Memories of Mull
Sleeping outside and coasteering... two Walhamptonian girls, 36 years apart, recall their experiences of going to Mull
For the ultimate outdoors experience, the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland, has been a favourite expedition destination of the Walhampton children for many years. We asked the first girl to go on the Mull trip in 1980 and a pupil who has just returned to share their experiences with us.
Summer 1980 by Abigail Church:
It was summer, 1980, I was 10 years old and on a train from London up to Oban. There were probably ten of us all travelling together with a chaperone, normally one of the younger members of staff. I was a little anxious, not quite sure how it was all going to work out when I got there, as I was the first girl to have been sent up to the Bradfield’s summer camp at the Old School Tiroran on the north side of Loch Scridain, Mull.
The long summer holidays were always a challenge for my parents, both doctors. What to do with my brother, Sam, and I for 8 weeks? Too young to be left at home on our own, we would either be sent to the grandparents, or sometimes stay with friends. Frequently we had to go to work with my mother, a pediatrician, and just sit quietly in the corner of her consulting rooms.
So, the Mull trip, which we ended up going on for four consecutive years, was a real highlight.
36 years later I certainly cannot remember everything. The night train from London was always exciting. I remember waking up at Crianlarich which was such a chocolate box pretty station – with hanging baskets of geraniums along the edge of the platform roof. We’d pull into the station at Oban and walk onto the Caledonian MacBrayne car ferry. We would have a minute amount of pocket money to buy a Highland toffee or Marathon bar and sooner than we knew it we would be at Craignure. JB would be there in his clapped out landrover pick-up parked near the quay and we would pile into the back.
The journey to Tiroran from there seemed to take ages, I think much of it back then was a dirt track. I remember my brother falling out of the pick-up once and having to bash on the window of the cab like mad to get JB to stop! I remember we would know that we were close when we had passed JB and Mrs. B’s cottage, their border terrier would bark as we went by. The track was lined with flowering fuscias.
The corrugated iron hut, the Old School, was painted yellow and heated with a wood burning stove. That first year we stayed in a “tent” outside the hut. It was literally a fly-sheet and ground sheet, no sides. We all had sleeping bags, no mattresses. I shared with all the boys and just wriggled in and out of my clothes inside the sleeping bag! Nowhere to wash except the loch and we all swam in the bitterly cold waters every day. I don’t think we had soap or shampoo. We cooked in the schoolhouse, I remember copious amounts of Heinz baked beans.
Activities included kayaking, sailing, lots of walking. We always climbed Ben More whatever the weather. We were taken to the Little Theatre near Tobermory to see whatever was showing. There was the annual trip to Duart Castle when would try to escape our chaperones and terrify each other by jumping out from behind the suits of armour!
Each year I went there were changes. It was just that first year that I was the only girl, after that others joined. A bunkhouse was built next to the schoolhouse and the girls slept in that. The feeling was always the same though, and the Bradfield’s never changed – they were always calm, never seemed to get angry, whatever our antics!
June 2016 by Summer Candy:
We had heard a lot about Mull from the Year 8s but it was mainly about the walking, so nothing really prepared us for the adventures we were going to have!
It was a long journey to Mull by plane, minibus and ferry but we ate lots of sweets and chocolates on the way so still had some energy when we arrived.
One of the two places we stayed in, The Old School House, was in the middle of nowhere, very small and had few facilities – with two toilet shacks!! However the house did not really matter because we had great fun doing the activities.
My favourite activity was plunge pooling although at the beginning I wasn’t keen on going into the cold sea but I conquered my fear and went in. The water turned out to be quite warm with the sun shining on it. In the end I jumped in twice! The other activity I really enjoyed was climbing the tree, which we did in groups – it was fun getting to the top. We did so many things from coasteering to the ‘line of darkness’, some of which was really challenging, but as a group we helped each other and got to the end. Our team won the line of darkness and got 9/10 points.
The food, cooked by Miss Sheppard, was delicious and Mr Nish helped to make the activities good fun. The teachers were a great team.
I will not forget the amount of midges in Mull but most of us had hat nets and spray – it didn’t stop us from getting bitten but they weren’t so bad.
We did lots of exercising during the week but I really challenged myself and am so glad I had the experience – even the unexpected travel arrangements home turned out to be an adventure!!
If you have stories, memories or photos of Mull that you would like to share, please email Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org