Bill Brooker

27th January 2012 at 00:00
The teacher and mountaineer found inspiration in the classroom and on peaks around the world

The son of a mechanical engineer, Bill Brooker was born 79 years ago in Calcutta. At the age of six, he returned to Aberdeen and was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School.

Always interested in landscape, geology, birds and flora, he embarked on a BSc in geography at the University of Aberdeen, graduating with an ordinary degree in 1953. Two years of national service in the Royal Engineers followed, before he got the chance to visit East Greenland in the summer of 1956.

He worked there for three months, prospecting for a Danish mining company. Having access to such a wild environment left a lasting impression on him.

His working life continued with a year-long stint as a site investigation engineer with the central laboratory of civil engineers George Wimpey and Co before he returned to Aberdeen for his honours year. He followed that with teacher training at Aberdeen College of Education and began his career in schools as a geography teacher at Aberlour High in Speyside, an ideal location for a climber.

By January 1960 he had moved to Keith Grammar as principal teacher of geography and after two years there he was seconded to the Institute of Army Education in Cyprus.

Mr Brooker and his wife Margaret returned to Scotland with their two young children in 1965. His job had been kept open for him in Keith but after a few months back there he was appointed to a post as tutor-organiser in extra-mural studies at Aberdeen.

Although the most intense period of his climbing career had passed by this point, he remained heavily involved in mountaineering activities. He was president of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) from 1972-74 - and later honorary president - and edited its journal for a decade between 1978 and 1986.

Mr Brooker, who ranked alongside renowned mountaineers including Tom Patey, was one of the most inspiring climbers to emerge from Aberdeenshire in the mid-1950s. His achievements included the second ascent of Lochnagar's Eagle Ridge and helping to re-write the Scottish mountain guidebooks, following the Cairngorms disaster 40 years ago in which five schoolchildren and an instructor died.

He was an honorary member of the Cairngorm Club as well as a member of the Etchachan Club, was involved in the North East Mountain Trust and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, had tackled the tough Haute Route in the French Alps with his own climbing group of friends and branched out into ski touring. In 1996 his contribution to mountaineering was recognised by Aberdeen University, which awarded him an honorary degree five years after he retired from the institution.

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