Looking back at my school years recently, I started to recollect my time at Brathay Hall in 1957.
A group of 30 pupils from Oldwood Secondary Modern in South Manchester, including me, were selected to go on a trip to the Lake District, led by Mr Tyson who had spent some years in Antarctica on an expedition and was well qualified for the task.
Being from a large city we were all amazed at the whole area and the great lake. My most memorable parts of the trip included climbing Scafell and Scafell Pike, Striding Edge, and Helvellyn, and we were even taken to the Dungeon Ghyll Hotel for cup of tea and to warm up by the open fire.
I remember the bunk beds, lectures and the photo slides shown by Mr Tyson of his Antarctic journey and our time on large wooden rowing boats and being taught how to use them, along with learning basic rock-climbing skills.
On the last evening we all carved a piece of wood and make a fire torch. In the darkness everyone assembled at the lakeside, speeches were given, then on a given signal everyone threw the burning torches into the lake.
After leaving school I trained as an apprentice Chef in a large teaching hospital and was among the very first students to attend Hollins College for the food and fashion industry.
In 1962 I went into the Merchant Navy and, over the next five years, sailed on various cargo ships, passenger cargo ships and oil tankers, all sailing to a variety of countries in the north and south regions of the Atlantic Ocean.
My first voyages were with Manchester Liners, a cargo passenger company that sailed out of Manchester - I still remember being apprehensive as a nineteen-year-old setting out on what I considered to be a great adventure.
The company covered the Canadian and United States seaboard, and travelling up the St. Lawrence seaway was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life - it proved to be the only country apart from Norway that ever compared to the Lake District for its scenic beauty. Whilst on the Great Lakes (slightly bigger than Windermere!) I visited Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Duluth, and many more places that I had only ever read about.
Subsequent voyages went down the Eastern seaboard of America, visiting New York, Baltimore, Savannah, Charleston, Miami, Newport, and many other places of historical significance. I was also in the US during the Cuba crisis and the assassination of President Kennedy - strange times.
When I changed companies to work for Shell Oil I travelled to Curacao, Aruba, Azores, and another switch to the Hain shipping company saw me sailing anywhere where a cargo needed moving from or too.
An absolutely freezing journey to the Baltic Sea and to Gdynia in Poland was so bad that the crew had to set fires under the deck machinery so that it could function when needed. This was during the Cold War era - even though we were a harmless ship we had to have armed guards on the gangway, possibly because on the other side of the harbour was a large section of the Russian Navy.
Once loaded we set off for Lagos in Nigeria to deliver our cargo of thousands of bags of cement. The temperature was vastly different than Poland, and from there we went up to collect a cargo of Sapele timber. After that it was Ghana, which at the time was having some political issues, then Freetown in Sierra Leone, before heading home. We had trouble with heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay, but eventually got through - there are many anecdotes to recite but it would take too long to put them all down.
With my time at sea over I began working in hotels, restaurants, clubs, hospitals etc. – this period covered quite a few years, including marriage, family, home buying and all the things that people do during their lives.
I eventually went into the licensed trade and managed various establishments, before I concluded that I had a great deal of knowledge about the catering industry, so undertook a teaching course and became an NVQ assessor reaching degree level 4. I worked for a major North Wales college assessing and mentoring all age groups and all types of establishments, and particularly enjoyed showing them basic skills which do not seem be taught these days as all fish, meat, and poultry is already pre-prepared. I realise that cost is a factor but it is a shame - I enjoyed imparting my knowledge to the younger generation.
My main leisure pursuits now are gardening and fly fishing at Llyn Brenig in North Wales where I live.
That journey I took when I was fourteen has stayed with me all this time, and I do hope that all my friends gained as much from it as I did, and that all your future guests enjoy it as much as I did.
I have had a good life, and good health, and I do honestly believe that the standards and the pleasure of my time at Brathay helped me form a foundation in my character to be able to live my life to its fullest.
Good luck to Brathay Hall and to all the Braythayites that have passed and will pass through your doors in the future.
Sorry for the late review!