Frequently Asked Questions
What is the hardest thing you have done in your life?
I have had many challenges in my life but as a father of four children I can say the hardest thing I have done is to be a good father and parent. Every child needs someone that they can turn to, get help, advice and direction with encouragement. Children need mentors and inspiring people, which mainly falls to parents/guardians and very often teachers. Being a good parent requires a lot of your time and patience; you need to devote your time and energy to them to give them the best chance in life.
When were you most scared in your life?
Well in your military career there are many situations which scare you. Being shot at – knowing some is trying to end your life, is pretty scary. I was shot down in a small jet and a few weeks later shot down in a helicopter. At the time I was not afraid but after the events thinking about the consequences did affect me. I was frightened in the Atlantic when my boat tipped up – end to end, as an enormous wave turned me over. It makes you realise the sheer force of the ocean and also how small you are in comparison. The force of mother nature is immense and I was worried I would be knocked out by the weight of the boat and drowned. It happened twice more making the crossing eventful and humbling.
What is your greatest achievement?
I remember watching the SAS storm the Iranian Embassy in London when i was 18 and watching Kate Aide on the TV reporting from the scene. This was in May 1980. It was that moment I decided to join the Army and a few years later I was serving with the SAS and also had become good friends with Kate Aide. Being presented your SAS Beret after six-months of arduous selection process is one memory I will never forget and one i am immensely proud for serving my country. I would also say that arriving in Antigua after 75 days alone crossing the Atlantic Ocean is up there as top moments: seeing my wife and children on the dock to welcome me in – plus to hear the bagpipes, was very emotional indeed. Also, to raise 80,000 GBP for the My Name5 Doddie Foundation by doing the Atlantic crossing is something i am very pleased to have been done. The funds contribute towards helping find a cure for Motor Neurone Disease.
What has changed the most since your childhood?
An obvious one but technology. The ubiquity of mobile phones is something we have had to come to terms with in our children’s lives and – like for many parents, is sometimes a daily battle to strike a good balance of screens and activities. We can’t escape technology – and the power it has for good, but it would be a shame to ignore the amazing countryside we have here in the UK. I spent most of my childhood outdoors in the Highlands of Scotland – fishing, tracking, exploring. This is something i would like to return to and show my children, and others, the adventures and experiences it can offer. I have also taken people to the jungles of Borneo working with an Iban tribe I have known for twenty-years. Here there is no phone signal and it’s an opportunity to learn new skills in a remote environment.
What lessons have you learned in life?
So many – and constantly learning. If this year has shown us anything it is that you have no idea what is just around the corner so it has taught me (amongst incredible patience!) that we need to embrace opportunities as they arise. For me, it is important to always go out of your way to help others. It has been a great privilege to help others achieve things and something i am very proud of doing. Integrity is also key in life. We have all had bad experiences so for me – essential to this, is about taking the lessons from these times and learning from them. We don’t always get it right but often we have to learn as we go along, like being a parent. We learn a lot from mistakes and also from the people we meet. If you’re open, honest and act with integrity you’ll often find yourself surrounded by likeminded people and friends.
I have worked for a charity that meets with armed groups and opens dialogue to explore ways of ending violence. I have done this pro bono as I really enjoy the work and it is empowering knowing you are making a small contribution to ending violence and potentially saving lives through dialogue. For me, this has taught me the power of communication and talking.