Issue 205
September/October 2018


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Oct 21, 2018

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Maxwell's Cauld Blast

I DESPISE the concept of the self indulging bucket list. Instead I feel we should all endorse the notion of the F-it list , the idea being that as we grow older we wage a vicious and unyielding war war on the pretentious, the unjust, the greedy and cruel and the purveyors of the ugly and vulgar. And so in my essay today let us celebrate some of those who have given their lives to being troublesome and awkward in the interest of the common good and who have now not so much passed over, or on, or away, but just stopped, or to put it directly, bleeding died.

Firstly my good friend of fifty years Prof Tom Forsyth, founder of the Scoraig Community who stopped dead at the end of August at the age of 87.

If you met Tom in the street it would be easy to imagine he was some kind of real life creation by Tolkein, a sort of spade bearded hippy King of the Highlands. Which indeed he was.

Tall, mystical and with a regal bearing he was straight out of central casting as the magical saint of land reform whose only real crime was in setting fire to a free Church building and whose most famed action was in driving the welly booted corpse of his Father around his favourite haunts in his dirty old van. Ah Tom. My kind of guy.

But yet this man that so many dismissed because of his appearance and eccentric life style was surely one of the key figures in land reform being a highly influential in the development of the Iona Community, the Scoraig Community and the Isle of Eigg buy out.

And let us remember Tom did this with virtually no money, seldom had access to a car and did a lot of his work hitch hiking from place to place usually wearing his trademark yellow oilskins. Check out Alastair Mackintosh's excellent obit in the Herald . And likewise John Calder, the maverick publisher who has died aged 91. Again a risk taker who made and lost several fortunes in his relentless fight for freedom of speech. Dozens were inspired by his work, including the ever glamourous Anne Tauté of Oval projects (The Bluffers Guides) who told me last week that she would never have become a publisher were it not for John.Check Joyce Macmillan's obit of John in the Scotsman,

To move from the dead to the maverick living let us also celebrate the absolutely delightful Pip (Phillip) Hills, (78) the founder of the Scottish Malt Whisky Society, who is to be lauded in September at an Edinburgh dinner arranged by the Society he founded thirty five years ago. And a F-it man for all his days.

When in his twenties Pip, who had been born the son of a docker under a picture of Rabbie Burns in Bo'ness, became the partner of choice of the tricksy climber Dougal Haston, and also partnered the legendary Robin Smith on some his hairy endeavours before both were killed climbing.Working with Haston Pip pioneered a number of new routes including one up Glencoe's notorious slime wall.

It was after a career as an accountant that Pip went on to revolutionalise the Scottish Whisky industry by pointing out that if you drank the stuff straight from the cask instead of diluting, chilling it and filtering it to reduce the chance of clouding, it might be a little less stable, but by heavens it tasted better.

Today this kind of raw whisky, which was unrecognised when Pip launched his largely philanthropic group, is now a key element of Scotland's internationally renowned whisky trade and yet Pip is largely unrecognised for his imagination and bravery and lives a quiet life in Montrose whilst the society is rumoured to have a war chest of tens of millions.

Finally I would like to invite you all to my funeral, which I have now arranged, even although my doctor has given me no indication that my own demise is imminent. No, I have arranged for my ashes to be attached to a firework and exploded above Inverness's Belladrum Festival after the last song of the last act of the festival following my death, or stopping.

Fellow supporters of the F-it movement are invited to join me, either in my own rocket or attached to one of their own choosing. The organisers for what I now see as Scotland's premier festival have been most helpful and I am sure they would welcome further applications from anyone who is feeling a bit poorly and prepared to submit a large deposit.

How nice to go out with a bang.

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