Educationalists and co-founders Kurt Hahn and Lawrence Holt set up the first Outward Bound School in 1941 in Aberdovey to teach young merchant seamen wartime survival skills. Its success saw this extend to training young apprentices from many sectors.
The name ‘outward bound’ is synonymous with a ship leaving port and that metaphor of setting out on a journey readily applies to our participants experience of character building and personal development through experiential outdoor learning today.
The first Scottish centre, the Moray Sea School, opened near Gordonstoun in 1949 and closed in 1976 when the school moved to Loch Eil to expand our range of outdoor activities.
In June 2018, thanks to the efforts of alumni and former staff, money was raised to give permanent recognition of the Moray Sea School some 40 years after the school had closed through the unveiling of two commemorative plaques. In its 27 years of existence some 28,000 young people were trained at the school and on the unveiling day over 120 alumni were in attendance. Clear testament to the enduring significance these alumni placed on their time at Moray. During the afternoon tea reception held at Gordonstoun School it became very clear that Outward Bound alumni were keen to share and reminisce about the lasting impact their course had on them. The shared experience of outdoor learning and character development in teenage years had remained with them forever.
The power of re-engaging with contemporaries who have a common shared experience in a familiar place is something very special indeed. As a result, in autumn 2018 we set up OB 24, an event to provide our alumni the opportunity to go back to their centre for 24 hours and re-connect with other former Outward Bounders. The events last year were so well received and attended that this year we have set a programme to do the same.
Alumni can take a trip down memory lane, look through archive material, including film footage and hopefully find their end of course report. The physical activities that the alumni would have been experiencing 30, 40 even 50 years ago are not compulsory, but activities are available and the enduring ‘jog and dip’ is open for the alumni to re-experience. This challenge has been the start to all Outward Bound courses since it was founded. So, should they wish to jog to the loch and refresh themselves with a dip, meaning full emersion, into the water then we arrange this for them.
On the final morning of OB 24, alumni get to see the Outward Bound learning process, (some might call it magic), in action now, after many decades of development, progression and new pedagogies. They also get to hear the future vision of this educational charity and how its passion for helping more and more young people to become more than they think they can be has grown not waned since 1941.
The alumni attend the end of course presentations given by the young people finishing off their own course. The next generation share their triumphs, explain their struggles with highly adventurous challenges and how these were overcome before leaving with their course certificate and a newly found self-belief. The future alumni of Outward Bound sallies forth.
In May this year Mrs Brown returned to Outward Bound Eskdale, 68 years since participating in the first Girls’ course and had this to say: “What is it that Outward Bound has, that can unite the young, present/past leaders and participants of all ages? All with a different memory, story, experience? I definitely want to thank all those who made it possible for us to see the present setup, to compare this with my 1951 course. To see, to compare, to reflect and be impressed that the essence of Outward Bound remains. Now I’m left reflecting on all the adventurous positive experiences I’ve had in life due to that ‘something’ being planted way back in 1951.”
At our Loch Eil centre in the Highlands, the next OB 24 will take place from noon on Thursday 19 to noon on Friday 20 September. A small cost is applied per person which covers all food, equipment and accommodation in a local hotel. See outwardbound.org.uk or facebook for the alumni community page. For any enquires please contact Dylan via firstname.lastname@example.org or 07841 462 146 for more details.
Dylan Carroll, Head of Legacy Giving, Outward Bound Trust