Tam McAulay 1946 - 2006

© The Creagh Dhu
Tam McAulay 1946 - 2006
© The Creagh Dhu, Oct 2006
The Creagh Dhu Mountaineering Club has a very sad announcement to make. Tam McAulay died on Wednesday 20 September 2006 whilst on a walking holiday on the Isle of Rhum. During a river crossing with a companion from Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team, Tam was swept over a waterfall. Members of Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team and Ian Nicolson, a fellow Creagh Dhu Mountaineering Club member, recovered his body on Sunday 01 October 2006.

Tam started climbing in 1976 at the age of 30 years. Dumbarton Rock was where Tam became a regular feature in and around the Castle's boulders. Dressed de-rigueur in his blue cotton workman's trousers, steel toe-capped boots and black T-shirt, Tam would “levitate” to the crux, pause, pluck the cigarette from his lips and pronounce, “This must be the hard bit”.

Without the aid of chalk, he would deftly dispatch a boulder problem. Then sounding like a dentist calling his next patient to the chair, he would hail down to the gawking crowd, “Next?”

At weekends Tam regularly ventured to either Glencoe or to his beloved Cobbler Mountain, where he excelled on the hardest test-pieces of the day. In May 1980, Tam was admitted to the Creagh Dhu Mountaineering Club, after his faultless ascent of Club Crack on the Cobbler. Tam's background of working class Clydeside Engineer fitted well with the club's ethos. As club secretary, treasurer and librarian, Tam loyally defended the working class values, leftward leaning politics and anarchistic attitude towards the establishment that the club was founded on. He never missed a club AGM in his 26 years of membership. During the final two weeks of his life, Tam was reviewing the club archives. Also in his final two weeks he contributed his time-served skills and physical effort to digging out and relaying the floor to Jacksonville, the club's hut located below Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe.

Tam's passions and interests went beyond climbing. He devoted his time to photography, poetry, playing the accordion, literature, and local history. He was often called upon to contribute to radio programmes about the Cobbler or the Creagh Dhu. Typical of Tam, few people knew that in his younger days he had represented Scotland in cycling time trials.

The most unique aspect of Tam was his ability to maintain the great weekenders' tradition of telling jokes and stories. Anyone who happened to be in Tam's company, very quickly realised they were in the presence of a massively talented individual. He could take the corniest joke and with his perfect timing and immaculate gesturing deliver a side-splitting punch line.

With his traditional values and attitudes, Tam gave modern trends and fads, such as "management speak" and "political correctness" a run for their money. One dark evening, returning from a late shift at the Esso Oil Terminal, Bowling where he worked as a Maintenance Fitter, he noticed a gang of youths messing about with his neighbour's Christmas lights. In one effortless movement Tam vaulted the hedge and grasped the ringleader by the throat with his left hand. The youth just managed to croak out, “Mister, yeh cannae hit me. Ave goat rights.”

“ Aye, well Son, here's another right!” as Tam delivered an eye watering right jab onto the delinquent's nose.

While snowed-in at Jacksonville in 1984 with Arthur Paul, Dave Cubby Cuthbertson and Davie Paraffin, Tam provided the heat and light from his Tilley lamp. After two days, the talk eventually got round to feats of physical strength and the inevitable pull-ups. “Well Cubby, see if you can do this?” Tam leapt up, pinch gripped the roof joists and with biceps bulging and little puffs of breath, hauled his chin up level to his straining fingers. “Now try this” Tam dropped one arm to his side and with an effortless rhythm, pumped his body up and down in one-arm pull-ups. “ . . . nine, ten! And now the other arm”

Holding his torso up to the beam in a one-arm lock, Tam let go of the joist and seemed to float in mid-air before deftly catching the beam with his other hand. “ . . . nine ten! Your turn Cubby!”

Cubby tried and tried, but failed to even complete a single pull-up. “Now look, now look, Son.”

Tam shifted the Tilley lamp so his feet were no longer in the shadow. He then performed the whole feat again, but this time revealing that his own feet had never left the floor.

Tam McAulay, Norrie Muir and Davie Paraffin
On one dreich Saturday morning, Tam and a couple of the boys decided to go for a wander on the Bridge of Orchy Hills. At the first fag break a bottle of "travelling sherry" was produced. By the time the bottle was finished, the dreichness had degenerated so much, that it became impossible to even roll a fag. By some magical consensus, it was agreed to get off the hill and go to the Inveroran Hotel for a midday session.

As they left the bar at afternoon closing time, a flock of chickens were clucking around Tam's car. With a bit of careful herding by the Team, a prize rooster was successfully enticed into the back seat of the car. Doors firmly slammed shut and windows wound up, the team plus a newly acquired avian hostage set off north.

At the Kingshouse Hotel, Colin the Chef was busy preparing the dinners for the guests. During one of Colin's frequent fag breaks from the heat of the kitchen, Tam ventured to Colin, " Could you do us a favour? We don't have an oven in Jacksonville, could you cook a chicken for us?" “Aye, nay bother, just bring it in to the kitchen.” “Well, that's not possible, it's not exactly your Marshalls Chunky Chicken variety. You need to come to the car.”

Colin wandered up to Tam's car to be greeted by a very distraught rooster clucking and ruffling its feathers whilst perched on the back seat. Colin said “No bother, I'll deal with it. Just come back and pick it up tonight.”

As the team departed for the Ville, they glanced back to see a rather large chef dressed in whites, surrounded by a cloud of chicken feathers.

That evening, after closing time, Colin brought through to the Public Bar the chicken in a roasting tin, accompanied by an Asda carrier bag full of chips. Aye, the Chicken Rustlers had a good feed.

Tam had many rock climbing trips with the Creagh Dhu to the USA, the Alps, Sport Climbing 8a+ in France, often in the company of John Maclean and Graham Harrison. In the 1990's Tam took early retirement from work due to a heart condition. He bought and settled in a house in Arrochar, which has a stunning view across Loch Long to the Cobbler. Tam involved himself with the Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team. He provided rescue support to the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon. He regularly went weekending, holding forth in the Kingshouse Hotel, Glencoe with his unique patter and wit.

Many people in the climbing and weekending scene have encountered Tam, few will forget his charm and wit.

Tam is survived by his two daughters Susan and Elizabeth, 3 grand children, his brother George and Betty. Tam's funeral ceremony is to be held at Duntocher Crematorium at 11.00 a.m. Saturday 07 October 2006. The family has requested no flowers, other than from the family. Donations in lieu of flowers to the Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team.

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6 Oct, 2006
that`s a great obituary.
6 Oct, 2006
Yes - absolutely wonderful obituary. (Who wrote it?) Particularly loved: 'Tam loyally defended the working class values, leftward leaning politics and anarchistic attitude towards the establishment that the club was founded on.' A person you wish you had known. RIP. Mick
6 Oct, 2006
Great obituary. Sorry to all those that knew him.
6 Oct, 2006
Wonderful obituary indeed. "Here's another right." What a great line.
6 Oct, 2006
A very nice obituary. Someone who knew him remarked to me that it wasn't a bad way to go, quickly and among the Scottish hills.
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