MALCOLM (MAC) SMITH (1921–2004)

Mac Smith was born and brought up in Esslemont Avenue, Aberdeen. He was educated at Robert Gordons College and in his last years at school he began exploring the Cairngorms. In 1939 he crossed the Lairig Ghru by bicycle and made an ascent of Lochnagar via the Black Spout with Sandy Tewnion.

During the war he served for five years in the army as a gunner. Then on return he worked as a joiner at Hall Russell shipyard. In 1946 he and his friend Sandy Russell became members of the Etchachan Club and soon Mac found himself to be the slightly older mentor for a growing band of enthusiastic young Aberdeen climbers who spent almost every weekend camping, bothying and climbing among the Deeside hills.

Mac (by Norman Keir)
Photo: Norman Keir

For over ten years he orchestrated climbing exploration in the Cairngorms and acquired a knowledge of the corries and cliffs which was second to none. In 1954, with Tom Patey and others, he started work on a climbers’ guide to the Cairngorms. Although Patey was the initial driving force it was Mac who wrote the manuscript. His two-volume Climbers’ Guide to the Cairngorms Area, published by the SMC in 1961 and 62 had been a six-year labour of love. Typical of Mac, it was close to perfection, setting a very high standard and providing inspiration to the next generation of NE climbers.

From an early age Mac had been a keen observer of nature, showing particular interest in insects and plants. In 1959 he took part in the first RSPB osprey watch at Loch Garten. Following on from this in 1961, he became an officer with the NCC, firstly working as warden six summer months for three years on St. Kilda and wintering in Braemar and Fife. There then followed 11 and four years respectively at Tentsmuir Point and Sands of Forvie NNRs. Finally he spent two years on survey work from Aberdeen HQ. On retirement he was retained on contract for three years to survey the broadleaf woodland of the NE Region with the result that many SSSIs were added to the list.

A quiet, modest and self-contained man, he was genuinely touched when made Honorary President of the Etchachan Club in the 1990s. As well as his interests in mountaineering, writing, entomology and conservation he was also an accomplished photographer, jazz enthusiast and an avid reader. Mac will be remembered as one of the true characters of the Cairngorms.

Greg Strange

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