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

St. Jude, Dr.Williams and the Galloping Gourmet

Memories of a Fusty Week

David Etherington, the eminent QC and Captain of the School had a profound effect on many of us at QM in the 1970s and was a huge fan of the Mawddach and Farchynys. He wrote this marvellous memoir of a fusty week in the summer of 1971 when he helped the staff which included the much-loved Ken Yates. It was originally published in The Marian. Google has not been able to throw any light on Dr. Williams’ Medicinal Compound which today would not probably pass the risk assessment.

First Year Field Course – Summer, 1971

Setting out on a day which would not have disgraced a Hammer Films production, the Vice-Captain of School and his Successor-to-be set off to join Messrs. Yates and Cumbers and a party of 16 first formers for a week at Farchynys. The opportunities for fieldwork provided by this area of unspoiled natural beauty were exploited to the full, and proof was afforded of the old Welsh adage: – “Too many inexperienced cooks will never make broth.” 

Each day, the boys led by KIY and a walking stick, set off armed with all kinds of fiendish equipment, which appeared to consist largely of washing lines and bits of painted wood. One day was spent studying the distribution of organisms between high and low tide near to the Boathouse, and later in the week, a visit was paid to Shell Island to examine the different plant and animal populations in rock pools. Our lunch was consumed on the beach, and in one clumsy case, consisted very largely of the beach! Barmouth Harbour was invaded for an afternoon, and the mud although most uninviting to humans, was discovered to contain several interesting types of worms and molluscs. One of the innumerable Joneses was almost left up to his knees as an offering to these amazing creatures.

Evenings were spent in writing up material and examining specimens. One boy in particular became remarkably proficient in the use of microscopes. Ample time was given to leisure, and Round-the-Table tennis became increasingly popular as the weeks sped by. The ‘Black Dwarf of Mongolia’ scored a notable triumph over the Kitchen sink. Thursday’s programme read: – “An attempt will be made on the summit of Snowdon.” – Thanks to Mr Cumber’s foresight, that attempt succeeded. The day was blazingly hot, and Mr Cumbers brought with him a large bottle labelled Doctor Williams’s Medicinal Compound – a white, thick and potent mixture which saved the whole group from suffering the death which fate usually reserves for heretics, and yet fate was not to be cheated… 

Whilst engaged in cutting up wood for goal posts, that self-same Chemist, who had not learned what biology really involved, mistook his finger for a branch of rhododendron and had to be rushed to Dolgellau hospital. The fate of the evening meal rested with the History side of the School and, despite minor difficulties, the food if late, was eminently edible. 

The final day was spent in clearing up a week’s mess and preparing the final meal. Yet more cooking tips were to be served up. For instance, if making ten-second potato in bulk, NEVER add the powder to the water. Having done so Etherington did a Galloping Gourmet* out of the kitchen and offered up a prayer to Saint Jude, the patron Saint of lost causes. Fortunately, our prayers were answered, and we left with the customary distended intestines. 

All of this has been written with the prejudice of an historian, but the week proved that such ventures could play a vital part in the future life of Farchynys. Many thanks are due to Messrs. Yates and Cumbers for the immense amount of hard work put in, which helped to make the week so successful and enjoyable. Mr Yates wishes to express his thanks for the support of Lavender and Etherington and we would all like to thank Clifford for his contribution to the venture. 

David Etherington (VI RFF)

…. and newly appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of London

*The Galloping Gourmet was the name of one of the first TV chef programmes hosted by the dashing Graham Kerr with help from his wife Treena