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History of the Grampian Club

The First Fifty Years

the-first-fifty-yearsThe club was founded (in the usual local manner) following a letter to the Dundee Courier in January 1927, and the first meet was held in Glen Clova in March: 12 members attended and a snow gully was climbed on Mayar. In December 1928, a party was avalanched in Corrie Fee- “a valuable lesson had been learnt”. In summer 1929, the club visited Skye and 2 years later recorded the first visit to Raeburn’s Gully on Lochnagar (curiously 70 years later 2 members recorded the fastest unintentional descent of Raeburn’s, but that is another story). In 1932, the club was joined by Dr JHB Bell for several ascents of gullies and buttresses on Stuc a Chroin and he remained with the club till his death in 1975 as Hon. President.

In 1935, the club held it’s first of many slide shows and “a group emerged as expert rock climbers” with a number of first ascents which raised the club’s prestige nationally.

From 1939 to 1945, regular meets were held in the Sidlaws, Fife and Angus, using public transport, except for 15 months from February 1940. A few managed weekend train meets to Aviemore and Crianlarich and membership numbered 65 with 25 on active service and 2 as prisoners-of-war.

Thereafter things returned to some normality though local food at hotels on meets was being reported as “a problem” as late as 1948. Membership rose to 102 in 1950 and in that decade club parties ventured as far afield as Wales, Ireland, the Alps, Norway, Greenland, Iceland and Africa. There were regular and popular meets to the Cairngorm Club’s hut, Derry Lodge and eventually the club got its own at Inbhirfhaolain which was leased in 1961 and officially opened in June 1962. The hut was closed for 2 months in 1967 because of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease-plus ca change.

In the sixties, membership was around 160 and overnight meets were started (and often never-to-be-forgotten!). Overseas trips continued and the acquisition of Munros became a popular pastime with member, Eric Maxwell, being the official Keeper of the List of Completionists at the time, completing his 2nd round at the age of 72.
In the 70s club membership peaked at over 200 and in 1977 on the 50th anniversary meet, some 86 members made it to the top of Mayar including a founder member in his 80s.

1977 to 2010 A survey of the club bulletins for this period reveals an active club with a varied programme of meets all over Scotland and members visited other mountain ranges abroad including old favourites like Greenland, Norway and the Alps (with Arolla being popular) but as international travel became easier trips were made farther afield to New Zealand, the Himalaya and Canada and the USA.

In this period too, obituaries appeared more frequently as the years caught up on members who were active in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Reading these accounts provides valuable and moving glimpses of the characters and deeds of club members and of the very warm, friendly and caring atmosphere of the Grampian Club which has persisted to this day.

In 1981, the hut custodian retired on the 20th anniversary of the acquisition of Inbhirfhaolain and it was left to the new custodian to install electricity and to his successors to continue the tradition of steady improvement and indeed the hut is now almost unrecognisable to those who knew it well in the 1960s and the glory days of gas lighting and cast off furniture and crockery. We are now on our third and hopefully final porch in the hut.

roy-tait-memorial-bridgeIn 1984, the club had a major hand in the construction of the Roy Tait Memorial Bridge at Bachnagairn to commemorate a fine climber and member killed in the Black Spout of Lochnagar in 1981.

The club purchased our cottage in Torridon in 1984 gives much pleasure to members. Terry Isles, the first Custodian, retired in 2009 after many years of devotion to the task. In 1984 the Club bus was involved a major road accident on a club meet at Auch which resulted in the death of club secretary, Liz Stenhouse. Around this time Nordic Skiing began to appear as a popular club activity and a commemorative collection of club writings was published called “Grampian Tales 1937-1987” which served to remind us of our rich heritage. In 2002 the Club celebrated its 75th Anniversary when at the Annual Dinner the health of the Grampian Club was toasted by the President of the MCoS, John Donahoe. A special Edition of the Bulletin featured coloured covers recording members' visits to the Himalayas, New Zealand and the Western Isles in addition to the usual Scottish venues. The Hebrides, climbs in Colorado, walks in Shetlands and the Andes were places visited by club parties and accounts appeared in another Special Bulletin this one to mark the 50th Edition.

Throughout this time members have made a major contribution to the Dundee Mountain Film Festival and on a less serious note to the local Mountain Mind Quiz with some success. The club continues to have a keen interest in environmental issues and access to the Scottish Hills and members have assisted in the work of M.C of S, S.C.A.C, Tayside Mountain Rescue and other local and national organisations involved with the mountain environment in Scotland. Following the success of the Special Bulletins in 2002 and 2003 it was decided to continue the forma. Glossy paper and regular colour photographs became standard and reflected changes in printing technology and the ease of taking good pictures with digital cameras. This served to show vividly members visits to Scandinavia, New Zealand, Sinai, Tasmania, South Africa, Slovenia, and Iceland as well as the Scottish mountains. Membership continued to be maintained in the range 220 -230, recruitment being increasingly via the web as well as through friends in the workplace - the SCRI featuring particularly strongly. The annual programme of monthly and weekend meets continued as before, despite the difficulties arising from EU working time rules governing bus driving times. This led to increased costs when two drivers were needed and to the sacrifice of the evening meal on the summer meets. The rock climbing group flourished and an informal group of retired members started to organise mid-week walks which explored the lesser known hills, moors and glens of Angus and Perthshire. In 2005 work was started on a review and renewal of the Club Constitution and the way Council operated. Following this in 2007/08, Council was reorganised for the first time in its history. The aim was to improve the efficiency of the Council by separating day-to-day matters (membership and meets) from matters of finance and policy. In 2008 the new Constitution, Guidelines and Information for members was published in a Members Handbook – a novelty for the Club. Newsletters began to be sent by e-mail as well as post. In early 2010 it was clear that the old website needed substantial overhaul and that a new more user friendly, interactive and up to date site was required. After several months of painstaking work by dedicated members the new site went live in September 2010. The new site encourages members to engage with club affairs, book meets and exchange news and views and brings Club communications into the 21st century. It is a good way for prospective members to make contact and it is hoped that it will be well used by all members – and its interactive style continues the Club tradition of a friendly welcome to all.

Thanks to Roy Partington for help in writing this history of the club.


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