Honouring Peter Caddy

The remarkable and inspiring life of Peter Caddy was celebrated recently with a pilgrimage to the summit of Ben Macdui, a Scottish mountain he revered which is the loftiest in the Cairngorms and the second highest in the United Kingdom.

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Peter Caddy

The hike – 20 years after Peter Caddy died in a car accident in Germany – retraced steps the Findhorn Foundation co-founder had first taken in 1967 while being guided by John Willoner, a community member whose passion for high places has taken him to the top of all of Scotland’s 282 Munro mountains.

“Ben Macdui was of profound importance to Peter and he’d been urged to perform a ritual there by his friend R Ogilvie Crombie, better known as ROC,” John recalls. ROC was a major influence in his life, a pillar of the Findhorn community and “a friend and companion of the elemental worlds and the nature spirits.”

Peter had been warned that he needed to be physically and mentally prepared for an epic challenge and to ready himself he pursued a rigorous ritual of daily runs and swims at Findhorn Beach, also undertaking a training trek up the mountain with John Willoner.

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Jonathan Caddy and John Willoner on a recent hike

“The weather was wild and we experienced a blizzard near the summit,” John remembers. “But 10 days later when it was time to perform the actual ceremony the weather was perfect and we reached the top just before midday. I stopped about 10 minutes short while Peter continued alone to perform a ceremony ROC had outlined to him.”

Exactly what happened on the top is the stuff of myths and legends, although Peter had been forewarned by ROC: “This is a pilgrimage to what is now a holy place and it must be made in a completely dedicated manner.”

He treated the assignment very seriously and explained later that he had carried with him a special Tibetan ring with a big green stone that was regarded as a symbol of spiritual links between East and West and between Tibet and what would develop into the celebrated Findhorn Foundation Community. Perhaps significantly Kagyu Samye Ling opened in Scotland that same year and was the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West.”

Twenty-seven years after that historic ascent it was the turn of his three sons – Christopher, Jonathan and David Caddy – to visit the summit, this time to sprinkle their father’s ashes.

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Jonathan, David and Christopher Caddy at the summit of Ben Macdui in 1994

“It’s a place of power and importance,” Jonathan said, remembering stories he’d overheard as a boy about the mystique of the mountain and the unseen presence of an etheric Tibetan temple and legend of a larger-than-life being known as The Grey Man.

“Dad was also a great walker and had led two expeditions into Tibet after World War II. It felt very appropriate to take his ashes up Ben Macdui.

“He was a man with a mission – a terrific motivator and people’s person. He was one of the most selfless individuals and did things for a bigger vision, and not for Peter Caddy.”

When news of his father’s death reached him Jonathan had been relocating an oak tree at the site of the BagEnd Eco housing cluster where he lives in The Park, the tree today spreading its branches nearby and serving as an inconspicuous memorial. A small plaque announces: Peter Caddy, Co-founder of the Findhorn Foundation, 1917-1994.

In typically understated Findhorn tradition, his wife Eileen, who passed in 2006, is also celebrated with a tree marked with an equally modest plaque. She has been named one of the most spiritually influential people in Britain and was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth II for her services to spiritual inquiry.

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John Willoner approaching the summit of Ben Macdui

Although I never knew Peter or Eileen personally, John invited me to join him on his commemorative climb of Ben Macdui, which turned out to be a gruelling seven-hour trek on snow and ice with warm sunshine and inspiring panoramic views greeting us on the top.

Decades earlier ROC had told the community: “I have chosen for Peter the perfect climbing companion and guide in John Willoner. He too is a dedicated soul.”

In many ways he was like a second father to the Caddy boys, taking them on regular outings and adventures.

As we trekked higher, trudging through snow that gave way to slippery ice, John provided a history lesson in that quiet and unassuming way of his, his love of the Scottish mountains and deep respect for Peter Caddy shining through.

“Peter had a big presence – he was a larger than life character and one of his greatest strengths was his ability to see the positive in all situations – the hand of God as he would say. He also had a great sense of humour and never took no for an answer. Peter led by example and was a huge source of inspiration in my life!”

Geoff Dalglish

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