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Pioneer of modern mountain rescue honoured at Perth ceremony

Thursday 6 October 2016
Pioneer of modern mountain rescue honoured at Perth ceremony

Dr Hamish MacInnes OBE and Mr Lewis Vernal

A mountaineer known as the ‘father of Scottish mountain rescue’ was honoured by the University of the Highlands and Islands at a ceremony in Perth today (Thursday 6 October). Dr Hamish MacInnes OBE was presented with a medal by university chancellor, HRH The Princess Royal, at the Perth College UHI Graduation and University of the Highlands and Islands Foundation Day. The event, which took place at Perth Concert Hall, was attended by over 1300 graduates and guests.

Dr MacInnes was awarded the University of the Highlands and Islands Chancellor’s Medal in recognition of his services to the development of mountaineering and mountain rescue. With a career spanning more than six decades, he achieved several first assents and is credited with pioneering modern mountain rescue. He founded the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team in 1961, the Search and Rescue Dog Association in 1965 and co-founded the Scottish Avalanche Information Service in 1988.

Dr MacInnes also designed the first all-metal ice axe in the 1940s, invented the MacInnes folding stretcher in the 1960s and has authored numerous mountaineering books and contributed to documentaries and films (including Rob Roy and Highlander) as a climber, stunt double, advisor, narrator and producer.

Dr MacInnes was nominated for the Chancellor’s Medal by West Highland College UHI which delivers the university’s adventure tourism management and adventure performance and coaching BA (Hons) degrees. He travelled from his home in Glencoe to attend the ceremony. Speaking about his award, Dr MacInnes said: “It is indeed an honour to be here today to receive this award and I find it quite humbling. To be in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal, a true friend of Scotland, makes it a very special occasion.

“Behind me have been the mountain rescue teams and scientists who have also devoted their lives in making the mountains a safer place and ensuring the injured are evacuated as speedily as possible. At the forefront on a global scale, is Richard Glanville of Inverness, a composite expert who, with my help, has designed the new MacInnes mark 8 stretcher which will be the lightest and strongest on the planet and will be manufactured in the Scottish Highlands.”

Lewis Vernal, vice-principal (operations and finance) and company secretary at Highland Theological College UHI, was also honoured at the event. Mr Vernal, who lives in Avoch, was presented with a Vice-Chancellor’s Medal in recognition of his 20 years of service to the Dingwall-based college and his contribution to the wider university.

Mr Vernal said: “It is a wonderful, unsought honour to receive this award. I have not only my colleagues at Highland Theological College UHI to thank for their kind nomination, but also the vice-chancellor in making his choice.   

“I owe an immense tribute to my talented co-workers throughout the university and its Foundation. We have striven together over the years to play our part in creating and prospering our unique university, even as we continue to strive today for excellence in the education, support and nurture of our students. It is a special reward for us to look beyond all that we are focussed on doing for our students, to see increasingly and inspiringly what our alumni are going on to achieve, not only across the Highlands and Islands but also far beyond.”

University of the Highlands and Islands Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Clive Mulholland said: “Our Foundation Day event is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions and successes of our students, staff and supporters. We are delighted to be hosting this year’s event in partnership with Perth College UHI, as part of the college’s graduation ceremony.

“Perth College UHI is one of the largest partners in the University of the Highlands and Islands network and it is also home to the Centre for Mountain Studies. It is fitting then, that Dr Hamish MacInnes could join us today to be presented with his Chancellor’s Medal in recognition of his contribution to the development of mountaineering and mountain rescue. I would like to congratulate Hamish and Lewis on their awards, as well as all of today’s prize winners and graduates.”


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