Gordon Brudenell

All the many Marians who knew him were saddened to hear of the recent death of Gordon Brudenell, the kind, witty and naturally laid back QM Year Master and teacher of Physics. I have particular cause to remember him with joy and thanks.

Not only did Gordon successfully coach me through the only Physics examination I ever passed (it was my O Level) but was in command when he took a Third Year class to Farchynys in November 1968 for what was my first visit.

When I was preparing Marians on the Mawddach I asked a number of members of staff to share their memories of the place. What follows below is Gordon’s unique contribution. It is so true to his voice and many of things he notes come to mind when I remember that cold, rainy first trip to the Mawddach on my thirteenth birthday.

Thanks for taking me there, Gordon.

Gordon Brudenell with Christiane Swain

Dear Paul

Some ramblings about a wonderful place!

·       Blackness – see Night sky

·       Breath-taking first view of estuary on approach

·       Call to meals ‘ARUP!’ (by Ken Yates) or something like it, sometimes accompanied by beating a large saucepan lid. It certainly got results and there always followed a mad scramble from dorm and day-room, to join the queue at the serving hatch.

·       Chores – on the duty rota. The favourite ‘End of Visit’ chore was, of course, cleaning the toilets!

·       Dingbats. A legend about vampire bats at Farchynys and told to ‘Fusties’ by prefects as the set off on a torch-lit nighttime walk on the headland. The legend was reinforced by the bat cave and by finding bats in dorm sinks etc.

·       Duty Rota. Drawn up at the start of the visit showing a list of the various chores to be done and the group/s (chosen at random) assigned to the job. It was posted on the dayroom noticeboard.

·       Fire Practice. Always held on each visit. Sometimes, if noise had carried on in the dorm for too long, it was held after they were settling down to sleep. They then had to assemble outside in pyjamas. 

·       Flooding. The drive sometimes got cut-off by flooding from the Mawddach. This did not usually last for long, but if it did supplies could be obtained on foot by walking down past the farm. 

·       Girls at Farchynys. In later years girls joined in the 6th Form and came on field courses. They slept in the larger staff bedroom and used the staff bathroom. As numbers increased, a better solution was needed.

·       Glow-worms – an amazing sight seen lining the driveway sometimes. The creatures were however very disappointing when examined in the lab.

·       Halfway House pub – nothing needs to be added!

·       Ken’s Deerstalker hat, stick, ever-ready-camera & wellies. Easy to spot.

·       Late nights working in Lab.

·       Leftovers. In the early days the wonderful ladies in the QM kitchens would provide us with any leftover food in large aluminium containers – main course, sweet (especially that perennial favourite – chocolate concrete). These made a welcome contribution to the food budget. Health and Safety regulations eventually put a stop to this.

·       Let Hair Down  – a real ‘getting to know you’ place pupils /staff (two way traffic) in totally different light.

·       Listening to Mahler after late night/early morning end to laboratory session on Biology field trips.

·       M is for Mai – Mai the Milk. We could not have managed without her for those many years! Not only did she supply us with crate(s) of milk ready for our arrival, but also if we ran short during a Field Course etc. She also cleaned the Coach House after each visit. She was a fount of knowledge about the area and knew most of the QM staff very well. They were always welcome for a cosy chat in front of a warm fire.

·       Maybugs. It was often very hot in the lab on summer Field Trips and all the windows were open. As it got dark, the tremendous clattering and painful impact of these large heavy beetles (cockchafers) was most unwelcome.

·       Minibus. The first minibus had slatted wooden seats at the side. Aptly named the ‘Puke Wagon’. For some years they were COMMER vehicles bought from Goodfellows. These were always rebadged by QM wags as ‘ROMMEC’

·       Mudflats (see ‘Suckering’)

·       Night sky. Total blackness with no ‘City Light pollution’ – just made for stargazing

·       Orienteering.  Poor map readers, usual error was to turn the map upside down or to follow route with the river or other landmark on the wrong side of the path!

·       Porridge – theYates test – for porridge to be ready the stirring spoon must stand upright unaided! One slice or two?  

·       Quadwats. Ken could not pronounce ‘r’ and he told students to mark out half-metre ‘quadwats’ for plant identification. He was affectionately teased about this difficulty and given ‘exercises’ to say e.g., River Ribble. He greatly enjoyed the fun.

·       Rhododendron culling – excellent fuel for staffroom fire

·       Round-the-Table Tennis, usual table tennis rules or Hit and Run around the table to join opposite queue, strictly no table tennis  bats allowed but anything else is OK (books, saucepan lids etc.)

·       Staff Room log fires – marvellous.

·       Suckering pupils on salt marsh mudflats. During the session on the estuary mudflats, ken would leave me with the rest of the Biology group and stride off ostensibly to find the best place to dig for ‘inhabitants’. Eventually he would signal to us to follow only for us to find ourselves in up to 40 cm of soft mud making it impossible to walk and pulling wellies off. The subsequent wallowing was photographed by Ken who always had his camera at the ready. The dig was eventually completed and specimens collected. Showers and a bit of laundry work quickly sorted out any mess.

·       Tranquillity, silence, superb relaxation after the day’s activities.

·       Washing-up and spud bashing for 20. This was on the duty rota and was a real culture-shock for many. Perhaps a change was noted later by parents?

·       Water supply. Initially there was no mains water, and the viability of any visit depended a report on the level of water in the hillside tank at the end of the previous visit (with any update from Mai).

·       Welshpool – ‘Obligatory’ stop for tuck & supplies

·       Y is for Yates – Ken Yates. The Laird of Farchynys – that’s for sure! He spent as much time as he could there. He was in his element – truly relaxed and extremely happy. Field Trips (Biology and Geology), First-Year weeks, Year weekends – whatever he could go on, he was there! I accompanied him on very many of these visits. He was always superb company and pupils of all ages had a great time. He liked to spend Christmas there, walking, reading listening to his extensive classical music collection.

·     Thanks for taking us  -always nice to hear at the end of a visit.

Best wishes with the project

Gordon Brudenell

29 April 2016

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