A lecture given by our Headmaster and Julian Thomas, Master of Wellington College, paying tribute to polar explorer Henry Worsley has raised almost £10,000 for the Henry Worsley Playground Appeal  in Horningsham.

British explorer Henry Worsley, who sadly died on 24 January while attempting a solo expedition of Antarctica, was due to give a lecture on his expedition at Horningsham Village Hall earlier this month.

Mark Mortimer and Julian Thomas, who had originally planned to attend Henry’s lecture together, stepped in and told the audiences about their own adventures. The event allowed fundraising to continue for the Henry Worsley Playground Appeal,  which will help build a new playground in Horningsham.

Warminster School parent, Ros Algar, with the help of her new speakers, continued to organise a sell-out lecture and fantastic auction said, “We are so grateful to Mark and Julian. We thank them for gallantly standing in and giving their thrilling lecture, 'From the Atlantic to Antartica'.  A huge heartfelt thank you to all who have donated to and supported this important event. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity and support of friends, family and the local community. It was a wonderful evening for the village, paying tribute to Henry and I am delighted that we have raised almost £10,000 for the Henry Worsley Playground Appeal.”

The audience were treated to an entertaining double-act as they both recounted interesting, amusing and sometimes quite terrifying stories from their adventures. Mark rowed across the Atlantic in 1997 in 75 days with a fellow army officer in the inaugural trans-Atlantic rowing race and entered the very first solo race in 2004, in which he capsized after 35 days at sea.

It was an eventful crossing; the water-maker broke down on Day 2 and never worked again, they ran out of food and had to stop a container ship for resupply and for a week a tropical storm pushed them backwards. In addition, unlike today’s ocean rowers, they had no means of communication with the outside world.

Convinced that the demands of the crossing had been more mental than physical and intrigued by the prospect of rowing alone, Mark entered the very first solo race in 2004. After 35 days at sea, he capsized at night in mountainous seas.

Julian, interviewed Mark for a job in 2006 and heard then about his rowing exploits. The discussion rekindled his childhood dream to follow in the footsteps of Captain Scott.  Last year, 38 years after first planning the expedition as a 9 year old, he achieved his goal, trekking from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole.  Julian spoke about the physical and mental challenges of spending time in the beautiful but brutal continent.

Following the fascinating lecture, there was much applause from the audience and Mark and Julian were each presented with a copy of Henry Worsley’s book ‘In Shackleton’s Footsteps’  to thank them for bridging the huge gap. Guests enjoyed a wonderful three course supper prepared by Alex Rall, Head of Catering at Warminster School and wines donated by local suppliers, served by the organiser’s children and friends. The evening ended with a fantastic and fast-paced auction. Two of Ros’s children, Georgia and Fraser presented Ros with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and thanked her on behalf of the village for all her incredible efforts for organising and hosting such a wonderful evening.

Mark Mortimer commented, “Like so many others, we were very much looking forward to hearing Henry Worsley talk about his awe-inspiring attempt to walk alone across Antarctica. Sadly it was not to be, but we were honoured to be asked to take his place, albeit with far less impressive tales to tell. However, in a small way, it is our opportunity to pay tribute to a brave and remarkable man.  All those who knew Henry speak of his zest for life and his unquenchable desire to achieve the unachievable.  His courage and determination made him a role-model for those who aspire to go beyond life’s normal limits; in Lawrence of Arabia’s famous words, he was one of those men who ‘act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible’.   He gave others the courage to believe that they too can achieve great things.  He may no longer be with us but his legacy of inspiration will remain for many years.”

The entire evening was a tremendous tribute to former village resident, Henry and the packed village hall paid their respects as they raised their glasses to Henry with a whisky toast, his favourite tipple. Henry will long be remembered by the village and friends of Horningsham.


Ros Algar would like to thank the following for their support:  Joanna Worsley, Julian Algar, Mark Mortimer, Julian Thomas, Alex Rall, John Higgins, Emma Brumby, TLC Monaco, Victoria Miro, Longleat Estate, Horningsham Village Hall, Ken Windess, Horningsham Village Hall Committee, Horningsham Parish Council, Lorna Almonds-Windmill, Jamison Lee, Julian Bosdet, Blackwell’s, Ben Abercrombie, Bath Arms Horningsham, Charles Saunders, A David, 5 a Day, Style Farms, Ruby & White, Chapple & Jenkins and Westbury Print.

Auction prizes kindly donated by: Mark Mortimer, Sean Jefferies, Chris O’Donoghue, Mel Jones, The Bath Arms Horningsham, Richard Patterson, Nick Cornwell, Godminster, Andrew Russell, Sandrine Maubeche, Kim Mattia, Alan Forestier-Walker, Julie Berry, Caroline Dykes and Murray Wakeham.