By Angela Clark
A kind heart, a cheeky grin and a glint in his eye, Brian Long displayed all of these when I met up with him and his walking group for a three mile trek around the Old Kilpatrick hills to the Greenside Reservoir.
He smiles proudly as he informs me this particular walk is extra special, as it was the first trek he made four and a half years ago when he started Call Yourself A Bankie’s hill walking group.
A survivor of two heart attacks, weight gain and other health problems spurred this 70 year old to change his life and in doing so he improved the lives of so many people across his home town.
Brian said: “The aim of the group was for me to make changes in my life. When I set up the Facebook page I never really had a long-term goal.
“It has helped me in a number of ways. I am fitter, have made loads of new friends and it has improved my spiritual and mental well-being.”
This humble man is reluctant to take credit for himself. He assures me the success of the group is not down to him, but to the members who keep turning up and he keeps the group going in the hope he can help and support people to improve their quality of life
He said: “People walk for a number of reasons, they may be lonely or are looking to improve their mental and physical well being, that’s what happens in this group. You see people grow in self esteem, confidence and fitness. Nothing compares to it. I just love being part of it.”
Walking abilities in the group differ and organised events currently take place twice a week. These range from low level hills, to Munro climbing. Brian works hard to meet the needs of over 300 members. He is well organised and researches routes well before the scheduled events.
He smiles broadly as he recalls some of the adventures and wildlife he has encountered whilst out with his group, including deer, rabbits, hawks even a wild boar.
He said: “We have been chased by cows. Taken shortcuts that ended up with us adding 14 miles onto our trip. Falling down holes, the list goes on – that’s all part of the fun and that’s why I love it.”
It’s easy to see why people warm to this gentleman, he is laid back, funny and has the patience of a saint.
One member of his group said: “Brian is a gem of a guy. I met him through CYAB hillwalking group last April and over the past year he has dragged me up hills I thought I couldn’t climb, taught me loads about everything to do with hill walking and become one of my closest friends.
“Not everyone goes on every walk with the group but Brian is always there, encouraging all who come.
“Joining the group has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I’d be lost without it and the group would be lost without Brian and his shortcuts!”
As well as keeping CYAB hill walking group running Brian celebrated his 70th birthday in style this summer as he took on the Great Glencoe Challenge, walking a staggering 26 miles on the 7th July and then the very next day climbing Ben Nevis.
He is raising money for Cancer Support Scotland after his son was diagnosed with the disease and this is his third year doing the event.
Brian Long is a prime example of how to keep an auld ticker young. He is a man who lives his life to the full and has learned not to take himself too seriously.
He gives so much to people, even in his own times of trouble and has been a great teacher to me and many others. Keep those boots on big chap, the hills are waiting.