Writing the book on mountain rescue

Cover of Braemar MRT 50th anniversary book, Mostly Happy Returns

Mostly Happy Returns, by Braemar Mountain Rescue Association

There’s a perhaps morbid fascination among hill walkers and climbers with tales of when it all goes wrong. I’ve long ago given up trying to figure whether it’s for education or voyeurism and just read the tales anyway. Sod the philosophy.

So when I heard there was a new book out celebrating 50 years of the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team there was no hesitation about getting a hold of a copy and no time wasted getting stuck into it when I had it in my hands: Mostly Happy Returns.

After starting with a foreword by John Duff, the Braemar bobby who was in at the start of the team in 1965, it opens with a very appropriate chapter contrasting the very different fates of two accident victims, one from the 1930s and one from 2014, showing the crucial differences made by technology and the existence of a dedicated and trained mountain rescue team, with the body of the first victim not recovered until  several days after the accident, while the 2014 victim was not only found, but being treated in hospital within just a few hours.

Mostly Happy Returns bills itself as a celebration of the team’s achievements and characters “with assorted misremembered tales of derring-do, wild haverings, and the dottled recollections of bygone days when storms were stormier, snow was snowier, and tweed, tackety beets and a muckle Thermos kept the elements at bay.”

And that’s pretty much what it is. Those looking for a sober history will be disappointed, as will those looking for a blow by blow account of all the major rescues, although many are here. I could be critical and say some tighter editorial control could have resulted in fewer multiple references to the same rescues, albeit often seen from different perspectives, and a wider net being cast over the treasure trove of stories a mountain rescue team must accrue.

But to hell with the critic’s hat. This is a thoroughly readable book as it is, un-put-downable with stories of rescues told by the people who have left their families and warm homes to go out in often appalling weather to do their utmost to save lives, not to mention all the training between times, to ensure they have the techniques to match the dedication. Some great pictures too, both current and vintage, and interesting info about how the team works. And it’s all set in an arena which will be familiar to all with a love of the Cairngorms, giving the inside story on incidents most of us will have heard about but only superficially in the papers.

So grab yourself a copy; it’s a great read and sold in a great cause, to provide funds for the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team to keep on doing what they do so well – ensuring that, when it all goes wrong, we all have Mostly Happy Returns.


How to get a copy of the book
Each book costs £10.00 and Braemar Mountain Rescue Association can post it to any UK address by Royal Mail 2nd Class delivery for the small additional charge of £2.00. A cheque for £12.00 should be made payable to Braemar Mountain Rescue Association and sent to:
Braemar Mountain Rescue Association
23 Albert Road
AB35 5QL

If you wish to pay by bank transfer, the Association will send bank details if you e-mail
treasurer@braemarmountainrescue.org.uk  Remember to include the name and address – including postcode – you want the book sent to.

Alternatively, the book can be obtained from the following outlets:

Braemar Mountain Sports, Invercauld Road, Braemar.
Braemar Caravan Park, Glenshee Road, Braemar.
Braemar Pharmacy, Mar Road, Braemar.
Wild Thistle, Invercauld Road, Braemar.
Braemar Service Station, Braemar.
Mar Lodge, National Trust, Mar Lodge Estate, Braemar.

Brown Sugar Café, 8 Bridge St. Ballater.
Deeside Books, 18-20 Bridge St. Ballater.
HM Sheridan, Butchers, 11 Bridge Street, Ballater.
Outdoor Shop/The Bothy Café, 43 Bridge Street, Ballater.

Hilltrek Out Door Clothing, Ballater Road, Aboyne.

Out There Active Wear Ltd, 3 Dee Street, Banchory.

Craigdon Mountain Sports, 51 High Street, Inverurie.

Castleton Farm Shop, Fourdon, Laurencekirk.

Tarland Post Office, Melgum Road, Tarland


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12 Responses to Writing the book on mountain rescue

  1. Braemar MRT says:

    Kind words indeed, Neil. Thank you very much.

  2. Damn! just got back from Braemar and was in the mountain sports shop. I did see a John Duff book but it wasn’t that particular one – I thought it looked interesting though – didn’t realise who he was and that he’d started the MRT off.

    I read those kind of books mainly for education – trying to avoid the mistakes of others – important in my case as I’m nearly always alone on the hill!

  3. piper says:

    Aye yer right Neil , i enjoyed Bobby on Mcdui .

  4. Got my copy of the Happy Returns book and am avidly reading it – bit upset about some of the minutes from the early to mid 70s though where poor ‘Mrs. X’ was repeatedly denied entry to the mountain rescue team due to being female – didn’t know sexism was alive and well as late as the 70s up there! 😦

    • Very much alive long after the ’70s too, and not just in the mountain fastnesses of Braemar. Although I seem to recall Molly Porter was leader of the Cairngorm MRT round about the same period, maybe slightly later, so the attitude was in the course of change then.

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