Free Petrol at Bontddu!

Another Coach House Cadets tale from Mac Tonks

The night before we were due to set out on the Three Camps Exercise, a pass-out was granted. The group was split into two parties. Several of us walked into Barmouth and decided to visit a local pub where the owner correctly judged our age and we were only allowed soft drinks. So, we did, and for the grand sum of 6d, drank Lime and Soda, played darts and enjoyed ourselves.

We returned to Farchynys, had a warm drink and so to bed.

Waking up early the next day, we were expecting to depart following breakfast, but we were held up and kept all together in the lounge area of The Coach House. A CCF NCO strolled amongst us asking if we had anything to declare or to admit. Lime and Soda and darts – not earth shattering, is it?

Colonel Phil Bull and John Burgess appeared after about an hour with a true hoard including cigarettes, matches, a dead slow worm (courtesy of Mr Do-it-by- the-Book from an earlier tale), and a large number of petrol pump price labels and other garage point of sale materials.

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Before the days of electronic signage, the price at the pump was shown by means of circular price labels stuck onto the relevant pump. The other group had travelled to Bontddu and visited the pub. The owner there was less concerned about underage drinking and had served our colleagues. Unfortunately for them, this was where Phil Bull and John Burgess drank and before leaving Farchynys they always rang ahead to tell the owner they were on their way.  Encouraged to leave by mine host, the boys walked back towards Farchynys and crossed the road to the local petrol station in Bontddu where they relieved the pumps of their price labels: thus, creating -at least temporarily- a petrol price-free zone on the Dolgellau to Barmouth road.

The perpetrators were duly punished, and we all got on with our Three Camp Exercise.

Note: In 1967, petrol was 5s 5d a gallon or 27p in today’s money.    

Malcolm Tonks QM 1962-67

 

 

The Rock Cannon of Farchynys

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One of the more curious landmarks of the Snowdonian landscape are rock cannon, known in Welsh as cerrig cannon.

Often found gathering moss at viewpoints like the one above located on the Farchynys headland, rock cannon are man-made firing points made with stone with holes specially drilled for discharging gunpowder –  readily available of course in the slate quarries of the Harlech dome. Apparently, a powder-filled goose feather quill was used as a fuse.

Rock cannon explosions would mark important events such as the arrival of VIPs to the area or to celebrate national news such as the the accession of a new sovereign or the birth of a royal baby.

The example at Farchynys was probably created by the Bollington Mill owner Edmund Lomas Oliver who with his extended family spent many happy years on the Mawddach before the Great War.

For more information on rock cannon, see The Rock Cannon of Gwynedd by Griff R Jones, 2002

 

31 Years ago and yesterday

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Thanks to @climbdg5 for permission to post his magnificent shot.

David commented that 31 years ago he was here in Norway with the @QMGSCCF on adventurous training, and 31 years later he was back to guide young people through the same views.

Here’s the August 1988 Adventurous Training Expedition team photograph which captures the spirit of adventure that Kurt Hahn inspired and features Wing Commander Dickson and Lt. Colonel Law

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Floreat David!

A Combined Cadet Force Trek into the wilderness, a lesson in Welsh and a hidden café.

Another great tale from Mac Tonks

“We were on the three camp sites CCF trek, and arrived at our first destination without problem. We made camp, walked a couple of miles to the nearest village and had a drink in the pub…. great! We returned to camp as night fell and then into our tents and sleeping bags.

It was freezing, and we had to light our gas stove (no health & safety in those days) to keep warm; next morning we were up like larks but the stream that ran through our camp had, in places, frozen over.

We ate our breakfast rations and had a brew. Mr Do-it-by-the-Book decided he needed the toilet (there’s always one) whilst the rest chose to use proper toilets or wait till we returned to Farchynys. Off he went, entrenching tool over his shoulder and toilet paper in hand, looking a lot like one of Snow White’s helpers.

There, in the corner of the field by a dry stone wall he dug his toilet and proceeded to use the same, when suddenly the farmer, who had decided to visit us, popped his head over the wall, Bore da, he called to the squatting individual.

The farmer continued up to our party and asked if we were okay and then continued on his way. Our colleague returned and told us what had occurred: ‘The farmer said something to me in Welsh, but I do not know what it means –  it was Bore da.’

‘Ah that’s easy,  Bare a**ed’ we said.

I do not know how many Welsh Good Mornings he had before he realised what Bore da actually meant.

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The following day whilst moving on to the next camp, we were walking alongside a large forest when our leader, a great map reader, discovered a track running through the forest which would save us time if we followed it.  Into the forest we went: a dark foreboding place, the only light that fell was on the track we walked.

Around about two miles in, we spotted smoke and as it grew nearer we realised in was from a cabin that looked like something a frontiers-man had built. A closer inspection revealed that it was -of all things- a café. Inside, we all duly went and a middle-aged lady took our order for four breakfasts and four mugs of tea.

Each breakfast was served by a different young lady – all of whom were charming and we spent over a couple of hours chatting to the lady and her four daughters. The food was great, the company good but do you know that no other group ever found that place or even we on subsequent visits. Even the locals who we asked hadn’t a clue what we were talking about.

Did we imagine it?”

Mac Tonks QM 1962-67

Andrew remembers the very first arduous training camp at Farchynys

“I guess I must have been one of the first boys to visit Farchynys.

Certainly, I remember well the first Arduous Training camp…. Do they still do that?

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I think it was 25 miles a day with full pack and sleeping out. In any event, it was a tough one, with bad weather, and we eventually returned to the Coach House quite late. A few of us including Ian Stockley (aka Sox) and I, and possibly one other, decided to go to the pub in Bontddu or possibly hitch to Dolgellau.

In any event, we got back seriously late, to be met by Mr Burgess who instructed us to remain outside, eventually throwing down the keys to the minibus complete with its wooden slats and no sign of blankets. A fitful night followed, broken only by Sox falling asleep over the steering wheel and setting the horn off. Morning arrived, eventually, and we were allowed into the Coach House to feed and prepare for the 14-mile run.

I think it was there that I realised I could run a bit, as after all that, I believe I actually came third!”

Andrew Lees QM 1962-69

Editor’s Note: Ian Stockley led a highly characterful life after QM and died in 2018.

 

 

The Pokémon Professor remembers the MOG bed

“I was at QMGS from 1973 to 1980, and I was fortunate enough to get my name down for a number of trips to Farchynys, especially, when as a sixth former, I went as a helper taking first-year pupils for their first visit to the Coach House.

One particular memory was the MOG bed.

Some years before, an unknown pupil had painted the word ‘MOG’ in luminous paint on the wall by one of the upper bunks in the dorm. Even after painting over it, the word could still be seen as soon as the lights were turned out. When first-year pupils were taking their inaugural trip, we would talk on the minibus and assure them that they would be okay staying away from home…. unless they were the unfortunate one to get the MOG bed. What or who was MOG nobody knew, but the mention of it instilled fear in them. Until lights out on the first night of a trip, no one knew who was sleeping in the MOG bed, but as soon as the word became visible, the unfortunate was identified, and immediately he would be on the receiving end of a salvo of pillows.

There was another time when, after lights out, we made a collection of discarded cans by sending pupils down the fire-escape with torches to find cans which had been thrown out by pupils on previous visits. It was all done quietly, and I recall we soon had a collection of over sixty, which on returning to the dorm, we stacked on one of the dorm beams. Amazingly, we completed this task without alerting any masters until eventually, after hearing loud laughter and applause, Mr Yates came into the dorm to see what the noise was about. He walked down the dorm and stood beneath the beam looking up at the cans when one bright spark threw a pillow and hit the stack smack in the centre, bringing down a rain of cans upon him. Mr Yates wasn’t best pleased, but it served him right for catching a huge spider earlier that evening and putting it under the kids’ noses to scare them.”

 

 

 

 

Glenn Pugh

Scout and Pokémon Professor

QM 1973-80