Alumni Memories of the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, part one: the 1940s and 50s

Our series on the history of University sport continues with the first of two posts of selected memories of the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club collected and compiled by Katie Berry.

After researching some of history of the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club (GUMC), via the documents stored at the University of Glasgow Archives Services, I thought it might be possible discover more personal and detailed information from the alumni of the GUMC. Thus, at the annual Reunion Meet in April 2014, at which members from the 1940s and 50s convened with the present-day club, I approached a few of the older members for their stories.
I asked each member to write a short piece about their experiences at around 400–500 words, or so, in length. I specified that this could be about their experiences in general, or it could be focused upon a particular trip or day out in the Scottish mountains.  The first of those to reply was Hugh Dinwoodie, a member of the club from 1948–53, here is his reply to me, slightly edited.

GUMC, Ben Nevis, 1941 (Scott Johnston)

GUMC, Ben Nevis, 1941 (Scott Johnston)

‘GUM Club has been a significant part of my life since 1948 – yes, for over 65 years. The Freshers’ Meet at Ardgartan, one wet November half-term weekend, introduced me to a lifelong love of the hills and a unique camaraderie. Older members such as Stan Stewart (who secured Clashgour for the club at a rental of ten shillings a year) (note 1) took the novices in hand and led us to the joys, and (relatively) safe but scary thrills of simple rock climbing, on the end of a thick and unwieldy heavy hemp rope knotted in a loop round the waist, on the many short but varied climbs on Narnain and the Cobbler, such as the Spearhead Arete and the Jughandle Chimney. Equipment was basic – along with the rope, ex-army denims and clinker-nailed boots sufficed.

Work on Clashgour hut

Work on Clashgour hut

This led to many happy weekends all over Scotland, travelling north on the Friday or Saturday evening by MacBrayne’s bus, or often just hitching lifts from passing lorries. Sometimes we joined the JMCS (Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland) on their special bus to huts such as Lagangarbh in Glencoe.  Convivial meals and ceilidhs enlivened proceedings considerably. A strong accordion tradition over years has been fostered over the years by Stewart Orr, Donald Kinloch, and latterly Alison Lambie.

Notable meets included a joint one with our Edinburgh counterparts in Glen Rosa in Arran on a particularly hot and midgy May weekend; several rather undisciplined New Year meets, at Lairigmor and elsewhere; an ill-advised hire of the dilapidated Charities Week van to Glen Nevis one February, when blizzards blocked Rannoch Moor and headlines were made when a stranded bus received hot drinks and succour on skis from the girls who’d got off at Black Rock.    Longer meets were held in Skye or further north during the summer’

Loch Maree, June 1951, awaiting ghillie with private ferry to Letterewe: (l-r) Douglas Hutchison, Brian Smith, Angela Hood, J. Stewart Orr

Loch Maree, June 1951, awaiting ghillie with private ferry to Letterewe:
(l-r) Douglas Hutchison, Brian Smith, Angela Hood, J. Stewart Orr

The second member to reply to my request was Angela Hood, a member of the GUMC at about the same time as Hugh Dinwoodie. Her reply directed me towards the articles she and others had written in the annual magazine of 1951–2 with concern to the ‘great summer of rock climbing’ had by the club in 1951. The first article was written by Brian Smith (2) detailed the exploration of the climbing on Beinn Lair. Brian Smith’s article describes the difficulties of reaching this destination (3) and despite this Angela Hood states this trip ‘marked the start of [her] enduring love for the mountains of Wester Ross, and of the Hebrides.’

The second article she directed me to was one written herself, ‘Twere well it were done quickly’ which describes the following meet in Skye whereupon several members of the club traversed the Cuillin Ridge (no mean feat!). In this article Angela writes of how the group spent several days traversing the ridge, starting from the Glen Brittle campsite and bivocking along with way. She tells of how on one night the group  slept on the top of the Inaccessible Pinnacle, where in the morning they awoke to ‘a new world… the mist had lowered and was a white lake below… Above, the sky was cloudy, but over everything was a hint of sunlight. Our world was a black line of peaks suspended among the clouds.’ (4)

All of the photos included in this article were also sent to me by Angela, showing the members and activities of the GUMC at various points in the 1940s and 1950s.

It was incredible talking to Hugh and Angela at the Reunion meet this year, and subsequently reading their stories and articles; listening to those who experienced the club as it was 70 odd years ago was a fascinating experience for me and assisted in my understanding of the GUMC at that time and I thank them deeply for their contribution.

Part two follows next week.

 

NOTES
Note 1: See previous blog post ‘Exploring Scotland with the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club

Note 2: University of Glasgow Archives Services: Records of Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, 1952 Journal, Beinn Lair, UGC 190/1/1

Note 3: See previous blog ‘Exploring Scotland with the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club’, specifically the section on club members hitching a ride in a fish lorry

Note 4: University of Glasgow Archives Services: Records of Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, 1952 Journal, Twere well it were done quickly, UGC 190/1/1



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  1. Alumni Memories of the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club, part two: the 1970s « University of Glasgow Library

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