The Angry Corrie 14: Aug-Sep 1993
Every summer for as long as anyone can remember, visitors to the Scottish hills have been afflicted by the dreaded midge, and not a few clegs as well. In all this time, we have accepted that there is no way of systematically tackling the problem.
And then, the Gulf war. American forces needed, in its aftermath, to occupy a certain strategic zone of Iraq. In order to make this occupation bearable for the troops, who might otherwise have been driven to despair by Iraq's equivalent of the aforementioned airborne pests - what did they do? They set up a no-fly zone!! Quite clearly, the problem can be tackled effectively when it suits the purposes of power-hungry 'lites.
And then I thought - in whose interests is it not to eliminate midges et al from the highlands in summer? Could there, by any chance, be a powerful minority wanting to discourage people from wandering around on land which they wish to keep for themselves? Hmmm...
The picture becomes clear: it suits the US military to eliminate the problem for their troops - hence the no-fly zone; it suits the Scottish landowners to maintain the midge population as a deterrent to ordinary hill-loving folk - hence the midgey free-for-all.
I think TAC should follow this up - one for Panorama in the near future, to be sure.
Ed. - Or a fly-on-the-wall documentary.
If Eddie Lynch, of Glasgow, is smaller than me and no relation of Boxer Benny, then I'll call him out. (See TAC13, letters.)
He says folk like me regret the passing of 'the good old days', whatever that might mean. He must be talking about my father. I regret aspects of the modern scene, including Tiger Tims like himself, but the best way to solve problems is to discuss them.
He didn't find bothies because he had a vision in the night. Someone told him about them. If he is saying that a line must be drawn now on numbers then that is blatant 'litism.
My article in Outdoor Action was not solely about bothies at all, but also about caves, howffs, dosses and sleeping out generally.
I was attempting to help by pointing out that bothy visitors should not rip up boards, perform bathroom functions inside or close to a bothy, be noisy and disruptive or cut down trees or do any kind of damage. I urged that they take their litter (and other people's litter) home and should support the MBA. In any event, numbers going to the hills will level off in Scotland, even with increased tourism. It would always be so with a population of five million and much land where the hand of man is least evident. There is a different problem, of course, in Albion's heavily populated Plain and uplands. (What uplands would those be? - puzzled Ed.)
As for equipment manufacturers, I have never contributed to a 'gear supplement' in my life and regret that trend as much as he does - tho' I would like to see my Team-of-the-Year, Alloa, restoring their old wasp-like, black and yellow hoops.
Let's show others that just because you are born with marbles in your mouth doesn't mean that you can close recognised rights of way. I am of course referring to the Duke of Atholl trying to close the Minigaig Pass. I would be happy to participate in some sort of protest against his Lordship's neanderthal mutterings, just let me know the details when they have been finalised. (See other letters and p15)
I notice in Storer's Exploring Scottish Hill Tracks that in 1878 after Dalnacardoch Toll House closed, drovers continued to use the pass - even though Atholl Estates tried to stop them or else make them pay for using the land. To quote: 'The drovers insisted on their right of way and continued their trade undaunted'. A lesson from the past perhaps?
I have the dual distinction of being both a Director of The Scottish Rights of Way Society and a reader of The Angry Corrie.
In the June/July edition you call for a mass walk over the Minigaig by SRoWS members and TAC readers. Personally I would be against this proposed action at this time for a number of reasons which I will explain below:
Firstly, you have to appreciate the nature of the present dispute. It is essentially a 'paper dispute' at the moment, Faced with The Duke of Atholl's refusal to accept their listing of the Minigaig as a right of way, Perth and Kinross District Council contacted the Society to appraise them of the situation. Acting in concert the Society and the District Council have been actively involved in negotiating with the Duke and in assembling the evidence required to prove the status of the route beyond question. The Society and Perth and Kinross District Council will hope that having assembled a sufficiently impressive body of evidence that The Duke of Atholl will have the good grace to withdraw his objection and accept the situation before they have to consider going to court. Always a costly and chancy business.
Another reason for my objection to the mass walk is that we are dealing with Atholl Estates who are, or were, generally regarded as being one of the more enlightened of our major estates when it comes to access matters, and the present Duke one of the 'good guys'. What would the walk show? That the walking public are up in arms. I'm quite sure the Duke is aware of this. Can I echo the call from Jack Wills in the June/July edition, if you have used this route, either from Calvine or Blair Atholl to Kingussie, then please write to the Society office giving details of when you did so. The Scottish Rights of Way Society, John Cotton Business Centre, 10/2 Sunnyside, Edinburgh. EH7 5RA.
At present the route is not blocked, there is no physical obstruction to pile up against, the only barrier to the use of this route is the Minigaig itself. It is a long (26 miles), demanding, high level route. This important cross- country route is part of the historical fabric of the country, not something to be given up lightly. The Society won't do that. Can I close by urging your readers, those who aren't already members, to consider joining the Society and supporting us in this and other ventures.
I last used the Minigaig two years ago about this time of year. It's a wonderful path in an area of much scenic beauty. The fact also that it has been in existence for some centuries means that yet again the Scots are having their Heritage gradually whittled away by the modern day feudal barons.
However, to coin a 'politically-incorrect' phrase, 'Don't let the buggers get you down'. To this end I have been inspired to come up with the following acronym - MUMP (March Up the Minigaig Path).
Let's not sit there and do nothing, let's MUMP about it!
See you there,
I must present a case for the defence. I refer to the letter from one Brian Mann of Bishopton in TAC12, who in turn refers to the letter from Simon Waddicor in TAC8.
As you can see, this is somewhat ancient history, but knowing you have a penchant for long-running sagas (witness Shakespeare v The Glencoe Sisters v Shakespears Sister et al), I thought it best to set the record straight.
The letters refer to a certain Mr 'Mad Martin'. I know this gentleman well as he was my compatriot in Argentina earlier this year where we discovered TAC's hidden agenda to take over Argentinian bus services.
This particular Mad Martin has indeed been a regular bothy user for many years. I can assure you that in common with the majority of bothy goers he does enjoy a wee dram and impromptu ceilidh. However, he has never been arrested by the police in the vicinity of a bothy, or anywhere else for that matter - even though he probably should have been! (Facetious comment not meant to imply culpability!) Perhaps Mr Mann has discovered a second Mad Martin. This impostor is definitely not a Munro Pineapple (see singlefigure TACs, ibid - Ed.), unlike Mr Waddicor, myself and the Mad One. Therefore he should be hung at dawn (on the summit of the In Pinn of course).
Due to my possible fugitive status after revealing such sensitive information, I am absconding to the Alps for a fortnight. Could it be that whilst in France I shall unearth TAC's shady influence in the baguette market? We shall see.
On the subject of uses of the ice axe (Val Hamilton, TAC13), I find that the axe is far more practically useful for grooming out those stubborn knots in shaggy hair, unwashed for a week due to extended intelligence-gathering sessions in the bothies. It must however be noted that this is best done with a classic curved pick, as I find that the reverse "banana" curve type does tend to catch in the scalp in a rather unpleasant manner!
I trust that all this information will set the record as straight as the Conservative Party and put an end to discussion of the subject.
Ed. - Given the grave import of this issue, the TAC editorial group recently infriltrated a Branch Bothidian caucus meeting, where it was proved beyond all reasonable doubt that, yes, there is indeed a confusion of Mad Martins here. Hence the individual pictured above can rest easy in his sleepingbag. And by the way, shouldn't Pineapple Society members be using the reverse "ananas" type pick rather than the reverse "banana"?
Answer to Boring-Squares question on P12: NG4519 - Sgurr nan Eag!