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William Collis - Ullswater, The Lake District, 1964
In 1961 a former Ullswater instructor, Mike Tebbutt, started a mountaineering section at our church youth club in Richmond. The first of our monthly weekend trips, travelling in a selection of old cars with stops at greasy spoon cafes on the A1, was camping in the grounds of Ullswater School. Mike later found some obscure fund 'for the boys of Richmond' which paid for my course in January 1964. I fondly recall the iron bunk beds with each Watch sleeping in one room and the 0630 one minute, communal cold shower when, if anyone faltered, the time under started again. In 1965, on the back of that experience, I applied for Voluntary Service Overseas and was initially rejected but some kindly soul went sick and I took a last minute posting to the Citizen and Leadership Training Centre Sea School in Apapa, Nigeria. This, I believe, was the first OB school outside the UK though the name had changed in the move from its first site in Cameroon. It took two weeks to get there working my passage on an Elder Dempster ship out of Liverpool for a salary of £1. A favour, as the Chief Executive was a friend of Kurt Hahn and HRH Duke of Edinburgh. The Nigerian school was sited in a creek on the end of a mangrove island, under the excellent leadership of John Wright and Handley Barrett, with wonderful Nigerian staff where we taught sailing, surf life saving, canoeing and all the usual OB disciplines. Apart from a few donated boats, everything was made in house or scrounged from local industries. The tower from a derelict dredger and a ships cable making an excellent high wire glide down through the trees. The aerial photograph shows an old RN patrol boat with a tin roof, where I slept on deck, lunch and meetings were held and from which students jumped for life-jacket drill. The creek was fresh water in the rainy season so had the odd snake or crocodile then brackish in the dry with barracuda and large jelly fish. Sadly Nigeria decided on a change of government by assassinating its Prime Minister in 1966. The school closed during this unpleasantness and my stay was cut short. So after a month in a near deserted island, I was flown home. My sons attended Ullswater and all later adventures by me and them stem from Kurt Hahn's ideals and Mike Tebbutt's light hearted introduction to abseiling with me belayed to a school radiator.