A few things may have changed over recent decades, but not our positive attitude towards teamwork and shared endeavour.

I am looking at a photograph of a Brathay residential group taken around 1980. It would have been a three week course, as many of them were in those days. Before that, they were all four weeks but, under pressure from sponsors, the same work was squeezed into the shorter time. So, life was very full. But looking at all these cheerful faces they seem to be thriving on it. As for that group on top left I guess they were quite a handful. The back one embraces both his neighbours. And the ones in front are just ignoring the photographer. What a relaxed-looking lot they are! All from a variety of businesses but the only one identified (thanks to a participant’s recent email) is Plessey. Do they still exist?

It was an all-male course, as they were back then, and all sporting generous shocks of hair. I can only spot two moustaches and of course no skinheads! The staff, on the other hand, are mostly as bearded as a submarine crew. And I note that far from taking the chief seats, as in those school photographs of old, they are all squatting in front on the tarmac. Is this an expression of Brathay’s egalitarianism? Or is it just that they came our too late to bag the chairs? Hardly any kit with brand labels but I see one Brathay staff member sporting the company name.

I guess they are mostly aged between 17 and 20, mostly apprenticed or in training and no longer troubled by National Service, which had been such a feature in their parent’s generation. As for their physical size, just look at the range: one tiny young man middle right is only half the stature of his neighbours, who seem to be doing their best to squeeze him out. But I guess that at Brathay, with its variety of challenges and ability to meet needs, he won’t have been overlooked. He looks cheerful enough.

Pictures like this were taken in every big course in those days. This was partly to help staff identify faces; they set great store on knowing everyone. But those precious pictures also had a long-term value. In those days when few lads (yes, ‘lads’) had cameras, this picture was something to buy and take home. This picture, and the Log Book that they all kept, became their remaining link to what, for so many, had been a life-changing experience. And then, in their later years, they come back and share it all with us. Thank you for doing so!