Allistair Borthwick: One of the People

Allistair Borthwick is most famous for his classic novel “Always a Little Further.” The book, which described in a fictionalized narrative how the common folk were growing in passion for the life of exploration of and climbing the Scottish Highlands. The novel, filled with wit, humor, and memorable characters, is still considered one of the greatest classics of the 20th century. The book was pivotal in helping this growing social trend grow and flourish. And it just so happened that just as it was published there were mass layoffs throughout the country, particularly in the Clydebank shipyards.

This meant that lots of people now had much more time on their hands for such a thing. Although Borthwick himself was in the middle class, during this time he formed many close friendships with these lower class hikers and mountain climbers. This movement was itself inspired by an earlier similar movement in a state of Germany. That movement was known as the Wandervogel movement. “Always a Little Further” was published in 1939 just before the outbreak of World War II. As soon as it did he enlisted in the army.

He spent most of the various with various units in North Africa and Europe. In October 1944 he transferred to the 5th Seaforth Highlanders, with whom he would remain for the rest of the war. His most honored feat in the war came during this stretch: leading 600 men across enemy lines in the dark and without any trustworthy maps. While this was the most honored story, during the war he faced many life-threatening situations and battles. Immediately after the war in 1946 he wrote and published “Sans Peur,” his personal experience in the last year or so of the war.

His commanding officers actually allowed him to start writing it while he was still in the army and before hostilities had even officially ceased. And after these hostilities had stopped, he was allowed to skip all of the regularly required parades so that he could continue writing.