The Munro Society (TMS) was formed in 2002 and is open to anyone who has climbed all the Munros. The founders thought carefully about the objectives and subsequent development has shown the wisdom of their thinking. TMS was to be more than a club and social network, although these were important aspects. It was hoped that over time TMS would establish a "voice" in matters pertaining to Scotland's mountain landscape. A membership comprising individuals who had climbed all the Munros was seen as a real strength in terms of credibility and substance.
TMS differs from most other hill-walking clubs not only in the entry qualification but also in having no geographical base. 40% of members reside outside Scotland. Many members also belong to their local hill walking club. Having completed one round of Munros many members repeat Munro rounds, climb the Munro Tops and set about completing the Corbetts, Donalds, Grahams and Furths. There is an increasing trend to include Marilyns and HuMPs. The membership of TMS provides an extensive collective experience and knowledge of Scotland's mountains.
This wealth of experience comes over clearly in the entertaining and informative Newsletter, produced three times a year. The same is true of the Journal, which appears approximately every two to three years and of the 10th Anniversary Anthology. All publications are sent free to members and are available for sale to non-members.
Although TMS lacks a geographic base the weekend meets that occur three times a year are well attended. These are held in club huts and bunkhouses throughout Scotland and also in Ireland, Wales and the Lake District. The AGM in April is followed by lunch and a series of talks from members and invited speakers. The Annual Dinner in October is preceded by a lecture, includes a mountain photography competition, an after-dinner talk and the next day, the President's Walk, usually up a local hill. TMS hosts the Irvine Butterfield memorial lecture, in memory of a founding member and first President, at the Dundee Mountain Film Festival. As with all hill-walking clubs many friendships and walking partnerships arise out of the organised activities.
A programme of heightings was introduced to attempt once and for all, using modern GPS surveying techniques, to resolve the heights of mountains around the 3,000 feet level and thus ensure they were placed in the right category. While the measurements of the Ordnance Survey using older techniques are impressively accurate, Sgurr nan Ceannaichean and Beinn a'Chlaidheimh did not make the 3,000 foot level and have been reclassified as Corbetts by the SMC.
An ethos of the Society is that "future generations should have access to the thinking of those who preceded them on the mountains. There is thus a requirement to record and store what people thought important in their times and context". An archive has been established, concentrating on matters germane to Munros and Munroists, open to deposits from members and non-members, based at the AK Bell Library in Perth. It contains a thorough record of TMS activities, individual records, diaries and logs and a series of interviews with early Munroists, stored on DVD.
The TMS Constitution states that the Society should be "an informed and authoritative body of opinion and influence on the protection of and access to the Munros and their mountain landscape and Scotland's mountains in general". Members have a huge collective understanding of the changes to the hill environment over the last few decades. With the wild land of the Highlands seen as our rainforest equivalent the accelerated loss of wild land in recent times (particularly from industrial scale wind farms and the profusion of unregulated tracks) has been very obvious and sad. At present the Committee endorses the position of Mountaineering Scotland (MS), which "supports the Scottish Government's aim of developing clean, renewable energy sources but opposes developments that threaten the wild landscape of Scottish mountains". Many of our members also belong to other organisations which are in a position to assess in detail the impact and suitability of wind farm applications, such as MS, the JMT, the SWLG, as well as the RSPB, SOC, WLT and NTS. With overlapping specialisms and interests there is an increasing collaboration between these groups. Members of TMS write letters of objection as individuals, where they strongly feel applications are unsuitable. TMS is now being invited to participate, along with these other long established bodies, in initiatives to lobby for the protection of Scotland's mountain landscape. It has developed "a voice". However, TMS is mindful of the extent to which it can be represented, short of contacting all members on each case.
An early initiative was the introduction of MQIs ("Mountain Quality Indicators of Environment and Experience"). These have subsequently evolved into MRs ("Mountain Reports"). MQIs and MRs have been completed by more than 30 members, contributing more than 1,800 reports to date. These have provided a solid body of information across a range of subject matter pertinent to Scotland's mountain landscape, including access, flora, fauna, past and present human impact, erosion and members' general observations and responses. Before this resource was established, although members had many significant observations about Scotland's mountain landscape, these were subjective, reliant on memory, difficult to quantify and not recorded. Mindful of the issues discussed in the previous section, it is most important to have this substantive, recorded source of information and observation. Mountain Reporting now covers most hill categories in Scotland through a method of on-line reporting. Photographic evidence is encouraged and non-members have access to these reports.
Around 8% of Munroists who register completion with the SMC join the Society each year; there are also a few who join but do not register with the SMC. The number of members is now fairly constant at around 300. As with many clubs, there are fewer young people, but it is a fact for TMS that most people are older by the time they complete the Munros. Although the Society considers that current membership numbers are satisfactory, it is always interested in why most completers do not join. A small survey found that non-joining individuals mostly knew of the Society (a flyer is sent by SMC on registration on the Society's behalf) but didn't join for varied reasons. Some said that they perceived TMS (though they had never had contact with the Society) as being "elitist". Nothing could be further from the truth. TMS members are a very friendly, welcoming group. TMS has recently joined Facebook and use of this by members and non-members is increasing. TMS is still a relatively young organisation and although the general future development aims are clear, there are several specific points that are under very active discussion.