John Ridgway MBE
Born in 1938, I was educated at the Nautical College Pangbourne before joining the Merchant Navy at the age of eighteen. After a short spell at sea I began National Service with the Royal Engineers before joining the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where I became Captain of Boxing. In 1958 I was commissioned into the Parachute Regiment. In 1964 I married Marie Christine, daughter of Air Marshal Sir John D’Albiac, and left the Army. We moved to the far North West Highlands of Scotland to begin a new life together, living in an old stone crofthouse above the sea loch A’Chadh-fi, at the foot of the Foinaven Ridge. We have two daughters, Rebecca and Elizabeth and two grand children, Molly and Hughie.
Each summer we ran the John Ridgway Adventure School, it became our life’s work. But in the winters we lived another life together, re-charging our batteries for the summers. We made journeys on ice-cap, ocean or river during a part of nearly every other winter, visiting the Amazon, Patagonia, Spanish Sahara, Himalayas, China, and the Peruvian Andes. I rowed across the North Atlantic with Chay Blyth in 1966. The Southern Ocean has taught us many lessons. My attempt to become first man to sail non-stop alone round the world, in 1968, ended in Brazil. Eight years later, we built a 57’ ketch, which was to carry us three times round the world: the 1977/8 Whitbread Race, the 1983/4 non-stop world record and the 2003/4 Save the Albatross voyage. And I was paddling my own canoe with Rebecca, when she became the first woman to kayak round Cape Horn.
Marie Christine and I have run the New York marathon twice together. And together with our two daughters, Rebecca and Elizabeth, and instructors from the School, we have sailed to Antarctica via Polynesia and Peru, as well as to the West Coast of Greenland and America.
Marie Christine Ridgway
Born in Ireland and raised in the south of England, I met John, a parachute officer, at a roulette party. We married when I was 20 and we moved up to make our life at Ardmore, where we have lived ever since. I am mother to two daughters, Rebecca born in 1967, and Elizabeth Berg Huaman, a Quechua Indian, whose late father saved John’s life on the Amazon in 1970. Isso as she is called, was born in the Peruvian Andes in 1979 and was adopted by us in 1986. We are so lucky that Rebecca wanted to stay at Ardmore. She runs Ridgway Adventure (www.ridgway-adventure.co.uk) across the loch at Skerricha enabling people of all ages to continue experiencing this beautiful part of Sutherland. Molly and Hughie walk out each day along the path to get to school in Kinlochbervie, as did their mum, Rebecca, 30 years before, and auntie Isso a bit later.
After working at the Arts Council in the middle of London, life out here, three miles from the road and a hundred miles from the nearest town, developed resourcefulness and low hairdressing bills. For the first eighteen years we were without electricity. We had to lay on our water supply from the loch, and lighting and heating was with paraffin lamps and peat fires; things were always damp. I have had to cope with everything from medical emergencies to cooking for the courses, handling the administrative side of the school and when time permitted, taking groups to spot the rare primula scotica up on the North coast. In the winters I have been a member of many of John’s expeditions.
The most northerly wood on the West coast of Britain, is on the Ardmore Peninsula, which is situated a dozen miles south of Cape Wrath. This wild place is home to the otter, seal, badger, red and roe deer, pine martin, kestrel, buzzard, heron and many other creatures and each spring, we look forward to the arrival of the Greylag geese.
Now with a third generation, Molly and Hughie, at Ardmore, we are finally living the life we dreamed of. We came to a dying crofting township in 1964. Luck and hard work have allowed us to stay and build our lives in this most lovely place, which has been the springboard for all our journeys and the place we always wanted to come home to.