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Alastair Borthwick: A journeyman writer with a love for Scotland

When you stop and really read the works of Alastair Borthwick you realize that Borthwick captured the heart and soul of Scotland. Borthwick was a very prolific writer who wrote about Scotland’s common folk. He understood all too well their daily struggles. His best work, however, was his depiction of the Scottish soldier. His descriptions were very accurate because he had served in WWII as part of the 51st Highland Division’s 5th Seaforth Highlanders.

Borthwick had a great love for the outdoors. His first book, “Always a Little Further”captures the beauty of the Scottish highlands. Humorous tales and antidotes make for an interesting read about a time long past. This classic does an accurate telling of the tough times that the commoner went through in the early twentieth century. The book came out originally in 1939 and have never been out of print.

Borthwick is best known as a television and radio broadcaster who reported on subjects as diverse as Joseph McCarthy to Bonnie Prince Charles. Borthwick liked to consider the ramifications of social change in his writings. His writing encouraged movements to take action but have also created a great love for his beloved Scotland.

His work included a Scottish survey that told a look at the toll WWII took on Scotland focusing on its assets and liabilities. Borthwick’s routine of writing in the morning and fishing in the afternoon gave him the balance he needed to complete his television and radio assignments. Borthwick thrived with the challenges of creating interesting subjects to present to Scottish audiences. He became a Scottish icon because of his passion for his beloved Scotland.

Borthwick’s second book, Sans Peur, also known as Battalion when it was re-published in 1994 is the most memorable of the two books he wrote. It was his accurate descriptions of the life of an infantryman that made the difference. Borthwick had a way with words that hasn’t been matched. It is that dedication to the subject at hand that made him special.



The Story of Alastair Borthwick

Alastair Borthwick was an author, broadcaster as well as a journalist. Borthwick was born on February 17, 1913. When he was sixteen years old, he left school to work for the Evening Times. He then took a position at the Glasgow Weekly Herald. During this time, Borthwick did a variety of jobs including working on the crossword, children and women’s pages as well as front page leads and more.

First Book

Alastair Borthwick’s first book Always a Little Further was published in 1939. While writing for the Glasgow Weekly Herald, he became interested in rock climbing. At the time, this was something usually done by the wealthy. Rock climbing was quickly becoming very popular with the young, working-class people in Glasgow. Borthwick wrote about working people hitchhiking north and setting up camps in caves. Always a Little Further was recognized for its portrayal of social change. It described Borthwick’s experience with hawkers as well as tinkers, tramps, and others. The book became quite popular and hasn’t been out of print since it was first published.

Second Book

During World War II Alastair Borthwick worked as an Intelligence Officer with the 5th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders. He was involved in the action that took place in Germany, North Africa, Belgium, Sicily, France as well as Italy. When the war was over, Borthwick was asked to write about the history of the 5th Battalion. In 1946, Sans Peur, The History of the 5th (Caithness and Sutherland) Battalion, the Seaforth Highlanders was published. It has been in print since its initial publication. In 1994, it was published under the title of Battalion: a British infantry unit’s actions from El Alamein to the Elbe, 1942-1945.

After serving in the war, Borthwick moved to Glasgow and spent most of his time working as a radio broadcaster for the BBC. In 1952, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). This was for Borthwick’s work at the Festival of Britain where he provided an engineering exhibition put on display. During the 1960s, Borthwick started working in television and produced over 149 half-hour programs. Alastair Borthwick and his wife moved to Ayrshire in the 1970s. He eventually moved into a nursing home and passed away in 2003 at the age of 80.