Alastair Borthwick’s Writings Captured the Joys of Rock Climbing, and the Horrors of War

Alastair Borthwick was a talented author who was able to write about two completely different topics. His first success, the book “Always A Little Further,” was about travelling and climbing in Scotland. His second book, “Sans Peur,” was about the horrors of the second world war. Borthwick drew from his own experience to write engaging works of literature regardless of the topic.

Alastair Borthwick was born in Rutherglen, Scotland but was raised in Troon. His family moved to Glasgow when he was 11. Borthwick left high school when he was 16 to become a copytaker at the Evening Times. Following the Evening Times, he worked at the Glasgow Weekly Herald where he wrote the women’s, children’s and film pages due to the paper’s small staff.

Borthwick discovered rock-climbing from the open-air section of the paper. Throughout the 1930’s he wrote about the subject, culminating in his book “Always A Little Further,” which was published by Faber and Faber. The book was instantly successful due to its excellent characters, vivid descriptions, and engaging action sequences.

While Borthwick was working on “Always A Little Further” he moved from Scotland to London. After working with the Daily Mirror and Empire Exhibition he began to work for the BBC. He gained further success through his radio broadcasts about the outdoors and Scotland.

When World War 2 broke out, Alastair Borthwick enlisted. He reached the rank of captain with the 51st Highland Division’s 5th Seaforth Highlanders. He was excused from attendance at parades towards the end of the war to write up the battalion’s experiences. This resulted in his book “San Peur” which was published in 1946 by a small Sterling publisher. It received critical acclaim for its accuracy, immediacy, and graphic quality.

After the war Alastair Borthwick moved to the countryside with his wife. They had a son, Patrick. The BBC gave him a three year series on post war Scotland. In the 1960’s he began to work for Grampian TV where he both scripted and presented programs on a variety of subjects. He died in September of 2003, at the age of 90.