Marhofn 196.11 - May 2009

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Eric and the electric fish licence

Eric Young

It's the stuff of myth and legend. I'm talking, of course, about how Marilyns came to be so called. On returning from Mickle Fell during the Christmas break, I met David Black, one of five gamekeepers for the grouse moor estate. Last summer he had met a Marilyn bagger (equipped with camper van and wife) and had enquired as to the nomenclature's origins. Well, apparently the story goes that a lady walker fell and hurt her back. Being unable to do the big hills, she created a list of smaller hills that she could do. Her name was Marilyn!

So what is your favoured story? The Linn of Mary? Is MARILYN an acronym? Is it Dawson's secret middle name? Or is it all hot air and skirts? As Butterfield might have said: 'Magic of the Munros', 'Call of the Corbetts' and 'Mystery of the Marilyns'. The authorised version is Alan's briefest of explanations: 'I have decided to use the more distinguished [than Mungos] and appropriate term 'Marilyn''.

February: I arrived at Craignure on Mull, aiming to walk up Beinn Bhuidhe and Beinn na Duatharach from Glen Forsa. No bus! The winter bus timetable doesn't do the 10am ferry connection from Oban. However, help is at hand from the wonderful tourist information staff. They run out and ask the Salen shellfish man to help with a lift. Bill doesn't fish for scallops himself anymore, he just runs the mobile fish shop. Grand day over trig on Beinn nan Lus and the two Marilyns. Worth visiting the memorial to the RAF Dakota IV personnel who died when it crashed into Beinn Talaidh in February 1945, en route to Prestwick from Canada. Time was short so I hurried anxiously by the dippers at the river, and by the highland cattle at the fish hatchery, to catch the 4pm bus for the last ferry out, thinking I might need to run the last 3km. Pick-up truck stops and offers a lift to the bottom of the glen. Mrs Gamekeeper, originally from Kintail, gets good price for venison these days. I like Mull and its good lift people!

March: Clive Allison of Summits on the Air (SOTA) is on Great Coum (35B). It's icy cold. Clive and his dog are from Blackburn. He's third in the UK rankings, scoring 1000 points to qualify for his very own 'Mountain Goat' trophy. I kid you not! It's on his mantelpiece. He's bumped into Rob Woodall so knows about Marilyn bagging. Apparently any Marilyn can only be claimed once per year per person (SOTA rules), so Clive returns each year to his favourites, adding to his score.

April: I'm descending the Cross Fell snow. Bloke ascending:

'I'm on my way from Aberdeenshire to Austria for skiing. I'm taking in one or two Marilyns, if you know what they are?'

'I do indeed!'

It's Bill Forbes, a walking pal of Bert Barnett. Bill is unlisted, having completed the Munros (unrecorded), Corbetts (June 2002) and Grahams (August 2006). Will he ever accept an appearance in Marhofn, I wonder? As Jimmy Saville would have said 'and the highest new entry is...'.

May: Dragonfly madness. In a Skye forest ride there are hundreds of dragonflies feasting on beasties. I've never experienced such a mass of dragonfly. What is their collective name? A dragoon? A flight? I'm on Beinn a'Bhraghad in Glen Brittle during an amazing week of weather, when Adrian Rayner reached 400 and never saw the Cuillin in cloud.

July: I'm on a mini-bus shoogling to Cape Wrath along the 'worst public road in Britain' and preparing to disembark at the high point for Sgribhis-bheinn, Fashven and Beinn Akie. As the bus slows a voice from behind enquires:

'You wouldn't be doing the Marilyns by any chance?'

'Indeed I would', I reply.

I turn to meet Phil Hardie and partner, who are on a recce of the Cape Wrath corner and lighthouse. We should see them on the list shortly as they've both done 500+. Lots of juniper and solifluxion terraces in this corner of Scotland.

September: Highlights of a sojourn to Torridon saw our party conquer Meall Dearg, bypassing Liathach's northern pinnacles from the main ridge, courtesy of some earlier route finding by Bert Barnett. And the Beinn Eighe ridge was gained directly up Sail Mhor by a steep gully now named Dawson's Creek. Jon Foote and I met our first electro-fisherman, working for Fisheries Research. He explained that the pole with the metal circle puts an electric charge in the water, drawing the fish towards it for easy counting. He's got a special licence to operate. Brown and sea trout, minnows and eels mainly. It reminded me of a story in the Victor comic in which a man unjustly sent to the electric chair survives the experience and finds he can charge himself like a battery and take revenge on his oppressors. Perhaps the burn between Ben Shieldaig and An Staonach now hosts electric eels seeking revenge.

Northern Pinnacles of Mullach an Rathain (photo: Alan Dawson)

Northern Pinnacles of Mullach an Rathain (photo: Alan Dawson)

October: As I parked at the old church in Garnfadryn, the aged school bus driver came over. He recalled the Ordnance Survey men hiring Sean's carthorse to lug the trig point building materials up Carn Fadryn (30A) in two loads. He couldn't remember when, but he's 71 and the trig is number 8325. But why is the hill not a Garn or the village a Carn? One word or two? So we can tell the difference?

November: A blue Golf drew up behind as I parked for number 1199. Richard and Edith Cormack are St Andrews retired; subscribers and avid readers of Marhofn. As friends of Hamish Brown they've fallen for Morocco too. Richard was a professor of statistics, so no problem with the mean, median or mode of anything. Edith, a biologist, recalled early excursions to Rum in the late 1950s. Tom Bailgeann (9B) was the hill, and the muddy track leads to the mast and trig. The best view is from the second cairn to the north.

Final notes: No baseplates on trigs on Beinn Lunndaidh (16D), Beinn an Eoin or Beinn Sgeireach (16E) or Pillar (34B). And the suspension bridge at Strathan in Strath Shinary (NC244611) is listing but was crossed with care. Going soon?

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