I vividly remember being excited by the prospect of a month of ‘outward bounding’ when I first saw the notice on the school noticeboard. I knew little about Outward Bound other than it was an opportunity to experience the outdoors in challenging circumstances. The interview was severe and lengthy – conducted by the Deputy Head, Mr Clem Bell. I think all the boys were secretly scared of him.
Delighted to be awarded the prize, I set about getting ready – there was equipment to buy and running to get fitter. I’ve always been an outdoors person but OB presented new challenges and experiences. In 1975, at the now closed Outward Bound Moray Sea School, communal cold showers every morning were only the beginning. Sharing a dorm with a crowd of young men with whom socially, politically and educationally I had little in common was an experience.
It was a fantastic opportunity – learning four core outdoor skills – hill walking, sailing, canoeing and rock climbing. Each team of 16, called a watch reflecting the sea training, had a Watch Leader for the 26 days course and there were 10 watches. Each of the four activities led to an expedition – two nights in the Cairngorms; an overnight sail to Cruden Bay, a canoe paddle to Nairn and a significant rock-climb followed by an abseil into the sea. I learned so many skills that I still use and have passed on to my children and now grandchildren.
In every activity we each had an opportunity to lead the team. Personally, I learned a lot about myself: how far I can push myself; the need to solve problems and in leadership how to get the best from a team. I certainly did a lot of growing up and in particular I saw how privileged my upbringing and education had been. Certainly a life-changing experience in so many ways.