In the second of our sports-history series Katherine Berry tells us about her exploration of the University Archive during a Club 21 research placement.
As the start of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow draws nearer, Scotland has been venerated in numerous articles and ‘count-down-lists’ as the place to visit this year. With this in mind I thought it would be a good idea to look into the history of exploring Scotland through a club which has been doing so for the last 70-odd years – the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club (hereafter referred to as the GUMC). The documents that record this history are stored in the Glasgow University Archives; they are mainly in the form the promotional leaflets, financial accounts, writings in the Glasgow Guardian, and the annual journal, published by the club itself (note 1).
There is a slight disparity within sources as to the date of the GUMC’s foundation. In Gordon Graham’s memoirs, he states that he and five friends founded the club in 1938 (2). However the journals stored in the Glasgow University Archives, which provide the majority of the records for the GUMC, all agree that the date of foundation was 1941. It may be that the start of the World War Two hampered attempts to get the club running and it was refounded, thus the confusion. Nevertheless from the early 1940s onwards the club ran continuously, becoming affiliated with GUAC (the Glasgow University Athletics Club, now the Glasgow University Sports Association) in the academic year of 1972–3 (3).
The GUMC ran on the premise of taking members away at the weekends to various different mountainous areas (the trips are known as meets); aside from a few meets to North Wales and the Lake District, the majority of these trips were to Scotland’s Highlands and Islands. The frequency of the meets increased over the decades. The first annual journal of 1952 records ten trips (4), whilst the modern GUMC goes away every other weekend at least (5). In 1952 areas visited included Glen Coe, Arran and Skye (6). A membership card, from the winter term of 1966, records the GUMC visiting Arrochar, Clashgour, Glencoe, Crainlarich, Glen Nevis and Torridon (7). An article in the Glasgow Guardian, detailing the club’s activities in March 1983, shows the additional locations of Lochnagar and Kintail had been added to the classic meet destinations (8). The journals from the early 1990s illustrate the club was as active as ever, and in the modern day around fourteen different areas in Scotland are visited by the club each year, with members organising their own unofficial trips in addition to the organised meets.
Initially the GUMC organised its own transport to the mountains, often resulting in less than comfortable journeys for some of its members. One particularly amusing tale in the 1952 journal tells of how four members hitched in a fish lorry to Braemar, two of whom were required to spend the journey amongst the boxes of frozen fish (9). Additionally a new member to the club wrote an article detailing his first meet, during which he and two others members were forced to walk from Glasgow to Crainlarich due to a lack of lorry drivers willing to pick them up (10). Seemingly, from the club’s inception, its members were determined to reach the mountains, despite the various trials they encountered on the way! The hardships of these journeys were lessened in the academic year of 1972–3, whereupon the affiliation with GUAC resulted in a 50% travel allowance and eventual free hire of the University’s minibuses, a practice that continues to this day.
The GUMC also facilitated mountaineering in Scotland by providing members with a permanent base in the mountains. The club hut at Clashgour near Bridge of Orchy (see map) was acquired in 1948 via the efforts of its future Honorary President Stanley Stewart, who liaised with the hut’s owners a rent agreement of ten shillings per annum (11). The documents in the archives are thereafter full of accounts of members spending time at, mountaineering from, and renovating the hut. An article from the 1971 journal advocates Clashgour’s proximity to Glen Coe, mentions members walking the peaks between the two areas, and details attempts to climb the Munros behind the hut (12).
The club has facilitated the exploration of the Scottish Highlands and Islands by the students of Glasgow by providing varied trip destinations, transport to these meets, and a permanent base in the mountains at Clashgour. Additional activities of the GUMC over the years, which was not possible to detail in this piece, are available in the archive services. I would highly recommend to anybody who is interested coming to take a look at the documents; as an active member of the club for all of my time at University, it has proved a fascinating experience for me!
1. Unfortunately only a few of these annual journals survive in Glasgow University Archives. If any past members have journals and wish to donate them, especially those from the earlier decades of the club, please contact the Archives Services.
2. Gordon Graham, The Trees are all Young on Garrison Hill: An exploration of War and Memory, (Buckinghamshire: The Kohima Educational Trust, 2005) pp. 12-13.
3. ‘31st October 1972, Guardian Sport’, Glasgow Guardian Digital Online, (Accessed 28/02/2014).
4. University of Glasgow Archives Services: Records of Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, 1952 Journal, Club Notes, UGC 190/1/1.
5. ‘Calendar’, Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, (Accessed 27/02/2014).
6. University of Glasgow Archives Services: Records of Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, 1952 Journal, Club Notes, UGC 190/1/1.
7. University of Glasgow Archive Services: Records of the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, Membership Card 1966-67, ACCN 1901.
8. ‘10th March 1983, University Sport’, Glasgow Guardian Digital Online, (Accessed 28/02/2014).
9. University of Glasgow Archives Services: Records of Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, 1952 Journal, Beinn Lair, UGC 190/1/1.
10. University of Glasgow Archives Services: Records of Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, 1952 Journal, My First Meet, UGC 190/1/1.
11. University of Glasgow Archives Services: Records of Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, 1952 Journal, Clashgour Hut, UGC 190/1/1.
12. University of Glasgow Archives Services: Records of Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, 1971 Journal, People at Clashgour, UGC 190/1/3.
Categories: Archive Services