North Uist 1972.

Leader: Roger Weatherly Camp Administrator: Mark Rayne

Officers.-  Peter Booth, Peter Carey, Andrew Creese, Stephen David, Gareth Firth, Ed Mitchell, Greg Surrell.

Boys:- Simon Anderson, Jeremy Barnett, Bruce Bomphrey, Jamie Bomphrey, Roger Butler, Nicholas Caplin, Charles Carey,  Malcolm Clayton, Malcolm Cordner, Ian Crombie, Barry Gallagher, Mark Jacob, John Kalish, Richard Lander, Allan Marshall,  Julian Parker, Philip Parsons, Murray Partridge, Christopher Price, Graham Reeder, Michael Rees, Peter Rogers, Alex Ryba,  Tony Shaw, Nicholas Smith, Patrick Thompson, Hugh Thorburn, Nicholas Turner, Max Whitby and Philip Whyman.

Some of my recollections.

This was the first trip I went on, and living in S E Kent it was (not quite) but almost as far away as I could get in the British Isles so I was a little apprehensive as to what to expect. I'd been to a talk with slideshow at my school by someone who'd been on an earlier trip so I had some idea but it still felt like quite an adventure. We travelled by overnight train to Glasgow and then (I'm filling in the gaps by looking at what you'd have to do now) train from Glasgow to Fort William? I'm fairly sure our port of departure was Mallaig and therefore we got the West Highland Line, a picturesque route through the Scottish scenery, this fits with my memory because I am fairly certain we crossed the Glenfinnan viaduct shown here.

I was approached to write 3 articles for 'Back in the Day' which is a monthly newspaper for the Outer Isles, one for each of my expeditions to N and S Uist and Harris this is how it appeared in the paper. Click the link. Back in the Day North Uist 1972
The ferry crossing was very exciting! The sea was quite choppy and the ship a little smaller than I'd imagined so there was quite a bit of movement to say the least. I sat out on deck, at the stern watching the bird life, petrels, gannets, shearwaters, razorbills many species I'd never seen before. It was amazing for me, but gradually the light failed and I was getting cold so I ventured into the lounge, this was far less pleasant, the pitch and roll of the ship seemed far worse with no horizon to focus on, it was hot and stuffy and some people were being sick, but fortunately we were soon docking. [I'm hazy about this now as I am fairly confident that we sailed from Mallaig and I thought we arrived in Lochmaddy but this route no longer seems to be an option].*Roger Butler contacted me and supplied a recent photo of the school in Lochboisdale and the following comments :-

© Copyright Phil Champion


18/9/2013 -So it may well have been that the ferry crossed from Mallaig to Lochboisdale. I certainly remember stopping at the school - on more than one occassion - probably on the S Uist trip as well. As I said above, once it had got dark, I'd gone into the ferry lounge but soon started to feel ill - I eventually decided to go out on deck and be sick as I thought that would make me feel better. I approached the rail and was about to throw up when I noticed the lights of the harbour and that we would be docking very shortly so I decided not to bother! Roger, sending me that info, brought back a memory of having some sort of soup at the school when we arrived, I'm thinking something like packets of powdered asparagus or something similar - it was just about the last thing I fancied but having it and being on terra firma, I soon felt ok again. Maybe someone else will remember if that is true. Well, unfortunately, as you can see from Roger's photo, the school is now boarded up - whether that means they have a new one or not I don't know, but the photo should bring back memories for some of you.

Old Schoolhouse, Lochboisedale, South Uist 2013. Photo Roger Butler

We transferred by MacBraynes coach (it was probably in reality bus similar to the one shown above).

The bus took us to the end of the road and from there we had to walk, and from what I remember it was quite a way across very boggy terrain. The journey was made more difficult because of the large number of lochs that had to be circumnavigated. Looking at an OS map now I make it about 2.5 miles to the nearest point on the road at Cladach Chairinis from the croft at Eaval.

I had my birthday while on N Uist and I remember Greg Surrell doing a card for me, I still have it somewhere and when it next comes to light I'll scan it and upload it.

Another recollection - we had a mini chess tournament whilst on N Uist, I had played before - only at a rudimentary level but I participated. The names were put in a hat and drawn. My first game was against Alex Ryba and he beat me in just about the minimum number of moves possible (it may not have actually been 'fools mate' but it was equally quick!) Anyway, my participation in the knockout was very short lived, it turned out that Alex had been junior chess champion in Manchester (or have I made that up to make me feel better?)

"Here is a photo (taken just last month! [Aug 2013 Ed]) which you might like to add to the North Uist 72 page - this now derelict school, on the road out of Lochboisdale on South Uist, is where we stayed the night after getting off the ferry (in pouring rain, of course) from Mallaig. The next day we will have travelled up the islands to North Uist, but I can't remember if we stayed there on the way back as well."

Leader Report (From the 1972 SHS report)

I wonder how many of us really knew what to expect on North Uist, despite the pre-expedition circulars and duplicated maps? As we "brunch-waded" through the peat bog in the pouring rain to reach the site, with the memories of a most unpleasant Minch crossing all too fresh, I suspect some of us thought themselves quite crazy.  What was the infectious spirit which moulded us into a community from this soggy start?  — The magic of the Hebrides!

The site, at the foot of Ben Eaval, was the one the Society used in 197O.  It is very remote from roads and settlements — by far the most isolated ever used for a Junior expedition.  As town-dwellers (and most of us were) it was a unique experience to live for a while in this primaeval (sic) place.  A favourite song in the evenings pointed out the contrasts:

'Let me take you by the hand and lead you

through the streets of London,

I'll show you something to make you change

your mind.'

We were indebted to the islanders, and especially to Ewen Nicholson and his friends.  They ferried our heavy equipment from Baymore and brought over our mail and bread when the dreaded 'ROCK BOTTOM’ and 'VINGA' misbehaved. Despite Peter Carey and Gareth's attentions, both boats were barely serviceable and our seaward excursions were limited.  We did a good deal of boating on Loch Obisary however, in a boat kindly loaned by the Estate, and the fishermen found these trips very rewarding.  The new canoes were great value, and even the leader ventured out once. There were long trips across the lochs, and the hydrographers used them for survey work.

Some other projects were ornithology (including the discov­ery of two Golden Eagle eyries), soil analysis, sketching, settlement and archaeological mapping, meteorology, a pollution survey, geology, a stream survey, climbing, a loch survey, and peat stacking.  Everyone spent at least one night away from camp on a bivvy.  We had parties to Baleshare, along the 'North Uist Circular' to Sidernish and Loch Eport school (where David Vale and David Mark were always hospitable), Langass, Lochmaddy, and two fishing bivvies to the islands on Loch Obisary.  Rumour has it that we caught over 8O pollack, though not so many trout. The following pages will contain reports on some of these activ­ities, but here I must single out sketching.  Greg, Ed, Roger Butler and Ian Crombie were those mainly involved though others tried their hand, too — the results were excellent.  We also compiled a survey of bird life for the B.T.O. which will be used in the Bird Atlas of Great Britain, and our pollution work will be passed on to the Conservation Society.

The food was well received, through the efforts of Mark Rayne, a leader's ideal C.A.  The traditional feast on the last night but one passed well — in all respects!

The weather was disappointing on the whole.  We had no storms, apart from the night of the crossing, but low cloud and drizzle persisted.  However, we partly defeated the meteorolog­ical depressions with our enthusiasm, and the last few days were much better — just in time for the arrival of the Chairman and Membership Secretary.  The Membership was found to be in good heart.

MUSIC — that elusive ingredient of a good expedition — was much in evidence, though we found an evening meeting rather un­comfortable sometimes;  the cottage at Eaval was not built for 39.  The terrain made pitching a marquee impossible while the weather and the midges combined to make outdoor meetings haz­ardous in the evenings.  Peter Booth and the North Uist male-voice choir (?) did well to maintain interest.  Mark Jacob's musical offerings will not be forgotten either!

To provide an opportunity for everyone to visit the whole island, we arranged a coach trip for a complete day near the end of our stay.  This was a great success — we visited the R.S.P.B. Reserve at Balranald, the 'dig' at Udal, and spent time shopping in Lochmaddy.  What happened to the leader in the peat bog on the outward journey must pass unrecorded, but it gives me the opportunity to thank the Estate Factor, Mr Shaunessay, and his wife, for their hospitality and help throughout our stay.

A visit one evening from Mr Rick Sibson started some geo­logical prospecting.  Mr Sibson had been studying the ancient fault-lines of the Hebrides, and made the journey to the site specially to outline to us the geology of our area.  We learned we had a Tertiary dyke by our waterfall, and that 'fossil earthquakes' could be found on Ben Eaval.

Finally, a 'thank-you’ to all the officers.  I felt each one contributed everything he had to offer, which is all a leader can ask.  And the 'boys'? (hateful term).  Thank you for being the expedition and making it all worth while.  One of you wrote after the expedition:

"I am sure almost everyone returned more fit, more knowledgeable and more independent than when he set off...'

If that was so (and I hope it was), can we ask for more?  Haste ye back!




My very poor quality photos of North Uist

MacBraynes bus

Camp site at Eaval

Pete Carey

Phil Wyman, Graham Reeder

Pip Parsons

Roger Weatherly, Greg Surrell, Edd Michel?

Stephen David, Pip Parsons?

Visit to burial mound

Bivvy party stopped for lunch

Ed Mitchell, Andy Creese

Greg Surrell

Graham Reeder, Me, Julien Parker

Julian Parker, Graham Reeder, Me

Pete Booth, Jerry Barnet, Simon Anderson

Final musings from me, the coach trip around the island, to Balranald and possibly the burial mound in the photos above. At one point we stopped at a beach, one of the white sandy bays, there wasn't anything for miles around - apart from a canoe on the shoreline. Assuming it had been washed ashore we rushed over to have a look at it. Because there were paddles and I think life vests inside we had second thoughts about it being washed up and decided to leave it alone. Sure enough, a few minutes later a couple of local lads arrived and climbed in and paddled around. Where else could you abandon a canoe and come back some time later and expect it to still be there? Did someone lose a contact lens there?

Walking around the lower slopes of Eaval with a small group, lead by Mark Rayne, he was telling 'jokes', the one that sticks in my mind - "I called out to a man who had a banana in his ear, and with what looked like custard and jelly in the other, he shouted back, -you'll have to speak up - I'm a trifle deaf" (It was funny at the time - ah, those days of innocent pleasure!)

If I think of anything else I'll add it and indicate there is new content. If anyone else has memories or photos please get in touch.


I managed to contact the N Uist camp administrator Mark Rayne recently and he sent some excellent photos, especially this group shot. If anyone can fill in the missing names?

(As a reminder all the names appear at the top of the page, it is just a question of matching them up).


1) Jamie Bomphrey  2) Roger Butler 4) Alex Ryba 6) Barry Gallagher?

7) Patrick Thompson 8) Julian Parker 10) Graham Reeder

11) Nick Smith [me!] 12) Roger Weatherly 14) Michael Rees? 16) Philip Parsons 17) Jerry Barnet

23) Mark Rayne 24) Greg Surrell 25) Simon Anderson 35) Andy Creese  36) Ed Mitchell

37) Pete Cairey  38) Pete Booth  39) Stephen David  40) Gareth Firth

Just 20 to go!






Mark recalls an incident with a 'stray' dog on North Uist:- "That was a good expedition, and I often recall aspects of the S.H.S. I was out for a walk recently with my daughter and we found ourselves being accompanied by a black labrador, so I had to return it to the farm house whence it came. That reminded me of the time when some North Uist expedition members returned across the bogs and lakes from a settlement to the North (Loch Eport?) accompanied by a stray dog that could not be caught. So I had to take it for a walk all the way back, and then escape without being followed. I wasn't very happy when a local then accused me of allowing my dog to disturb the sheep!"

And below are more from Mark, the first two show everyone attending a geology lecture from a visiting Mr Rick Sibson

And some of the others in this album. [Please use the web browser Back button to return here]

The campsite at Eaval

Miles of fine white sand, the beach at Udal

Canoe on Loch Dunn

Chambered cairn at Langasse

Channel between N uist and Grimsay

Drying cut peat, N Uist

The estate boat on Loch Obisary

Loading 'vinga' at Grimsay

Loch Dunn an t-samain, North Uist

Lochmaddy, North Uist

Navigating the sound of Grimsay

Outside Bagh Mor, Grimsay

Peat cutting near the Eaval cottage

Ewan Nicholson's boat at Eaval

North Uist sunset


3 climbers near the top on Eaval

 Dear Nick,

I gather you've been in contact with my brother, Nicholas, who forwarded me an email from yourself, in which you wanted to try and contact me.  Yes, I was an officer on the 1972 N Uist expedition, and I do remember you.  It was a long time ago now, but I remember a bivvy to Baleshare,  which you were on, which was great fun.
Like my brother I've continued to have a love of Scotland and the Western Isles, which was initiated by my experiences with the SHS. I've only been to North Uist once since then, which was in 2005, staying in somewhat more salubrious accommodation than Eaval croft. We climbed Eaval one day.   I do quite a bit of walking, especially with the Christian Walking Club which I joined some time back.
Anyway, it was good of you to try and track me down, perhaps I'll hear 
from you soon.
Best regards

Stephen David 22/09/2014