Retro: Memories of Kinder Trespass prompt Sheffield family to tell of forebears' foray into forbidden ground

Memories of the Kinder Trespass in 1932 have prompted a Sheffield family to reveal their forbears’ foray into walking on forbidden ground – and leaving their mark.

Friday, 29th April 2022, 12:41 pm

Ralph and Alan Torry headed for Higger Tor which overlooks the Burbage Valley in April 1932 as more than 400 people participated in a mass trespass onto Kinder Scout, the highest terrain in the Peak District.

The Kinder event was to highlight that walkers were denied access to areas of open country and was organised by the Manchester branch of the British Workers Sports Federation. They chose to notify the local press in advance and as a result Derbyshire Constabulary turned out in force. Five men from Manchester, including the leader Benny Rothman, were subsequently jailed.

The Torrys made it to Higger Tor without being spotted. Both ramblers, they wanted to make their point. Alan walked seven and half miles from his Greystones home to get there. Aged 23, he kept watch while Ralph, 22, carved his initials using a chisel he had fashioned in his work with rock drills.

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Malcolm Torry whose father and uncle carved their names on rocks at Higger Tor on the same day as the Kinder Trespass in 1932. Picture Scott Merrylees

Alan carved his initials nearby and in 2016 they were discovered by his son Graham. The tool used is now on display in a case at The Outside Cafe, Hathersage.

Graham’s brother Malcolm, 89, of Whirlow, takes up the story and it starts with Ralph’s job.

“My uncle was given the task of improving rock drill performance,” Malcolm says.

Ralph worked at the Safety In Mines Research laboratory at Sheffield University and shortened six drills as part of an experiment. It gave him the idea of taking one to Higger Tor and using it to carve his initials.

Malcolm Torry whose father and uncle carved their names on rocks at Higger Tor on the same day as the Kinder Trespass in 1932. Malcolm with a photograph of himself and the chisel at Longshaw Lodge. Picture Scott Merrylees

“It was the nearest outcrop of rock to Sheffield. I believe it was the first and only dated initial ever put there,” says Malcolm.

“The arrow head fits perfectly. Alan put his initials further away and we know they are his as he always curved the tops of his As.”

Years later, the Kinder Trespass was described by veteran Sheffield politician Roy Hattersley as the most successful direct action in British history. It is widely credited with leading to legislation in 1949 to establish the National Parks and contributing to the development of the Pennine Way.

The Torry’s venture is described by their family as a whodunnit. Graham partly solved it in 2016 and wrote to The Star to explain.

Malcolm Torry whose father and uncle carved their names on rocks at Higger Tor on the same day as the Kinder Trespass in 1932. Picture Scott Merrylees

“My father Alan was a keen walker and together with his brother Ralph was a member of Sheffield Clarion Rambling club in the 1920s and 1930s,” he said.

“Shortly before he died in 1986 he took me on one of his favourite walks to Higger Tor to look down the valley below.

“Thirty years later I took my wife on the same walk. After reaching the top of the rise we saw a rock on which someone had deeply carved his initials and a date, but we did not take much notice of it at the time and continued to the edge of the rocks further on.

“However, of the many rocks on the top only one appeared to have been marked. The initials here were AT, my father’s initials! After taking a photograph we returned home having been attacked by a number of hornets.

Malcolm Torry whose father and uncle carved their names on rocks at Higger Tor on the same day as the Kinder Trespass in 1932. Picture Scott Merrylees

“I took my brother Malcolm on the same walk in an attempt to relocate the rock, which we eventually found although even two months later it was more covered in lichen and in the shade.

“Remembering the previously marked rock and the connection between the two brothers, the Clarion Ramblers and the Kinder trespass of 1932, we walked backed looking for the dated rock. Imagine our surprise on finding it, RT 1932, my uncle’s initials.”

The initials had been thought to read PT but because of the angle of the sunlight on that day it was revealed to be RT.

The chisel is on display along with pictures, one of which shows a cyclist doing a wheelie in open countryside.

“This captures the spirit of the protest perfectly,” says Malcolm.

Malcolm Torry whose father and uncle carved their names on rocks at Higger Tor on the same day as the Kinder Trespass in 1932. A copy of record of walks The Circle Review owned by Malcolm's father showing the first mention of Higger Tor. Picture Scott Merrylees
1932 Kinder Scout Mass Trespass. The trespassers assemble for their climb up the path past Kinder Reservoir. The picture is reproduced in Bernard Rothman's book. "The 1932 Kinder Trespass".
A photograph of Malcolm Torry and the chisel at Longshaw Lodge. Picture Scott Merrylees
Looking towards Higger Tor, from Carl Wark, an iron age fort in the Peak District.
Malcolm Torry whose father and uncle carved their names on rocks at Higger Tor on the same day as the Kinder Trespass in 1932. A photograph of himself and the chisel at Longshaw Lodge. Picture Scott Merrylees
Malcolm Torry whose father and uncle carved their names on rocks at Higger Tor on the same day as the Kinder Trespass in 1932. A copy of record of walks The Circle Review owned by Malcolm's father. Picture Scott Merrylees
Higger Tor in the Peak District
Malcolm Torry whose father and uncle carved their names on rocks at Higger Tor on the same day as the Kinder Trespass in 1932. Picture Scott Merrylees