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Last port of call for school cruises

The organisation that sent thousands of pupils on educational cruises is to disband. The Scottish Secondary Schools' Travel Trust, which started cruises before the Second World War, says that its market has disappeared.

The trust had to suspend its work in 1939 but relaunched after the war. A later war was to inflict a more crippling wound: the Uganda, one of the principal ships used for cruising, was requisitioned as a hospital in the Falklands conflict. Its owner, P O Cruises, then made an agreement with the Government for it to be used as a troop-ship for at least two years. It never returned to school cruising.

Sandy Glass, chairman of the trust and former headteacher of Dingwall Academy, said: "The increase in the cost of oil in the late 1970s dealt the first blow. The second major blow was the loss of the Uganda."

A group of five headteachers founded the trust in 1935. Only boys were allowed on board and they had to sleep in hammocks because the vessels chartered were troop-ships. The first trips were to the Baltic, and Hitler's Germany was among the ports of call.

Mr Glass describes the postwar period until 1982 as "the golden age for school cruising" when the trust chartered places on P O ships such as the Dunera, Nevasa and Uganda. Girls now travelled as well, and there were southern destinations as well as the Baltic.

Recently the trust has provided travel grants for pupils to undertake work experience in Europe. But the trustees have now decided to call it a day, and the final Pounds 1,000 was given to the children's hospice in Kinross.

Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP who was director of studies on the Dunera before entering Parliament, said cruises had given many children "their first taste of going abroad". Mr Dalyell said that children had also experienced "what should be in everybody's education, an understanding of the formidable nature of the sea".

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