Club History

The Rucksack Club of Dundee University was founded on Thursday 7th December 1923 when the first General Meeting was held. The committee of six appointed at this meeting was headed by President Mr A. Fraser with Honorary President Prof. Steggall and Honorary Vice Presidents Prof. Gemmil and Dr. J.S.W. Boyle overseeing procedures. The Official Report of the meeting includes in it what has become the ‘mission statement’ of DURC:

“The club has been formed to further the interests of members in all matters appertaining to the open-air life.”

(Club Reports, February 1924)

Along with this, the report states that there was a large turnout, which signified keen interest in what the club was out to achieve, with a large membership expected. This is something that is unchanged in 83 years of Club history, with last year’s membership being the largest of any Dundee University Sports Club.

During the 1920’s the academic establishment in Dundee was still ‘The University College, Dundee’, associated with the nearby St. Andrews University. This was also a time when the world of outdoor sports was still in its relative infancy; with mountaineers, climbers and explorers still trying to discover how far humans could push themselves and where the boundaries lay between extreme exploration and complete stupidity... An exciting time period for outdoor enthusiasts to say the least! The continuous presence of the Rucksack Club since that date makes this club one of the oldest outdoor sports clubs in Britain.

The activities of DURC members over the years have been well documented in what is now known as the ‘Meets Book’, the pride and joy of the Meets Secretary. The backlog of DURC Meets Books can be accessed in the University Library Archives. There are a number of notable extracts including:

“On the Ben’s summit (Ben Macdui) we couldn’t see a sausage, though there was plenty of orange peel there.”

(DURC Meets Book, 22nd August 1958)

This feeling of not being able to ‘see a sausage’, as the author puts it, is no doubt one which will become familiar to those of you who join us in the hills - but trust me, the views are definitely worth it when it clears up! Furthermore; ‘Bab’s Epic’ (November 1981) is a tale of how it took one member 50ft to work out how an ice axe worked in a fall on Bidean nam Bian in Glencoe... I’m assuming they must have missed the ‘Winter Experience’ trip that year!

It also seems that the first swear word used in DURC Meets Book history was ‘bloody’, which was used several times in a full blooded rant in 1958 about what seems to have been some fairly wet weather conditions.

Apart from having a good time and fooling around, some serious mountaineering is done by our members. Whilst a member of DURC, former president Mr Rick Taylor attempted Mt. Everest, reaching 8,000m before being forced to retreat due to incoming storms (see club achievements page). Had he succeeded, Rick would have been the youngest Briton ever to summit the World’s highest peak. Rick is set to return to the ‘Big Hill’ and we wish him the best of luck in his attempt.

We must, in our adventures, always remember that climbing and mountaineering are activities with a risk of personal injury or death. We must constantly be aware of these dangers in the outdoors and do our best to avoid them.

However, despite the danger involved, it is often the challenge to overcome the risks which provides outdoor folk with the drive to push themselves that bit further towards their limit... Be that to bag one more Munro before going home for Christmas, or to spend 70 days battling an E11 7a at Dumbarton Rock.

A.G. McKenzie
Meets Secretary 2006-07