Names: Vicki & Mac Ferguson
Kids: Ollie (9) & Harry (6)
Job: Founders of the Marvellous Adventure Club
Having a bath in the woods, sending a balloon piloted by two Lego® figures into space or crossing the ocean in a toy pirate ship… surely just the daydreams of a child’s imagination? Not for Ollie and Harry Ferguson who have been dubbed “Britain’s most adventurous kids” – that’s just what happens at the weekends. S4K editor Nadia Duncan chats to the proud mum and dad who have helped their boys achieve the impossible…
Pre-interview, reading up on some of the incredible things that the brothers have got up to over the last five years, my first question to dad Mac when we speak just has to be, “What’s been their most epic adventure to date?”. “From an original list of 500 the boys have already completed an astonishing 315 challenges”, reveals Mac, “and we’ve all enjoyed each and every one of them – for very different reasons. The ones that the boys find the most exciting are quite often different from the ones Vicki and I get the most pleasure from, probably because we’ve loved seeing the boys experiencing all these amazing things as they grow up. If you asked Ollie and Harry right now what their favourite experience has been so far, I think they would say the Siberian Husky sledging that we did last weekend. We were thrilled to accept an invitation to go out with the British, European and World Championship Sprint Racing Team of Siberian Huskies at Bowland Trails Sled Dog Training School of Excellence in Blairgowrie [check out the video on the boy’s Facebook page ‘The Days Are Just Packed’ – wow!]. There was no snow, but a team of eight huskies pulled the boys around the beautiful 200+ acre estate – it really was a once-in-a-lifetime day out that none of us will ever forget.”
Ranking the most special memories in order of awesomeness would be another challenge in itself in charting the adventures of ‘Pickle and Pipsqueak’. In the early days of sharing their family’s stories on social media, Vicki and Mac used the boys nicknames in order to keep their real identity private, however the huge public interest in the toy pirate ship story made it impossible to keep it that way and now the boys describe their exploits in three local papers, have over 25k followers on Facebook, give talks to schools encouraging other kids to get out and explore and do their own challenges –for which they received awards as Ambassadors of Adventure – and they were even given an honourable mention in the Scottish Parliament, spearing a campaign called 50 Marvellous Adventures encouraging other families to get out and make the most of the great outdoors – no matter the weather.
If you’ve just returned from outer space and missed it, the ‘boat story’ involved the boys putting a note in their toy pirate ship and sending it off to sea. Three months later they received an email from a couple in Denmark who had found their ship washed up in a tree after a storm. The boys emailed them back, asking the couple to send the ship off again, where it sailed to Sweden, stopped in Norway – where the captain of a tall ship offered to take it to the coast of Africa – and by the time the batteries in the GPS ran out, the boys’ toy ship was somewhere in the Caribbean and had travelled 3,700 miles – halfway around the world! The story was reported around the globe on TV and in newspapers in as far away as Mexico, China and the USA.
“To children, an adventure does not require does not require scaling the highest mountain or reaching the North Pole. Children can find excitement in the smallest places – a creek in the woods or camping in a makeshift tent. However you approach them, I think that you’ll find your children will derive joy and excitement from these adventures, and will make some magical memories too.” Mac Ferguson
Most kids love to be adventurous, however this family have definitely taken the idea far further than most of us would dream of – or dare! I ask mum Vicki where the inspiration came from. “We love the outdoors and like most parents we didn’t want Ollie and Harry spending their non-school days staring at a screen. Mac and I decided that the best way of avoiding that was to show them how exciting the real world is compared to a virtual one. We were in the car one day, chatting, and we asked them what adventures they would like to do. Of course, just like all kids, they came up with some really crazy ideas like a mission to Mars and Intergalactic Sausage Day. At first we laughed, but then Mac and I started thinking about how we could actually make some of their ideas happen and got creative.
“All the adventures the boys have had are age appropriate, obviously when they were younger the challenges were a bit simpler, like bug hunting for mini-beasts and camping out under the stars. Now they are much bigger and braver we’re already at an extreme level, possibly a bit more than other kids their age, but they’ve been so used to doing this now they think nothing of it anymore. Intergalactic Sausage Day did become a real event and now every November we wrap up and cook hotdogs on the beach.”
But how has all this fun and attention impacted on the intrepid young adventurers? Mac admits that it isn’t just the boys who have grown to adore the outdoor lifestyle. He decided to change his career, opening the Marvellous Adventure Club at Delgatie Castle, Delgaty, where now as an outdoor instructor he inspires school children, families and corporate visitors to learn about the natural environment and have their own epic adventures in the wild. He says, “Educationally, the boys have learnt about history, biology, geography and zoology from the challenges on the list. Apart from that, it’s been a joy just seeing the growing confidence in Ollie and Harry – I’m very proud of the way they interact with other people. They understand that they are very lucky to be able to do all these wonderful things and have all these incredible experiences and treats. That’s why as a family we try to give back in a positive way, hopefully by sharing our stories we will inspire other families to just get out there and go for it.”
All I can say is watch out Bear Grylls, there are a couple of boys up in Aberdeenshire who don’t know the meaning of fear, or the words, ‘that’s impossible!”
Read all about the boys’ experiences to date, and be inspired to create your own list of weird and wacky things to do on your day off from work or school, with ‘Ollie and Harry’s Marvellous Adventures’ published by Norton. PB £12.99.