The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

James Mitchel was a retired police sergeant in Dunfermline, he once told me that on Student Rag Day, the students will go down the high street and the town will be split 50/50. half wanted their antics curtailed the other enjoyed the spectral. I think the Mountain Rescue in the 1960s was seen in much the same light. We would come down off the hill after a long hard day intent on enjoying ourself, a few pints and a sing song. Most costumers would enjoy our impromptu choir, with their random selection of well known bothy ballads, others would not.

It was Fort William on that particular weekend, my first time climbing of the Big-Bad-Ben, Ben Nevis, then crossing the scary arête and up onto Aonach Beag, dropping down to the Steall Hut and back to camp. Steall Hut belonged to a boys club from Glasgow, their uniform was a Donkey Jacket, their merit badge, rope burn down the back of the jacket from abseiling.

The Steall Hut in Glen Nevis, with Ben Nevis in the background. Photo: Ian Taylor CC-BY-SA-2.0

Changed and fed we headed for the town centre, the Imperial Hotel, our chosen venue. There would have been around seventeen of us packed into the small bar that night and it was not long before a communal sing along got underway. As the beer flowed our voices, now well lubricated, grow in stature until the owner of the premises arrived from the lounge and asked us to keep the noise down, he had guests in the hotel. We did for a while but as more boisterous songs began to be sung the volume would inevitably rise.

Now it so happened that the owner of the Imperial Hotel, at that time, was a South African and could only visit Scotland for a maximum of eighty days in any one year. The owner returned to the bar and in his best South African, authoritarian voice said, “Surly I have some say, in my own hotel?” the response from one of our group was “It may be your hotel mate, but its Oor country”

Our parting song (before the police arrived) was a Red Army song with lots of Hoy! Hoy’s! In the chorus.

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