Alastair Borthwick, Nature Writer and Broadcaster


Alastair Borthwick, a writer and broadcaster, was born on February 17, 1913. He grew up in Troon, Ayrshire. He attended high school in Glasgow where he went to live at age 11. At 16, he took a job at the Evening Times as copy taker, then went to the Glasgow Weekly Herald.

His role at the Weekly Herald included editing and producing the children’s, women’s, and film pages. His work led to the discovery of his passion for nature and rock-climbing, and to the writing of his 1939 book, Always A Little Further, seen as portraying an escape from the stress associated with city life. He moved to London in 1935 to work for the Daily Mirror but only stayed there for about a year.

He signed up for military service in WWII and rose to the rank of captain, working mostly as a battalion intelligence officer. Just prior to VE Day his colonel excused him from parades to allow him to write about the last three years of his battalion’s campaign in the war. The book he wrote was praised as a classic of the war literature genre.

After the war, Borthwick and his wife moved into a small cottage on the coast of Jura away from city living and close to nature. That was on Christmas Day 1945. They stayed there for seven years and had a son, Patrick.

Borthwick did a series, Scottish Survey, on post-war Scotland for the BBC on contract for three years. He gained the OBE for work in a presentation on heavy engineering in Glasgow in 1951. In 1952 he and his wife relocated to Islay, then back to Ayrshire in 1960. They spent the rest of their lives there.

Alastair Borthwick for many years, wrote a column weekly, for News Chronicle. From the 1960s he also wrote scripts and presented programs for Grampian TV on a variety of subjects. They included his favored 13-part series of Scottish Soldier which gave the story of the Scottish infantry from the infantryman’s perspective.

Alastair Borthwick died on September 25, 2003, at the age of 90.


The War of Alastair Borthwick


In 1929 when he was only 16, the Scottish writer Alastair Borthwick dropped out of high school

 to get an editing and writing job with the Glasgow Herald. In 1935 he left the Glasgow Herald and Glasgow, in general, to take up a writing position with the Daily Mirror in London. About a year later he left that position, moved back to Glasgow and started working for BBC. He would remain a prized member of its staff as a writer and broadcaster for many years. In 1938 he led the Press Club during the 1938 Empire Expedition. 

In 1939 he wrote and published his classic novel, “Always a Little Further,” which chronicles the growing Scottish mountaineering movement among the common citizens at that time. While the movement was already going on since the early 30s, Borthwick’s novel was instrumental in encouraging its massive growth. The year after its publication, Borthwick joined Scotland’s fight throughout World War II. For most of the last two years he served as the Intelligence Officer for the 5th Seaforth Highlanders. During the entirety of the war, he saw much fierce action and served with great honor.

His was one of the fiercest and most amazing war stories that you will hear. His most highly applauded task came one night when he successfully led 600 men across enemy lines in the pitch dark and without any trustworthy maps. It is incredibly he lived through it all. In the last few weeks of the war, his superiors allowed him to sit out the remainder of it in order to write a memoir of the wars in the last three years. The result “Sans Peur: The History of the 5th Battalion, the Seaforth Highlanders, 1942-1945” was published in 1946. After the war, he would remain working with BBC. His final broadcast was in 1995. Alastair and his wife, Anne, both died in 2003 just months apart. 

Alastair Borthwick: A Great Author and a War Hero


Alastair Borthwick, born in 1913, passed on in 2003. He was a renowned journalist and broadcaster but is remembered as an outstanding author. Despite his demise, his two books, Always a Little Further, and Sans Peur remains still on print.

Born in Rutherglen, Alastair attended Glasgow High School and dropped out at 16 years to work for the Glasgow Herald. He began as a correspondent phoning in and graduated to an editor. On the open-air page, Alastair began to write on the blooming mountaineering hobby that people had taken an interest on, after massive unemployment at that time. 

In 1935, Alastair moved to work with Daily Mirror, which was a significant step in his journalism career. He was, however, not appealed with the London lifestyle. A year shortly, he went back to Glasgow to work as a radio correspondent at BBC

In 1939, Alastair publicized his first book, Always a Little Further, which was a collection of many pieces he had written for Glasgow. His publisher, Fabers was, however, unsure on Alastair’s unconventional approach on what at the time was regarded to an as a rich man’s sport. It took the insistence of T. S. Eliot one of the directors to put the book on print. It remains among the best books on outdoor activities in Scotland.

During the Second World War, Alastair joined his countrymen and was appointed as an intelligent officer in the 5th battalion, the sea forth highlanders. Seaforth Highlanders were in action in France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, North Africa, and Germany, and Alastair was involved all through. As the war ended, Borthwick was requested to write about the war, and he painted the grimness of the battalion in his second book San Peur, which was published in 1946.

After the battle, Alastair and his wife moved from Glasgow to Jura but still worked as a broadcaster for the BBC. He also loved fishing and crofting. They moved to Islay in 1952, then returned to Glasgow so Alastair could give insights to organizing Scotland’s influences to Festival of Britain in1951. Alastair died in a nursing home in 2003, which was his home in the last five years of his life. One son survives him.