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Frank Martin - Moray Sea School, Burghead Scotland, 1962
My age, combined with a memory for dates which afflicted me even in youth, would normally prevent me from ascribing with certainty when, exactly, I attended the Moray Sea School. This would - or should be - a haze to me, like the course number from my otherwise memorable time at Burghead. There was, however, one event during my time there, nothing at all to do with scrambling over the Cairngorms, or having a leisurely sail to the Orkneys, courtesy of the Prince Louis's auxiliary power in becalmed waters, which cements the date with the same certainty: This was a rather tense time known to the world as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Thus, with historical accuracy, I can say that my course occurred in the early winter of October, 1962. I say "early winter" since I discovered a new kind of cold that year somewhere on an encampment near Ben Macdhui, which for the extreme of temperatures, could easily have been mistaken for the Himalayas! The contemporaneous knowledge of the Cuban Missile Crisis only entered my head when disruption occurred to the normal para-military activities of lopping over the obstacles course, or in my particular case, failing a surprise inspection of our dorm ("A dirty sweater in a cupboard is not good form, Martin!"). The disruption to which I allude was a message that we should all gather in the assembly hall for a rather important message from the school superintendent, the name of whom I regret I cannot recall. Duly assembled and expecting yet another rocket for new transgressions, the message was delivered unemotionally but forcefully. It went something like this: "Well boys, it looks rather like there may be a nuclear war with Russia. If any of you lads need to leave or contemplate nuclear annihilation, we will understand." I am quite certain that no one chose to leave. At least freezing somewhere in the Cairngorms, versus returning (as in my case) to the target- rich city of Glasgow, gave one an odds-0n chance of surviving, at least initially. I called home that night for instructions and my father, enjoying my absence no doubt, encouraged me to stay! Anyhow, several days after this meeting, we were told that there was a lessening of tension and a war was unlikely. I don't remember being overjoyed at this news; perhaps it was simply stoicism because death could still occur on a mountaintop, or by falling off the rigging of the Prince Louis into the unforgiving waters of the North Sea! I do recall that I was in Hood Watch, and our leader was a chap seconded from the Royal Navy named Lt. Dalrymple-Smith. He was very RN, suffering much in that early winter, but uncomplaining and encouraging. Another vivid memory is being shouted at by the sailing instructor to pick up a certain rope on a cutter. I picked up every visible rope I could find, but it was always the wrong one, to which the instructor became increasingly agitated, reprimanding me with unimaginable skill. Had the cutter possessed a yard-arm, I suspect that one more errant rope, and I would be swinging from it. Fortunately the right one was found, the instructor smiled, and I survived! Sadly, I have not been able to locate my photo of our Watch taken outside the doors of Moray Sea School. Perhaps someone will have it and be able to share. The entire experience was fantastic. It seems hyperbolic to say it was life-changing since a month is a relatively short time, but the memories have remained fresh some 55 years later. And neither Kruschev nor Fidel Castro managed to spoil it for me, either!