Alastair Borthwicks Mountaineering Legacy

Alastair Borthwick was a writer and broadcaster for the BBC who was born in February of 1913 and died in 2003. Thanks to Mr. Borthwick’s legacy, a mountaineering movement was started which still continues to this day. In a time when mountain climbing was taboo, Alastair helped spark a movement in Germany’s Weimar Republic consisting of a wave of fresh enthusiasm for hiking and climbing. By the 1930’s, an association was created to cater to these hikers known as the National Youth Hostels Association.

A Mountaineering Trend Setter

The interest in mountain climbing sparked by Alastair Borthwick came at a time when Scotland was experiencing massive unemployment in the Clydebank shipyards. Due to this, many previously employed workers had extra time on their hands and vast mountains calling them to adventure. Alastair’s book, Always A Little Further, was published in 1939 and captured many domestic mountaineering adventures with an emphasis placed on the leading personalities of the mountaineering movement at the time. Other famous writers of the period such as J.H.B Bell and W.H. Murray chose to record the activities of the mountaineering elite, concentrating on climbing.

What made Borthwick’s writings unique, besides his humorous style, was his focus on the actual personalities of the mountaineering elite rather than simply recording their climbing activities. This approach was sensational of course, yet it is probably one of the driving factors behind its enormous amount of success throughout its decades of being in print. Included in some of the stories are wild tales of hiker’s encounters with prostitutes and newbie’s escapades. Alastair Borthwick first offered his manuscript to Fabers for publication, they were reluctant due to the unusual nature of the subject matter. Thankfully, T.S. Eliot, one of the leading directors of the organization at that time, insisted on its publication. This incident would inevitably lead to publishing a book which has remained in print ever since. Borthwick’s other book called Battalion is available here.

Spotlight on Broadcasting and Golden Years

On top of his writing endeavors, Alastair also pursued broadcasting, presenting the BBC’s Scottish Survey series which examined the countries financial health following the war. Both Borthwick and his Wife spent their golden years in Ayrshire before Alastair Borthwick finally settled down in a nursing home at Beith for the last five years of his life.

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