John Allsop
Back to alumni stories

John Allsop - Moray Sea School, Burghead Scotland, 1964

I read Geoff Morris's story of his memories of the Moray Sea school. I realised that I was one of the school boys that was on that particular April course in his watch ( Hawkin's under the guidance of Mr Pegler) by his description of himself as a police cadet and the various other trainees. I believe Geoff was the democratically elected watch leader. I think he was bigger than the rest of us so good choice! However I think the year was in fact 1964 as I had only just turned sixteen and one of the challenges for me was integrating with much older people from different backgrounds. I particularly enjoyed the nautical part of the course. Poor Spewy Louis now lies a wreck at the bottom of San Francisco Harbour. Her captain, Victor Clarke, was a distinguished and taciturn character. In 1994 he published an autobiography revealing his was a decorated naval officer and survivor of Japanese POW camps, something I was unaware of at the time. Captain Clarke's mate was a different character, robust and extrovert. While on the course we were anchored near the wreck of the battleship Royal Oak in Scapa Flow and he regaled us the story of his escape from her when she was sunk in 1939. One can learn about endurance under pressure with characters like this around you.
I also learned that be careful in volunteering for tasks. Mr Pegler asked is anyone was experienced or interested in canoeing. Another school boy and myself stepped forward, both not really knowing anything about canoes. It was explained that the expedition canoes used on the summer courses were having the floatation buoyancy modified. When we went down to Burghead Harbour we were told to have a paddle round in the canoe then capsize it and swim ashore. It was early April and after we had returned ashore we were then told survival in those cold waters lasted a matter of a few minutes. However we did receive hot coffee. Further modifications were carried out and we had the privilege of repeating the procedure a few days later. i have never experienced water as cold as that since.
I have reread the log which we all kept of our experiences. I note that the four day expedition across the Monoleath Mountains was approximately forty five miles unaccompanied by anyone but fellow Watch members with the comment 'that on the fourth day we met the first stranger to talk to'.
I do not think I have ever been so physically fit again after attending the course. It certainly revealed to me my capabilities of withstanding challenges and endurance, something that the Outward bound ethos was absolutely designed.