I had a really sad thought today. Eventually all the people who I have treasured letters from, kept safe in my treasured shoe box, won’t be here one day. I know it’s inevitable but it was just brought home to me today. Two of my most special letters that I have kept over the years are from a man called Ian McMorrin who I very sadly discovered today had died on 22nd October. I had looked him up online just to check his address so I could write to him but found the very lovely eulogies from his family instead.
Ian was one of the reasons that I went into Outdoor Education because he was the Head of Centre at the amazing Woodlands Outdoor Centre, in Glasbury-on-Wye. I went there in Sixth Form and had the most incredible time. Oxfordshire (where I grew up) had several brilliant centres that sowed the seeds of self-esteem, empathy, and resilience in everyone that went to them. It might sound odd but the smell of damp waterproofs and dubbing (wax) for your hiking boots transport me straight back to those magical moments spent on outdoor, environmental, and adventurous courses in Wales and Devon. Not only Oxfordshire but the whole country has the most wonderful outdoor provision that we should be so proud of. It would make Kurt Hahn and Lawrence Holt (the Founders of Outward Bound) dance a little jig of joy to know I’m sure. And Ian McMorrin played a crucial part in keeping them at the forefront of education.
When I decided I wanted to go to university to study Outdoor Pursuits Ian let me come back as a Voluntary Instructor in the spring of 1993 to give me some much needed experience. When I arrived, Woodlands looked like something from a Welsh Tourist Board brochure with beautiful daffodils everywhere, sunshine and blossom. I remember it vividly. It could’ve inspired poetry. I had my 21st birthday there amongst those stunning Black Mountains and that time spent there has honestly never left me. We kayaked, and caved, and climbed, and walked, and camped, and helped with all the groups, and spent weekends cycling the lanes and playing on the ropes course, all under the nurturing eye of the Head of Centre and instructors. Ian, together with those equally passionate about the service, saved the Centre on many occasions from the ever present threat of closure, and was a champion for Outdoor Education across the country and beyond. What a legacy he left behind.
So it was a real blow to see he had passed away and so recently. His letters from the end of the last Century are no longer just letters from someone I knew a while back, they have a much more poignant air about them now. I’m glad I wrote to him a few years ago to say hi. He rang up out of the blue after he received my letter just for a little chat which was lovely and unexpected. I just now feel cheated out of a chance to write to him again. But I think from reading his family’s beautiful eulogies he was forever the optimist and a glass half full kind of a man so I shall smile and be grateful that I have not one, but two letters from him. They mean a lot.