“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.”
Scout and Pokémon Professor
(With thanks to TJS for this lovely shot)
In 1963, Phil Bull volunteered several of us to attend Farchynys to assist at the first Parents’ Open Day. The drive was, as usual, uneventful with the obligatory stop at the tea rooms in Welshpool – always worth a trip on its own.
On arrival, guess what, we had heavy rain, just like we did on all subsequent visits, here was coined the legendary phrase “Is it raining at Farchynys? – Yes, it farchyn ys.”.
We bedded down for the night, eagerly looking forward to the next morning, awoke early to a good breakfast and a tidy-up, to await the arrival of the parents.
I was assigned car park duties in the field at the front of the house, which the heavy rain had turned into a bog.
Parents with cars were slipping and getting stuck in the quagmire, and I was getting soaking wet pushing cars in the chaos: I wished I was back in Walsall.
Apart from this, the day went well and was followed by many subsequent visits, including CCF long weekends camping in local farm fields.
I also remember the delights of the café hidden in the forest that was run by a mother and her four daughters; the night of the horrendous gale when one section got lost in the wilds, and two others had to spend a night in a barn; and the round-the-estuary race for cadets, when I posted a record time.
Happy days indeed!
Mac Tonks QM 1962-67
For more than fifty years, Queen Mary’s people have been venturing in the mountains of Snowdonia from their base at Farchynys. The most recent pictures featured here in colour consist of a group of avid adventurers preparing for their imminent trekking challenge in the Himalayas.
Chris, an Oxford friend who helped me with some research on outdoor education for the book shared these photographs of his trip and this note:
“Prompted by your work on your book last year we made our first camper trip of the season to Snowdonia this week. Although, we thought it spring, on the Mawddach, the season was still Winter. Here are some photos of us and friends en route, we actually completed the circuit of Cadair Idris Cwm which was a first for us”
“I’m not sure how many Marians know that David Fink, the school’s biographer, history teacher and Second Master was also a devoted railway enthusiast. A small group of us who visited the recently purchased Farchynys found out quickly enough when we went on a visit in early January 1965. We were a small party of geography students on a mini field trip to Mid Wales.
The accommodation was pretty basic I remember, and the weather was bleak and sleeting. David Fink thought he would cheer us up and took us to the refreshment room at Machynlleth, to indulge his passion for Great Western Manor class steam locomotives and to get us some hot food, the best buffet steak and kidney pies in Wales. A real treat. We saw the Cambrian Line locos firing up in the yard, then it was off to Bala Junction, scheduled for closure on 4th January, but retrieved for a few more weeks.
We felt we were pioneers at Farchynys. Happy days, never to be repeated”
Nick Sanders QM 1958-65
St Philip’s, Caerdeon launches a campaign to raise £120,000
“Hiding in the mountains between Barmouth and Bontddu is a church of extraordinary individuality and importance.”
These are the opening words of the latest Director’s Report of Friends of Friendless Churches who with the The Petit Society have been steadfast champions of this wonderful church that was closed in 2014.
Described variously as of rustic Mediterranean, Alpine or Basque influence, it sits curiously against the Cambrian backdrop of southern Snowdonia.
Bill Tilman, the famous explorer, rang the highly unusual bells here using a large wheel on the North side of the church, and Mrs Mai Clarke (Mai the Milk), one of The Coach House’s greatest friends now rests at the bottom of the steeply sloping churchyard with her husband Desmond.
St Philip’s was also a special favourite of John Anderson’s, Second Master and C.O. of the Combined Cadet Force who always made it up the hill- whatever the weather- to worship on Easter Sunday.
The church was originally a private chapel belonging to The Revd. W.E. Jelf who asked John Louis Petit, an old Oxford friend, to design it. Philip Modiano, the leading light of the Petit Society has just published a superbly illustrated guide to the man who was a one-man campaign against the Neo-Gothic which dominated so much of mid-nineteenth century ecclesiastical architecture.
The Friends of Friendless Churches have been approached about taking St Philip’s into their care: “It comes with a large repair bill that we shall have to raise: over £120,000 is needed to make this building watertight and safe.”
For more information or to get involved in the campaign, please do visit these websites:
Friends of Friendless Churches
Petit’s Tour of Old Staffordshire – The Book