|Ar Lan y Mor played on the harp and sung by Joy Cornock.
That was beautiful and I know Dad would have loved it - it was one of his favourite songs. He would have been sitting here singing along ... quite loudly and slightly embarrassingly as my daughters will agree .....
So I want to say a few words about Dad. But before I do I want to thank you all for coming here today. It means such a lot that you are all here to say goodbye to him. Each of you with your own memories. We’ve had many messages from friends and former colleagues all over the world - many who weren’t able to be here today but who send their love and have their own memories of Dad as a leader in outdoor learning, as an adventurer and explorer, as a thinker, a teacher, a friend and a colleague.
For me he was all these things and more ...
It’s hard to know where to start when you’re talking about your Father’s life, my memories of him, the influence he had on me, and the influence and impact he had on others.
My own early memories of him are dominated with him telling Flora and I stories of his time in Antarctica... of leading a team of huskies across wide open icescapes and mountains, of shooting and skinning seals for dog food, of long dark winter days, freezing temperatures and narrow escapes and of that all important once a year visit from a ship carrying supplies and news from home. He also told us how he came close to being thrown overboard a little rowing boat in the freezing Antarctic Ocean (Life expectancy of around 20-30 seconds). He was trying his luck at fishing for dinner when he heard a splash and turned around to see the large eye of a blue whale peering up at him. A quick flick of the tail would have overturned the little boat in an instant but luckily the whale glided effortlessly away sparing Dad from being sent flying into the unforgiving sea.
His love of taking risks permeated everything he did and therefore most things we did as a family. It made our childhoods exciting and it certainly shaped me.
Dad growing up in Africa meant that we visited our grandparents fairly regularly. But it wasn’t enough just to take his family to visit their grandparents at a suburban house in Harare - there was always an extra trip planned. One Christmas I vividly remember a trip to lake Kariba. Not to stay in one of the nice hotels with actual bedrooms and swimming pools - we were to go to a little island about two hours away by boat across the far side of the lake and stay in a grass hut where crocodiles and bilharzia were rife.
Once there Dad decided it would be nice to hire a little motor boat and explore. It was a beautiful evening, the sun was setting and the Lake was silent and still, broken only by the sound of the old off board engine and the occasional cries from Flora and I when we spotted something new along the banks.
We could see the hippos coming down to the water for their evening swim, with mothers and their young jostling their way into the Lake. Heading a little further out Dad decided to turn the engine off to watch and enjoy the peace and quiet. We sat for a while watching the swimming hippos and the African sunset. After a few minutes Dad decided we’d better get out of their way as it hadn’t been unheard of for hippos to come a take a great bite out of the bottom of boats.
Reaching for the pulley on the motor he gave it a great tug - nothing. He tried again - each time becoming slightly more determined and slightly more panicked as by now we were drifting pretty rapidly towards the hippos. Realising that we were now in fact in some danger and shouting instructions for us to MOVE OUT OF THE WAY - he gave one massive pull and the engine spluttered into life.
It was with some relief that we headed back to our little beach....
Even at home in Glasbury - we had a pretty special childhood. Growing up in an outdoor education centre with a jungle gym in the back garden and canoeing, mountain climbing and caving at weekends and holidays seemed the norm to us. Dad would always involve us. Taking us out with groups of children - learning how to navigate mountains in the dark or how to pitch tents or dubbing boots!
But I loved going with him and learnt a lot just by watching him.
Many of the children coming to the centre every week had spent very little time outdoors and their experiences at Woodlands helped shape their lives. Dad understood how outdoor learning helped develop long term physical and emotional wellbeing amongst children, equipped them with skills, built an understanding of teamwork and helped overcome personal barriers and fears.
I remember watching Dad sit in a tree for over an hour with a tearful 14 year old terrified to make the leap onto a rope swing - under his patient persuasive coaching they always finally did it and the sense of personal achievement that gave them was always palpable. He fought many times to keep Woodlands from closing - passionately articulating the positive impact outdoor learning has and winning the battle many times over.
He was shaped by his values - strongly political in his beliefs with a clear sense of social justice and equality shaped from his childhood in Africa, seeing apartheid first hand and fighting for racial equality.
And Wales was also very important to him. He believed Wales was a more equal society without the pomp and class structure of England. Some of this must have rubbed off on me...
And he always appreciated and valued things. Ideas, music, art and books were just some of the loves he had and which he always spoke.
I am proud to have him as my Father and his thoughts, experiences, ideas and values will stay with me in everything I do and say.
So I hope you’ll all share your memories of him and continue a celebration of his life in St Nicholas village Hall.
And I will end by quoting from one of his favourite books that he passed on to me and which I now cherish:
Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marques:
“Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.”
I do not know what made the man I knew, this gentle, kind, humorous man with a hint of stubbornness who hated injustice or cruelty and loved life, mountains, the sea, poetry, his animals and I must add red wine. But I do know, that most of all, he adored his two daughters, Anna and Flora who made him so immensely proud and later, when they came on the scene, his beautiful grandchildren.
Ian was an only child growing up in Africa with its ’big sky’, spending time on his uncle’s farm exploring and playing with the children of the African workers and in his teens, a Member of the Rhodesian Schools Exploration Society climbing and going on expeditions to the Chimanimanis. A bout of bilhazia was a challenge to his school days and he left early going to Rio Tinto Zinc where he was was trained in cartography with any spare time taken up with climbing and playing clarinet. Then came part time call up to the Rhodesian army which he despised but would not let the brutality of it beat him into believing that this in any way could be what he wanted. He left Rhodesia for London where he had a few contacts he had met through the Salisbury Climbing Club. He was determined to change his life. He met John Cleare, the mountain photographer at the Alpine Club while he was looking for digs, ending up on John’s floor in Blackheath, soon after they were climbing together.
So to Antarctica. A very significant part of his history and, having met other ‘Fids’ I see that this was so for all those who lived and worked there during that time.. I will not say much ..it is all in the book.
On returning he decided to take a teaching qualification, which he did, in St Luke’s College Exeter.. graduating as an English teacher. Still climbing he met up with Wilfred Noyce who was subsequently killed in the Caucasus but Wilfred had started working on a book ‘The Atlas of Mountaineering’ and Ian was asked to continue it.
By this time I had met Ian in Lindisfarne College which was near my parent’s home in Wrexham. He had taken a job as an English teacher so we spent time pouring over maps and photos or this is what we told my parents we were doing. The book was published in 1969.
Ian spent sometime teaching in Devon. and then went back to Rhodesia for 9 months working with the Rhodesian Broadcasting News Division. where he got involved in subversive activities against the right wing forces of the Smith Regime passing documents on to the Central Africa Party..
We were married in 1970 and Ian went to Oxford for an advanced teaching diploma where our first daughter was born. Ian’s belief in the power of the natural environment in teaching and shaping young minds was evident and at the end of his time in Oxford a vacancy for Head of Centre for Outdoor Education at Woodlands in Powys came up. Professor Robin Hodgkin who was his tutor, friend and fellow climber said quite forcibly that he should apply for it. He got the job, even though when asked by the panel ..How long do you intend to stay here he answered, “I can guarantee a year,” 28 years later and a thoroughly involved life in teaching skills of living together through outdoor activities he retired.
So many people have written to say that their experiences at Woodlands were a significant part of their lives.
In 1976 we bought the cottage in St Nicholas where we lived continuously from 1992. Always involved in Outdoor Education he continued working during his ‘retirement’ and was on the Adventure Licensing Board. The Health and Safety Executive , The Duke of Edinburgh Expeditionary Panel. the BMC and set up a Charity, The Oxford Outdoor Learning Trust which made sure that young people from Oxford would continue to get the experiences in outdoor education.
Ian always believed in the freedom of the mountains and countryside and worked and spent time on the Rights of Way Act, being acknowledged in Professor Kevin Gray’s definitive book on Land Law published in 2001
Ian loved living by the sea, on the edge, marking time with the tides and the rhythms of the weather. He loved that I was involved in the Arts and he was a member of Fishguard Arts Society helping when he could and exhibiting photographs on occasions.
In the silence which now follows I have the memories of our travels together to Africa, Japan, India, Mexico and his delight in the countries and people we met making many new and good friends.
At his father’s funeral Ian read The Dylan Thomas poem, ’Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’. but I can say that Ian did not rage and rave at the dying of the light, he never admitted to old age and was always strong for those around him answering to the question “How are you?” with a nonchalant ‘I’m fine’ even up to his last day.
To quote Dylan Thomas again, ‘He may no longer hear the waves break loud on the seashores or the gulls cry but for him and for me I can sum it up with the other lines from the same poem.
..Though lovers be lost love shall not
And Death shall have no Dominion
Gaynor McMorrin 2017
Memories of Dad
It is lovely to look out to an audience of people who knew and loved Dad. I would like to share with you a few stories that help to explain what made him so special.
Dad was a fun-loving man with a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous sense of humour. He also had huge determination coursing through his veins. When he wanted to do something, he did it. He spent a lot of his life working hard at what he loved – teaching kids outdoor activities.
I have spoken to many old friends over the last week and all of them have said the same thing about Dad. That he was the one to encourage their sense of adventure. He did the same for me and Anna. He taught us how to canoe, climb, abseil and soar down zip wires. What he was really teaching was resilience. What he was giving us was a love of the wild.
My memories of Dad mostly involve adventure. One summer, thanks to one of Dad’s more over the top bouts of retail therapy we found that we owned a sailing boat. None of us knew how to sail but by the end of the summer we had precious memories of watching bottlenose dolphins bow riding, amazing close-up encounters with massive sun fish and swimming from the boat in the deep water of the Irish sea.
Dad had the ability to always make you feel as though everything was fine and even in a force 7 gale, that everything was going to plan.
On a mill pond like day on Aberbach, Dad and I decided that it was the right conditions to hone my eskimo roll skills – I was only about 9 or 10. Dad was standing chest deep in the calm sea. I was in the canoe with a mask on. I flipped over the canoe. The visibility in the sea was very clear and I could see my Dad’s legs, slightly shivering as he waited for me, as I struggled to get the paddle in the correct position to flip myself upright again. If I was running out of air I was supposed to tap the underside of the boat. But he could never wait and each time he would roll the boat back over, with me exclaiming that I had loads of air left and was just about to master the eskimo roll skill. It wasn’t until I had kids myself that I understood the parental panic that he must have experienced each time he left me underwater with the seconds ticking by.
One day, after Dad retired, he received an email from one of the 50,000 students who came through the outdoor education centre when he was there. She was in her twenties and living in London. She was unlucky enough to be involved in the Marchioness disaster. For the younger people in the audience – it was a tragedy where a party boat sank on the Thames river. She wrote that she was below deck when the boat sank. It was dark outside and as the freezing water rushed in, all the lights went out. She told Dad that it was the caving experience with Dad that enabled her to keep her head, work out which direction the surface would be, to escape and survive. She wanted to thank him for saving her life.
There is one more story I would like to tell you. I only heard this last year when I was chatting to Stuart who worked with Dad 20 years ago. It has already become one of my children’s favourite stories.
Dad was climbing with some friends in the Alps. They had been up early and had ice axes and crampons. They were on their way back down the glacier and my dad’s knees were hurting. He turned to his friends and said he was going to jog down the glacier as it was easier for him and he would wait for them further down. He set off and as he jogged down, he approached a French guide who was standing with his clients. They were discussing how to cross a deep crevasse that had opened up and was too wide to step across.
Dad didn’t see the crevasse until it was too late. He tried to stop but the spikes on his crampons stuck into the ice and flipped him into the air. He did a 360 degree summersault and landed on his feet the other side of the crevasse. He turned, waved Bonjour to the French guide and carried on jogging down the glacier as if it was all part of the plan.
That’s how I’d like to think of him now, jogging down a mountain with that twinkle in his eye. Saying it’s fine Flora, it’s all part of the plan.
Flora McMorrin 2017