This happened over 40 years ago, but still I am occasionally woken in the middle of the night by the horror of it.
In the Spring half term holiday of February 1977, I was one of the staff accompanying a Year 7 or 8 party of 40 children to Inverliever, the school's residential centre in Scotland. Our trip coincided with a spell of freezing weather. Clear blue skies, snow and sharp frost every night. The children were making the most of the snow and the staff had the main job of keeping them warm and well fed. They had been warned not to risk going on the ice.
There came the day when we would take the minibuses round to the far side of Loch Awe and climb the area's highest point, Sith Mor. It is not a hard walk, following an ancient drove road. At the bottom of the main climb there is the large Sandy Loch, which skirts the road.
I tried to keep in front of the children, making sure they did not go astray. It was not snowing and there was no wind, but the air almost crackled with the cold. The children were clearly finding the experience invigorating.
I rounded a bend to find that several boys had raced ahead of me and had made a downward stretch into a treacherous slide. They were now crossing a field of snow. But I knew it was not a field, it was the frozen Sandy Loch. They were racing across and could not hear my shouting a blowing on the teacher's friend, the Acme Thunderer whistle.
As my career flashed through my mind, I knew there was only one thing I could do. If the ice gave way and they fell in, so must I. Knowing it could well be the last decision of my life, I followed them onto the ice, having made it clear to the rest of the party that they must walk round the edge of the loch.
Miraculously, we got to the other side and, like mountain goats, the children scampered up to the peak. Our return journey took the long way round.
Just out of interest, I smashed some ice at the edge of the loch. It was up to 8 inches thick, enough to support a car. But that did not ease my palpitations.
-- Colin Yardley, former Headteacher