For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Fairy Steps 2 and Answer to Rum Quiz.

Tuesday 5th May 2020 (Day 41 of Lockdown)

Resulting from my woeful lack of memory on my last post, exchanges have been made between me and Big Brother. The post was titled Fairy Steps. There is also a rock climb of the same name in the Quarry at the Cow and Calf, Ilkley where some of my first climbing took place with Big Brother. 

At a guess it was about 1957.  I was on a climb to the right of Fairy Steps when I heard a thunderous crashing. Big Brother had been halfway up Fairy Steps and a huge chunk of rock had detached and fallen into the chimney on the right taking BB with it and half burying him. I know some injury was sustained but not serious - this must have been one of the luckiest escapes ever.

The photo below was taken before the rockfall. I'm not sure which of the two lumps I have circled was the one that fell. I am pretty certain they have both gone now. I don't know who took the photo or how I came by it. I am fairly sure that is me handling the rope at the top.


Answer to Gimmer's Rum question

I have received the answer below from Gimmer. I have highlighted the short answer to the question. If you read on there is more related information and explanation of the additional clues that were given. I think I would have been hard pressed to find the answer, but for anybody who had read the book - easy peasy.

The account below came from a MAC doc. file that had been converted into a PDF so that I could open it not having the up to date version of Apple's Pages. I have tried to format the text alignment
which is usually easy enough by applying the "remove formatting" tool and then starting again but I couldn't do any better than you see with this one.

Answer - the view of Rum from Gortenfern beach , near Arisaig - which has well-known 'Singing Sands' . . . but these 'Singing Sands' are not, however, the singing sands referred to in a scribbled note in the Stop Press panel of the London paper which was in the hand of a man found murdered on the night train from London when it arrived in Inverness - in the novel of that name by Josephine Tay, who died in 1952 - on the same day as HM King George VI - which was published posthumously. Inspector Grant, who picked up the paper and found the verse, on his way to a recuperation sojourn in the Highlands, began to try to unravel the mystery - going to the Outer Isles to see if he could get clues from an area with singing sands - or its inhabitants - but little was gained - eventually, in London , he traced a convoluted path to a long lost 'paradise' oasis in the Arabian desert - with this verse being the leitmotif of the 'journey' - marked by treachery, greed and murder.

The story was found in her papers - it probably needed a bit of tidying up , particularly towards the end, but it is a good tale and a good example of this very satisfying author's work.

For many, this view of Rum form the eastern end of the Ardnamurchan peninsular is 'spectacular' (as are most, of course, but this one is special - not a overt as many , but coyly revealing the island and its peaks) - from low down on the shallow, gently sloping beach, the island appears to be rising up out of the waves that sweep across the bay, the long ridge of Eigg not intruding so much as from higher views (earth's curvature - or just lost in the waves) - in fact it seems to make the peaks of Rum seem to float higher, more distantly and more enticingly, particularly against the setting sun: the view looks directly up Glen Dibidil , with Askival and Allival on the right, and the rounded masses of Anshivall and Sgurr nan Gillian, very different from its Syke namesake, on the left - all making the perfect picture - of a magical island and perfect peaks.

In the mind's eye, the old song comes to life - astride the thwarts of the boat, ' with 'Eigg on the bow, and Rum on the port', carrying the boy "born to be King" ' , sailing from this very quarter ! But back to the question. The connection is , as you would expect, both tortuous and contrived : the verse goes the singing sands the streams that walk the beasts that talk that bar the way to paradise as as for the additional clues source dividing the birthplace of a bitter-sweet confection - River Tay runs through Dundee - where the first marmalade was made desert trading post - recently rediscovered lost fort and fertile oasis near the Saudi/Omani borderlands, apparently once famous for gold and frankincense, said to have been deep in the vast dunes of that desert, which still cause weird and frightening music-like sounds in the high winds of desert storms, that blow both sand and water into wild gyrating shapes , drive animals into hysterical howls and growling - easy to see the springs of the verse

the connections are obvious when you know the answer !


  1. I envy you having digitalised those old slides - so many stories. Those blocks in the upper groove certainly look poised to collapse. In my guide, the one with Austin on Beeline, the diagram shoes they have gone and are possibly drawn on the floor. Do we actually accuse your brother of dislodging them?

    The Rum answer is almost as puzzling as the original puzzle.

  2. Sir Hugh - a narrow escape indeed. Quarries always scared me so I generally stayed away. I wish I’d had our slides digitised professionally but worried that some catastrophe might befall them when out of our possession.

  3. BC - That was actually not a digitised slide. It was a normal black and white print enlarged to about 9ins. x 5ins. I have only a very few photos going back that far, all black and white prints that I have scrounged from other people. It wasn't until much later that I had a little Voigtlander Vito B 35mm taking mainly slide films. I too have that guide with Alan A on Beeline, but I also have the one before published in 1957 which shows the blocks intact in the line drawing. HAVING JUST PULLED IT OFF THE SHELF I FIND A NOTE SAYING "Rod HAD ACCIDENT - 17/5/1958.

    I have to agree with you on The Rum Answer


    afoot - Yes, it was a long time ago when I sent mine off and I was concerned at the time. I seem to remember it took a couple of weeks before I got them back. I reckon there were abut 1000.

  4. Both pieces fell and Sod's Law applied. The first dropped into a narrow gully to the right and jammed there, my legs fell on top of this jammed rock, the second piece fell on top of my legs and also jammed, creating an indigestible RR sandwich. My legs were trapped and my torso dangled - backwards - down the rock-face. Somewhat enlarged I resembled a fuchsia flower in its characteristic attachment to the stalk.

    My rescue was complex and since there now seems to be far more interest in photographic minutiae in this sequence of comments I won't risk interfering with your remote pleasures.

  5. RR - Thanks for filling in the detail. I for one am interested to learn more. As I said I don't remember you suffering a serious injury but I would be interested to hear what you say about that. Can you remember who else was there at the time?

  6. It was often the case on RBQ that one was even more confused with the answers than before these were untangled or 'given' - the only thing that never changed was wondering how the teams could possibly have amassed such broad knowledge and insight to be able to penetrate the questions under the pressure of time and what passes for stage fright in a radio studio !
    I'll try harder next time and make the question and answer more linear.
    I don't remember doing Fairy Steps: that must have been both the luckiest escape and the most awful bad luck: I only went there once or twice as I never took to those rocks - despite our teaching ourselves how to climb without supervision by doing various routes on the Cow and a few exercises on the Calf - with the famous manila rope: maybe climbing in the Lakes and North Wales had spoiled me by then - despite being only sandals or nails shod: imagine it - no runners, nothing.
    Almscliff was another matter - like an outdoor gym - I loved it: repeating Dolphin's routes was always my ambition but only managed a few before disappearing south: I preferred his to Brown and Whillans routes, but cannot say i did many of those - certainly not the later ones.

  7. Yes I could but this is one of those occasion when more would be less. Extra detail would obscure the drama.