SMC Pioneers


Alfred Ernest Maylard (1855 – 1947)

A.E. Maylard


If William Naismith is considered as the ‘father’ of the SMC, then Maylard could be described as its architect. It was in January 1889 that correspondence in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ was initiated by Naismith, proposing the formation of a ‘Scottish Alpine Club’. This correspondence was taken up by other enthusiasts, including Maylard, who was then working as a Demonstrator in Medicine at Glasgow University. Maylard suggested in a letter dated  the 19th January that the proposed club be called the ‘Scottish Mountaineering Club’.

At the end of that same month, January 1889, Maylard and a friend called in to see Professor Ramsay about this plan. Ramsay was enthusiastic, and Maylard went ahead and organised a public meeting in Glasgow, for February 11th. With Ramsay in the chair, a club was formed. Maylard became its first Secretary, holding this post from 1889 to 1896. He was Vice-President from 1898-99, and President from 1899-1902. He was also a member of the Alpine Club.

As a climber Maylard was competent but not notably technically-minded. He was on the first recorded ascent of No. 4 Gully on Ben Nevis, in April 1895, with Naismith and F.C. Squance. This was on the Easter Meet of the SMC, based in Fort William. The harder climbers, referred to as the ‘Axe-Men’,  were climbing The Castle.  A.E. Robertson recalled that on a winter traverse of the Cobbler, at New Year, 1895, Maylard was very considerate as last man on a rope, helping Robertson to negotiate some tricky winter moves while descending the South Peak. ‘..when  you did penetrate that seemingly aloof manner he was a real friend and a good companion..’

In character Maylard was quiet and reserved, physically tall, with a beard which was so well trimmed that one commentator later remarked that if it were shaved off he couldn’t be the man himself. ‘He was high-minded and determined for justice for all... All human affairs must ultimately be solved, such was his high belief, if regarded as part in a broad scheme’. So wrote Lord Mackay, who as a young man of 22 had first met Maylard.

Maylard received his education at the University of London, graduating with an M.B. and Hons. B.S. He was later a Fellow of the Royal Society of England and a Fellow of one of the Royal Colleges. A Scot by ‘adoption’, he became a consultant surgeon at the Victoria Infirmary on the south side of Glasgow. He wrote a book on his medical experiences. Maylard married, and dedicated his book to

my Dear Wife
Who Could Not Add to the Stock of My
“Memories”; But Who Has, I Feel,
Greatly Increased the Value
Of My “Musings”.

Maylard also wrote several articles on mountaineering, including one (in two parts) entitled ‘Climbing Considered in its Physiological Aspects’. This lengthy article made a fairly good attempt at explaining just why climbing was good for you.

Maylard was not only a founder member of the SMC, he was responsible for setting in motion the events which led to the building of the CIC Hut on Ben Nevis. At the Easter Meet of 1925, Maylard was walking up the old path to the summit when he came upon two young members of the SMC sleeping rough in the old half-way station of the Observatory, closed then for over 20 years. The wooden hut was in abysmal condition, and Maylard was genuinely concerned for the health of the two climbers.

During dinner at the Alexandra Hotel, Maylard raised the possibility of providing a hut on the mountain. Seated next to him were both Sang, the Club Secretary, and, as a guest, the factor for the Ben Nevis Estate. Both were enthusiastic. Maylard then thought that the hut could be built as a war memorial, and recalled that Charles Inglis Clark, a popular young climber, had been killed at the end of the war. His parents, Maylard thought, might be interested in the project, and he would write to them suggesting it. He did, and they were, and so we have the Charles Inglis Clark Memorial Hut on Ben Nevis, open to members of any climbing club.

On his retirement from his post as surgeon, Maylard moved south to live in Peebles. In his last few years he became very deaf, but continued to attend club functions almost to the end. He died at Kingsmuir, Peebles, on 27 June 1947, in his 93rd year.

Finest Moment: Founder member of the SMC, instigator of the CIC Hut.

Bibliography:Vignettes of Earlier Climbers’, Lord Mackay (1950, SMCJ, Vol. 24, pp. 141-180; ‘Ben Nevis – Britain’s Highest Mountain’, Ken Crocket (1986, Scottish Mountaineering Trust); ‘Memories and Musings of a Hospital Surgeon’ (A.E. Maylard, Glasgow, Maclehose, Jackson & Co., 1920); ‘Climbing considered in its Physiological Aspects’, A.Ernest Maylard, SMCJ, Vol. 4, pp. 267-75, May 1897; ‘Climbing considered in its Physiological Aspects II’, A.Ernest Maylard, SMCJ, Vol. 5, pp. 17-23, January 1898; ‘In Memoriam’. A. Ernest Maylard, by A.E. Robertson, SMCJ, Vol. 24, pp.61-3, May 1948.