Mountain rescue, and a Club hut?

This is another extract from Peter Biggar’s researches published in the 50th Anniversary booklet. The photo above is the Ling hut in Torridon, now maintained by the SMC.

Mountain Rescue and The First Aid Kit

Quite early in its existence the Club decided to assemble a First Aid Kit. By 1952 the President had the rucksack and the Secretary had the dressings; it was solemnly agreed to unite them.  If a camel is best conceived as “a horse designed by a committee” the attempts of I.M.C.’s committee to design a first aid kit also had a certain lumpiness.  By the time the First-aid kit had metamorphosed into a Mountain Rescue Kit and was kept at Garve in 1954, it contained: “..a 120′ length of three quarter weight hemp which belonged to Mr.Shorthouse an ex-member of the club who had not claimed it and whose whereabouts were unknown…2 tins of soup, tea, sugar, biscuits, dried milk”  and “a flask filled with paraffin”.

Mountain Rescue in the early 50’s was in its infancy in Scotland.  Despite its somewhat amateurish beginnings, the Club’s association with the rescue services has been a long and honourable one.  In the early years there was useful collaboration both with the local police and with the emergent R.A.F. team at Kinloss.  However, in 1959 came the shocking news that the Kinloss team might be disbanded.  This rumour was the ancestor of similar rumours which have plagued the rescue service ever since.  On this occasion, the solution seemed to be for I.M.C. and Moray M.C. with whom there have always been friendly relations, to form a rescue team amongst themselves.

A Special Meeting was held in Sept. ’59.  At this it transpired that the Club had 8 members who could be counted on to “turn out”; it had transport for all personnel but not for the “collapsible stretcher” which would be needed.  It was resolved that our members would mainly be of use in “prolonged searches” or “complicated rescues”.  The Sec. and Treasurer (one position in those days) was to be on the “Joint Committee”.  It was further resolved that the Club’s first aid kit was to be “given a Spring-clean” and the Sec was instructed to purchase “two tins of self-heating soup”. (This latter item proved difficult; the Sec. Ross Martin reported at a later meeting that he couldn’t get just two tins – eventually four were purchased).

Sadly for all this endeavour, the Government, as usually happens, changed its mind, Kinloss was saved and the joint-team project abandoned.  Perhaps the prospect of some unsuspecting victim being pursued by I.M.C. members with ancient hemp ropes, collapsing stretchers, tins of self-heating soup and a bottle of paraffin was just too much for the authorities.

What eventually happened was that a list of members willing to be called out on rescues was given to the Police.  This involved some dedicated members in a great deal of effort and inconvenience.  There is a note in a later minutes book to the effect that having been called out on numerous occasions, Peter Moffatt’s name should now be removed from the top of the list.

A Club Hut?

At various times in its history the Club has toyed with the idea of owning or renting its own hut.  In the early 50’s it was thought that the B.M.C. might offer a large grant for the purchase of a hut.  The Sec. actually wrote to the Council suggesting “the ruined keeper’s cottage at Loch – “.  The name the committee couldn’t spell was probably Lochan an Iasgair, and the cottage what is now the Ling Hut, but nothing came of it.  The Council apparently only wanted the Club to act as custodians.  A couple of years later the Club was offered a lease on Ben Alder Cottage, but this too was declined – probably wisely considering the distances and isolation involved.

The issue of a club hut rose again at the end of the 50’s when the Club considered “renting and repairing Shenevall”; a cottage at Polldubh in G.Nevis was also under consideration.  In the end, of course, the Club was to have a long and fruitful relationship with Shenevall, but while members vainly poked about under boulders in various remote corries looking for suitable “howffs,” no committee has really been prepared to shoulder the work and responsibility of hut ownership and like the Clan MacGregor flitting through the mists, I.M.C. goes about the North happily using the facilities of its more provident fellow clubs. Matter here for further thought?  On one occasion, the committee, hard pressed for suitable accommodation in Glencoe, sought “to obtain a large tent for the use of female members,” but there is no record of this admirable solution being put to the test.