Ron Cartwright
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Ron Cartwright - Moray Sea School, Burghead Scotland, 1963

Moray Sea School M133 - November 1963
This was the month that changed my life. At birth I suffered from oxygen deprivation and was almost disabled. Throughout primary school I had poor coordination, lax ligaments and severe growing pains, along with regular migraines. I couldn't do any PT or Games and so arrived at Grammar School in 1955 as a very poor physical specimen. I was mercilessly ragged for the next five years because I was very tall and yet very weak, and didn't have a clue about how to play rugby, cricket, or do gym. Not a happy time - I left as soon as I could in 1960. My only achievements were in cycling proficiency and road safety quizzes, except for the surprise (to me and my parents) achievement of six decent GCE O-levels.
Fast forward to October 1963 and I'm a 19-year-old junior clerk with Barclays Bank in Wigan. They have a scheme whereby all juniors are invited to take part in an Outward Bound course. I picked the sea-based Burghead course because it seemed more accessible to me than the climbing-oriented Lake District options and I really fancied seeing the far north of Scotland.
Arriving at Elgin station after comfortably the longest train journey I'd ever had, I and several other very nervous lads were transported by lorry to the Moray Sea School. We formed Course M133 and I was put into Keppel Watch, captained by Dave Perkins.
The first week was absolutely exhausting but by the end of it I was fitter than I'd ever been in my life and had discovered that I was pretty good at cross-country running (barefoot through the pine forest and on the beach - great!). The assault course was still terrifying, although our watch put up the best time so far I believe. I never did manage to climb a rope and I'm not sure I ever really enjoyed "murderball"!
Week two was an expedition to the Cairngorms, led by the course instructors. Absolutely brilliant. Camping in the snow, watching jets from Lossiemouth in the valleys below us, and generally enjoying the freedom of the mountains.
The third week we were out on our own, on a walk across the Dava moors. Cycled to the start point and left the bikes in a hedge. Walked a compass bearing for four days across the most remote terrain imaginable in this country and were met by the school's lorry to take us back. What a way to learn independence and self-reliance!
Throughout the three weeks we had been training on the rowing and sailing cutters in and around Burghead Harbour. This was in preparation for week four - the highlight of all highlights - five days aboard Prince Louis, the 60-ton fore-and-aft rigged sailing schooner commanded by Captain Clarke. I'll never forget the feeling as we were coming back home of turning to starboard under full sail to go into Cromarty Firth out of the Moray. I was cook's mate throughout the trip and volunteered to linseed oil the mast in a breeches buoy when we returned. Although absolutely terrified the first time I climbed the ratlines, by the second day I was thoroughly enjoying going aloft.
Memories - many. The sheer disbelief that ordinary life was going on so close to us when we were in the cafe in Burghead. "Baby Love" on the jukebox in that cafe. Cold, struggling with a heavy pack and sometimes wet on the expeditions but totally exhilarated by what we were doing. Camping in snow at over 3,000 feet on Cairn Gorm. Cold showers every morning and being so ready for bed every evening. Twisting an ankle in a rabbit hole on Ben Rinnes. Sailing on the Prince Louis; making and enjoying the crew's cocoa every night. The sound of the Vulcans taking off from Lossiemouth. Cycling back from Lossiemouth against a westerly gale. Running on pine straw in the coastal forest. Characters in our watch - Dave Perkins, Robin Goodfellow, Duncan Dougal, Bob Greenfield and six others whose names have been long forgotten (one of those expected didn't turn up and so Keppel watch was only eleven strong rather than the official twelve).
At the end of the four weeks I was fitter, more confident, tired and half a stone heavier than when I arrived. For the first time in my life I felt a sense of physical achievement - I had done something that was truly remarkable and come through it without disgracing myself. My four weeks with the Outward Bound have given me memories that will stay with me for life. I was glad to go home and yet so, so grateful that I'd done the course
Move on now half a century to November 2013 - my grandson Thomas will be part of the group from his Sheffield Springs Academy taking part in a week's course at Loch Eil. Although he is five years younger than I was fifty years ago and his course is only a week rather than a month, I hope he gets something like the benefits I got from course M133.
Thank you for the opportunity I had. It's a great shame that no official records exist for the old Burghead school but hopefully this Generations website will encourage participants to write their own history.