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Cleveland Walk,
20th January 1976.

The Editor, Belfry Bulletin.

Dear Sir,

Having read item 194 in 'Round and About' I am, to say the least, incensed.

'Wig' has every right to his personal opinions, for many of which I have the greatest respect. However, this article seemed written purely to inflame the 'Them against Us' feeling that is destroying the credibility of the C.S.C.C. (which, of course, includes us.)

The setting up of an Equipment Committee represents perhaps the first action of the N.C.A. that is not purely political.  It is, too, likely to be of real use to cavers since the committee will give honest and unbiased reports on equipment; will liaise with manufacturers to produce new equipment etc.

The reaction from a few Mendip cavers has been 'anti' the Equipment Committee - it is so very easy to criticise and not so easy actually to do the work - but I can confidently say from many discussion in the Hunters etc. that most cavers in the region genuinely want the committee to exist.  I myself feel that it is in the interest of any active caver to at least give the committee a chance to prove its value.

Yours, etc.,
Mike Cowlinshaw.


A reply from 'Wig' follows.

Although this reply will be somewhat belated, as Mike and I will have discussed the current situation and hopefully cleared the air, an immediate reply to Mike’s letter before this happens might still be useful.  I feel that the comments I made were far from being critical except for a certain amount of journalistic licence in my title!  I was writing as a member of B.E.C. and not as the Hon. Sec. of the C.S.C.C.  It is, of course, difficult to wear two caps at once.  I merely reported that C.S.C.C. had voted to refer the Equipment special Committee's report back to them for a more detailed account of what they intended to do in 1976.  The report lacked specific details of their intended actions, and C.S.C.C. felt that it was not prepared to contribute towards the sum of £200 of their anticipated administrative costs that has to be financed by the regional and other constituent bodies of N.C.A. (these costs are not grant aided) without more specific details that were worth this high cost.  I'm sure that any club committee that spent £70 on the report issued by this committee (£70 was its cost) would have been thrown out by its club members in no time at all!

However, having said that, I hope that I balanced matters by asking for any professionally qualified person who was interested in helping with the work of this committee to come forward.  Finally, Mike's comment that local cavers want this committee to exist frankly surprises me, but if this is true, he'd better get them to attend a C.S.C.C. meeting and ensure that their views are heard.

Your editor (thinly disguised as the chairman the C.S.C.C.) would also like to make a comment on this letter.

The aspect of Mike's letter which I find a trifle disturbing is that the C.S.C.C. is generally 'anti' just about everything - and that this intransigent attitude is destroying its credibility elsewhere.

At the risk of sticking my neck right out, I feel that the C.S.C.C. have adopted an attitude of hard commonsense over the last few years.  The fact that this attitude has brought it into conflict with some of the other constituent bodies of N.C.A. is unfortunate but possibly inevitable.  The C.S.C.C. are not against things just for the hell of it, but because in many cases, they feel that they have thought the thing through and can see snags which might have been overlooked in the general enthusiasm for getting something done.

In the case of the report in question, it is vague.  I am sure that Mike, in his professional capacity at work, would not think much of a report which gave no details as to exactly what work was proposed, together with a cost and time estimate for each section of the proposed task.

Without such detail, we are in no position to know exactly what is planned.  For example, it has been estimated by two people independently (one of whom is associated with the special committee) that to write a realistic specification for the 'Cave Qualification' of ropes for use as lifelines, taking ropes which are already manufactured to a general specification, might cost from £30,000 to £50,000 if carried out in professional labs to a standard approaching that of a B.S.

Bearing in mind the authority that such findings may be credited with (even if the Special Committee did not intend their results to be used in this way) some people think that nothing less than an equivalent B.S. standard would be of any real use. Imagine a bloke saying “Our lifeline was a rope which the N.C.A. said would stand 50 hours of underground use providing it was visually checked between trips.  We did this, and it had only been used for a tota1 of 16 hours when the fatality occurred.”  Members of the Equipment Special Committee could be in for a pretty rough ride after such an inquest.  Like Wig, we are not saying "Stop it", so much as saying "Please tell us more about what you intend to do, so that we can judge if we think it is sensible, or practical, or even possible."