Margaret Hughes nee Marchant
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Margaret Hughes nee Marchant - Rhowniar, Wales, 1964

I attended an Outward Bound course from 25th May - 20th June 1964 at Rowniar, Towyn. At that time I was a Cadet in the East Sussex Constabulary and 19 years old.

I had a wonderful time on the course, for which I think I was probably much better prepared than some. Having grown up on a farm, the countryside was my love. As children we had the run of the farm, got very muddy, built many types of huts and climbed trees (falling out on regular occasions). In other words I was a tomboy.

Living in the country without much transport we did what there was to do, I was a Brownie and later a Girl Guide. Before attending the course I had been awarded my Queen's Guide certificate and as such was quite a competent camper. As a Police Cadet I was used to discipline and had also passed my Bronze Medallion in life saving.

It was the first time I had had close contact with girls from the inner cities, some of whom had never been to the countryside before. Whilst I had lived away from home, for some this was the first time being away from their parents, thus homesickness affected one or two quite badly. It was an education for me to hear the way some of the girls lived and worked. Many came from offices and factories and to me their life was repetitive holding little hope for advancement or satisfaction.

Many had to put in a far greater effort than I to participate in some activities; the only activity I found myself out of my comfort zone was drama. We were required to take part of a part in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I have no skill at all in anything artistic and found acting, even part of a role, testing. Recalling a speech I had to learn 'I know a bank where the wild thyme grows' was not the problem, it was being 'natural' on the stage. Where, perhaps I succeeded in more practical tasks, others far exceeded my capabilities in drama.

In 1964 the age for women to join the regular police force was 20 years. Our Chief Constable sought special dispensation from the Home Office to appoint me below that age. He cited one reason for seeking that authority I had successfully completed an Outward Bound course. I was thus appointed to the Force in August 1964.

I eventually served 31 years in firstly the East Sussex Constabulary and then Sussex Police. Before the inception of the Crown Prosecution Service, certain police officers were required to undertake the role of advocates at Magistrate's and Juvenile Courts. I regularly undertook this role and maybe my miserable efforts in the drama classes at Outward Bound helped me in this role! Reaching the rank of Chief Inspector I was in the midst of my career when the equal opportunities legislation was implemented. Many of the positions and tasks I undertook were 'firsts' for women in Sussex Police and I am sure the confidence needed to do this was helped by the month I spent on Outward Bound.

My course was from 25th May - 20th June 1964, my group was Carnedd and I still have photos of some of the participants and activities. Those I remember are Carol Ross, Kathleen Ambler, Patience Luke, Sylvia Dunn and Pauline Chadwick. Three of the instructors were Mr. Orrell, Tony Howard and John McGregor (I wonder why teenage girls can only remember the male members of staff?) I would be glad to be in touch with any of the other students on this course, particularly Pauline Chadwick, also a Police Cadet. I corresponded with her for some time but then lost touch.

I wish all the current participants well and would like to think those now attending will gain as much as me.

Margaret Hughes

(Note: Margaret kindly emailed us her story and we have published it on the Generations website with her permission.)