Petestack Blog

15 October 2015

Together and alone

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:59 pm

This is not a new story, but a two-year-old tale I meant to tell back then and just couldn’t. Which is why there’s a great, big, Daddy-sized hole in my blog posts from September 2013 (when my father died on 16 September) to May 2014 (when I appear to have started writing again)…


It’s two years ago today that I took a portion of my father’s ashes across the Aonach Eagach and halfway back again before scattering them up there and descending alone. We had three cardboard tubes of ashes; a big one for my parents’ garden and two smaller ones for the sea and the mountains. We’d scattered the ‘sea’ portion from the pier at Baltasound (where his beloved Fivla was built and my mother, Angus, Lauren and I had just had lunch with Duncan Sandison, who built her) six days previously. Then, having volunteered for the task, I took the first opportunity to deliver the ‘mountain’ portion to the Aonach Eagach, which we’d chosen as somewhere both local and known to me, but above all something Daddy had always wanted and meant to do but never quite got round to while he still could. So it had to be a double traverse, carrying the tube all the way from Am Bodach to Sgor nam Fiannaidh so he’d done the whole thing (complete with my running commentary on where we were, what the moves were like and what we could see!) before ‘leaving’ him somewhere in the middle. Which, influenced by wanting to get back over the Crazy Pinnacles before the threat of rain came to fruition in already slightly greasy conditions, fortuitously turned out to be the major pinnacle (or Corbett Top) of ‘Aonach Eagach East’ as close as you can reasonably say to midway along the Aonach Eagach ‘proper’ between Stob Coire Leith and Meall Dearg. And here I emptied the tube in the swirling breeze, slightly to the south of the crest since I was wary of creating deposits where folk might need their hands on the rock, and prefaced by some deeply-metaphorical little speech about having to ‘leave you here and finish this journey alone.’ And then I phoned my mother and cried…

While I’d had the ridge to myself so far and fortunately not had to start explaining what I was doing, I did meet a couple of parties (who I didn’t tell) coming towards me as I continued my journey alone back to Am Bodach and the descent. But then perhaps I’m never alone because the ashes of the cardboard tube (which I subsequently burned to produce the ‘ashes of the ashes’) got buried in the cairn I built in my garden, and there’s a convenient place on the West Highland Way just above Kinlochleven from where I can see ‘Daddy’s pinnacle’ and talk to him. And I still do.

2013-10-15aonach-eagach-1 2013-10-15aonach-eagach-2

2013-10-15aonach-eagach-3 2013-10-15aonach-eagach-4

2013-10-15aonach-eagach-5 2013-10-15aonach-eagach-6

2013-10-15ashes-1 2013-10-15ashes-2

2013-10-15ashes-3 2013-10-15ashes-4

2013-10-15ashes5 2013-10-15aonach-eagach-7

2011-01-29aonach-eagach 2009-06-06aonach-eagach

[Edit, 31 December 2015: six valued comments on this post from my friends have inexplicably disappeared. My comment below was actually the seventh.]


  1. Thanks, folks… yes, my father’s surely responsible for my love of boats and mountains (and we shared many adventures in both) as well as encouraging my music and quite simply being able to make, mend, fix or do almost anything! So of course I was thinking of Tir nan Og when I posted that 1965 photo to Facebook the day after he died with resonant quote from Runrig:

    Tom Duggan, 9 July 1932 – 16 September 2013

    Sailing somewhere far to the west…

    ‘Cearcall a’ chuain
    Gu bràth bidh i a’ tionndadh
    Leam gu machair geal an iar
    Far an do thòisich an là.’

    To which it now seems appropriate to add my ‘Sunrise over Sanda’ photo sequence taken a decade earlier on the April 2003 trip that’s now pricelessly remembered as his last great adventure when he joined Twig, Al and me at the last minute to deliver the Sadler 25 Spirit (his last boat) from the West Coast to the Clyde:

    Sunrise over Sanda

    Comment by admin — 21 October 2015 @ 11:59 am

  2. A lovely and poignant post Pete .. If ever I make it up there I will think of your dad and you

    Comment by Keith — 21 October 2015 @ 2:19 pm

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