South Uist 1984.
Leader: Mark Bankes
Assistant leaders: Tony Avery, Nina Avery, Collette Armitage, Jonathon Bletcher, Sarah Butler, Andy Mitchinson, Judith Pielou.
Members: Paul Blakemore, Jane Beaumont, Mike Bowen-Long, Steve Carr, Michael Cole, Margaret Cox, Jo Darwent, Danny Finlan,
Mark Hallows, Patrick Hart, John Humpherson, James McMillan, David Nash, Brian Paget, Sally Sharpe,
Helen Smith, Iain Smith, Chris Sorenson, Michael Spencer, Howard Wareing.
When I heard Howard say "the guard's van is no longer attached" (as he almost fell out of the train), I knew that my problem as expedition leader had begun. Four rucksacks, including my own, had disappeared in the direction of Edinburgh with the rear part of the train. Only after several 'phone calls was I able to persuade British Rail to depart from their bureaucratic ways and the rucksacks were returned a minute before our train was due to depart.
The next morning, the scheduled departure of 9 a.m. was delayed as Hugh tried several ways of getting two loads of food and equipment into a small lorry. Just as we were despairing, a second lorry appeared, three times as large. With one more repacking, the Expedition was finally under way.
However, due to our earlier antics, our arrival at the road end was later than expected and a race against the tide began as we tried to move the equipment round to the site…..we lost As a result, the equipment had to be carried about half a mile, but this was completed more quickly than expected, especially with Nina carrying the gas cylinders. No sooner had we finished carrying our equipment than we put in a massive effort shifting a few tons of peat for Archie. Nina once again demonstrated her strength and further incited the male members to exert themselves.
After having set up camp, we had an "activities" day when we "encouraged" all the members to take part in four training sessions which comprised of canoeing, climbing, first aid and navigation.
Surprising was the number of nights spent by various members out of the site on bivvies. I prefer to believe that this was out of enthusiasm for activities rather than the release it gave from the midges. Midge paranoia was a major concern of the Expedition and it tended to curtail evening activities, climbing and the use of the SHS Songbook, despite the fact that we had two "world famous' guitarists on the Expedition.
The midges got so annoying and depressing towards the latter part of the Expedition that I exercised my powers as leader. A Board Meeting was called (of the ALs). This summoned a General Meeting of the Expedition in a midge-free zone (on top of the hill), giving reasonable notice (get out of bed - NOW!!!). A special resolution was then unanimously passed that the Expedition abandon camp. (Spot the solicitor - Ed). The next few hours was spent organising the equipment and food necessary for a massive day bivvy over to the west coast. The volume of equipment grew and Archie kindly volunteered to drive it over for us.
The movement of the troops came next. Whilst Jonathon and Collette route-marched some of the members 6 miles to the coast in precisely one hour, Sarah led a party in canoes. That evening proved that even SHS food can taste better barbecued and the next day we had the only injuries that occurred on the Expedition: two damaged ankles during a game of football.
The calm weather continues, as did the midges. Everyone returned to camp rejuvenated and activities were able to be carried on. The Expedition was activity-orientated and virtually everyone did some canoeing and climbing, and also a 150ft abseil down the sea cliffs into the P4. This did, however, mean that little project work was undertaken.
On the final night, the ALs managed to produce what even the members thought to be an excellent buffet and then we were treated to entertainment in the form of sketches about the leaders from the members - especially Patrick and Co.
When we left, plus one recruit (a kitten named Daphne) we were already forgetting the midges and remembering the good times. Our thanks must go those, both within the Society and in Loch Eynort, especially the McDonalds, who helped to make the Expedition such a success and made my role as leader such an easy one.
PS I'm writing this report whilst relaxing on a Greek Island, away from midges. My excuse for my holiday is that I am in search of the origin of Daphne (so I can claim expenses).
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