Chemin de la Liberte 2016
This year's Chemin de la Liberte was dedicated to Scott Goodall MBE, who died in March.
For those walkers who never met Scott, it may have seemed strange that the French organisers should dedicate the whole event to one man - but to most of those present it was a fitting tribute.
Scott was one of the founders of the Chemin but his contribution to the event was so much more than simply taking bookings for the foreign (non-French) walkers. As well as arranging their transport and accommodation, Scott took a personal interest in helping all participants (walkers and supporters) before, during and long after the event. He was always there to sort out the inevitable problems of any foreign trip – lost luggage, language difficulties, forgotten bills to be paid – the list is endless.
Guy Seris, President of the Chemin Association added these words (roughly translated from the original French) at the end of his speech at Kercabanac on the Wednesday : “Now comes the most moving and difficult thing for me, it is time to dedicate this edition of the Chemin to Scott. Always working discretely and efficiently, he managed to give international echoes to the association ... Scott you have been a very efficient and likeable partner but above all you have been a very understanding friend of mine ... The association owes you a lot and this twenty-third edition is for you our Scottish friend, as we liked to call you. You will always be in our memories this way.”
If you only knew Scott from the Chemin then you could be forgiven for not realising what a full life he led before he and his wife Judy moved to the Ariege in 1981. Born in Aberdeen in 1935, Scott was called up for National Service in 1954, serving in Korea and Japan before returning to England where he became an insurance assessor. However he soon moved back to his native Scotland where he joined publishers DC Thomson. He moved to London in the 1960s as a features writer before joining IPC on Fleet Street and becoming a comic writer, creating many new and well-loved characters of his own. Scott's script-writing continued after his move to France but he soon became involved in researching some of the many escape routes across the Pyrenees used during the Second World War (for which he received his MBE) and in 1994, helped establish the annual Chemin de la Liberte event that so many of us have walked over the years since.
Scott, who completed the walk many times himself, tirelessly promoted the Chemin and encouraged walkers from all over the world to take part, explaining its historic significance, and advising them on the kit and training they would need in order to complete the trail. There is no doubt that Scott's constant personal commitment made the Chemin de la Liberte into the truly international event it is today.
Fiona and Paul Debons arranging wreaths and crosses at the Halifax memorial site
The memorial at Kercabanac with Scott's photograph almost lost behind the flowers
Fiona and Paul at the Spanish border where we drank a toast to her father
Photographs coourtesy of Edgar Aromin and Brice Esquerre
The walk itself was very similar to last year's event (click here for details) but with slightly kinder weather so I won't describe it any great detail. Numbers of walkers, both foreign and local were smaller than usual and there were a several new yellow-shirted accompagneurs to take care of us. One walker does need special mention though - Scott and Judy's daughter Fiona was following in her father's footsteps and making her Chemin debut. In addition to the ceremony at Kercabanac, the Chemin museum where we went next to enjoy a vin d'honneur courtesy of the maire of Saint-Girons, also included a moving tribute to Scott with numerous photographs and mementoes on display. On Thursday morning before we set off from the Pont du Chemin de la Liberte, each walker was issued with a name tag which this year, included a photograph of Scott. During the walk, there are several ceremonies to honour those who were involved with passages across the mountains in WW2 and at each one, Scott was remembered – crosses were placed and a second wreath laid at the Halifax crash site on Saturday. At the Spanish border on the Sunday, another wreath (carried from Col de la Core) was laid and Paul Debons made a moving speech about Scott on behalf of the guides. We also drank a special toast of single malt whisky and had a moment of silence for Scott before continuing our long trek. Commemorations continued at Esterri …
This shot of Scott and Judy as we left for Toulouse after Chemin 2015 is the last time many of us saw him
Judy Goodall and family wish to thank everyone for their messages of condolence and for all acts of kindness shown to them in their bereavement