Saturday, May 20, 2006

Carrying Pianos may be National Sport

There was a fascinating story in Wednesday morning papers about conservationists who had found the remains of a piano under a pile of stones being cleared up on Ben Nevis. It was a great story, full of intrigue. Just the thing to keep me awake on the red eye to London.

Even better, the story was followed up in the papers on Thursday and Friday mornings when the man who had single-handedly carried the piano to the 1344m (4409ft) summit on his back was found.

Kenny Campbell has a history of carrying things up the mountain for charity. He only got the piano up on his third attempt in 1971, playing Scotland the Brave when he reached the top, before leaving it. The Guinness Book of Records documents his success. After protests about the appearance of a piano at the summit, Kenny climbed back up to discover that the piano was gone.

Friday’s Guardian also teases us with the news that Kenny Campbell is planning another stunt to mark his 65th birthday later on this year.

But there is some dispute whether it was a piano or an organ that he carried up. Nigel Hawkins from the John Muir Conservation Trust explains that “an organ was carried up by Kenneth Campbell in 1971 but we can say definitely that it was not an organ that was found [last week] as there was an iron frame with metal strings.”

But did it end there. No. There are probably more twists and turns in this story than the path the piano must have taken to get up Ben Nevis in the first place.

Both Friday’s Times and Saturday’s Mirror claim to have a different solution to the mystery. Dismissing the claims that Kenny Campbell carted the piano up in 1971. Step in removal man, Mike Clark. To quote:

Mike Clark and his team of Dundee removers apparently celebrated their success with McVitie’s biscuits washed down with a bottle of whisky. The conservationists found a McVitie’s wrapper with a “best before December 86” date was near instrument.

This story should become a case study for all school history classes. What is the real story? Why the variation in all the different reports? An organ or a piano? Kenny Campbell or Mike Clark and team? 1971 or 1986? Are the John Muir Trust press releases (first and second) the most accurate narations of the story?

Just how many pianos have been carried to the summits of mountains? And what other strange objects will now appear at the top of Ben Nevis?

And given the disparity in press reports, will all the unreliable blog entries further confuse the story?

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