27/02/2024
Norwich, GB 4 C
Researching and reporting on the lives of some really interesting people (RIP)

BERNARD HEATH, aged 93

B & B

Born in Huddersfield, Bernard’s father was Joseph Heath, an engineer’s tools inspector, and his mother was Jessie Fuller, a tailor. He had an elder brother.

Bernard left school aged just 16 and immediately did his National Service, joining the Royal Navy.

After that, he trained as a chartered accountant, and very soon was teaching accountancy at Huddersfield Technical College.

Bernard was a keen cyclist and became a founder member of the Huddersfield Star Wheelers. They were largely road cyclists and Bernard realised he wanted more adventure. He loved off-road cycling in difficult terrain (we would now call it mountain biking) and he joined the ‘Rough Stuff Fellowship’.

Bernard would take his holidays with his close friend, Frank Goodwin. They tended to explore northern Scotland by bike – the more remote the place, the happier they were. Bernard believed he had cycled every Highland glen. He was not daunted by the lack of available provisions and he would fish for their supper in a nearby loch.

This encouraged him to start going abroad. He made the very first cycle crossing of Iceland in 1958.

A few years later, Bernard went into a former shepherd’s hut called Tunskeen, in the Galloway Hills in southern Scotland. The hut was falling down. It had obviously been used before as a shelter for travellers, as there was an old visitors book and when Bernard opened it, his eye was caught by the very last entry – somebody expressing dismay at the state of the hut and moaning that this was happening to similar shelters throughout the country.

Bernard decided something needed to be done. He organised a group of people to restore the hut. It was a massive job, mainly carried out in terrible weather, but Bernard was very enthusiastic about the project, insisting that “no problem is insurmountable.” The team even designed their own scaffolding to reach the higher parts of the Tunskeen building.

The volunteers enjoyed the project so much that they decided to repair other shelters (known as ‘bothies’).

Consequently, the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) was created – with Bernard the driving force behind it.

At the very first meeting of the association, Bernard met Betty Taylor. They were married in 1970, and became known to the other members as B&B.

Bernard was extremely enthusiastic about the association. He would identify a potential bothy (it had to be an existing building in a ruinous state – he would not build new ones), and would approach the landowner, offering to repair it in return for the right to use it for a fixed term – as a bothy.

He was known for his ability to get on with other people, trusting both the landowners and the people who used the bothies. They are still available to anyone, regardless of whether they are an MBA member and they are always kept unlocked- users are requested to keep them tidy.

The MBA currently looks after 105 bothies.

It became such a big part of Bernard’s life, that in the 1970s, he gave up his teaching job and moved to Thurso, with Betty,  where they started a small metal recycling business. They also had a smallholding.

He increasingly became active in conservation issues and planted a mixed woodland which he donated to the Dunnet Forest Trust.

Bernard remained extremely active. At the age of 74, he cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats, but kept taking small roads and tracks off the established route, “To see what was there”. Consequently, he cycled 1500 miles instead of the usual 1189.

However, a stroke, at the age of 76, slowed Bernard down.

In their 80s, Bernard and Betty began to hand over the immense physical tasks involved in bothy restoration, to other members of the MBA. By now, it had over 4,000 registered members.

In 1991, on the 25th anniversary of the creation of the MBA, both Bernard and Betty were awarded the British Empire Medal.

 

They were both still active in the MBA when it celebrated its 50th anniversary.

They went backpacking to Cape Wrath aged 86, each carrying a folding metal bed tied to their backpacks – and staying in the bothies.

Suffering from the effects of the stroke, Bernard moved into a nursing home, where he eventually died. Betty had died in 2021.

RIP – Rebuilding = Impressive Project

 

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DIANE ROWE, aged 90

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