He believes climbing should be safer today than fifty years ago because of better clothing and equipment. But this has had the contrary effect that climbers may now extend themselves beyond their ability to prove how good they are. Consequently, they can be in greater danger. He says, “For me, it was never what I did, but what I saw, that was important”. Tom was injured only once in his life, rock climbing on Ben A’an in the Trossachs. Recalling the incident, he said, “It is a difficult climb. We were just starting and I hadn’t got the feel of the mountain. I missed a vital hold and fell forty feet. I nearly lost my life, but it was my own fault. I was climbing without a belay. I never did that again”.
Tom Weir has been given many awards. He has received the Scots Independent Oliver Award in 1983 for advancing the cause of Scotland’s self-respect. He has an MBE. He was awarded STV’s personality of the year in 1978 for Weir’s Way, a programme that introduced the Scottish countryside to many Scots whose lives had given them no prior knowledge or experience of it. He is most proud of The John Muir Trust Award given him in 2000. The award, proudly displayed in his home, is inscribed “Presented to Tom Weir in recognition of his contribution to the wider understanding of the value of Scotland’s wild places”. The John Muir Award is not given annually, and has only been given twice in the twenty-one years of the organisation’s existence in this country. Tom was the first recipient. All of their married life he and Rhona have lived on the shores of Loch Lomond. Concerned that the area should be protected, Tom campaigned to see the setting up of the National Park. He is proud that this has come to pass and believes that the Park is necessary for management of the land, the flora and the fauna. He also campaigned to safeguard the Cairngorms and Glen Nevis.
I ask Tom if he believes in Scottish Independence. He replies “Scotland could easily do it. It has everything. There is no reason why we can’t look after ourselves. I believe we should, but I have never been actively involved in politics”.
“Do you believe in God?” I ask. He is sure of his answer: “No. Everyone has one life. That’s all it is. No spirit looks after you beyond death. I was lucky not to have been killed in the war. I was lucky not to have been killed on Ben A’an. I don’t believe the world will be in existence in another one hundred years. Man is outliving himself. The atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were terrible. Now climate change is destroying the world. I have lived long enough to see the difference from when I was young. Life was more free then.”
What is the secret of a long life, I wonder? “Good health, good friends, and enough money to live at your own level. Always be doing something you enjoy doing. Good and happy memories”. Has Tom Weir, legend in his own lifetime, enjoyed his life? “I enjoy it still. Every morning I wake up and there is something else to do”.
The secret of long life is always be doing something you enjoy.
Scots Independent February 2005