Speaker at the last meeting of Stonehaven Probus Club was Graham Macdonald of the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team. A depute rector at Banchory Academy, Mr Macdonald has been a mountain rescue volunteer for 42 years and gave an insight into the organisation’s development in that time.
The service was established in 1965, about a year after the remarkable rescue of a hillwalker, Bob Burnett, who was dug out alive after being buried for 27 hours in a Grampian avalanche. It was recognised that the old system whereby a search party of brave local residents was organised, could potentially put the lives of these selfless volunteers at risk.
Today the whole of Scotland is covered by 27 rescue teams. These are teams composed of civilian, police and military volunteers who are dedicated to the common purpose of giving help to other hillwalkers in danger.
Funded by an annual grant - currently £330,000 - from the Scottish Government, the 27 teams provide cover 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A large part of their time is spent training which is carried out in all weathers and at all times of the day and night. Their competence is regularly assessed, as is their fitness level. Mr Macdonald described some of the modern equipment now at their disposal, from the large tracked vehicles designed for mountain terrain to mobile telephones, skis and skidoos.
Finally he entertained with some of his own experiences on the mountains, some amusing and some hair-raising and tried to explain how a love of the mountains motivates himself and his colleagues. John Callander proposed thanks.