The Hats of Alastair Borthwick

Among the many hats he wore, Alastair Borthwick is remembered for many things throughout his ninety years of life.

A Scotsman born in Rutherglen, a youth in Troon, and a teenager in Glasgow, Alastair would leave school with a job at the Evening Times as a copytaker, though he would quickly move to the Glasgow Weekly Herald as an editor, where he would first hear of his passion: mountaineer. Formerly an activity only of the elite, a number of Glasgow’s poor were suddenly taking it up, hiking, climbing and scaling mountains, camping in caves or sleeping in bothies. His adventures would often end up in the papers, and eventually would end up in his first book, Always a Little Further (1939).

In 1934, while at an interview with the BBC, he casually mentioned his weekend jaunts to the producer, who immediately commissioned a radio talk about the subject. Although this was the first time he had ever been on air, Alastair Borthwick was a natural, and the love his audience had for him didn’t end even after his last broadcast in 1995.

However, energized by all his time well-spent in the highlands, Alastair signed himself into the army at the dawn of the Second World War. As an Intelligence Officer and then later a member of Recon, he went to war, traveling with his unit across North Africa, Europe, visiting Sicily during the conquest, invading Italy and Normandy both, secured Holland’s canal zone, and finally crossed the Rhine river into German for the climax of the war.

But it was the war that would give him his next book. Just before the combat ended, Colonel John Sym of the 5th Seaforth Highlanders gave him permission to trade his parade marches for a pen, as payment for a battalion history. Sans Peur (1946) is an accurate recount and recapture of the experiences for the Seaforths’ from the perspective of a junior officer on the front lines.

Afterwards, Alastair Borthwick looked for a change of pace and decided to remain as a radio and television broadcaster for the rest of his career.