IMC 70th Anniversary – the early years

The Club’s 70th Anniversary falls on 1st April 2020. Sadly, we can’t have a mass celebration as the committee intended – although I’ve no doubt that we will when the current madness is over. There will be no more meets for the immediate future; instead, I’m putting extracts from the IMC’s 50th Anniversary journal on the website. The first extract is written by Peter Biggar and deals with the early years of the Club. The photo at the top is of “Ice axe practice in the Cairngorms 1974”, with one Marion Potten to the fore.

The Club was born out of a meeting held in the Caledonian Hotel on the 4th of April 1950 at 7.15 p.m.  There were sixteen men, including four doctors, Alec Sutherland who was later to look after Shenevall Bothy on behalf of the Club for the Mountain Bothies Association for sixteen years, eight women, including Miss May Mathieson who was to become a long-serving Meets Secretary and one Sergeant MacKenzie, but whether he was there to become a member or control the crowds, we are not told.  It has been claimed that as many as sixty people attended this meeting – and this may be so – but these are all that are recorded by the spidery handwriting in the first minutes book which runs from 1950 to 1964 and is an invaluable document for those interested in the history of the Club.

An early moving spirit of the Club, Donnie Cattanach was in the Chair (and may even have been responsible for the ad. in the Inverness Courier which called the meeting).  However, during the proceedings Cattanach, in the words of the minute taker, “became indisposed”, a lovely phrase which could mean anything, and a Mr. I. Roberts took over.  Alec Sutherland, who was at the meeting, cannot remember why Cattanach became indisposed.  No matter.  After brief discussions the meeting passed a motion that “this meeting [should] form itself into a mountaineering club”, and an amendment put forward by two of the doctors to make the infant club part of the Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland was defeated by 21 votes to 4.  Small wonder: the J.M.C.S. did not admit women!  And women have played a conspicuous part in the history of I.M.C.

Despite his indisposition, Cattanach was duly elected the first President of the Club.  A committee was formed and charged with exploring the possibility of holding “indoor meets”.  An experienced member was to be found who could deliver a lecture to the Club on general aspects of mountaineering “for the benefit of those members who have little or no experience.”  Happy days! After all that they must have been as dry as dust, but whether they had beer or tea history, sadly, does not relate.

The Issues

During the fourteen years of this period, various issues alternately seep or rage through the deliberations of the committee.  Information was sought about “Campbell’s Rubber Company of Aberdeen” who, it was rumoured, would give a ten per-cent discount “to members”.  This organisation was also involved in the saga of the badges.  Somebody, it seems, decided that it would help to give the Club a sense of identity if the members wore badges. The modern equivalent is probably the Club “Logo”.  Campbells agreed to supply 144 badges at 4/6 each.  Sadly it was discovered that the Club could not afford this outlay.  The solution was to ask Campbells to supply 72 badges to begin with and the rest at a later date.  Campbell’s were having none of it: 144 or nothing!  Consternation reigned: the committee actually voted to have a “General Meeting” after the next A.G.M. to consider the matter. Plainly, in the more cohesive society of the 1950’s badges were important.  They never materialised.


This sounds uncomfortable, but in fact merely means acceptance by the Club. Nowadays there seem to be no particular entrance requirements for being a member, but it was not always so.  Miss Duncan, in the early 50’s, had  to attend “one indoor and one outdoor meet” for the privilege.  All through the early years the committee seem to have wavered between (sensibly) taking anyone they could get and (less sensibly) going through all the rigmarole and hooha of entry forms, trial periods, solemn discussions, white smoke etc.  One suspects that the Club’s bank balance largely determined which selection procedure was used.