The Angry Corrie 54: Jul-Aug 2002


Confusions of the Scottish hills 1
- Ian Mitchell / Ian R Mitchell

Ian Mitchell

Islay-based controversialist and anti-"conservationisation" campaigner. Author of The Cost of a Reputation (subject: Lord Aldington's 1989 libel action against Count Tolstoy) and Isles of the West (subject: Hebridean sailing tour in which the author steps ashore to slag conservation efforts and policies). Given to submitting petitions to the Scottish Executive demanding info on such as "the alleged hen harrier sites on Arran". Argues that RSPB money be diverted to Egyptian quail-netters to stop them catching corncrakes (when in reality they would take the cash and keep nabbing 'crakes). Organises save-the-countryside events such as People: The Forgotten Species - a conference held last October - and, recently, the People Too group.

Recently outed as one half of a mutual admiration society with "right-wing pro-Nazi polemicist" David Irving. The latter is considering a move to Edinburgh from Mayfair "to get away from Arabs and blacks". Asked in a 5 May Sunday Herald piece about his friend's observation that "Edinburgh has a lot of old England about it, if you get my drift", Mitchell commented: "Scotland has not been quite so changed in the last 20 years or so as England. In a way a lot of the people that we are dealing with in People Too are people who want to keep Scotland the same. They want to prevent any movement."

Seen with: Get Off My Land phlegm-splutterers David and Kirsty Macleod ("owners" of walker- and wildlife-unfriendly Glen Gloy).

Idiosyncracy: Gentlemen versus Players habit of referring to locals and crofters (who he likes) by their first name in Isles of the West, while it's surname-only for RSPB staff etc (who he dislikes). This looks like prejudice and undermines the book's healthy anti-agency scepticism.

No fan of: Conservation bureaucracy, Frank Fraser Darling ("the bastard messiah"), corncrakes, greylag geese, Simon Wiesenthal, weasels.

Sample quote: "It struck me that the best way to preserve Rum as one of the greatest holiday destinations in the west of Scotland would actually be to keep the present arrangement going, whereby an under-funded Edinburgh bureaucracy flounders incomptently towards a half-remembered vision of something utterly ghastly, signally failing to get there. " - Isles of the West, p80.

How others see him: "Whenever he refers to anyone active in conservation he lapses into derogatory descriptions, immediately pigeon-holing them as misfits or 'birdie-birdie' people. Crofters on the other hand always receive favourable descriptions. This biased reporting only serves to force the reader to make preconceived judgements and, as in my case, to discount any arguments or conclusions he draws." - Kevin Howett, review of Isles of the West, MCofS website.

Future: Bright. The progress of maverick right-wingers across Europe will surely aid his rise to prominence - eg he has already appeared on Newsnight, predictably arguing with an SNH rep. Don't be surprised to see him enter formal politics in due course - although his links with Irving are likely to make the established parties nervous.

Ian R Mitchell

Glasgow-based Aberdonian and chronicler of grassroots proletarian traditions in the Scottish hills. Formerly known as plain Ian Mitchell until increasing confusion with his humourless anti-self on Islay prompted the reluctant addition of an R. Co-authored, with the grizzled Dave Brown, two celebrated hill books: Mountain Days and Bothy Nights (1987) and A View from the Ridge (winner of the 1991 Boardman-Tasker). In 1994 (along with another co-author, Peter Drummond) became embroiled in a fierce feud with Robin Campbell (sorry, Robin N Campbell) over the latter's review of The First Munroist in the SMC Journal. The wounds appear to have healed however and Mitchell and Campbell were recently to be seen taking drink while discussing their mutual interest in art.

Seen with: No-messing hard-left hill men with dubious names such as Erchie Boomer and Fishgut Mac.

Idiosyncracy: Inability to resist referring to members of the monarchy by nicknames, eg "Vikki" and "Lizzie Regina".

No fan of: Anything kailyard, absentee lairds, David Irving.

Sample quote: "I have little time for the person of Charles Edward Stuart, histrionic egoist and later drunken wife-beater, who plunged Scotland and Britain into a bloody civil war." - Scotland's Mountains Before the Mountaineers, 1998, p111.

How others see him: "As one comes to expect when reading Mr Mitchell's work, his readers are asked to wade through the 'Marxist' baggage he insists on carrying around with him, beliefs which perhaps have their genesis in well structured ideas like: 'In my youth I dreamed of leading Red Army detachments against counter revolutionaries in Upper Deeside'." - Charlie Orr, SMC Journal 2001, p808.

Future: Quietly ticking over. Likely to continue producing well-researched and well-regarded books, talks and journalism without ever coming into fashion.

Where might they have met? Fighting on opposite sides in the siege of Stalingrad.


TAC 54 Index