John Harold Woods
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John Harold Woods - Aberdovey, Wales, 1955

I was born in Liverpool in 1940, and in 1955 my father was a Warehouse Superintendent for the then Blue Funnel Line, he wanted me to follow him him into the company working, like him, in the offices. But I had other ideas and wanted to go away to sea.

I did join Blue Funnel as my father had hoped, but as a galley-boy, and was put to work in the kitchens at Aberdovey until a place on a course became available.

Joining Fisher Watch, which was the first hut on the right going up the hill!! I was given AB blue Outward Bound jersey, boots, and a waterproof kagoul.

The "Watch" was up at 6am every morning, went for a run which was followed by and ice-cold shower, and we were MADE to stay under the required time!!

Before breakfast we had to clean our hut, immaculately!! Which entailed polishing the floor until it shone, stripping our beds and stowing the sheets and blankets on the end of the mattress. We were then allowed to go to breakfast, after which it was back to the hut for the inspection by Captain Fuller. Heaven forbid if anything wasn't to his liking!!

Each days events consisted of hill-walking, mountain climbing, (Cader-Idris), canoeing, potholing sailing, and rowing cutters. There were various expeditions 2-day and 5-day, the 5-day, at the end of the course was to the log cabin up in the hills. Each day there were map & Compass walks, having taken our own food (which we had to cook ourselves) the supervisor made sure we were adequately fed!!

During the course we went on a boat called "The Golden Valley" from Aberdovey sailing to Aberystwyth, during my trip the weather was terrible and everybody was sea-sick. On the wharf at Aberdovey we learnt how to tie knots, the "old man" (can't remember his name) who taught us had travelled all over the world "under sail", and was an authority on sea-shanty's.

The course in those days lasted almost a month, and each boy was given a "graded badge" (honours or intermediate) I earned an intermediate badge (which I still have to this day). I thoroughly enjoyed the whole course and continued from there into the merchant navy, sailing with Blue Funnel until I was 22.

Upon leaving the merchant navy in 1962 I joined Bootle Borough Police, transferring to the Essex Police in 1965. A couple of years later I saw a memo sent from the Outward Bound to Essex Police requesting temporary instructors. I applied and was lucky enough to return to Aberdovey and was allocated a watch of boys, teaching them hill-walking which included map & compass work, also canoeing. My watch turned out to be a good watch who won "best watch overall" and "best time over the wall" . I was very proud of them.

Married with 2 children, when my son was 13 I decided to send him to Aberdovey, and the difference in him on his return amazed both my wife and myself. He appeared to have grown-up, was more confident, taller and had a sense of tidiness then he'd not had before. Many years later, my daughters son expressed an interest in Outward Bound and was lucky enough to be accepted for a short-course which he thoroughly enjoyed and even went back the following year completing a full-course. Ending up with a very good report, again, a proud man am I!!!

In the family tradition, I am hoping for a further grandson to attend in the near future as am of the opinion that these courses provide youngsters with a wonderful grounding for their adult life, instilling confidence, purpose, and will to win!!!

Sincerely, John Harold Woods (28.4.40)