Papers of A. Ronald G. Burn

Scope and Content

Diaries of A. Ronald A. Burn, with some related correspondence, recording his extensive walking tours in the Highlands, 1914 - 1927. The diaries are written with great care, and contain minute details about the places and people that he visited, with notes on place and hill names, local Gaelic dialect words, folklore, commentary on access and other historical aspects of early mountaineering in Scotland.

Administrative / Biographical History

Aubrey Ronald Graham Burn was born in 1887, the son of Rev. John H. Burn of St Drostan's Scottish Episcopal Church, New Deer, Aberdeenshire. He was an outstanding scholar of Latin and Greek, and after attending a series of English boarding schools gained a scholarship to study Theology at the University of Durham, from where he graduated c. 1908. He reluctantly followed his father into the Anglican Church, serving as minister at Newmarket, Suffolk, c 1914, and afterwards at Vernwood near Wimborne, Dorset. He later converted to Roman Catholicism, and through loss of his job and income suffered a period of hardship and poverty. Afterwards, he taught for a short period in the Humanities Department at Glasgow University, and latterly worked as a proof reader in Latin and Greek at Oxford University Press. He was a great bibliophile and during his lifetime gathered a large collection of scholarly books, which were bequeathed to his friend, Father Anthony Ross, former Rector of Edinburgh University. Although he spent much of his childhood and working life in England, Burn had a strong empathy with his early Scottish roots and was immensely proud of his MacIntyre descent. During the period 1914 - 1927 he made frequent trips to Scotland, which he devoted to walking and climbing in the Highlands. He kept a meticulous record of each trip in the series of diaries deposited here. These and personal testimony from the people that he met show him to be an enthusiastic and determined walker, undeterred by the vagaries of either poor weather or difficult terrain, yet a thoroughly incompetent navigator with an irresponsible and foolhardy approach towards the hills. Despite his shortcomings, he was the first person to climb all of the Munros with their minor tops, and for this achievement was made a life member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club.

Once settled in Oxford Burn did not return to Scotland, and died there on the 1 Jun 1972. Further biographical details are contained in Elizabeth Allen, Burn on the Hill: the Story of the First Compleat Munroist (Beauly: Bidean Books, 1985)


None observed - listing in process.

Access Information

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

Gifted to the University in May 1986, via Dr Adam Watson, of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Banchory.

Other Finding Aids

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

The diaries were purchased by Mr G.H. Wright, a London book collector, from a bookstall in London, in the 1960s, and passed to Dr Adam Watson, of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Banchory, in 1986. No further details of provenance have been established.


No accruals expected

Related Material

Records of the Cairngorm Club, 1890 - 1976 (GB 231 MS 3405). The collection comprises minutes, visitors' books and photographs of the Club. A collection level description is available on the Archives Hub.

The Cairngorm Club library (ref. Cairngorm Club) is managed as one of several special printed book collections in Special Libraries and Archives, University of Aberdeen. Comprising c. 1150 volumes and over 40 periodical runs, the Library, which concentrates on all aspects of mountaineering with special relevance to Scotland, is still added to by purchases made by, and gifts made to, the Club. Although much of the stock dates from the last twenty years or so, the Library does hold some important 19th century topographical books, such as George Robson's Scenery of the Grampian Mountains (London, 1814), and John Bristed's Pedestrian Tour through Part of the Highlands of Scotland (London: Wallis, 1803).


The diaries have been transcribed and published, with biographical details, in Elizabeth Allen, Burn on the Hill: the Story of the First Compleat Munroist (Beauly: Bidean Books, 1985).

Additional Information

This material is original