Hamish MacInnes, Scotland’s most celebrated mountaineer died at his home in Glencoe on the 22nd November 2020 aged 90. Over a long and remarkable career, he climbed all over the world including three expeditions to Mount Everest. From his base in Glencoe, he was a prolific writer and adviser on films. He was, too, a pioneer of mountain rescue and funder of Scotland’s Search and Rescue Dog Association. He designed the first all metal ice axe and a much improved folding aluminium stretcher, known as the MacInnes stretcher which is used the world over. An examples of his ice stretcher can be seen at the Mill on the Fleet. He was the recipient of the OBE and an honorary doctorate from a number of universities.
Hamish was born in Gatehouse of Fleet on the 7th July 1930. He was the youngest of five children of Duncan MacInnes a native of Mull and his wife Katie MacDonald, who was born on Skye. Both his parents were Gaelic speakers. Hamish had an older brother Archie, born in Skye in 1919 and three sisters Effie, Chrissie and Flora, all born in Gatehouse.
The family had moved to the town in 1920 when Duncan took over the Market Cross Stores in the High Street. Before the First World War he had served in the Shanghai police and served with the British and Canadian forces during the war. The family lived at 21 Catherine Street till 1935 when they moved to 31 Catherine Street.
Hamish, who attended Gatehouse School, is remembered as an adventurous boy, who liked climbing trees. His first experience of clambering up rocks was at the Clints of Dromore. The family owned a wooden caravan at Sandgreen to which Hamish could cycle with his friends. A photograph taken at the tennis court with his older brother and sister shows him with his bow and arrow. From an early age he would visit Jim Hunter’s joiner shop in Catherine Street to make things from scraps of wood, even constructing a wooden tank.
The MacInnes family left Gatehouse for Greenock in 1942 where his brother Archie was employed at Scott’s shipbuilding yard. It was here that a family friend introduced Hamish to the mountains of the Highlands and his mountaineering career began.
Images courtesy of the Gatehouse Folk website: www.gatehouse-folk.org.uk
Duncan MacInnes with assistant Ina Craig
Hamish MacInnes as a boy
Effie & Archie MacInnes with Hamish (at left with bow and arrow) & Tommy Turnbull