I was very sorry to hear the news about Irvine Butterfield who died last Tuesday. I had known Irvine for over 30 years and regarded him as a good friend, and indeed a close ally on many conservation campaigns.
The last time I spoke to Irvine, just a few weeks ago, it was to congratulate him on being awarded the John Muir Trust’s Lifetime Achievement Award. It was only the fourth Award made by the JMT, and the calibre of past recipients – Tom Weir, Adam Watson and Doug Scott – just shows how highly Irvine was regarded.
I had known Irvine had been ill for some time, and he told me he was a bit worried about making the journey to the John Muir Trust event. It was only then I realised how ill he was. Three weeks ago I gave an AV presentation to the Munro Society, of which Irvine was founding president. It felt strange that he wasn’t there, confiding in me about some bit of information he’d discovered about windfarms, or land ownership, or having a good moan about the state of some conservation organisation or the other.
Irvine was a member of, usually a founding member, of a few organisations - the John Muir Trust, The Mountain Bothies Association, The Munro Society and he worked behind the scenes, on a voluntary basis, for the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. He was a true labourer in the interests of Scottish hillwalkers and mountaineers and most certainly “did something for wildness, and make the mountains glad”, to misquote John Muir.
Most hillwalkers will have known, or at least heard of, Irvine Butterfield. He was a kenspeckle figure in the outdoors scene in Scotland, a big, burly and often gruff Yorkshireman who had adopted Scotland as his home when his work as an exciseman brought him to Dundee. From there he moved to Perth where his colleagues at Dewers whisky introduced him to the Perth Mountaineering Club.
In 1971 he completed his round of the Munros, the 105th person to climb all of Scotland’s 3000ft mountains. He later wrote what is regarded as the finest of all the guides to the Munros and other big hills, -The High Hills of Britain and Ireland. That was later followed with two fine photographic books, The Magic of the Munros, and the Call of the Corbetts.
I always regarded Irvine as a firm friend and I always enjoyed his visits when he was in the Newtonmore area. He’ll be sadly missed.