Life Arts

Risk Assessment in the 70s.

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The uncle had died by the time I went back to Ballochry, as he was in his thirties ...and Jim had a family himself and had completely forgotten the brick incident. When I met him again with his son, having just dropped Mum off at school, he reminded me of the wonderful time we all had at Taybank.

The trip to Schiehallion, which nearly made the national press, he saw as a laugh. The joke about Scottish climbing gear being a pair of trainers and 10 Regal King Size was never so appropriate as outings in the 70s.

We set off with 12 kids with some sandwiches! Maps? No but Rab had been twice. We climbed it in a snow storm. One boy refused to climb so we just left him at the bottom. He followed us.

We lost all the kids at one stage but reckoned it was OK because they were so far away from civilisation they wouldn't harm anyone! This was before politically correct risk assessment. They crept in after 2 days, frozen and starving. They were so exhausted they slept brilliantly.

Babs was a tiny but fierce staff member who controlled the children through foul temper. Babs would deliberately not have a cigarette, just to add an edge to her anger. Although never violent, she was feared and the reason the kids stayed out so long was not that they were having fun.

They were waiting for the staff changeover. Babs did not change over. She stayed an extra shift. She was the first to hear the children outside the bothy in the snow but refused to let them in until they grovellingly apologised to each member of staff.

I should have said something when she did not let them eat until morning, which contravened policy and procedures even in those days, but I was too scared to speak. I didn't eat till breakfast either.

Whilst I exaggerate, of course, I swear this next bit is verbatim. We were up at the top of Schiehallion. I was with a couple of lads that got separated from the group. The snow came so hard we could not see at all. We stumbled straight down. We got to the bottom where the weather was clear and started on the sandwiches.

We waited for the others. A bunch of people emerged and I heard Babs say "This lighter's no workin'." However it wasn't them. I was confused. I thought I would have known Babs' pre-ciggy voice anywhere so where were they? Then I heard..."You brought yen? Gimme it! Now!"

It definitely was Babs, precig but still gentle. I kept looking..Ah there they are. But no, this group wasn't them either. They loaned me a pair of binoculars. The snow on the hill had cleared. There were tiny dots at the top. I counted the dots. It was them! Schiehallion is 3500 feet high but a mere bump in some ways.
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'Hamish ' is an antiwar writer socialist- scientist and musician living in Scotland.

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I am confused. What happened to all the dots?... by SwampWitch on Monday, Nov 20, 2006 at 6:31:05 PM