In Memoriam (Ken Beetham)

By Jim Gregson


KEN BEETHAM - died 15 Jan 2017, having been a Karabiner MC member since 1958, a very good innings of 59 years. During this time he put in stints of committee work in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's, served as Vice-President in the mid-1970's and was Club President in 1985-86. Somewhere along the line he also produced the Newsletter, putting his own stamp onto the pages for some years.

As well as his interests in mountain activities he was a keen fan of Manchester City FC, even in the years when this was more of a penance than a pleasure. This interest in sport led Ken to take over from Bowden Black as organiser of the annual KMC Fell Race, to which he applied zeal in devising fiendishly difficult courses and operating the black arts of the handicap system. To my knowledge, under Ken's aegis the race was never cancelled because of bad weather and was only shortened once or twice to prevent competitors' near death from hypothermia. The races were a great test for those who somehow had become members without real competence in map-reading and navigation skills. Ken was always very well-disposed towards anyone who competed with a will, but secretly enjoyed the discomfiture of hot-shot rock jocks who went astray on the demanding courses. As well as the trophies, winning one of Ken's special prizes of a fine lock-blade knife was a coveted achievement.

Ken was always a very keen camper - and lifelong paraffin-fuelled primus stove user - and once into retirement he would annually disappear on a long road trip to the wilder parts of the Scottish Highlands to stravaig over the Munros by himself. If the weather was unkind he would occasionally divert for a night or two at one or other of his favourite youth hostels such as Ratagan or Loch Ossian. He was an avid fly-fisherman and no doubt supplemented his camping fare with succulent trout when he could. Plus a few judicious drams of whisky, of course.

Golf was another of Ken's passions, both at his home club at Mellor and with occasional rounds during his Scottish trips. In the 1970's, John Castick and I returned from a traverse of An Teallach to find that Ken had set up his tent by ours on the shore of Little Loch Broom. Ken was having some "driving range practice", firing balls out into the loch as we drove up. John, having played golf as a youth begged to have a go and ken handed over the heavy wooden driver. As John wound himself up for a shot, Ken and I stood back just in front of the tents. Pow! - the ball shot off, then struck a fence post and rebounded straight back as we dropped to the grass. The speeding ball then flew through the open flaps of Ken's tent door where it ricocheted around wreaking havoc among Ken's belongings. Red-headed apoplexy then broke out, punctuated by much bad language - while I rolled on the ground with laughter. That was the end of golf for the day.

While not a "leading" rock climber, Ken liked to have a go on club meets, if he could persuade an able leader to allow him to tie on. I've seen him make superb efforts on the likes of Tower Face and Priscilla Ridge at Laddow, and on Phoenix Buttress at Shining Clough. The leader just had to learn the knack of interpreting Ken's coded hand and facial signals when he required judicious extra use of tight rope application. Laddow Rocks was perhaps Ken's favourite Peak crag and his meet there was an annual fixture for many years, with Ken established in the cave with non-stop primus stove action as long as the water supply lasted.

Ken was a great encourager too, and always offered support and welcome to newcomers. He also took a keen interest in the adventures of those of us who travelled far, wild and high in foreign parts for our mountaineering. He was a great asset to the KMC and it is sad for those of us who knew him over a long period of time to accept the loss of such a stalwart.

RIP Ken - we will smile as we remember fine times in his company.  

January 2017

Article Pictures:


Ken Beetham (Jim Gregson)