Walker who conceived the West Highland Way

Born: January 20, 1926;

Died: February 14, 2016

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TOM Hunter, who has died aged 90, was a walker and lover of the outdoors who proposed the idea of the West Highland Way, the 96-mile path from Milngavie in Glasgow to Fort William. He had the idea while out walking in the Highlands more than 30 years ago and was one of the team that made it happen.

Encouraged by others, he researched the history and the route and in his polite but tenacious way dealt with bureaucrats and the countryside commission until the idea started gaining ground. He saw the proposed route as a way to encourage Scots to get out and connect with the natural environment and to protect it from over-development. “There’s enough walking country for our lifetime," he said, "but if we don’t do something now there will be none for future generations.”

He had always been a lover of the countryside and a great walker. He was born an only child in Govanhill to a father who was a draughtsman engineer from Dalmuir and a mother from Stanley in Perthshire and it was a happy childhood.

He was a teenager when the Second World War broke out and was evacuated to Perthshire and attended Perth Academy. On return, he continued his education at Dumbarton Academy.

His father was working away at Brough in Yorkshire and came home with a relocation choice: Edinburgh or London. As they latter was still being blitzed, they unsurprisingly chose Edinburgh and made their home in Colinton Mains where the young Tom completed his education at Boroughmuir School.

Despite attending five different schools, he still had the qualifications to study chemistry at Edinburgh University, but at 18 he was called up to the RAF. His war service took him to Algiers, then up through Italy, over to Yugoslavia then Germany.

On demob, aged 23, he had no job and opted not to return to university and instead took a clerical job with British Railways.

Although based at Waverley, he worked all over the country and met Margaret, who would become his wife, at a dance for railway staff. After they were married, they settled in King's Park in Glasgow, which was still their home 60 years later.

In all, Mr Hunter spent more than 38 years with British Rail, retiring in 1986 aged 60, but walking was always his great passion. While still at BR, he started the Scottish Railway Outdoor Club which is still going strong.

Margaret was also a passionate walker and together they found a boost to their social life in the Holiday Fellowship, a volunteer organisation for railway employees who would hire a bus and travel for walks and climbs as far away as Braemar.

The Fellowship would take needy people from Glasgow (some of whom had never had a holiday or been outside the city) on holidays to Arran. They had to wear a flower to identify them at the station and bring a doctor’s line that they were fit to travel.

Mr Hunter became president of Holiday Fellowship but his love of the outdoors and the countryside was finding other outlets. The National Trust was one and the Hunters were both life members; Mr Hunter was elected to one of the area councils and asked to serve a second term.

In those days, there were no quangos or lobbyists for lovers of the countryside and there were battles to be fought with the likes of the Forestry Commission who would indulge in blanket planting over traditional walkways.

One day when the Hunters were walking on Ben Lomond, Mr Hunter looked down and saw the side of the loch that was earmarked for a ribbon of development and became determined to do something.

That was the first seed of the idea that became the West Highland Way and, with several associates, he went on to develop the idea and attract support for it. At the opening ceremony of the Kelvin Way in Glasgow, he and a group of walkers arrived having walked form Fort William to deliver a letter from the Provost calling for the route. The seed was beginning to sprout.

Asked by the publisher Constable to write a book to coincide with the launch, Mr Hunter did just that. Afterwards he said: “The book was easy compared with fighting the bureaucrats to get the route established.”

Mr Hunter is typically self effacing in the book, A Guide to the West Highland Way, and sticks to the facts and canny advice for walkers. He inscribed the first copy to his father who died eight years later at the age of 90. It read: “To Dad by encouraging my first tottering steps you gave me the love of walking.”

Also hidden in the foreword are these words: “I wish to thank my wife for assistance in the field, for checking the manuscript and for her constant criticism which, although annoying, was very necessary.”

Those tongue in cheek words only hint at the loving supportive partnership that Tom and Margaret shared over the years and which, had he been spared, would have seen them celebrate their diamond wedding this year.

They frequently attended concerts in Glasgow together. He was also interested in geology and archaeology and had an archaeological hammer which he took to Sardinia and Corsica but also round Scotland – an interest which fitted well with his walking.

He would have hated to be known as a Munro Bagger but together he and his wife climbed 287 mountains, some several times, because they liked them.

Tom Hunter is survived by his wife.