How are you all getting on with your New Year’s resolutions? I must admit to mixed success, with caffeine intake only sporadically under control and late night emails creeping back onto the radar. Nevertheless, I will struggle on and get there in the end.

It was a pleasure to welcome Andrew Fleck to our assembly on Monday morning, where he spoke to the children about challenge in all walks of life. Many of you will have seen the recent news story about the ‘Four Oarsman’ who smashed the world record for transatlantic rowing, completing the journey of 3000 miles in just under thirty days. Two of the team who battled through 40 foot waves were Old Sedberghians – George Biggar and Dicky Taylor – and showed customary grit on their way to raising £250,000 pounds for charity.

Nothing great is easy.

So says the inscription on the memorial to Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the English Channel. The story of Captain Webb is Boys’ Own stuff and his name is synonymous with adventure and tales of derring-do. Always a strong swimmer, Webb was a second mate on the Cunard Line when he dived into the sea in an attempt to rescue a fellow sailor. Ultimately unsuccessful, he was nonetheless awarded the Stanhope Medal by the brilliantly named Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned.

In August 1875, his first attempt at crossing the Channel ended in failure as a storm blew up only hours into the swim. Just twelve days later, smeared in porpoise fat, he plunged into the sea at Dover and 22 hours later emerged, victorious, in Calais. The crossing had been challenging, to say the least: Webb actually swam 64km in the process of covering the 34km stretch of water and had to receive medicinal shots of brandy to combat the numerous jellyfish stings.

Nothing great is easy.

We need to remind our children of this when they might be tempted to give up, to throw in the towel, to take the easy option. Resilience is what marks us, and our rowing record breakers, as Sedberghian.

And I can always get used to de-caf coffee.

Have a great exeat weekend.


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