Philip Rankin (right) with Hamish MacInnes at the Glencoe Mountain ski resort

A “pioneer” of Scotland’s ski-ing industry has died a month short of his 100th birthday.

A campaign had been launched for Philip Rankin, who would have celebrated his centenary on April 16, to be honoured for his work including building the first ski tow in the 1950s at Glencoe.

That campaign received a massive boost when Mr Rankin received a lifetime achievement from Snowsport Scotland in December.

Mr Rankin, a former RAF pilot in World War Two, led a group of Clyde shipyard workers who hauled lumps of metal up a Glencoe mountain in order to create the first ski tow.

That tow helped to spawn an industry which has gone on to generate millions for the economy every year and helped to establish Glencoe Mountain as a popular mountain sports destination.

He died at his home in Ballachulish last Sunday (Mar 12) following a short illness.

Victoria Sutherland, a friend and campaigner, said she was with him a few days before he passed away. She said: “I was sitting with him he said ‘I did achieve something in my life didn’t I?’ I assured him that he was already a legend!

“There is no doubt that a ski-ing industry would have eventually been developed in Scotland but his vision that early, I am sure, meant that ski-ing in Scotland became a reality many years earlier than would have been the case otherwise.

“Speak to any ski-ier and they will tell you that Glencoe has the best and most challenging runs in Scotland, both for skiers and snowboarders. It also holds the snow longer into Spring than any other resort. Glencoe continues to have a very loyal following.”

Before the 1950s the only people who ventured into the Scottish mountains in winter were hardened climbers but Mr Rankin saw skiing as an exciting new sport.

The former engineer moved to Ballachulish in 1954 to concentrate on the venture. Members of the Scottish Ski Club, made up largely of doctors and lawyers, then joined forces with the Clan Mountaineering Club whose members came from the shipyards of the Clyde to build the tow in 1955 on the slopes of Meall a’ Bhùiridh.

The metal plate and steel cables needed for the tow were “acquired” from Glasgow’s shipyards and were carried up the hill on the backs of the men under Philip’s supervision. It was ready for use in February 1956 and its opening marked the creation of the first commercial ski centre in Scotland.

Campaigners were hugely disappointed last year to find out that Mr Rankin’s age meant he was disqualified from being considered for an MBE. Ms Sutherland had received a letter from Honour Administrator Steven Colquhoun stating: “I have to advise that the UK Government Honours guidance stipulates that an individual must still be involved in the activity for which they are being nominated.” He goes on to say that there can be a “short period of grace” after retirement but after that they are “time-barred”.

 

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