Tom Weir is still a regular visitor
to the Scottish Hills and set the high standard which has been
maintained over the years for the Oliver Award.
Here is a
small film clip of him.
Also, see an article about
Tom Weir, broadcaster,
mountaineer and conservationist in conversation with Jenny
A few days after
his ninetieth birthday ceilidh I have the pleasure to meet the
diminutive Tom Weir, resplendent in his trade mark woolly bunnet,
fair-isle jumper and nicky-tams. He is sprightly and energetic,
keen for conversation and eager to enjoy birthday cake and tea
made by his wife, Rhone.
His earliest recollection is of his grandmother who would give
him a penny to sing ‘Rowan Tree’. “I can still sing it today” he
laughs. He remembers as a child wanting to climb - anything,
anywhere. His mother loved mountains and together the pair would
escape Glasgow. A short bus journey would take them from their
home in Springburn to the Campsite Hills, a place that is still
a favourite of Tom’s today. A commemorative cairn now marks the
start of ‘Weir’s Walk’ from Clachan of Campsie through the
hills. From his earliest days, he also remembers wanting to be a
writer. Here he was helped by another member of his strongly
matriarchal family. His elder, and equally weel-kent sister,
Mollie, taught him to touch-type, charging him two shillings and
sixpence a lesson. “It was money well spent”, he says.
I ask about his experience as a Battery Officer in the Royal
Artillery in the Second World War. “I was in action in Italy.
They don’t let you off, you know. We were called out anytime,
day or night. One time the men had really suffered. We were
supposed to have an inspection each day, and I said to the men
‘never mind that, you’ve done your bit’. I was back to a private
again by the next day because I didn’t get it right. One thing I
will never forget, I was in the cinema in Germany and there was
an explosion and the whole screen blew right out covering
everyone with debris. We fought our way out again. There was the
time too when I was in a top bunk and another chap was on the
lower. We were bombed and the bomb went straight through the two
bunks between us.”
He came back to Glasgow after the war, and began work as a
surveyor. But he was soon able to support himself by his
writing, and in1950 took part in the first post-war Himalayan
expedition. In 1952, he was one of the first to explore the
mountains of Nepal and Katmandu. Some of his most difficult
ascents were there. He also climbed in Greenland above the
Arctic Circle, in Morocco, Iran, Syria and Kurdistan, as well as
in Scotland. He says he likes the challenge of the climb and the
achievement of reaching the summit.
Despite being one of Scotland’s foremost mountaineers, he was
never a Munro-bagger. He has been to the top of most Munros, but
preferred to climb only those he liked best, enjoying the whole
experience of the sky, the lochs, trees, birds, flowers, animals
– the spiritual as well as the physical. For example, the tiny
142-metre Duncryne, known locally where he lives in Gartocharn
as ‘The Dumpling’, has been important always to him. “I used to
climb Duncryne every day, sometimes even at midnight.” I ask him
if this is his favourite place in Scotland. “No”, he replies,
“That honour goes to Glen Lyon. It is a beautiful place. I call
it ‘the three Ls’: the loveliest, the longest and the loneliest.
I like to walk there because of the loneliness.”
He believes climbing should be safer today than fifty years ago
because of better clothing and equipment. But this has had the
contrary effect that climbers may now extend themselves beyond
their ability to prove how good they are. Consequently, they can
be in greater danger. He says, “For me, it was never what I did,
but what I saw, that was important”. Tom was injured only once
in his life, rock climbing on Ben A’an in the Trossachs.
Recalling the incident, he said, “It is a difficult climb. We
were just starting and I hadn’t got the feel of the mountain. I
missed a vital hold and fell forty feet. I nearly lost my life,
but it was my own fault. I was climbing without a belay. I never
did that again”.
Weir has been given many awards. He has received the Scots
Independent Oliver Award in 1983 for advancing the cause of
Scotland’s self-respect. He has an MBE. He was awarded STV’s
personality of the year in 1978 for Weir’s Way, a
programme that introduced the Scottish countryside to many Scots
whose lives had given them no prior knowledge or experience of
it. He is most proud of The John Muir Trust Award given him in
2000. The award, proudly displayed in his home, is inscribed
“Presented to Tom Weir in recognition of his contribution to the
wider understanding of the value of Scotland’s wild places”. The
John Muir Award is not given annually, and has only been given
twice in the twenty-one years of the organisation’s existence in
this country. Tom was the first recipient. All of their married
life he and Rhona have lived on the shores of Loch Lomond.
Concerned that the area should be protected, Tom campaigned to
see the setting up of the National Park. He is proud that this
has come to pass and believes that the Park is necessary for
management of the land, the flora and the fauna. He also
campaigned to safeguard the Cairngorms and Glen Nevis.
I ask Tom if he believes in Scottish Independence. He replies
“Scotland could easily do it. It has everything. There is no
reason why we can’t look after ourselves. I believe we should,
but I have never been actively involved in politics”.
“Do you believe in God?” I ask. He is sure of his answer: “No.
Everyone has one life. That’s all it is. No spirit looks after
you beyond death. I was lucky not to have been killed in the
war. I was lucky not to have been killed on Ben A’an. I don’t
believe the world will be in existence in another one hundred
years. Man is outliving himself. The atomic bombs dropped on
Nagasaki and Hiroshima were terrible. Now climate change is
destroying the world. I have lived long enough to see the
difference from when I was young. Life was more free then.”
What is the secret of a long life, I wonder? “Good health, good
friends, and enough money to live at your own level. Always be
doing something you enjoy doing. Good and happy memories”. Has
Tom Weir, legend in his own lifetime, enjoyed his life? “I enjoy
it still. Every morning I wake up and there is something else to
The secret of long life is
always be doing something you enjoy.
Scots Independent February
TRIBUTE TO TOM WEIR
Tom Weir was small of stature but his death last week, aged 91,
cast an enormous shadow across his beloved Scotland. He was held
in the highest regard by all his fellow Scots. His books,
monthly articles for more than 50 years in the Scots magazine
and his programmes on Scottish Television ensured that the
byornar Springburn-born climber, environmentalist, author,
broadcaster and Nationalist was known to every Scottish
household. Scottish National Party Leader Alex Salmond MP well
summed up the Nation’s feeling of loss –
“He will be sadly missed throughout Scotland not only by country
lovers but all Scots. My thoughts are with his family at this
Tom Weir was the first-ever recipient of the Oliver Brown Award,
presented annually by the Scots Independent, in 1983. I had the
honour of being one of the three judges on that occasion, along
with SI Editor Colin Bell and Professor Gavin Kennedy. All
afternoon, over a refreshment or two, we debated the merits of
the strong list of nominations for the initial award but always
came back to the same name – Tom Weir. He set the bench-mark for
the high standard of all those who followed in his footsteps as
was an inspiration to us all. He loved all aspects of our
country, but particularly the hills, glens, lochs and wildlife
of Scotland. Through his writing, television programmes,
slide-shows and talks, he passed that love for and delight in
Scotland to his fellows. He would finish his talks with a plea
for an Independent Scotland in order to protect the future of
the scenes he had shown and described.
was the best of Scots and represented all that is good in our
Nation. He spread enlightenment and joy wherever he went and
will live on in our memories.
In his will Tom Weir left over £2,000 to Friends of Loch Lomond and
£5,000 to the John Muir Trust – two causes close to his heart. In
2000, he was the first recipient of the John Muir Trust’s Lifetime
Achievement Award in recognition of his environmental work. The
Trust Chief Executive Nigel Hawkins said that the bequest would be
used to preserve areas close to Tom Weir’s heart.
“It is a wonderful gesture from Tom and is greatly appreciated.
He was a great supporter of the Trust’s work and a great man of
the mountains. Tom was loved by all hill walkers and was held
in the highest regard. The bequest will be put towards
something Tom loved, namely the grand mountains of Scotland.”
John Muir Trust is regarded as one of Scotland’s leading guardians
of wild land and wild life.
PHOTOGRAPHIC TRIBUTE TO TOM WEIR
Modern Scots love and
knowledge of our countryside owes a great deal to the late Tom Weir. We
are delighted to add a photographic
tribute to Tom Weir which appeared recently on Electric Scotland, Our
grateful thanks to both Alistair McIntyre, Electric Scotland, and
photographer David McConnell Hunter for their permission to use the fine
photograph’s of Scottish scenery in ‘Tom Weir’s Country’.
Pictures by David
Tom Weir's Country
In memory of the
late Tom Weir who passed away at the age of
91 on July 6, 2006, here are a few
photographs taken around Tom's home base of
Gartocharn on the south shore of Loch Lomond.
The selection includes a number of views of
Tom's favourite hills -- the Campsie Fells.
Located just north of Glasgow, these hills
introduced Tom to a lifetime of outdoor
near Tom's home in Gartocharn
from the Kilpatrick Hills.
The small hill (lower left) is Duncryne,
which Tom used to climb every day.
Fells from the Deil's Craig Dam near
Fells from Fintry
Castle in the Blane Valley
Hill from the West Highland Way
Hill in the Blane Valley
Valley and the Campsies
scene near Campsie Glen
grazing near Fintry. Ben Lomond
in the distance.
on a Summer's evening -- view from
evening -- view from the Whangie in the