Rescuers Remember 1964 Four Inns Tragedy

2014 sees Buxton Mountain Rescue Team and the regional organisation, The Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation, celebrating 50 years of life saving work throughout the Peak District.

Many of those involved in modern day rescue will be remembering the events 50 years ago as this year’s Four Inns endurance walk sets off at weekend.  Saturday 5th April will see about 300 walkers attempting The Four Inns, a tough competitive walk in the Peak District over some of the roughest moorland in Britain. The walk takes its name from the four inns along its route – The Isle Of Skye (site of), Snake Pass Inn, Nags Head and Cat & Fiddle.

First attempted in 1957 but it was the events of 1964 that mountain rescuers will be remembering this weekend.  Fifty years ago the weather deteriorated throughout the day and three young lives were lost as local rescuers searched for the missing young men in appalling weather conditions.

That dreadful day came only a short while after the death (in December 1962) of two children from Glossop, missing on the local hills and two young climbers’ deaths in an avalanche in Wilderness Gully in the Chew Valley, Greenfield early in 1963.

Seven young lives lost in a little over a year was the tragic catalyst in the formation of the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation and the birth of Buxton Mountain Rescue Team.

To mark and respect the tragedy in 1964, three small groups of team members will attempt this year’s challenge.   One group  are members all over 60 and call themselves the “Oldens”; although they do have another nickname!   One group of “lasses” and one group of “youngens”.  They have all carried out a number of practise walks in recent weeks preparing for the ardous event. Team member Joe Rees said: “We are taking this event seriously, it will be strenuous and hard work, but we are doing this in memory of the scouts who perished and to mark Buxton Mountain Rescue Teams formation some 50 years ago”.  Joe added: “If the public would like to support our Golden Anniversary appeal to replace our ageing control vehicle, “£50.000 for 50 Years Service” that would be wonderful”.  Joe has already raised over £500 in pledges!

As the three Buxton teams set off in the early hours of Saturday, other rescue team members will be providing support along the way. You can follow their progress along the route via our website, as each will be carrying GPS trackers.  (just in case we have to go and find them!)

To help sponsor our members, hit the “Support Us” button on the home page or, alternativeley, you can send a cheque made payable to Buxton Mountain Rescue Team to 8a, Hallsteads, Dove Holes, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 8BJ

WE  REMEMBER  YOU

Come all you scouts that roam the tops and hear what I do say.

Come all you Manchester rambling lads that roam the Pennine Way.

Come all you brave mountain climbing lads that scale the gritstone crags,

and I’ll tell of a snowstorm on Kinder Scout that killed three rover lads.

 

For the moorlands are a wicked place from the Peak to Blealow Hill.

And the Moss and clough will fool you and the weather change its will.

It’s a lovely land in the springtime but beware if you should climb,

for the moorland mists will catch you unprepared at any time.

 

On the fifteenth day of March the scouts set out with fun and talk.

On the fifty mile endurance hike they call the Four Inns Walk.

They were only dressed for a ramble when a blizzard crossed their skies.

Michael Welby, John Butterfield and Gordon Withers lost their lives.

 

For its many a mile from Glossop to the stream at Doctor’Gate

And the snow was falling thickly as the scouts they came up late.

They were not dressed for a blizzard and the snow it numbed their bones.

It would be the last time that these lads would ever see their homes.

 

Written at The Castle Folk Club, Oldham Street, Manchester, by; John Pluckman and friends.

 

7 comments

  1. chloe welby

    Michael was my uncle whom I was never fortunate enough to meet.

  2. John Firth

    I have just seen Country file on BBC 1, and it mentioned the scout disaster.
    I was one of the young men who volunteered to take part in the search.

    I was employed by the NCB as an Apprentice Fitter at Rossington Colliery and they sent me on this sponsored course.
    I was serving a 2 week term at the outward bound course at Castleton, and started the course on Saturday the 14 March 1964.

    As I awaited a bus to collect me on the Saturday at Pond Street station in Sheffield it started to snow. It snowed all day and night, and by next morning it was about 2 – 3 ft deep in Castleton.
    We were all awoke at around 6 am to hear of the loss of the scouts, and asked if we wanted to take part.
    We all to a young man said yes!

    They only wanted 12 of us that morning, so as we were 13, we agreed to draw cards to see who would be the one to stay behind.

    As we drew the cards someone said is the ‘Ace ‘High or Low’. I said ‘Low, and promptly pulled a two of hearts.

    I was mortified. If no one pulled and ace I was out!!!

    Someone pulled an ace, and on Sunday the 15th March 1964 we all set out on an adventure in the snow to find the scouts.

    I can say a little more about the day as I recall it if anyone reading this comments would like me to do so

    Kind regards

    John F Firth
    Now of Stoke on Trent age 68.

  3. chloe welby

    Yes please John it’s a part of our family history which me and my four siblings know little about and all that side of our family have now passed.

  4. John Penny aged 69

    I took part in the walk that year which I remember vividly. From the Snake Pass, where we were picked up by a Land Rover, we were taken to a school at Buxton. At 11pm they asked for volunteers to go out to seach. We had whistles and torches and walked in blizzard conditions over Bleaklow Moor. There were maybe a dozen of us. We found nobody and returned to Buxton about 3am. They found the bodies of those who perished buried in snow some days later.

  5. Richard Hulse

    I have lived in Canada for some years now but at that tragic time in1964 I was at High Storrs Grammar School in Sheffield and a member of the Senior Scout troop.
    I was one of several who volunteered to join the rescue teams.
    It is still a vivid memory for me and was with the group that found the last of the three scouts lost. Walking back down of the moor carrying this young man on my shoulder with several others is something I can never forget .
    I was used to walking on these moors and many weekends out of Edale. Very aware of proper preparation and clothing for conditions that could change in moments.
    I recall the tragedy at not being prepared for such conditions that changed so quickly.
    When we reached the road we were relieved and the medical folks and others took over.
    I recall the television cameras being there not wanting to speak to anyone other than checking out and making our way home very much saddened and highly emotional over the last several hours previous.
    I remember getting home and trying to talk through the experience with my family.
    I was 17 years old and it has left an indelible memory and impact on my life.

  6. Team Rambler

    Hello Richard, thank you very much for getting touch. Your personal account of that day is moving and I can fully understand why you can still remember it clearly. Many lessons were learnt from the sad event and from it was born an organisation pledged to never allowing such a thing happen again. The Four Inns Walk still takes place every year and to my knowledge there has never been a serious incident since.
    Again many thanks for your message. Bets wishes, Roger Bennett, Buxton MRT Operations Secretary.

  7. Lawrence Devaney

    I have only just come across this account as a result of a Google search to obtain more information as a result of a recent conversation on the event. I would like to add my memories.
    I was a 17 year old member of a youth club rambling group in 1964. Most Sundays we would head to Glossop as that was the cheapest train journey from Manchester, from there we would take up one of several routes onto the hills. On the 14th of March we left Glossop station, around 10 of us planning to walk through Doctor’s Gate and back. It was cold but the weather was reasonable but as we progressed snow started to fall. At first it was fun as we left the town and picked up the farm track, a bit of snow was always more fun. We left the farm track and started to follow the stream with the snow now quite heavy but we continued. However, a few of the more experienced walkers were showing some concern especially as we had a few with little or no knowledge of Peak District walking. Eventually we noticed that the snow was falling so heavily that our footsteps were disappearing behind us and footing was hazardous. Our leader on that day Bill Cox made the decision that it was too far to retrace our route and that the A57 was only a short but very difficult climb over a hill on our right (south). We eventually made it but only after a distressing and difficult climb out. On the road back to Glossop we were stopped by searchers in a Land Rover who asked us where we had been and if we had seen anyone on route. It was only then we knew about the missing scouts. I don’t think there was any significance in where we had been to the searchers as when asked they admitted that the scouts could be anywhere on the trail. We walked on and stopped at the first place we could buy a hot drink, a tiny cafe that I think has long gone. We naturally discussed the fate of the scouts out in such appalling weather but we had no idea how close we must have been to them. That is a memory that still haunts me to this day. I have been back to Doctor’s Gate and several years ago visited the memorial to the three young men who so tragically lost their lives. I Remember that our walk finished in blizzard conditions on a freezing cold day but all of us were safe. My sympathies at that time and regularly since are with the relatives and friends of those three Rovers.

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