In many ways, the name Alastair Borthwick conjures up many thoughts to those familiar with his works. For some, he is remembered as a broadcaster who introduced radio listeners to mountaineering. To others, his name immediately brings to mind his many literary works, all of which have him regarded as one of the greatest Scottish writers of his generation. But no matter what memories people have of the man who passed away in 2003, it is clear Alastair Borthwick was considered a pioneer in many areas.
Starting his literary career at age 16 by dropping out of high school and taking a copytaker position with the Evening Times, he edited a variety of columns and was responsible for compiling the paper’s crossword puzzle. However, it was his introduction to the paper’s Open Air page that began his love affair with mountaineering. Discovering he quickly had a passion for the activity, he spent many days traversing the nearby mountains. Ultimately, his experiences were brought to life through a 15-minute radio show, and eventually his famed literary work Always A Little Further, which while published in 1939 has yet to ever be out of print.
Along with his mountaineering adventures, Alastair Borthwick also wrote of his experiences as an infantryman during World World II. Reaching the rank of Captain, he also served as a battalion intelligence officer in such areas of the world as North Africa and Western Europe. In one of his most exciting adventures during the war, he led a group of 600 men on a nighttime mission behind German enemy lines, eventually overtaking a group of enemy soldiers.
Using his experiences during the war, Alastair Borthwick published a second book titled Sans Peur in 1946. Noted for its excellent writing and graphic details of what war was like for an infantryman, the book was given worldwide acclaim and excellent reviews by literary critics.
Considered a Renaissance man by many in today’s modern Scotland, Alastair Borthwick will always be remembered for his ability to speak and write about mountaineering, war, and other topics in ways few others could ever imagine.