Alastair Borthwick – From Passionate Rock-Climber To Captain In The War

Alastair Borthwick was born in Rutherglen, Lanarkshire and was a writer, passionate about rock-climbing. He left high school at the age of 16 and became a copytaker for the Evening Times, later on graduating to Glasgow Weekly Herald. Due to the small staff of the paper, he became responsible with editing and/or writing the film, children’s, and women’s pages, as well as answering to readers’ questions and coming up with the crossword.

Alastair Borthwick discovered rock-climbing through the newspaper’s open-air page, and most of his writing that went on the paper ended up in his first success, “Always A Little Further”, a memoir published in 1939 by Faber and Faber. He went on to work for the Daily Mirror, ran the press club for the Empire Exhibition, and then joined the BBC, where radio broadcasting became his interest.

When the war started, Alastair Borthwick became part of the 51st Highland Division’s 5th Seaforth Highlanders, and his service was mostly in Europe, the Western Desert, and Sicily. Reaching the rank of captain, and working primarily as a battalion intelligence officer, Borthwick also got to lead his battalion of 600 men on one occasion in 1945 in the Netherlands. Before VE day, John Sym, his colonel, asked him to write about the last 3 years with the battalion, which ended up being Sans Peur, published in 1946 by Stirling. Due to the fact that it was written very soon after the events too place, the book was accurate and also had a graphic quality to it.

Borthwick moved to a small cottage on the coast of Jura with his wife Anne, where he would remain for 7 years, during which their son was born. He was given a contract by the BBC in order to do a series on Scotland post-war. As a result of his work in the presentation of the festival in Glasgow in 1951, he was awarded an OBE. He moved to Islay with his wife in 1952, and then settled in South Ayrshire, where they lived for the rest of their lives. Alastair Borthwick passed away in 2003, at the age of 90.

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