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All About Alastair Borthwick

Alastair Borthwick was a force to be reckoned with. A part of Britain’s “greatest generation,” Borthwick was a writer and broadcaster who wrote the successful book Sans Peur about his wartime experiences. However, Borthwick’s enduring passion was the great outdoors. 

In the 1930s, Alastair Borthwick first discovered and began to write about mountaineering in Scotland’s Highlands. In the interwar period, outdoor sports like climbing went from being the province of the aristocracy, to becoming a pastime for the working and middle classes, too. Borthwick wrote the well-received book Always a Little Further about that era. Both of his best-known books have had lasting power. They were reissued in the 1980s and 1990s.

Borthwick’s focus shifted in the later years of his career. Instead of longform writing, he became a prominent broadcaster. Working for the BBC, Alastair Borthwick presented a series about Scotland for three years. He also received an OBE for his work on a festival event celebrating Scotland’s heavy industry. In the mid-20th century, Scotland had a thriving steel industry, for example.

For several decades, Alastair Borthwick also wrote a well-received column in the News Chronicle. He presented many programs for Grampian during the 1960s, on topics including Scottish history and US Senator Joseph McCarthy. Borthwick was very influential in the Scottish media landscape during those years.

Borthwick’s heart, however, remained in the outdoors. He often opined that physical exertion made it impossible to worry. He viewed exercise as closely related to health. After his return from the war, he relocated with his family to a cottage in Jura. His son, Patrick, was born there. Later, the family lived in the Hebrides on Islay. Finally, they relocated to the historic county of Ayrshire. Borthwick did his best work, and felt the most energized, when he was living in the country.

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