ian leonarde
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ian leonarde - Moray Sea School, Burghead Scotland, 1961

Dear Sir
I have just been reading your magazine "Movement 2011" which I found most interesting and informative, and I would like to accept your invitation to tell of my experiences on an Outward Bound Course. The course was in April 1961, at the Moray Sea School, in Scotland. Although my memory is a little sketchy after 50 years, I think I can remember enough to give you the jist of how I felt and what the course did for me all those years ago.
At the time I had been working for three and a half years in the City of London for the Post Office Supplies Department, as an assistant printer, having started on my 15th birthday in August 1957. The management had decided to send one boy each year, and pay his expenses, and my name luckily, came out of the hat in 1961.
I had no knowledge of the Outward Bound Trust or courses at the time, but I was sent some literature which explained the aims and methods of the trust, which included tips for boys going on the course. I remember particularly the part about "Breaking in new boots", it recommended standing in a bath of warm water whilst wearing the new boots until they were thoroughly soaked, then walking a couple of miles in them while they were still still wet, this to be carried out several times, to shape the boots to ones feet before applying Dubbin to waterproof them. I followed this procedure, together with rubbing meths into my feet daily, and had no foot problems at all during the course or still to this day, come to that, although I do have different boots now.
The next thing I remember is Mr. Robins, my printing office manager, handing me a travel warrant to Elgin in Morayshire, from Kings Cross, in London. The first leg to Edinburgh, Waverly, to be on the Flying Scotsman, [still a steam engine at the time], that was an adventure in itself. He also informed me that it was costing the POSD �60, to send me on the course, so make the most of it. This seemed a veritable fortune to me, as I was earning about �4:10 shillings a week then. He also gave me the name of the "Yester Guest House" off Princes Street, where I could stay the night on the way up.
On the second leg of the journey, Waverley to Elgin, I met some of the other boys who were going on the same course. I don`t think any of us knew much about what to expect, except we had been told that it was going to be pretty tough, and our courage and endurance would be tested, and hopefully enhanced, by the experiences to come.
Upon arrival at the school we were divided into four watches of twelve boys each, mine was called, Duncan watch, with Mr. MacKenzie as our Officer in charge. He was a Highlander of about forty years, and not to be messed with. His accent was so broad, that I had to ask my new found Lowland companions to translate what he said, for the first few days at least. He showed us to our dormitory [Spartan] and explained the rules of the school to us, no smoking, no alcohol etc. and put us on our honour to bide by them. This worked better than a threat of dire consequences if caught, as nobody did or wanted to break the rules.
Mr. MacKenzie also told us of the ritual daily cold shower, this entailed being woken in the morning at 6-30, I think, and immediately running naked to the ground floor shower
room, where each of the twelve of us would stand under one of the shower heads, with both hands poised over the "on" button, and then on command, press the button and stand under the icy torrent for a timed 10 seconds. Anyone releasing the button even momentarily, had to start again until a continuous 10 seconds was achieved. This procedure was hideous, I`m told that our screams could be heard in Burghead, the village down the road. But I also remember a feeling of pride at completing this feat every morning, and thereby self respect at overcoming adversity, the prime objective of the course.
The shower every morning was followed by breakfast which was to to me a little unusual in content, sometimes porridge with salt instead of sugar, and sometimes poached cod with boiled beetroot. I grew to like this and still have it from time to time even now. Breakfast was always accompanied with copious quantities of bread and jam, no butter or any other spread. Our appetites were so huge that we would have eaten almost anything. Then each morning we would usually be given a pep talk by Colonel Steptoe, the Officer in charge of the school, an inspiring man, admired and respected by all, who had the knack of encouraging us to greater efforts in every endeavour, even to this day, in times of indecision, I sometimes remember his words and act accordingly, in the knowledge that I`m probably doing the right thing.
Next each morning, would be a cross country run, or racing style walk, during which we would be egged on by P.T. instructors,who encouraged us to greater efforts and speed to our maximum ability, usually beyond what we thought were our personal limits. After this was the assault course, or a game of rugger or football, again played with maximum commitment. After lunch we would usually go to the boats down in Burghead harbour. 26 ft. clinker built cutters, eight of us rowing with one oar each. the oarsmen rotating occasionally so that all twelve took their turn. In these cutters we would row out to a none too calm sea, where it often took all our strength to make headway. Tough but enjoyable. The safety boat "Alata" was always in attendance should a rescue be necessary.
After dinner we would often be given a talk by one of the resident instructors about his achievements and how he managed them, or by a visiting mountaineer, or submariner, or sportsman, or perhaps a soldier with a tale to tell of endurance and courage. This was to encourage all of us to try and emulate them, and I think it worked for all of us, not only at the time but for years afterwards, it certainly did for me.
For the second week of our four, Duncan watch was kitted out with, a ruksack each, two sleeping babags each, a tent between two, enough food for 6 days, a Primus and fuel for each pair, an ice-pick each, and other survival essentials. All this kit was taken to Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms, for us to collect late the next day. We were each given a heavy, old fashioned, sit up and beg bicycle known locally as Bogwheels.These we were told to ride the 60 miles to Glenmore Lodge, a pretty tough call, especially for some boys who were unused to cycling. I seem to recall that some didn`t make it and had to be picked up, as a last resort by the school Doormobile, but only after being urged on to greater effort first.
After being re-united with our kit we spent the night in our tents and set off the next morning to trek the following week in the mountains. During this time, the members of Duncan watch never saw a house, road, bridge or any other trappings of civilisation. We had maps and a predetermined route to follow by Mr. Montgomery, who I believe kept an eye on us from afar, occasionally being spotted on a far off hill-crest during the day. Although he did come down with his Border Collie and pitch his tent with us each night.Most of our route was over snow covered heather, really hard to walk on, and we often had to wade, waist high, through icy rivers then dry out on-the-hoof, so to speak. our route took us over the summits of Ben-McDhui, Cairn Gorm, Cairn Toul and other peaks. Each day was a challenge such as I`d never known before, and rarely since. Although, in so doing I acquired a life-long love of trekking and physical challenges which I still enjoy to this day.
Week 3 was back to cross country runs, assault courses etc. each morning. But instead of rowing each afternoon we were taught to sail the cutters, that we had previously rowed.
Week 4 was our week to crew the Outward Bound Trusts,160 ton schooner Prince Louis, which, for reasons soon to become apparent to us, was better known as the Spewy Louis. Each of us was allotted a job aboard as well as being deck hands, mine was cooks assistant.
The adult crew comprised the Skipper, whose name I cannot remember, but who had been a Royal Navy submarine Commander in WW II, and would recount many a good yarn over cocoa in the evening.
A Scottish Bo`s`un, who must have been well in his 60`s, but could still climb the rigging like a monkey. He was a bit taciturn most of the time, except perhaps, when admonishing foolish behaviour.
Then there was Roddy the cook, a large gentleman as I recall, who although I would guess to be 50ish was still a teenager at heart, and would often have the boys in fits of laughter, and unable to work for a while as a result.
There were one or two other members of the permanent crew I think, but I cannot now remember them. I do remember during a lecture on navigation by the Skipper, asking if he could set us on the right course for Honolulu, for which I was condemned to a chilly crows nest for an hour.
The week on the Louis was the least arduous of our 4 weeks, and for Duncan watch I think our most enjoyable.

To sum up what the "Outward Bound Course" did for me, I think I can honestly say that it made me realise my own potential, mentally and physically, thus encouraging me to set my sights higher in all my lifetime endeavours, whilst at the same time showing consideration and compassion for my fellow travellers through life, at all times.