‘may the fire be always lit’
Day One on the West Highland Way, and not far out of Milngavie we reach the Craigallian Fire Memorial. It is a modest marker of something quite significant in the history of walking, despite which (today at least) most passing hikers seem to be just passing by. This granite boulder with its concrete firesticks commemorates a spot where people would meet during the Great Depression. They would share a cup of tea from the communal pot on the fire and swap stories, discussing philosophy, trail lore, politics and social movements. This doesn’t sound so far removed from many campfires I’ve sat around, but walking and mountaineering clubs grew out of this community, people went off to fight in the Spanish Civil War, and some of the fire-sitters went on to be instrumental in the Rights of Way movement, helping to secure the very paths and access that walkers often now take for granted. As such, it sits in spirit alongisde the likes of Kinder Scout and should be regarded as a beacon.
There’s a great website where you can read reminiscences of the time, here: http://www.strathblanefield.org.uk/Craigallian%20Fire/Project.htm