Alastair Borthwick lived from 17 February 1913 to 25 September 2003. He was a journalist, broadcaster and author remembered primarily for two very different books, each of which remains a classic in its field. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
He was born in Rutherglen and as a child also lived in Troon and then in Glasgow, where he attended Glasgow High School. He left school at the age of 16 in 1929 to work on the Glasgow Herald: first taking down copy from correspondents phoning in, and later as editor of some of the feature pages. It was through his involvement in the paper's "Open Air" page that Alastair first became involved in Glasgow's blossoming hillwalking and climbing scene, which in turn he helped foster with his articles about working class people from Glasgow and Clydebank venturing into the Highlands at weekends.
In 1935 Borthwick landed a job on the Daily Mirror in Fleet Street. In terms of a career in journalism, this was a major step up: but the London lifestyle did not appeal, and within a year he was back in Glasgow, working as a BBC radio correspondent.
1939 saw the publication of "Always a Little Further", a collection of many of the pieces he had initially written for the Glasgow Herald. The publisher, Fabers, were initially unsure about the very unconventional approach the book took to what was usually regarded at the time as a rich man's sport, and it was only on the insistence of one of their directors, T.S. Eliot, that they produced a book that has been in print more or less continuously ever since. It remains one of the best books ever written about any aspect of outdoor activity in Scotland.
With the advent of the Second World War, Borthwick was commissioned into the 5th (Caithness and Sutherland) Battalion, the Seaforth Highlanders, as an Intelligence Officer. During the war the Seaforth Highlanders saw action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, and Borthwick was involved throughout. When hostilities ceased, Borthwick was asked to write a Battalion history, and the result was published in 1946 as "Sans Peur, The History of the 5th (Caithness and Sutherland) Battalion, the Seaforth Highlanders". This book, has also often been in print since, most recently in 1994 under the title "Battalion: a British infantry unit's actions from El Alamein to the Elbe, 1942-1945", when it received widespread critical acclaim.
At war's end, Alastair and his wife Anne, who he had married in 1940, moved from Glasgow to Jura, where he combined crofting and fishing with broadcasting for the BBC. In 1952 they moved to Islay, before returning to Glasgow so Alastair could help with the organisation of Scotland's contribution to the 1951 Festival of Britain. In the 1960s he moved into television, producing 150 half hour programmes for Grampian TV on a wide range of subjects. In the 1970s the Borthwicks moved to Ayrshire, where they lived on a hill farm before Alastair moved to a nursing home in Beith five years before his death in 2003.