Lake District Trip
"Great Gable's Revenge"


By Phil Dumville (1967-74).

The article below was originally posted on Facebook, in November 2013.

Having seen comments from Steve Jones and others and now Nick Owen about THAT Lake District trip and having a partial recall, I thought I’d draft a memoir and see what gaps could be filled in by others.

I didn’t own a camera and have no paperwork from that time so here goes from memory.

It was autumn 73/Easter 74 (?) about 30 mixed 4th, 5th, 6th formers and staff – Joiner, Ryan,  Clarkson (+must have been 2/3 more) spent a week in the Lakes.  I’d been twice before,  great fun, cheap (couldn’t afford Ski Trip) and relations between boys and staff pretty informal. We were allowed to go into pubs as long as we steered cleared of where the staff were.

The day in question was the Great Gable/Green Gable walk, the party found itself scrambling up a steep and narrow gully with about 7 or 8 of us waiting at the bottom for our turn to join the almost vertical column of the group.

A rock fall dislodged by someone above (40 years on does anyone want to own up??) brought down a dozen or two rocks the size of a brick or half brick. I couple of lads in front of me copped the first rocks, I was missed by millimetres as I ducked against a large boulder.  Chris Tippetts (was it Chris?) took one in the face - big gash on the bridge of nose and cut forehead, and Colin Parr one on the back of his head and another on a forearm I think.  (Who else was there at the bottom?) (Faz were you there?).

A fair bit of shouting sent Clarkson (?) rushing  to stop the group and call for staff help leaving us boys for a couple of minutes.  Colin, standing next to me (an oik a couple of years younger to me who normally I ignored – sorry Colin)  had just removed a blood covered hand from his head and  using my hanky I formed a compress and I held it on his wound. One could see the bone of his skull in a 3 inch gash.  I guess it was shock but he was very calm. After a few minutes Ryan, Joiner, others had joined us.  Joiner was typical GJ taking a “what's the fuss about attitude” until I removed my hand and hanky and a fountain of blood shot 2 foot past his nose.  I think there were a couple of other minor injuries but my task seemed to be to look after Colin. We put a big compress and a ton of anti-septic cream on his head when the First Aid box was finally found .  Thank hours watching Blue Peter for what little skill I showed.

Clarkson took the bulk of the Party to continue as scheduled and to link up with the bus leaving perhaps 6 or 7 us at the crime scene.  Colin was by now showing signs of concussion and Chris Tippetts was none too happy either.

Either I volunteered or was told, I cannot recall, but it fell to me to go and get help from Wasdale Head Hotel, a dot on the horizon where it was judged the nearest phone would be.

I set off by running down the scree at the back of Green Gable. A fantastic adrenalin rush, I must have descended a thousand feet in seconds. (I said my memory was flaky).  The urgency of my task and the adrenalin rush combined helped me leap over dry stone wall after dry stone wall. I was going really well until my foot caught the top of a wall and I went flying and landed on both arms, breaking one.  From Hero to Zero in one leap.

After a few moments of feeling sorry for myself I continued to the Hotel still a couple of miles away. I must have been quite an apparition a lanky, white faced youth, covered in blood (not mine) appearing at the kitchen door.

At some point I brought out my hanky to wipe my nose  - it was a blood soaked cloth which the hotel manager took from me with tongs and put in the Victorian room heater.  A local police sergeant took my statement while mountain rescue was called. They seemed to take an age, but probably felt a lot worse for those up top.  (Who can fill in details?).

An hour or two later Colin, now on a stretcher, Chris and others were taken to Whitehaven Hospital.  John Ryan turned to me and said that we were going to have to walk back to Keswick but that the coach would meet us at some stage. All my adrenalin had by now evaporated, it was a bloody long walk, much of it in the dark, and no doubt I moaned a bit!

John Ryan and I got back about 9 or 10pm.  All the other teachers were gathered in the hallway. I think oblivious to my presence the conversation went along the lines of:-

“John, we have had a talk and think that you should call them.”  Poor John was handed a fistful of two bob bits and from the payphone in the hallway had to call Colin’s parents. “Hello, I am Mr Ryan, I am Colin’s teacher, and there’s been a bit of a mishap.... “  I was then spotted and shooed away.  I reckon the masters had played spoof to decide who had to make the call.

It was next morning when I showed Joiner my ballooned sized arm and said “Sir, this doesn’t look right” The look on his face confirmed that. He cannot have been that bothered as I was given a ten bob note and told to get a taxi to the local A & E. Alone.

Colin’s parents drove up overnight – a big call in 73/74. He had a cracked skull and broken arm (?).

Chris re-joined us from the hospital after 1 or 2 days - very pale. He was suffering from shock, not from the head injury but from the fact that his Indian doctor had decided to check him out for internal bleeding by digital rectal examination.  I too was shocked as I had never heard of such things.   Well we were sheltered in those days weren’t we?

Two evenings later I got hammered in a local pub and my expensive jacket was stolen. I’d bought it with savings from a paper/milk round.  As I staggered into the hotel Joiner met me and shouted “you’re drunk” my reply was “my f**ing jacket has been stolen”.  “Good” he said, turned on his heel and went in the staff room. Nothing was ever said again about the incident.

Footnote: in this modern age it may seem strange that I didn’t want to trouble my widowed mother so did not ring home.  After we got off the coach at Northwood Hills Station and I finally got a bus to Eastcote and dragged self and bags home, I stood at the front door waving my plaster cast.  “Oh so you are one them” she said – the Evening Standard having printed a one inch piece that a group of boys from St Nicks had been in an accident.

This did not appear in any School Magazine



The Rivals (1971)

School Fair (1962)

School Rules