Adrian Street
Back to alumni stories

Adrian Street - Aberdovey, Wales, 1965

March 1967 Aberdovey.
I caught the last steam train from Paddington, London to Aberystwyth, there were people everywhere. I thought that they had come to see me off, rather than some old fashioned steam engine. All along the line there were people waving.and taking photographs. Arrived at Aberdovey and was met by a man who told me to follow him. No one to carry the case, and it seemed miles to the School. Shown to a wooden hut, and again the valet seemed to be having a day off as I had to unpack and hang my own clothes! They knew that I was coming, so the least that they could have done was to have laid on transport and a batman. I hoped that things were going to improve. Along with lots of other boys we had a medical and tea. Cigarettes were confiscated which did not go down well with some of the boys, as was alcohol. The pub was also out of bounds. At least to the boys, but we suspected the instructors went there after dark.
Next morning whilst it was still dark and we were asleep, rudely awaken and told it was time for PT and a cold shower. This was not explained to me when I was asked if I would like a month in Wales on full pay. On hearing that I would be away for a month, Barclays Bank shares rose in value.
The boys in my hut were apprehensive and thoughtful about what the month ahead would bring. We were expected to serve at meal times, keep our hut tidy and pick up any rubbish found laying about. Being teenagers, we thought that, that was what mothers were invented for!
In our watch we came from all walks of life, some had a priviledged upbringing whilst others had spent time in borstal. Reconciling our differences took time and we acted on an individual basis rather than as a team. It took a week or two to bond, by which time we had elected a new team leader and second. We were well behind in the points race, but with new leadership we started to catch up and almost came top by the end of the month. Some in our group excelled in one discipline and helped others, only to find that they were short coming in other pursuits and needed encouragement, like when potholing in the dark. There was always someone who would lead the group and it was not always who we expected. When it came to plunging down a dark shaft tied to a rope it took some courage and often a lot of encouragement before doing so. However, often the person would then ask if he could do it again, as he had enjoyed it.
Being a sailing school meant lots of time on the water, both in canoes and a lugger. The lugger had a sail that had to be lowered and dipped, not easy with lots of inexperienced boys aboard. Occassionally a boy would "accidentally" fall overboard, after getting a gentle push and we would have to turn the lugger about and then "delicately" pull him aboard. The sea off Wales in March was not warm. Not the Carribean!
Near the end of the month, we went on a five day expedition to Cader Idris, the local mountain. It is rumoured that people train on Cader before climbing Everest. If you can climb Cader then Everest is a doddle. Again the instructors forgot to employ Sherpas, so we had to carry our own gear for FIVE days. It seemed to rain all the time, and was always in our faces no matter which direction we walked, and then it snowed. To think that we had to pay good money for this, when we could have been at home in the warm and dry. As we were always wet, our clothing didnot dry out and each morning we had to put on damp, smelly clothes and boots. Just as well we marched in single file at times. Radios were not allowed but one boy smuggled one in and had requested that "I was Kaiser Bill's batman" by Whistling Jack Smith be played. The radio station read our request out and it gave us all a lift.
From a group of individuals with varying degrees of enthusiasm we became a watch working together and appreciated the experience all the more. It took time and the election of a new leader and second plus the shock that we were far adrift on the points table. It made us more of a team.
I did enjoy my month there and recall after more than 43 years the sailing, drown proofing, crosscountry running and the expedition up Cader Idris. Football was played at the end of day beside the assault course with it's aerial slide.
On returning home I wanted to be an instructor, but you had to be 21 and I was only 19. The month made a big impression upon me and I am glad that I went. Many years later I took my wife back to Aberdovey to show her where the instructors tried to drown me, bury me down mine shafts or lose me on the hills.
Goodtimes and for a while kept in touch with a few from the course, but as we came from all over England not easy, especially as girls started to take up more of our times and interest.
I am glad that the Outward Bound is still running and that youngsters of today can experience the thrills and learn more about themselves and how teamwork does work.
On my return to work the price of Barclays Bank shares fell.
I think that the group photograph you show is one that I sent to you. I hope that others from the group see it and recall their month in Aberdovey.
Thank you and good luck for the future, Outward Bound.

Adrian Street