Derrick Armstrong Cowan

Centre

Moray Sea School, Burghead Scotland

Date

1972

Your Story

I had seen a film about the Outward Bound on television so when the rector of the High School of Glasgow announced at morning assembly in 1972 that places were available I rushed to the school office to volunteer. I also persuaded two class mates to come with me- Scott Brown and Roger Petit . It turned out that only two places were available and being able to swim was a condition. I couldn't swim then and 46 years later I still can't swim ! Anyway since I had been the first to volunteer an exception was made and I could go. It was a great experience and I had expected it to be tougher. The freezing cold shower and moderate run before breakfast got me fitter than I have ever have been . Our group was a mixed bunch of guys including two English squaddies, the nephew of Rio Stakis who looked like a greek God, a deliquint from Birmingham , the son of an RAF officer and a great guy from Dundee with whom I kept in touch for some time after.There were highlights aplenty not least the most terrifying crossing of the Moray Firth from Nigg bay in three boats plus a safety boat which probably needed more help than us. After previously rowing in calm waters from Inverness to Nigg Bay it was quite a shock when a storm came up the next day. The masts of our boats disappeared in troughs of what must have been at least thirty foot waves. As a non-swimmer with just a swim vest on, my main thought between prayers was whether a helicopter could save any of us in time once we capsized which seemed inevitible , We made it into Burghead with the rest of the nervous looking staff and boys waiting on the quay at Burghead.Another time at the quayside it was me that saw what looked like a ball bobbing about in the water which was infact an infant boy with his face already blue and on the verge drowning. I shouted at our group and two guys instantly reacted - one jumped in straight feet first and another ran around to better vantage point and swam across. . Nobody had seen or heard him fall of the quay. His shocked parents later came round to camp to express their deep gratitude to the rescuers .Practicing capsizing in a canoe, surf canoeing, sleeping outdoors on the beach and later alone in Monaughty forest , rockclimbing and a 3 day trek across the Cairngorms are memories I have always cherished. At one point a huge herd of reindeer appeared on a ridge not far from us. By the time I got my camera out the last set of horns had just disappeared over the hill. Somewhere I still have that picture - without a reindeer in sight.It was sad when we all left on the train south. No mobile phones or facebook was available to keep in touch in those days. My pal from Dundee went to work in Kirkintilloch and we met up a couple of times in Glasgow. The annoying thing is that I cannot even find the badge we all received. I was and still am very proud of it. The Outward Bound is a tremendous institution and should be supported in full.