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Ken C. Ogilvie - Mountaineer to Ancient Mariner
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Ken C. Ogilvie - Mountaineer to Ancient Mariner

Ken C. Ogilvie, much respected author and stalwart of the outdoor learning and education sector has passed away at the age of 88.

Kenneth Coulthard Ogilvie was born on 4th November 1932 in Carlisle where he attended Carlisle Grammar School after passing the eleven plus examination.

Ken’s interest in the outdoors and passion for adventure developed with Carlisle Grammar School Scout Troop. His Scoutmaster took them on camps and expeditions to places such as Norway, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and Northern Ireland. In his late teens he joined Carlisle Mountaineering Club which introduced him to The Lakeland Fells and the Scottish Highlands.

His education progressed with a place at Durham University, where he gained a BA honours degree in History and then did a further year at Carnegie College to do a Diploma in PE and his PGCE. He followed this with his National Service and was stationed in Berlin for part of his time and was fortunate enough to spend six weeks skiing in Germany.

At the end of his National Service he took up a post as Head of the PE department at Derwent School, Cockermouth, where his belief in the value of outdoor learning took seed and grew. In 1960 he designed and built a climbing wall off a scaffold on the outside of the school building with a hold (near the top) that moved, so as to be more realistic! Easter and summer camping trips were organised for pupils in Scotland & the Lake District, which they never forgot. During his 8 years as PE teacher he was the founder member of Cumberland’s Panel of Assessors for the Gold Expedition for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. He moved to Keswick and joined the Keswick Mountaineering Club forming many friendships that lasted a lifetime sharing memorable adventures on the hills.

In 1966 he was appointed the new position of Warden (as they were called then) of Ghyll Head Outdoor Pursuits Centre, for Manchester Education Authority .Where he developed and ran the centre for 22 years while testing his philosophy, ideas, principles and beliefs on outdoor education.

In that time he served on the Mountain Leader Training Board and joined the Association of Wardens of Mountain Centres, now the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres (AHOEC). Joining icons such as John Jackson, Eric Langmuir, Tom Price, John Baxter, Roger Putnam etc. This was the start of 46 years’ service with that association where at one time or another he was: Treasurer, Secretary, Chairman and Membership Secretary. He was still serving the AHOEC for many years after retirement from Ghyll Head and the esteem in which he was held by the Association was evident in him being guest of honour at their 50th Anniversary dinner at Plas-y-Brenin in 2015.

Ken also became a member of the NAOE (a founding organisation of the Institute of Outdoor Learning) undertaking several roles with them. As well as editing the regular newsletter for NAOE for 16 years, seeing it through the organisations transition to the Institute for Outdoor Learning. In 2011 he was made a Fellow of the IOL.

It wasn’t all work and no play. There are endless tales of Ken & John Crisp’s antics and exploits around Morecambe Bay which would more often than not end up with them marooned on some sandbank. On one occasion having to hitch a 2 mile lift with a cockle tractor back ashore after trying unsuccessfully to wade across the river Leven up to their waists before abandoning the idea! Or running aground off Ravenglass after missing the tide, using the time to scrub the hull down before drifting in later with the new tide on a magical moonlit night! They were all excuses to stay out late prolonging their adventures, deliberate mistakes rather than accidents. In 1982 the two of them hatched a plan to enable local Lakeland outdoor centre staff to meet and socialise. It was called the Three Peaks and entailed teams of 3 or 4 sailing up Windermere and bagging the 3 peaks along its shore. The event was still going in 2019 and the winners receive the Boot and Saddle trophy.

In his later years he remained active. He undertook many sailing trips, with friends, mainly on the NW coast of Scotland where his encyclopaedic knowledge of the Scottish hills became evident, he could point and name them all. His three successful trips to the Island of St Kilda made him a man to have on board! He continued sharing his love & interest in the outdoors as a member of Keswick Natural History Society , Keswick Lecture Society and Cumberland Geological Society up until 2019 when ill health prevented him from attending meetings.

But his interest in whisky sampling will be the one most fondly remembered by his friends and colleagues. Many stories revolve around the amber liquid and Ken’s ability to consume copious quantities of the water of life. Ken would produce a bottle or two as he would say, “to sample”. The problem was that Ken’s idea of a sample was half the bottle – half for him and half for you. At the end of the session, you would be figuratively ‘under the table’ whilst Ken was still ‘sampling’.

He was a visionary, way before his time, inspirational to both staff and students. He was a gentle man and a gentleman, he was kind, thoughtful, dependable, approachable and a man of reason and diplomacy.

He had a vast knowledge of Outdoor Education. His much-referenced book, Leading and Managing Groups in the Outdoors (NAOE) was first published in 1991. In 2013 Ken completed his epic book (824 pages) and life work with the publication of Roots and Wings: A history of outdoor education and outdoor learning in the UK (IOL). Which is and will be for some considerable time the definitive history of outdoor education and outdoor learning.

As a historian Ken kept meticulous notes and diaries of expeditions and events recorded for posterity with his passion for photography (there are over 10,000 slides in his collection) which capture so many changes and memorable moments of people enjoying the outdoors.

In a career spanning more than 60 years Ken C Ogilvie brought many people into the field. He generously gave his time, encouragement and expertise and was an inspiration to many.

He will be greatly missed but always remembered.

 

That’s the official version, there are so many antics & exploits that would run into pages to try and sum up a life well lived while capturing the character of the man. Ken’s esteemed friend Derek Stansfield managed to aptly pen this poem that greatly reflects this;

 

‘To my old mate the Ancient Mariner’.

You’ve climbed many a mountain and sailed some stormy seas.

You’ve felt the force of winter and the gentle summer breeze.

You’ve inspired a generation probably more if truth be told.

You’ve written many, many words all pure literary gold.

You’ve visualised the goal ahead, a clear and obvious way.

You’ve encouraged others to follow the same qualities to display.

You’ve served many organisations in many different ways.

You’ve received plaudits from them, nothing else but praise.

You’ve raised a family, which you have done with pride.

You’ve received their love and affection and from others far and wide.

You’ve climbed your final mountain and rolled away the sail.

You’ve written your final chapter, told your final tale.

You’ve led a life so full that has given us memories to keep.

Now is the time to rest my friend, now is the time to sleep.

Derek Stansfield

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