Ullapool High School Tour De France
On the last week of term in October, we set off from Ullapool at 3am, headed for France and unsure of what was to come; but it certainly was a trip to remember. The journey had started 6 months ago when a group of P7 students undertook the task of researching men who left from Lochbroom in 1914 and never returned. Our actual journey took us all over the North of France and Southern Belgium, visiting WW1 memorial sites and museums as well as other cultural activities. As part of the WW1 focus we visited the Somme museum in Albert, winding through tunnels filled with memorabilia under the streets of the town. We also visited Thiepval museum and its moving displays of men lost before travelling on to Ocean Villas Trench where we got to explore an original trench and some of the students had a go at ‘going over the top’. We also visited the fantastic In Flanders Field museum, in Ypres, which was incredibly moving for a lot of the staff and students and even found time on the way home to stop off on the beach at Dunkirk to see the memorials from the Second World War.
As well as our WW1 focus we also took in a number of other sites including a visit to Samara Archaeological Park to learn all about Stone Age civilizations, a visit to Chantilly Palace with its fantastic equine museum and displays, a wee boat ride in Bruges to see the historic town with the more brave and energetic among us climbing the bell tower; we took in more than a few chocolate shops and even a factory. Finally, for the thrill seekers, a visit to Asterix Parc with some of the largest roller coasters in Europe - a lot of fun was had by all.
However perhaps the poignant moments of the trip came with the two ceremonies our students carried out for ‘our fallen heroes’. At Thiepval Memorial, 6 members of the pipeband impressed a crowd of people, including European press, with their tunes as we laid a wreath for a family member – Henry Sears. Also at Thiepval we laid some stones brought by a student from Scoraig beach for K Mackenzie. Then our pipers once again shone, this time at the famous ‘Last Post’ ceremony at Menin Gate in Ypres. Playing in front of hundreds of people, Ruairidh Buxton and William Mackenzie were superb as they accompanied the wreath laying ceremony, the Lochbroom wreath being carried by James Heaney and Hardie Crawford. It was an incredibly moving experience which touched us all.
Overall the trip was a huge success; our students did us proud and there was nothing but praise and compliments for their behaviour and manners everywhere we went. We all had a great time and a lot about history and humanity was learnt. I can honestly say everyone was moved in some way by this trip and the effects will be lasting. We will be holding an exhibition in the Macphail Centre from Wednesday 9th November for two weeks, comprising of photos and films from the trip as well as the original displays made by the P7 students. Please do come along and have a look.
As always there are too many people to thank to mention everyone individually; however, a special thanks goes to the staff who gave up their time to help come along, The Royal British Legion – Ullapool Branch, Ullapool Harbour Trust, St Martins Lodge, Tesco and Ullapool Community as a whole and of course the students who came and made it so special. This is one trip I know I will not forget.