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Bill Marshall

Bill Marshall.

It is with great sadness that we have heard of the death of Bill Marshall the first Team Leader of Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team and the founder of the Team. In the early 1960s Bill was involved in the Aberdeen Adventure Club which was an organisation aimed at boys and young men with the purpose of providing challenging outdoor activities. In 1964 Bill felt that he had a group from within the club who were sufficiently skilled and capable to form a mountain rescue team. Bill’s local contacts in and around Aberdeen were key to the success of the venture and he was able to beg and borrow essential pieces of equipment to allow the Team to function. The early days of the Team were undoubtedly challenging but Bill’s enthusiasm and commitment were central to the development of the Team as an effective unit and also encouraging local support for the Team.

In 1969 Bill approached the Order of St John and through this contact the Team secured access to a garage on Albyn Lane, behind what was at that time the St John’s Hospital on Albyn Place. Although basic the garage provided somewhere for the Team to keep a vehicle and equipment and also somewhere for Team members to meet.  This early relationship which Bill fostered with the Order of St John developed over the following years and thanks to Bill’s endeavours and his vision for Scottish mountain rescue, the Order went on to become a major supporter of mountain rescue across Scotland.

Bill recognised that the Team, based in Aberdeen, was some sixty miles from their main areas of operation and so he sought access to buildings closer to the hills which the Team could use for training and callouts. Bill approached some of the local estates in upper Deeside and managed to negotiate access to buildings on both the Balmoral and Mar Lodge estates which greatly improved the Teams ability to undertake callouts on Lochnagar and in the Cairngorms. Initially Bill negotiated access to these buildings on the basis of a shared usage with the estates but eventually these buildings through the generosity of the estates became designated mountain rescue posts and used exclusively by the Team.

Bill will perhaps be best known to many as the owner of “Marshalls” climbing and mountaineering shop which was located on George Street in Aberdeen. This was Aberdeen’s first climbing shop and Bill was able through the shop to source essential items of rescue equipment which greatly enhanced the capability of the Team in its early days.  Bill stood down as Team Leader in 1974 but continued to have an interest in mountain rescue and was always very supportive of the Team and its members. Bill attended the Team’s fiftieth anniversary dinner held in Braemar in 2014 (pictured second from right) and spoke about the early days of the Team and some of the many hardships and challenges that Team members faced then.

It would be difficult to overstate Bill’s contribution to not only the creation and development of the Aberdeen Team but also his vision for mountain rescue across Scotland. The local contacts and support that Bill fostered in the early days of the Team are still evident today, and his lasting legacy is that almost sixty years on the Aberdeen Team is very much at the forefront of mountain rescue in Scotland, and that across the country many Rescue Teams have benefitted in terms of the provision of vehicles and Rescue Bases which has evolved from that initial contact and subsequent relationship that Bill cultivated with the Order of St John.

Bill will long be remembered by the Aberdeen Team as their founder and supporter.