TAC 43 Index
AS WE GO TO PRESS, the hillgoing world is abuzz with word of an extraordinary deal within the cut-throat world of outdoor magazines. Following the August axing of TAC's editor Dave Hewitt from the back page slot in TGO - to be replaced, he was told, by a woman columnist - there have been widespread rumours that high-flying Tory MP Ann Widdecombe is to take over. Ms Widdecombe was recently reported as having also lost a regular column, in her case a #70,000-a-year post at the Sunday Express. Ostensibly this was because 'the quality had gone down hill' [Guardian, 28/8/99] - but reliable sources believe she has been lured away to TGO by the prospect of the big bucks on offer there.
Despite doubts over her hill pedigree (although there have been unconfirmed sightings on Brown Willy with Michael Portillo, while she is also thought to have been up the Devil's Point a few times), Widdecombe is now the clear frontrunner for the job at TGO. The talk is of golden handshakes and a pay packet in excess of her Express salary, with expenses on tap. Media-watchers say it has however proved impossible to confirm that Ms Widdecombe regards TGO's editor-in-chief Cameron McNeish as 'a bit of all right'.
Hewitt, purportedly off-loaded on a last-in-first-out basis, declined McNeish's offer to continue his Baggerwatch column, stating that he would prefer to assert his independence. The editorial assistant on the Outdoors section of The Scotsman since its inception in March, Hewitt was cautious when commenting on suggestions that his sacking was simply a consequence of McNeish's June appointment to the Sunday Herald Wild Weekend clone. 'I refuse to believe that petty rivalries come into this,' Hewitt said, 'or that Mr McNeish has been pressured by his paymasters at Scottish Media Group [who own both TGO and the Sunday Herald ]. Mr McNeish believes in being straight with people and has assured me that my sacking from the back page was simply to make space for a female writer. Short of offering to shave off my beard and undergo a sex change there was little I could do in this department.'
McNeish is billed in the publicity for his upcoming book, Scotland's 100 Best Walks, as 'Britain's best known mountain walker'. His weekly Sunday Herald column, entitled You'll have had your hill, is widely thought to be a postmodern joke based on the Irvine Welsh play You'll have had your hole.
Hewitt, whose back page column paid the merest fraction of Widdecombe's fee and of whom it was once said 'There is something of the bog in him', declined to be drawn on a possible Widdecombe deal: 'All this talk of #70,000 is hard to comprehend. I find it difficult to imagine that Mr McNeish would be capable of producing a wad of that size - but if it does happen then I wish all parties well. TGO retains a sparky and innovative stable of columnists, which Ms Widdecombe would complement perfectly.'
TAC 43 Index