John Fleming

                                  Peter Orton

                                   Dougal Geig


Mike Haines

(Photo: Jim Holyoake)

Dick Haines on his brother


Michael Haines


This does not pretend to be an obituary. Rather it seems like a topping and tailing with Rannoch in the middle. Forgive its prolixity but selecting and de-selecting has proved to be nigh on impossible.

Mike was born in Rochester, the second son of Lt. Col. H. R. Haines, Royal Marines, and Mrs Haines. Eventually the family ended up in Weymouth. The eldest two boys attended Weymouth College to which Mike had obtained a bursary.


On the creative front, paper, pen and paint were often to hand on his expeditions so that he might capture the scene- in a variety of different media. Over the years Mike composed a lot of poetry most of which is contained in a book in which there is the inscription “Just a thought book!” and later inscribed “Collected works of remarkable excellence”.  At the tender age of 15 one of his poems was printed in the Clavinian, the Weymouth college magazine. This appears as an appendix to this article


In 1940 world war II closed the college and the brothers decamped to Wellingborough School where they were founders of "Weymouth house" -- which remains extant although now a “girls only” establishment. Mike appeared as MacDuff in a production of Macbeth.  He also successfully  completed an “elementary course of instruction in tractor driving” in 1941.


Mike was in the Home guard in Radipole, near Weymouth until 1944. His "Captain Mainwaring" was his father’s ex-Indian army twin brother. He had an ambition to join the Royal Navy. To this end he attended a course at Devonport Technical College for engineering cadets for the services.  This ran for 30 months until February 1946.  Physics, engineering, chemistry, applied mechanics and the principles of electricity were the principal ingredients. However his ambition was thwarted by the Admiralty deciding that his teeth wouldn't be up to the rigours of naval diet.  

So, for national service, he ended up in the Royal engineers, was commissioned and was posted to McKinnon Road in Kenya -some 40 to 50 miles from Mombasa. [Between 1947 and 1950 Mackinnon Road was the site of a large British engineering and Ordnance Depot designed to hold 200,000 tons of military stores. The British had anticipated the loss of military bases in Egypt due to a rise in nationalism in that country and decided to create another base that was able to serve their military needs in the western Indian Ocean. [The plan was abandoned.]

Several photographs suggest that the building of bailey bridges was part of the Mackinnon raison  d’être. Being chased by a rhinoceros might have been a highlight of Mike’s sojourn there -- some readers might have seen a cartoon on one of his walls, allegedly depicting this incident. He learnt some Swahili and when faced with a menu knew how to ask for "Yote" which being interpreted loosely meant "Everything." After demob he was commissioned in the Territorial Army: this he put to good use at Strathallan and Fort Augustus schools.

On his return to this country he went up to St Andrews and read history. Several photos bear testimony to his involvement in and enjoyment of the social life of the University. And, of course, an interest in the mountains became so strong and enduring.  The inscription on the memorial stone was so well chosen.

In the 1953 Kate Kennedy celebrations he took the part of cross bearer to Bishop Lamberton (of St. Andrew’s 1297-1328).  

In the 1960s he bought a house, Millgillfoot, at Bentpath, by Langholm. He then moved to Drumnadrochit in about 1966, paying £1500 for No. 39. Milton which is well remembered by many  for evening gatherings, much assisted by whisky and pipe smoke, of friends, family and the occasional wayfarer in his sitting room.


Every aspect in no. 39 was touched by Mike’s ability to select and liberate all manner of items salvaged from school (and other?) skips.  The most memorable and eye catching was the fire surround in his downstairs room which had formerly served faithfully as one (or several) school desks. Several discarded tomato soup tins were found to be full of the old three penny bits and a smallish fortune of Scottish bank notes was discovered beneath the carpet of his bedroom. A slush fund, perhaps. Much reliance was placed on the freezer and several people recall being issued with their packed lunch before setting off for the hills– sandwiches straight from the freezer to be thawed under the arm. If they had not thawed sufficiently by lunchtime then an opinion about enough effort might ensue.

Always an enthusiast for out of doors he loved his rocky outcrop called back garden.  Quite often the empty rucksack he started a walk with was, on his return, full of rocks  not as a penance but for the rockery. In the early seventies a swarm of bees bent the boughs of one of his trees. Mike went out, visiting  friends and neighbours, and came back a couple of hours later with hives, beekeeper’s suiting, a smoke gun (his pipe wasn’t really up to the job) and for about ten years the swarm enjoyed his hospitality. One maverick then stung him and anaphylactic problems  ensued ending his apiaristic endeavours.

From a copy the  O.W.Budget (Weymouth College alumni  newsletter ).M. Haines (1937-40) has left Strathallan School, Forgandenny, Perthshire and is now at Rannoch School, Perthshire, a new school where it is hoped that the best features of Gordonstoun  and Strathallan will he combined, in both academic  activities and what is called `character forming.' The school aims at having 200 boys by 1963 and is able to exercise 'an encouraging degree of selection’ through the Common Entrance Examination.

Rannoch 1959-1966. Mike was a founder staff member. The present writer having visited Rannoch but once is not qualified to comment on Mike’s time there. Probably the only people who can properly comment on Rannoch are its past staff and pupils.

Despite (or perhaps because of) a Physics course plus Engineering bridge building with the Engineers and the tractor course, Mike had somewhat Luddite  tendencies. What would he have made of Twitter, Facebook, etc?

The seventies and eighties were the age of Scotshols. Miscellaneous members of his family and colleagues and former pupils with an occasional admixture of hitchhikers and the like foregathered at a large house, e.g. Glencarron Lodge or Kindrochet. The maximum number of inmates in any one year  totalled about 22.  Then, after a week a small number of family members gathered at a small cottage somewhere, Skerray and Croft Macquean  being particularly popular. It was at Glencarron that for the first time Mike actually asked for help and went to hospital. He had Crohn’s disease and when he had, in his opinion, recovered from that he resumed normal activities. One wondered if that was a good idea.

Latterly Mike had some trouble with his heart. During what was to be his last summer holidays he was not as ambitious about the mountains as he used to be and confined himself to low altitudes and slight inclines and was obviously not fit. However we, his family and close friends, thought he thoroughly enjoyed what was to be his swan song. At Christmas he usually braved the A1 and came south. He had already for 1988 booked the Treasurer’s house in York for himself and family and anyone among his very big circle of friends who cared to drop by. It was not to be.

He was a prolific letter writer, corresponding with friends, former colleagues and pupils in all parts of the world. Apparently he died quite peacefully, sitting in his chair, writing letters, with a dram by his side. It was a great pity that he was able to enjoy so little of the retirement which he had earned but perhaps it was as well that he went when he did for he would have hated being an invalid especially throughout the winter.

For about ten years he was an active member of Inverness  Samaritans.

Keith Angus, also no longer with us, who gave the address at Mike’s funeral, ended his tribute as follows: - "So many memories... his goodness, and sense of fun, the sheer joy of his company. He had so many gifts which he gave so generously to all of us who knew him and we give thanks for the privilege of his friendship."  This seems a good place to stop.


March, 1940      THE CLAVINIAN

[Weymouth College Magazine]


(In a snowdrift) 

Little brother what doth ail you ?

Is your food too tough to eat ?

Can't you masticate your rations ?

Don't you like your ` ersatz ' meat ?


Is your clothing insufficient ?

Does the cold freeze up your bones ?

Do you find your rifle heavy ?

What's the reason for your moans ?


Little comrade, shall I trim now

Hairs from off your upper lip ?

Will it make your burden lighter

If your hair I neatly clip ?


Would you like a little vodka ?

Ohmy comrade, please reply.

Praised be Stalin, he has left me !

Here I'll let his body lie.

Then I'll strip it, when it's frozen,

(He has nothing much to lose)

Take his rations, wear his clothing,

Leave his rifle, 'tis no use.


Now I'm lost and fear a blizzard.

Here, amidst this waste of snow,

If I cannot find an army

To ' the other place ' I'll go.


I see Stalin, in the Kremlin,

Lying in his Russian bed.

'Tis a vision, I grow hotter ;

Now it's vanished, I am dead.




From Rannoch


From Nick Comer-Calder 

For a man who I have always felt had a profound effect on my life I find I have very few clear memories of specifics, so this is what has bubbled up.

The Barracks, a man in a kilt with a van who took us to and from school. He was kind but scary and he got very cross and shouted if we ever slammed the door of his van too hard.

Cheque books so we could keep track of our pocket money – going to him – did we go to him? Giving him a cheque and his getting the money out of a tin box.

A totally charming up from under the eyebrows smile that made you very warm.

A totally terrifying tight-lipped glare when he was cross – utterly devastating.

That voice – rolling grumbly whoof whoof – sometimes very hard to understand.

Being told off for going hill walking in gym shoes instead boots – totally wrong.

Something about him telling the whole of Wade – or perhaps just one dorm – but  I think there was a group of us – that we all ‘lacked moral fibre’ – a phrase I have used (somewhat ironically) all my life. Did not hew also say sometimes that we were ‘all a complete bloody shambles’? His study at Wade – so many books and military boxes and shelves made with bricks and planks, layers and layers of stuff. And his pipe and him sitting there in a pool light from his desk lamp – puffing away and looking at me very steadily.

Doing things properly – leaving bothies not as you found them – but better than you found them. Being decent – perhaps that’s what he gave me – a sense of what was right and wrong and trying to do the right thing.  

Much, much later visiting him in Milton – recall the pleasure of his delight at my latest news of adult life, having a baby, going to university. Sitting across from him in his upstairs room drinking whisky – long conversations.


From David Barry 

Difficult to understand the grunts: didn't always work in his favour as when we were sailing from Newcastle to Oslo and boy jumped from table only for Mike to mumble something and boy turn to find what was said only to be sick all over table and splash Mike.

Inclined to be quick and angry: Mike going up primitive ski-tow and Brian Warner sees he can pull it off track and pull Mike through small bush.

Success by Brian, explosion by Mike. But who had taken the time and trouble to organise a great trip and give us all a terrific time in a sunny April Norway? To give boys a challenge and new experiences was always his aim.

Typical of his concern for boys is clearly shown by a remark he made when he was working at Abbey School and not enjoying life: "I have to stay to give boys someone they could trust and turn to when they are faced with the treatment they receive from the monks." (I don't believe he knew about the sexual horrors being perpetrated or he would have done something about it.)


From the Hon John 

Nicks comments on Mike rang many a bell - particularly liked the description of his voice - perfect. As, like many of you, a member of the MS, his steady enthusiasm and encouragement was for me a wholesome blessing.

Realising that I was more than a little keen on climbing he gradually pushed me metaphorically up the endurance ladder; initially pointed comments on flagging energy between Ben More and Stobinian come to mind, the comment was, I believe, 'the mind is willing but the body is weak'. A piece of Kendal mint cake was also forthcoming to sustain the 'body' a bit longer.

Other early mishaps were, on one camping exped, continually tripping over the guys of his tent until from deep inside, similar to a roused bear came 'If you bloody well trip over the guys once more you'll get beaten'....of course ten minutes later, you guessed it, I tripped. Out came an annoyed Mike but then, seeing my anxious look and realising we were all out in the middle of nowhere where it would all seem ridiculous, he dismissed me with a gruff 'Well bloody well don't do it again'...I didn't..

Later, still keen but stronger he lent me MS gear, I bought my first rope 'No3 Viking nylon' and drove a few of us to towards a place where we could have an exped to rock climb though we were officially hill-walking, but he knew (of course) and 'for God's sake come back in one piece' rang in our ears...

On official rock climbing meets to Glencoe there were big boot ascents (no rock shoes in those days) on the East face of Aonach Dubh, the Buachaille and of course The Ben where Tower Ridge and more obscure ridges on Aonach Mor were ascended.

All this sensible encouragement has led to a life-time’s enjoyment of the hills home and abroad and as a mentor Mike could not have been better.

Off the hills Mike became a friend and once away from Rannoch he and I livedopposite each other at Milton near Drumnadrochit where I lived for a period.

The wonderful or bad, depending on preference, winter of 1978/9 saw Milton having a dump of 5ft of snow in less than two days, much of it overnight.

Mike and I spent many happy hours digging people out, rescuing sheep and sharing many a dram. He was at his best and most jolly when things were difficult and he tried to live up to the school hymn in an almost literal way.

I still miss his company and that gruff voice; however, he never could hide that heart of gold that lay within. I think our little group at St Ninians' church showed what an influence a good teacher has. Let us hope that there are many more such teachers somewhere 'out there' pointing many to a better future.

All the very best to all out there who read this. 


From Jamie Mackean 

After leaving Rannoch in 1964, I joined The Royal Marines and spent 2 years in Singapore. I had no occasion to come north of the Border until the summer of ‘69 when I was seconded to a N.A.T.O exercise at Cape Wrath. I had heard that Mike had settled in Drumnadrochit and since I was in the area I made a point of looking him up. I got a great welcome and was ordered to call in any time I was in the area.

The following year, I was again joining the N.A.T.O exercises but did'nt have a chance to see him on the way up. While in Cape Wrath I met Jenny ( my wife) who was on holiday with a friend and cadged a lift to Drumnadrochit as she was on her way to Glasgow. I introduced her to Mike and Bill and Jean Calder and that was the start of a really great friendship. Mike seemed in his element in Milton (by Drum).He had a small walking group and good friends in Bill and Jean. During the summer Jenny and I were summoned north a number of times, the most memorable being an "Archaeological Pub Crawl" when Mike's brother John and his sons were visiting. Mike spoke of the Abbey School but his life was based in the village and with his friends outwith the  school. He always talked fondly of some times at Rannoch and loved to hear about the old boys.   

I then went back to Singapore for a year, but Jenny kept in touch with the "Milton Gang". I came back and when we got married in ‘73 we decided to go on honeymoon to Cape Wrath. Mike asked that we call in on our way up and when we reached the hotel at Drum, he and the Calders had organised a second wedding reception for us, a super surprise. We kept in regular contact and then one December Mike was driving south to visit his brother Dick and the snow was so bad that he phoned to say he was coming to stay with us, and take the train south from Glasgow. This arrangement  worked so well that from then on he came every Christmas. He was great company and we really looked forward to his visits. He stayed for two days before and one day after Christmas and visited David Barry before going back up north. We still miss him. 


From Robert Reid

I wasn`t as close to him as you were (being in Dall ) but I recognise  him exactly as you have written.  In one of the end of term reports to my parents his comment, on my history marks, was as follows:
 "When you throw a bucket down a well you are sometimes agreeably surprised by what comes up"   Only Haines could get away with that.  It still amuses me.


From Andrew Hamilton

Alfie was my History master. Behind that stern outer skin lay a kind heart. He always gave me encouragement. But he had high standards and however much he might have liked you ( in my case, I was a member of his Mountain Service ), he could not tolerate bad behaviour - so once - in an exam in the Glade classrooms - he caught me lifting my desk lid to copy some text from a history book. Of course I was cheating. He was appalled and told me to expect "4 of the best". God that hurt (administered by Dougal). I never doubted that I deserved it. The punishment fitted the crime.

Alfie was consistent; he didn't have favourites; he didn't try and curry favour to "buy" popularity; he didn't brief against you or anyone else and certainly not against other members of staff; he loved his pupils in the best sense of the word. But if you stepped out of line, he was on to you. He was a man of  principle. He set a good example. He never expected more of his pupils than he expected of himself. (As a Potteries boy, you got the impression that Wade boys would lay down their lives for their Housemaster).

Thank you everyone for your memories - it's only with the experience of a longish life  that one realises how lucky we were to have encountered goodness early in our lives. Alfie epitomised all that was good about Rannoch School. God bless him. 

From Alan Mackay 


Our first meeting was in the summer of 1961 when I turned up at Rannoch for an “interview”. Rudimentary English and Maths tests having been precariously negotiated I was delivered into the hands of Mike Haines whilst my Father discussed whatever with Dougal. Puffing on his pipe he took me to what I still suspect was a pre-arranged meeting which featured Alan Beaton, at his most enthusiastic, confronting us at the corner of the main building overlooking the loch. The script was along the lines of “I’ve got a couple of hours to spare, Sir. Can I run around the loch and up Schiehallion before tea?” “mumble, mumble……blagh…….blah” “Thank you, Sir” (exits at speed back towards Wade and/or the Mountain Service stores). I was transfixed, enthralled that Alan might have got permission (or not).

It was only subsequently that I realised that Alf’s eyes betrayed so much and that his pipe was a prop to buy him time to consider a response. As with Dougal there was so often a twinkle behind the façade. 

·         Inverhadden was the new boys’ dorm in Wade (Nick Calder my dorm head) and the only one with direct access from his quarters. That placed it high on the dormitory inspection list and in the frontline of the open windows policy. It also provided that rite of passage that I am convinced many parents from that era ranked highly as reasons to send children to boarding school, namely to be taught the facts of life. On the designated night, after lights out, us new boys were individually called through to his study. I was 3rd or 4th in. The transfer of information was “Ah, Mackay! Sit down! Do you know what a vagina is?”  “Yes, Sir” bluffs I, in shock(had he found my copy of Health & Efficiency?) “That’s alright then, goodnight.” Overloaded with this new knowledge, I retired. Next?


New boys expedition Ben More and Stob Binnein…………Jock Mackenzie and Alf 1961

Can’t remember the colour of our transport (green or beige) but we parked just off the A85 and camped on a delightful spot at the outflow end of the wee loch just down from Benmore Farm. Two or three tents just that little bit too close to the stream that became a torrent as the heavens opened. We woke up in a couple of inches of water and got up to find Ben More shrouded in cloud. We literally climbed Ben More in a rain cloud with the novices amongst us being cajoled, chivvied and carried by Jock under Alf’s benign gaze. Just the occasional encouraging word as one false summit after another was negotiated. It was evidently an assessment and he decided to give the Stob a miss. 

Hover mower
He was very proud of his garden and always ensured that there was a steady supply of slave labour from Housework and PD, but he was really proud of the first Flymo that most of us and most of Scotland had ever seen. Something of a “boy-toy” as all it cut was the west facing bank that the House rested on. I don’t think Joe Delgano ever had a shot at it.

 Someone has got to record the incident of the cigarettes, the study, the ladder and the trap-door

 Hermes spectator
The Hermes course was completed by crossing the Dall bridge, negotiating the track that curved around a bank and tottering onto the top of the rugby pitch. Alf used to stand at the top of the aforementioned bank in his duffel coat, pipe clamped and face inscrutable. These were moments when I (briefly) hated him. I could never work out if he was threatening or encouraging.


Life lessons absorbed or rejected
 On one occasion (and to my eternal shame) I hit a Housemate from behind as we were coming back from Chapel. I hurt him and I was so ashamed that I went to confess to my Housemaster. He sat me down and asked me to explain the circumstances that led up to the “hit”. Almost certainly he was milking my shame as I tried and failed to offer any mitigation.  Every time I tried a particular tack he did little more than just raise an eyebrow.  No punishment was forthcoming and I went to apologise to my victim (and did again publicly nearly 40 years later). Still ashamed. Had he caned me the incident would have been done and dusted (and my shame erased).

 As his House Captain he, at least twice, gave me major guidance.

In the first instance I was conscious that an insecure junior was being verbally bullied by another. I didn’t communicate this to the dorm head. It carried on until one day I called the “bullied” into my study and told him that I knew what was happening and that as far as I was concerned he could put a stop to it physically. He did so very robustly. I reported the incident to Alf who said he had no problem with the outcome, which was my responsibility, but questioned my not sharing my plan with the dorm head. In not doing so I undermined him.

During a rest period one dorm kept making a noise until I warned them by shouting out of my window, then by going over to their door. When it carried on I gave them all 60PD. When Alf noticed the entries in the PD Book, including the dorm head, he asked for the background. Then he told me I had almost been quite right. The bit missing was not clearly explaining to the dorm head why.

These days with the decay of decades of cynicism the above might seem trivial, but it wasn’t at the time.  

·         Caught smoking, or rather reeking of smoke, stunned that my Extra Strong mint hadn’t obliterated any scent, I was dismayed when he followed me into my study and invited me across the corridor into his. He motioned me to sit down, asked me if I had been smoking and, when I admitted that I had, asked me if I would like a whisky. After a pretty general discussion on House matters he then said that any time I felt the need to smoke I should use his study. No punishment.


He wrote in the School Magazine House Report 1965-66 (his last) of two losing sporting occasions Senior rugger and Junior cricket. The former he described as “a disappointment yet a rewarding experience for the House (playing 14 men throughout the match)………..” whilst the latter he condemned with the withering “the final match thrown away by bad sportsmanship, selfishness and lack of moral courage”. No punches pulled and typical of his view that the outcome was always secondary to the manner. He was not a man given to hyperbole nor would he acknowledge excuses. It wasn’t what we did but how we did it and we could always do it better.  Incidently I didn’t find it “a rewarding experience”.  

I didn’t see much of him after he retreated to Abbey School. I think from his letters that he regretted that it all ended like that. 39, Milton, Drumnadrochit seemed to me like an extension to his study/accommodation in Wade and why not? He was a man of conviction, of integrity and he could seem intimidating. But if you got behind the façade the conviction and integrity were balanced by empathy and understanding and a wicked smile. What a lucky boy I was to come under the wings of a Bat and an Alf.



Everyone seems to remember their first encounter with Mike but I can’t honestly say that I do. What I do recall most vividly is my last meeting with him. My then wife and I had invited him to dinner at a country house hotel near his home prior to our staying as his guests at Drumnadrochit. As Mike stepped out of his car he staggered and nearly fell. His jacket hung off him as if it were two sizes too large. I knew immediately that something was not right but little realised that this would be the last visit I would make to his home. He died a month or so later.

At Rannoch, Mike occupied for me, as for so many others, a position combining that of commanding officer, father confessor and surrogate parent. As his house captain and leader of the Mountain Service in the academic year 1964-1965, I had a great deal to do with him on a daily basis. Most evenings ended by our drinking coffee in his study from those distinctive, large blue cups.

At Christmas 1964, he gave me Bill Murray’s classic “Mountaineering in Scotland” inscribed “For a successful first lead”. When I published my first (dryly academic) book I dedicated it to “My parents, MH and Sue” and signed the copy I gave to him “With thanks for all those blue cups of coffee”.  And I meant it. His advice and wise counsel during our evening sessions were to prove remarkably perspicacious.

Mike knew his boys well. In a school report to my parents he anticipated that in discharging my responsibilities I would make mistakes and it was “unlikely that they would be small ones”. He was right but one knew instinctively that he would be there to provide support and guidance for the future. Alan Mackay’s reflections are testament to this.

One of my abiding memories of Mike is of going up to Rannoch Station to see the sunset over the hills of the Blackmount and Glencoe. We did this often, and though as time went by the nature of our conversations changed – from the purely domestic to concerns about the school – never once did he criticise another member of the school staff although I have since realised that he might well have had reason to do so. Even after I had left school and we had become adult friends, as opposed to his being in loco parentis, he was fair and circumspect in his pronouncements.

Mike inspired his boys. The unofficial Mountain Service song we used to sing in his Land Rover tells of the esteem and affection in which he was held:

“Follow, follow we will follow Alfie,

Anywhere, anytime we will follow on;

Follow, follow we will follow Alfie

If he goes to Nevis we will follow on.”

I was most surprised - as, I imagine, were at least two other Rannoch boys  - to have been left something in Mike’s will. In addition to a pecuniary legacy, Mike bequeathed to me the two volumes of his Oxford English Dictionary – still treasured – and a large amount of correspondence relating to his later, somewhat troubled, years at Rannoch. The entire package was addressed to me, sealed and bore the injunction “To be opened after my final departure”.  So very Mike.

Last year Jamie MacKean and I paid a visit to Mike’s last resting place at his church near Drumnadrochit. Having solicited donations for a memorial stone, I was sorry not to have been able to attend the small gathering of ex-Rannoch boys (John Dunthorne, Ken McCready, John Mackenzie (Lord Cromartie) , Dr. Richard (Chippy) Houston, David Haddow, Nick Comer-Calder) and ex-staff (David and Sally Barry) who attended its “digging in”. It is a peaceful spot. As Jamie and I quietly reminisced about “the old cock” I understood that Mike had a profound effect on many of us who came under his influence. At his funeral, his long-standing friend, Rev. Keith Angus, referred to Mike as a man “full of integrity” and that, along with his twinkling eyes, gruff voice and enigmatic smile is how I remember him.

Mike was a man of many parts and qualities: articulate (what a wonderful poem his brother Dick showed us), kindly, sometimes irascible, occasionally obscurantist, humorous, loyal, engaging, energetic, enthusiastic. He was, quite simply, sui generis. May he rest in peace.

Alan Beaton


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