Because I used to tell jokes for a living in the pages of DC Thomson’s comics.
My hiking and walking life kicked off early. My dad and Uncle Stuart took me and Stuart on rambles in the Sidlaw Hills behind Dundee. The seed of exploring the hills was sown, and for that I thank them.
This love of the hills was further nurtured in the Scouts, where weekends in Glen Doll were a common occurrence. Ben Macdui was also a yearly visit, the “Macdui Run” as it was called, walking to and from Braemar. I feel much at home in the Angus glens. These are my default hills, with their easy access from Dundee the prime motivator.
When I started work as a journalist in the early 70s, I was lucky enough to find kindred spirits; we spent many a weekend in Glencoe, Skye and the Perthshire hills. This was when I first appreciated the camaraderie of hillwalking and realised it’s a great social occasion. I’m sure this will be emphasised on our West Highland Way adventure.
In the last few years as features editor of the Scots Magazine, I organised a hiking club; it is still going strong even after my retirement. I am a founder member of the Mennie’s Climbing Club which is also still active. In both these cases I choose routes and guide the hikers. When added to my membership of the Grampian Club, a well-established hiking club, my involvement with the hills is apparent. Very much part and parcel of my life, I am out hill-walking at least once a month.
I’m up to 93 Munros but have no intention of completing all 272. However, the experience gained in these 93 have stood me in good stead. I now have a widespread knowledge of Scotland’s mountains and a good education into the dos and don’ts of hillwalking.
I have also walked many of Scotland’s great long-distance ways, almost all for charity:
- West Highland Way (twice)
- Great Glen Way
- St Cuthbert’s Way
- Rob Roy Way
- Speyside Way
- Glen Tilt
- The Lairig Ghru
- Cateran Trail
- Jock’s Road (north to south and vice versa)
- The Five Glens Way, from Glen Esk to Glen Shee, via the glens of Clova, Prosen and Isla
One of my most unusual adventures was taking parts of a Model T Ford up Ben Nevis. It was the 100th anniversary of the same car being driven up the Ben. I also took part in Ian’s Sidlaw Skyline walk.
I’ve started coastal rowing, an activity I planned to undertake a year or so ago. Covid put paid to that. It’s a great all-over work-out and a nice break from my normal keep-fit regime. I also play ‘cello in the local orchestra, play church organ occasionally and sing in the Dundee University Choir. Mountains and music – a great combination!
I never really thought I’d walk the WHW again. To do it in memory of my brother meant I needed little motivation. It’s a great walk, and to do it with his old pals – some of whom I’ve never met – makes it that bit special. And I also know one thing … big brother will be watching me!
Prostate cancer only hits home when one of your nearest and dearest succumbs to it. Any money raised on this venture might prevent others from a similar distressing experience. It’s a cause dear to my heart and I know the generosity of friends and family will give the charity a welcome boost.