Irvine Butterfield Memorial Lecture (Munro Society)
The Dundee Mountain Film Festival is honoured to incorporate the annual Munro Society Irvine Butterfield Memorial Lecture in its programme. As well as his numerous other achievements, Irvine was involved in running the photographic competition in the early days of the Dundee Mountain Film Festival.
John Burdin has kindly let us reproduce an article he wrote about Irvine below.
A Tribute to Irvine Butterfield, by John Burdin, on behalf of The Munro Society (originally published in the Munro Scociety Newsletter August 2009 (Number 19)
The Munro Society (TMS) founded in April 2002 has already established a role for itself within the Scottish mountaineering scene. Irvine Butterfield was a prominent member of the group which came together in Perth in 2001 to discuss the possibility of forming such an organisation for those fortunate enough to complete ascents of all 284 mountains with summits of at least
3000ft in Scotland – the Munros.
The idea gathered momentum after a dinner in Pitlochry in 2001 to celebrate the centenary of A E Robertson’s completion as Munroist no.1. Irvine completed his round of the Munros in 1971 – becoming Munroist No.105. He actively chaired the Steering Committee formed to take the Group forward and plan the Inaugural Meeting at the Bonar Hall in Dundee on April 20th 2002. Irvine’s achievements were already legendary in Scotland (and beyond) not least being his acclaimed books “The High Mountains of Britain and Ireland” (1986), “The Magic of the Munros” (1999), and “The Call of the Corbetts” (2001). He was unanimously elected as our first President from 2002-04.
Early in his Presidency he described TMS as “a society in which we can all take an interest and pride as we take our first tentative steps to secure a permanent and worthwhile role in the realm of Scotland’s 3000ft peaks”. Irvine’s sterling performance over two years gave TMS the best possible start – his enthusiasm was boundless, his personal commitment phenomenal, his encyclopaedic knowledge and understanding of Scottish hills (including those who worked and played amongst them) was inspirational to all who worked closely with him during these critical early years and he had an apparently endless supply of entertaining stories.
A key strength in Irvine was the encouragement he gave to individual members, particularly those on the Executive Committee, to initiate and develop their own ideas and strategies. At virtually every committee meeting he would produce one or more papers which he had typed and copied, to illustrate whatever point he was raising -and always in a most professional manner.
Following his Presidency Irvine’s commitment to the Society went from strength to strength, as did his desire to ensure quality in all that he did on the Society’s behalf. His active ‘hands-on’ involvement, along with Lain Robertson, in the Glenquoich Estate’s footpath maintenance project on Gleouraich (which started in 2003) continued annually until his health deteriorated. He fully supported TMS commissioning Jim Closs to produce a video on Footpath Maintenance for use by clubs throughout Britain via the auspices of the MCofS and the BMA. This was followed by a series of TMS videos, made by Closs, on Early Munroists; the first involved Irvine interviewing Jim Cosgrove (Munroist no.56 and then 91) about some of his memorable days on the Scottish mountains. These experiences vividly captured aspects of the social history of mountaineering in Scotland -as did the next in the series when five other Munroists, (who ‘compleated’ between 1956 and 1968) were involved.
Then in 2008 Irvine himself featured in the third Early Munroists video – this will now enable future generations of mountaineers and TMS members to have a rare insight into what made Irvine so special to all who were privileged to know him well. He continued his 100% support of Society events and activities such as the Annual Dinner (despite increasingly poor health he was at Strathpeffer in October 2008) and Munro re-visit meetings from the first to Beinn Dorain (November 2003), to Torridon (July 2004), to Kintail (April 2005) where he was bitten by the warden’s dog on arrival! and to Ireland for a week in September 2006.
Other notable contributions that Irvine made included donating very considerable amounts of material to archives; representing the Society on various organisations such as MCofS, the Perthshire Alliance for the Real Cairngorms (PARC) and supporting links with RSPB/BTO Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the National Trust for Scotland; initiating and organising the very successful week-long exhibition “A Celebration of Mountains” at Blair Castle in October 2004 and again in November 2005 at the Dundee Mountain Film Festival; actively supporting the concept of a ‘health check’ on the state of the Munros at the start of the 21st century which quickly led to the Mountain Quality Indicator project – the first phase of which ran from 2003-09 (all of his inimitable reports will be preserved in our archives for future generations to ‘enjoy’); and participating in the 2007 heightings of Beinn Dearg and Foinaven (where he struggled a bit but made it to the summit!).
This tribute to Irvine, on behalf of all the members of the Society has to end with this acknowledgment that Irvine, born in Yorkshire (near Skipton), was from head to toe a true “Tyke” whose heart and soul were nevertheless totally committed to the beauty and welfare of the Scottish Highlands. His memory will live on in the hearts and minds of those of us privileged to have known him personally and in his writings, photography, and wide-ranging achievements to those in generations to come.