On the ground: Iain McCallum

Posted by on 02/04/2008
Whillans hut at night

Iain McCallum, Chair of the BMC Huts Group, has been protecting club huts for nearly ten years. Without his work it’s almost certain that many huts would have fallen foul of creeping legislation in every aspect of law you could think of - and some you couldn’t.

Give me three good reasons to stay in a hut
Well, you get good, hostel-type accommodation at very modest prices, easy access to crags and hills and you can meet a wide range of people from varied backgrounds and differing ages. Plus you get the freedom to do what you want, when you want.

What was the first hut you stayed in?
One leased by the Karabiner Mountaineering Club (KMC) for £20 per annum from the Fleming Estates in Coniston. It was part of a terrace, known as Irish Row, in the Mines Valley above Coniston. It wasn’t a two-up, two-down, more a 1.5-up and down, and it had no hot water, no electricity and a bog beck for toilets. But it did have a grand fire with old bus seats, and was fantastic on a stormy night with the wind and the rain lashing the building.

How long have you been a member of the KMC?
For over 50 years. My membership of the club enabled me to take up rock climbing and to participate in a wide range of meets - in the Peak District, Lakes, Wales and Scotland. It’s encouraged me to broaden my horizons and I’ve made many lifelong friends, it really has enriched my life.

Could the BMC do more for huts?
Given the large number of individual members these days, perhaps the BMC should consider establishing more
national huts?

How can clubs encourage more people to stay at their hut?
Hold more meets at the hut. And social events if the hut is large enough to permit these - a curry night always goes down well.

What’s the biggest threat to British club hut?
Legislation. Compliance is placing heavy burdens on hut managers and wardens. They’re all volunteers, yet failure to comply with legislation like Fire Safety Regulations, can involve fines and even imprisonment.

Have you read any good books recently?
The last Mughal by William Dalrymple and Empire by Niall Fergusson.

What would be your Desert Island hut?
A roundhouse with a palm leaf roof.

Chocolate flapjack, cream horn or fruit slice?
Fruit slice for me please.

Interview by Martin Kocsis.

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