Any Scottish history would in all likelihood include some paragraphs dealing with the bountiful hills of the renowned, northern U.K. country. Hills and the pastime of hill-climbing are intrinsic to Scotland. Scottish climbs exist on record as early as the latter part of the sixteenth century, despite the fact that the first actual mountaineering clubs weren’t ushered into being until 1889. Though regarded in its early years as a sport for those with means and leisure, hill-climbing achieved more of an every man aspect by the 1900s. It was the advent of the motorcar which gave city-dwellers and younger Scots a way to take to the hills.
A major chronicler of the hill-climbing scene studied and worked in the same city that gave birth to one of those first mountaineering clubs. Alastair Borthwick was born in Rutherglen. However, he attended Glasgow High School and went on to write for the Glasgow Herald. It’s fitting that the same locality that helped launch the elite side of hill climbing should also feature in the pastime’s move into the mainstream.
The Glasgow Herald included a page, entitled “Open Air.” On it, Alastair Borthwick, an author, penned tales of working class Glasgow and Clydebank citizenry taking to the hills in their off-hours. An inveterate tramper himself, Borthwick was not averse to meeting any and all in his Highland meanderings. His popular writings were full of hitch-hikers, tent-dwellers and hobos. It was around this period as well that a downturn for the Clydebank shipyards resulted in a veritable wave of released workers. Unemployed, with time pressing heavily upon them, one hopes Alastair Borthwick’s writings lent a degree of guidance and solace to many of these cast adrift workers. His books are available on Amazon.
In 1939, Alastair Borthwick published, “Always A Little Further,” a book destined to ensure his place in history. It assembled many of his “Open Air” pieces, chronicling the status-changing scene of Scottish hill-climbing. Initially dubious, the publishing house, Faber, did publish the collection, largely due to the urging of then director, T.S. Elliot. Regarded as a classic, the book has never since fallen out of print.