The 1930s was a time of global economic distress the British Isles were not exempt from. While Clydebank shipyards left masses unemployed, the establishment of national youth hostels association gave the populace a new method of making money and providing for their families. Those affected by the economy turned to the mountains out of necessity, not luxury. While many writers were more interested in wealthy hikers’ stories, Alastair Borthwick instead saw value in the hundreds of workers headed towards the financially better off West Highlands.
Alastair Borthwick’s novel Always a Little Further provided a humorous but realistic insight during a time of major social change. Describing the journey through Skye and Argyll with lower- and middle-class workers, hopeful beginners, and dregs of society, made the novel into a classic despite its initial rejection by Fabers. Then director T.S. Eliot saw its value and demanded publication.
Born in Rutherglen, Lanarkshire 1913, Alastair Borthwick grew up in Troon and Glasgow. Leaving school at 16 to work as a telephone boy for two different heralds, he eventually became a writer and editor for the pages he pedaled. The “Open Air Page” gave Borthwick his passion for outdoor recreation and rock climbing. Writing for that column gave him the experience and beginnings for his classic novel. After a failed career with the Daily Mirror in 1935, author Borthwick moved to radio broadcasting until 1995 after a successful rock climbing interview with James Fergusson.
As per Good Reads, Alastair Borthwick also ran the Press Club for the 1938 Empire Exhibition and became an Intelligence Officer in the 5th Seaforth Highlands during WWII. He had a successful career navigating with the military, “penetrating enemy lines in Holland without engaging,” but felt the weight of their tasks on his shoulders. Colonel John Sym then tasked him with recording 1946 battalion history titled San Peur, republished Battalion: a British infantry unit’s actions from El Alamein to Elbe, 1942-1945.
returning to broadcasting and writing, Alastair Borthwick and his family moved from Jura to Islay. Planning the Festival of Heavy Engineering at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall 1951 and enduring the takeoff of television, Borthwick lived an eventful life until his death in Beith, Ayrshire, 25 September 2003.