Davie Reynolds writes:
Glasgow Nightingale Oldies Highland Fling – Aberfeldy 2016
In the summer of 1966, during the Glasgow Fair fortnight, a group of 12 members of the Gale set off on a traditional two week hostelling holiday “up North” taking in locations like Perth, Inverness, Tongue, Durness, Ullapool, Gairloch and on down the West coast back to Glasgow. Forty nine years and many miles later the prospect of getting any of that group out on a bike seemed highly unlikely. However, at the club’s Ninetieth anniversary celebration dinner, I found myself enthusing with a couple of the guys from that 1966 group at the prospect of doing just that. The idea was to get some old mates together for some chat and hopefully a few miles on the road. Quite quickly, after the dinner, word got around and there seemed to be some interest in the idea. By some completely undemocratic process I found myself in the role of organiser designate, supported by the rather lame justification that I had organised the 1966 trip – and of course there was now a fiftieth anniversary event in prospect as the year turned to 2016.
Remarkably, after fifty years and with ages averaging somewhere around the 70 plus mark, a dozen of the Gale’s 1960s “Oldies” group signed up for what became billed as the “Highland Fling”, a one week bike camp at the Aberfeldy Bunkhouse between 4 and 11 June 2016. The bunkhouse, set high on the hill at Glassie Farm on the North side of Aberfeldy, is a great place but far from the ideal location for a road bike get together. The two mile climb on a rough forestry track is a challenge for cars never mind expensive road bikes. Nevertheless, and even more remarkably, seven of the twelve youngsters who took part in the 1966 tour signed up; Tam Barr, Bobby Boyes, Ian Russell, Alex Horne, Alistair McDonald, Jim Wood and yours truly. The remaining five comprised George McBean, Davie Robb, Charlie Stewart, Alex Cameron and last but not least the ever young Jim Robinson.
The Oldies were blessed with near perfect weather for their week, all but one of the group turned up with a bike and everyone that brought a bike used it, some more than others of course but more of that later. As the group assembled on day one I was greatly relieved to find that the interesting route to the bothy did not give rise to a mutiny and amid much hand shaking, hugging (a new found emotional outlet) and back slapping it became evident that much had not changed over the years in terms of good will, companionship, dark humour and a sense of youthful fun. Physiques had changed, hair had gone or greyed and the stocks of prescription medications in evidence was formidable but these were essentially the same characters that rode together in the 60s. Testimony that cycling in general and the Gale specifically had added something special to the lives of this group of pals.
A short evening run out to Loch Tay and Kenmore on the early evening of day one help me establish my humble position in the fitness stakes. This short trip also helped us find a hostelry for refreshments and dinner that evening. The excellent Ailean Craggan at Weem turned out to be a pleasant 30 minute off road walk away from the bunkhouse and served as our watering hole and feeding station more than once. Most evenings though were catered for under the supervision of head chef, George McBean, who seemed to enlist support as effortlessly as his meals were devoured, a great bit of team work which evolved with no prior planning whatsoever.
After dinner many hilarious and sometimes emotional hours were spent consuming copious quantities of wine, beer and whisky while viewing photographs of days gone by, punctuated by a lifetime of true, tall and legendary stories – way too many to mention here. This had to be one of the many highlights of the trip. Jim Wood’s expert bike fitting service was another off-bike highlight which I know will have brought welcome relief to many ageing backs, bums and necks.
Like the meals the programme of bike trips evolved with little prior planning other than Alistair McDonald’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the area. Each of the group managed to find an option that suited his state of fitness, lack of it, or inclination but examples of the rides included:
Aberfeldy – Dunkeld – Strathbran – Amulree – culminating in a blistering descent into Aberfeldy.
Aberfeldy – Dunkeld – Balinluig – Strathtay – Weem – Aberfeldy followed by food and drink at the Water Mill Aberfeldy.
Aberfeldy – Fortingal – the stunningly beautiful Glen Lyon – Bridge of Balgie – Loch Tay – Aberfeldy
Aberfeldy – Coshieville – over the punishing climb to Tummel Bridge then on to Pitlochry and back to Aberfeldy.
Kinloch Rannoch to Rannoch Station for excellent refreshments in the station tea room then back to Kinloch Rannoch.
One group also made an excursion to Rannoch Station by car then onward to Corrour Station (the highest station in the UK) with a view to walking back across the moor to Rannoch Station. This ill fated trip led to the group losing its way (no map), a retreat to Corrour and a four hour wait for the next train back to Rannoch. Fortunately the weather was superb as was the beer and food at Corrour. This and a healthy number of walking miles and much banter helped temper the embarrassment.
All in all it was a great week with many friendships reignited and new stories to add to our collective catalogue of past experiences.
1966 From L to R: Ian Russell, Jim Wood, Bobby Boyes, Davie Reynolds, Alistair McDonald, Hugh McNicholl, Andy Graham, Tam Barr
From L to R: Alex Horn, Tam Barr, Jim Wood, George McBean, Ian Russell, Bobby Boyes, Davie Reynolds, Alistair McDonald, Davie Robb
L to R: Davie Reynolds, Jim Robinson, Charlie Stewart, Alex Horn, Jim Wood, Bobby Boyes, Ian Russell, Alistair McDonald, Tam Barr, Davie Robb
L to R: Alistair McDonald, George McBean, Ian Russell, Jim Wood, Tam Barr, Davie Reynolds Front: Alex Horn, Charlie Stewart
L to R: Alistair McDonald, Davie Reynolds, Jim Wood, Alex Cameron, Alex Horn
L to R: George McBean, Alistair McDonald, Jim Wood, Ian Russell, Davie Reynolds