FOR GENERATIONS of viewers, he was an engaging and informed companion, yomping across Scotland’s great wildernesses in his trademark woolly bunnet to show the nation at large the beauty and fragility on their doorstep.
Now, six years after his death, plans are being made to commemorate the life and work of Tom Weir, one of the country’s most passionate conservationists, with a statue on the banks of his beloved Loch Lomond.
The tribute to the acclaimed climber, writer, and broadcaster behind the much-loved STV series Weir’s Way, will be established in time for the centenary of his birth in late 2014, and has been blessed by his widow, Rhona, who said Weir was “very fond” of the iconic destination.
Today she will meet sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn, who has made his name with bronze casts of public figures, to discuss ideas for the memorial.
Campaigners say it will cost around £20,000 to create the statue and may hold a fund-raising walk in which participants wear the kind of bunnets made famous by Weir.
The moves follow an online campaign by hundreds of Weir’s devoted fans who say he did more than anyone to pave the way for the creation of Scotland’s inaugural national park, having spent years battling for safeguards of Loch Lomond’s natural splendour.
The initiative has been supported by a raft of well-known Scots including Elaine C Smith, Stuart Cosgrove, Cameron McNeish, and Jackie Baillie, who are among more than 600 people to join the campaign group calling for the memorial to be put in place.
The campaign has also now received the backing of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority (LLTNPA), which has agreed to help find a site for the statue.
The founder of the campaign, Graham Hendry, a 47-year-old healthcare worker from Ballater, said: “Tom was talking 40 years ago about protecting the loch and the rest of Scotland, to ensure wild places didn’t become overdeveloped. It was long before it became common to discuss these things, but his passion was so infectious it inspired ordinary people.”
Born in Springburn in Glasgow, Weir was a member of the first post-war Himalayan expedition and in 1952, blazed a trail by exploring the previously closed mountain ranges of Nepal, east of Kathmandu. He later moved to Gartocharn to make the most of the charms of Loch Lomond.
He hosted Weir’s Way from 1976 to 1987, gaining cult status during the initial runs and subsequent repeats, as well as contributing a monthly article to The Scots Magazine for nearly five decades. He died in 2006 at the age of 91, having been recognised with an MBE and John Muir lifetime achievement award. In his will, he left £2,000 to Friends of Loch Lomond and £5,000 to the John Muir Trust.
Susan Taylor, a musician from Balloch who is helping to co-ordinate the venture, hailed Weir as a “pioneer,” and suggested the statue would feature him map in hand, surveying all around him.
“If it wasn’t for Tom Weir, the national park at Loch Lomond might not have happened and we’d be a few steps backwards from where we are today when it comes to protecting the environment,” she said. “He was a pioneer who was ahead of his time by speaking about conservation and was just as important a figure as John Muir, except he decided to stay in Scotland and spread his message here. Years ago, nobody thought that way, and it’s only now that people are realising the importance of what he achieved.
Mrs Weir, 92, told Scotland on Sunday: “I’ve given the plans my blessing, because Tom was very fond of Loch Lomond. When he lived in Glasgow he saw it as a place to escape to, and he worked hard to keep the place the way it was.
“I think Tom would have gladly accepted this honour,” said the retired primary school headmistress. “Although he was a very modest man, I think he would have been pleased. I remember when STV showed his programmes again someone pointed out he wasn’t being paid for the repeats, but Tom said: ‘My payment is the pleasure people get from watching them.’
“All the things he fought for during his life were never for personal gain, they came from his belief that they mattered to Scotland. He was passionate about his country.
“It’s so nice to see the affection for Tom. He was very self-effacing, but he inspired others through what he had done. He was a self-trained man but he communicated with other people through his enthusiasm. He never used notes, he just spoke from the heart.”
Fiona Logan, chief executive of the LLTNPA, said: “Tom Weir is held with great affection for being a true champion of Loch Lomond and the surrounding area. It’s only fitting that his incredible passion is celebrated. We’re working with his family and friends to find a suitable site for a commission that celebrates the life of this great adventurer.”