The Angry Corrie 21: Jan-Feb 1995
Rambling rhetoric (letters)
I am writing in response to your article published in TAC20 (pp16- 17), and in particular to those parts of same which refer directly and indirectly to myself and any alleged action instigated to prevent legal access to the Estate and perimeter shorelines.
Your information is incorrect, biased and inflammatory to say the least and will only serve to fuel the opinions of those with an already antagonistic approach to those landowners such as myself whose responsibility it is to preserve and secure the land primarily for its own and those who rely upon it for their own, economic well-being.
Life here is difficult enough to uphold these principles and to ensure the interest of the many many other parties who wish to benefit and enjoy its amenities without such "prattish" statements and bigoted rhetoric from someone who looks only for negatives and ignores the positives.
I write to offer the author an opportunity to meet me and discuss my position and to benefit from a guided tour of all walking routes, most of which benefit from recently erected access stiles. After much co-operation with SNH, Highland Regional Council, Lochaber Council, various schools, universities, special interest bodies and others on the question of access, it is disappointing for me to read of false accusations such as the "shore fence" on the seaward side of Mingary Castle (note the correct spelling) this was in fact erected by the previous owners to prevent injury to walkers attempting to negotiate the sheer rock face at that point. If your author had taken the trouble to investigate further he would have discovered a secure stile erected to allow safe access to the remaining shoreline instead of rushing off to scribble a complaint instead of a compliment.
I look forward to your response, but in the meantime would suggest it may be advisable to talk to those accused of denying access before printing such baseless material.
John C Grisewood Owner, Ardnamurchan Estate
Ed. - TAC is many things to many people, but will always, hopefully, be used as a clearing house for differences of opinion such as this. Clearly John Grisewood is well placed to know the situation as regards access on the estate, but his being the owner does not debar others, such as Dave McFadzean (who has a deep love of, and concern for, the Scottish landscape) from making pertinent criticisms. Hopefully the offer will be taken up, and Messrs Grisewood and McFadzean will meet and discuss. And hopefully they'll then feed back through these pages their respective impressions. Meanwhile, if any other readers have anything to contribute on this, please do write in.
Readers of the TAC20 letters page will recall a plea from Highland Toffee Magnate Rennie McOwan for the naming of landowners such as the one in the Kilpatricks who made life difficult for Alan Blanco and a Radio Five Live reporter attempting to "Summit Sweep" Duncolm. Thanks to the reader who phoned in the required information: that the said gentleman was one Donald Buchanan, of Cochno Hill Farm. Buchanan, our informant succinctly relates, is "well known locally for being quite obtuse over the years".
I sadly find myself unable to take to the hills for my regular dose of freedom, as I am recovering from some abdominal surgery. I am pleased to report however, that the latest issue of TAC arrived through the post on the morning of my admission into hospital and, although it didn't take my mind off my forthcoming encounter with the scalpel, it certainly helped.
As I struggled back to consciousness after the operation, it was comforting to see the friendly front cover of TAC propped up between the grapes and the Lucozade, but as I tried to focus on the fine artwork of the cover, I became aware of several objects in a container. For the first time, I was seeing the gall stones which had caused me so much grief over the previous six months.
So, just what do you do with gall stones? I thought of having them made into earrings for my wife, using them as weights for fishing, they would be handy by the bedroom window to fling at the neighbour's cat when it was digging up my bedding plants. The choice seemed endless.
I finally opted for the environmentally friendly option. I would return the stones to a natural habitat. A ceremonial scattering of the stones on a boulder field somewhere on a Scottish mountainside seemed a perfect way to dispose of them. Knowing that TAC is a publication read by learned and educated people (it is indeed - Ed.), I feel sure that one of your readers, if not your good self, would be able to advise me as to the most suitable boulder field. I would like the geological makeup of the gall stones to match that of the local stones so that future geologists, who may stumble across them, would not be faced with solving the mystery of their origin.
Duncan A McNab, Dalgety Bay
Ed. - Surely the most appropriate place would be in Coire nan Gall - the glen between Sgurr na Ciche and Loch Quoich? Plus it would be a rare hike to get there!
I read the article on the Donalds (TAC19, pp6-8) about the same time as I was reading Kidnapped to my son Andrew. Stevenson was obviously familiar with the area under discussion, though whether through direct experience or by use of OS maps I do not know. In the chapter, "End of the Flight: We Pass the Forth", he refers to David Balfour and Alan Breck lying out on Uam Var on their stage between Strathire (sic) and Allan Water. Their walk between these two places, avoiding the military and well-used roads, would possibly have taken them near Uamh Bheag. The south-west spur of that hill is named Uamh Mhor, a possible approximation to Uam Var.
Stevenson refers to the fugitives' bivouac as being "in a heather bush", whereas TAC describes Uamh Bheag as being grassy. It is always possible that RLS did not actually ascend the putative Donald himself (particularly as it would not have been in his copy of the Tables), and merely exercised literary licence. Further research is obviously required.
Many questions are raised. If Uamh Bheag were to be accepted as a Donald, it would be the only one mentioned in Kidnapped (a couple of Munros are referred to). I don't know if Donalds, Munros etc are mentioned elsewhere in RLS's works, but no doubt someone could find time to check on this. The literary interest could be overwhelming.
Des Rubens, Edinburgh
Ed. - Coincidentally, Rennie McOwan (again!) has an article on the Kidnapped flight in the current (Dec '94) Scots Magazine. He states there to be no evidence of Stevenson having ever climbed Uamh Bheag.
In a fit of madness I sent off for a BMC T-shirt, which lists all the Munros, with heights in feet. I was surprised to find that Ben Nevis has grown three feet to 4409 feet. I haven't checked all the rest, but assume that there will be other discrepancies.
Presumably now we've abandoned imperial heights on maps we simply derive them from scratch by multiplying the metric height in metres by 3.28 and rounding up, as seems to have been done in this case (and, I subsequently note, in Mr McNeish's little almanac).
Ed. - Oddly, Blanco and I had discussed this very topic just days before Mike's letter arrived. Nevis is indeed 4409ft, and research into other famous-but-spurious imperial heights will hopefully follow in a future TAC.
I have been reading your mag for a number of years and I note a common theme of football / walking duality - perhaps also reflecting the number of quack physicists regularly putting pen to paper.
I feel that there is a large flaw in this duality argument, namely, that if Berwick Rangers are allowed to play in the Scottish League, then why is The Cheviot not granted Corbett status? After all, it is closer to the Border than is Berwick.
Roy Turnbull Edinburgh
Ed. - As I think I've said in these pages before, it will be a great day when Berwick win the Scottish cup and Gretna (who had a brief giant-killing run last year) win the Albion cup. They might even get to play each other in Europe!
By way of payment for the latest two issues of TAC I enclose two specimens of an increasingly rare and threatened species, the Scottish pound note (Quiddus Scotticus). These were found in a rather emaciated condition on the lower slopes of Am Faochagach, and had to be rescued from the deep heather where they were struggling to survive.
I believe the pound note has already become extinct in many areas of Scotland. One particular area of concern recently has been Glen Feshie, where none have been sighted for some time, but where the landowner has proposed to reintroduce several million of the species. This is undoubtedly overpopulation, and an influx of pounds on this scale can only lead to severe degradation, as they form wide tracks up the hillside and forage for food. Indeed, in these numbers they may even have to be fenced in, and farmed as a cash crop. A small, sustainable colony, cared for by the RSPB, would have been far preferable.
David Summers, Inverness
Anent "Bruckner's 5th / Bruach na Frithe" (TAC19, p3), there is no need to invent spurious statistics about Anton Bruckner. Like Munrobaggers, he was quite barking enough. Eg - he suffered from numeromania - every bar in his scores had to be numbered (there are 1504 in his 5th); every statue in the park had to be counted; every leaf on the tree... QED.
PS - Since I displayed the advert for the Bolt-On Fracture Repair Kit on the door of my office, I have been pestered by students asking where they can buy it. I send them across the road to Boots the Chemist. Incidentally, if Boots would stock TAC, it would save me walking to Nevisport, Sauchiehall St every three months!