearing his trademark red woolly ‘bunnet’, Fair Isle jumper and tweed breeks. However, it’s possible many readers – especially those living south of the Scottish border – may not have heard of him. So, who was he and what were his achievements? Bob Sharp looks back at Tom’s life and his link with mountain rescue.

Diagram: Schematic showing the routes on Ben A’An © Ken Crocket. Left: Close up view of Ben A’An and the Last 80 which takes a line up the top rock band © Bob Sharp.

straight to Campsie Glen. A single journey cost just sixpence. From my house I could see the green outline of the Campsies and the blue skyline of faraway and bigger hills and decided I would go there. For me, the Campsies became the most wonderful place in the world.’ After a period working in the local grocer’s shop, during which he escaped to the Campsie Hills in any time off, he went to work on a farm on the island of Arran. He was called up in 1939 to join the Ayrshire Yeomanry, then transferred to the Gunners as part of the Royal Artillery surveyors’ unit. On demobilisation he worked as a surveyor with the Ordnance Survey before commencing a full-time career as a climber, writer and photographer. Tom was a man of many talents — a broadcaster, climber, environmental campaigner, TV personality, naturalist, prolific author and much else. As a mountaineer he had many claims to fame. He was a member of the first post-war Himalayan expedition in 1950 and one of the first to explore the previously closed mountain ranges of Nepal, east of Kathmandu. He climbed in Arctic Norway, Greenland, Turkey, Iran, Syria and Kurdistan

and achieved many first rock ascents in Scotland. Above all, he was a champion of wild places. Cameron McNeish expressed this very well. ‘Tom Weir was born only a matter of days after the death of John Muir — for anyone who may believe in reincarnation! Both men lived for wild places and wildlife, both men sang the praises of wild land in their prolific writings and both men influenced the conservation of such landscapes.’ Tom is fondly remembered for his long- running Scottish television series Weir’s Way which he both wrote and presented. Typically, in each programme, he would meet local people who recounted interesting tales and personal experiences. He used these interviews to illustrate and explain Scotland’s landscape, its rich social and natural history. A modern parallel would be the TV programmes presented by Cameron McNeish and Paul Murton. He is also remembered for his monthly column in The Scots Magazine (the oldest magazine in the world, still in publication), which he started in 1956 and continued without a break for almost 50 years — an achievement that will never be broken. As a pioneering

Tom was born in Springburn, Glasgow in Christmas week 1914. He never knew his father, who was killed at Gallipoli. His mother was the wage earner and worked as a wagon painter in the locomotive works in Glasgow, while his grandmother looked after him and his sister during the day. His elder sister, Molly had a successful career as an actress, memorably as Hazel the McWitch in the 1976-84 children’s television show Rentaghost . Tom developed an affection for the environment as a child and commented that his love of the Scottish landscape began when a young teenager living in Springburn. ‘The bus that ran past our door went



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