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Alastair Borthwick

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Alastair Borthwick
File:Alastair Borthwick Alastair Borthwick
Alastair Borthwick
Native nameAlastair Borthwick
BornAlastair Borthwick
Rutherglen, Glasgow City, United Kingdom
🏳️ NationalityUnited Kingdom
🏫 EducationGlasgow High School
💼 Occupation
Writer, Journalist and Broadcaster
📆 Years active  1935 - 1994
Always a Little Further: A Classic Tale of Camping, Hiking and Climbing in Scotland in the Thirties
WorksAlways a Little Further, Battalion
🏡 Home townTroon, United Kingdom
❤️ Partner(s)Anne
HonorsOfficer of the Order of the British Empire

Alastair Charles Borthwick OBE (17 February 1913 - 25 September 2003) was a Scottish author and television broadcaster. He is most well-known for his 1939 book, Always a Little Further: A Classic Tale of Camping, Hiking and Climbing in Scotland in the Thirties. This book outlined his own experiences rock climbing and observations of rock climbing becoming popular among the working class in Scotland[1] at the time. His second book, published in 1946 as Sans Peur, The History of the 5th (Caithness and Sutherland) Battalion, the Seaforth Highlanders, was a telling of World War II from the perspective of an infantryman. The book was republished as Battalion: a British infantry unit's actions from El Alamein to the Elbe, 1942-1945 in 1994.

Early Life[edit]

Alastair Borthwick was born Alastair Charles Borthwick on 17 February 1913 in Rutherglen, United Kingdom. Though he was born in Rutherglen, Borthwick was raised in Troon, and later Glasgow, where he attended Glasgow High School. While in high school, he was in the Officer Training Corps. In 1929, at the age of sixteen, Alastair Borthwick left school to be a copytaker for the Evening Times, kicking off his career in journalism.


Alastair Borthwick began his career in 1929 at the age of sixteen, when he left high school to work as a copytaker for the Evening Times. Following his brief time there, Borthwick joined the Glasgow Weekly Herald. The Glasgow Weekly Herald was a smaller paper and, as a result, Borthwick himself wrote on a wide range of topics. One of the pages he wrote for, the Herald's "Open Air" page, exposed Borthwick to rock climbing[2]. Traditionally, rock climbing had been a sport reserved for those who were well-off, but it was growing in popularity among the young, working-class in Scotland at the time. The pages Borthwick wrote for the "Open Air" section of the paper would eventually be compiled into his first book, Always a Little Further.

In 1935, Borthwick landed a job on the Daily Mirror in Fleet Street. Although it was a step up for his career, the London lifestyle did not appeal to Borthwick[3], and within a year he was back in Glasgow, working as a BBC radio correspondent. Always a Little Further was published in 1939. Beyond documenting rock climbing and the outdoors in Scotland, the book captured the social shift[4] of rock climbing from an upper-class to working-class sport and pastime.

During the Second World War, Alastair Borthwick served with a variety of British Army units in North Africa, Sicily and Western Europe. Though he initially served as a private in the Highland Light Infantry, he was set to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 2 September 1939 due to his OTC experience. However, his commission was delayed, and not rescheduled until 3 November 1941, by which time he was a Lance-Corporal. Borthwick worked primarily as a Battalion Intelligence Officer, and eventually reached the rank of Captain. He transferred to the 5th Seaforth Highlanders on 13 October 1944.

Following the war, Borthwick wrote his second book[3], Sans Peur, The History of the 5th (Caithness and Sutherland) Battalion, the Seaforth Highlanders, which was published in 1946. The book served as a history of his regiment during the second half of World War II, and unlike many regimental histories written by committees or retired generals, it was written from the perspective of a junior officer who fought on the front line.

In the 1960s, Alastair Borthwick moved into television, producing 150 half hour programmes for Grampian TV on a wide range of subjects. He wrote and presented programs on subjects from Joseph McCarthy to Bonnie Prince Charlie. Borthwick himself regarded Scottish Soldier, a thirteen part series about the history of the Scottish regiments, told from the point of view of the infantryman, as his best work from this period. He worked primarily as a radio and television broadcaster for the rest of his career.

Alastair Borthwick was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1952 New Year Honours for his part in organizing an engineering exhibition as part of the Festival of Britain.

Personal Life[edit]

Alastair Borthwick married his wife, Anne, in 1940. Following the war, the couple moved from Glasgow to Jura, where Borthwick combined crofting and fishing with broadcasting for the BBC. In 1952, they moved to Islay, before returning to Glasgow.

In the 1970s, the Borthwicks moved to Ayrshire, where they lived on a hill farm before Alastair moved to a nursing home in Beith, five years before his death in 2003.


  1. Times, The. “Alastair Borthwick.” The Times, The Times, 18 Oct. 2003, www.thetimes.co.uk/article/alastair-borthwick-gf0fkwlb07r.
  2. “Obituary: Alastair Borthwick.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 9 Oct. 2003, www.theguardian.com/news/2003/oct/09/guardianobituaries.booksobituaries.
  3. 3.0 3.1 “ALASTAIR BORTHWICK.” Alastair Borthwick: Biography on Undiscovered Scotland, Undiscovered Scotland, www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/b/alastairborthwick.html.
  4. “Alastair Borthwick.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 4 Oct. 2003, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1443193/Alastair-Borthwick.html. Perrin, Jim.