Hamish Brown has been a fixture of the Scottish outdoors scene for... well seemingly forever. For those unable to remember for ourselves, he's been around for over eight decades, and has been fascinated by the outdoors, and in particular by the Scottish outdoors, for over six of those decades. He has written or edited over 30 books during that time, plus many articles for newspapers, guide books and outdoor magazines. For anyone with an interest in Scotland and its mountains his writing has helped turn dreams into realities, and many have been inspired by him to don boots and rucksack and head for the hills.
A number of things help make his writing so inspirational. Partly it's the knowledge that here is someone who has "been there and done that": he writes from experience and a deep knowledge of his chosen subject. Partly it's because his writing is simply very good: he has the ability to bring to life incidents and places in a way that transports you there. But mainly it's because it is so obvious that Hamish Brown is a man who loves what he does, and has the ability to communicate and share that love with his readers. His experience is probably unmatched. He has completed seven rounds of Scotland's Munros (distinct mountains over 3,000ft), and in 1974 he became the first person to complete a continuous round of Munros under his own steam (bar the ferries used to reach Mull and Skye), when he cycled and walked 1,639 miles in 112 days and climbed 289 Munros.
There is far, far more to Hamish Brown than this suggests, and "Walking the Song" brings its author to life in a way that those who know him from his Scottish exploits will find revelationary. The publisher's note emphasises that it is "not an autobiography or some overview of life", and in his foreword the author describes the book as "a potpourri, mainly of articles which have appeared, or have their subject matter in events over the last fifty years." He goes on to say that "Much of what is selected comes from the Sixties to the Eighties when I was most fit and far-ranging (my "dancing days of spring")." What you get may not be an autobiography, but it is a series of scenes, of incidents, that help bring the man behind the writing to life.
The book opens with Hamish and his family evading the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1942. It's not long before Scottish hills begin to feature, and those who think they know Hamish Brown begin to feel at home. In many ways its the sheer variety of the writing and the subject matter which is this book's best feature (among many good ones). There is some historical story-telling here; there are tales of the Atlas Mountains; of Norway and Iceland; of the Alps; of the Middle East. But whatever the subject, and whenever the piece was originally written (and they are largely left as they originally appeared) the pieces are all different facets of the same amazing man. This is a book for all lovers of the outdoors - in Scotland and beyond - and for all those whose lives have in one way or another been touched by Hamish Brown's writing.