Alumni Services

Vivienne Cochrane

Vivienne Cochrane tells us of a life marked by curiosity. Here we learn about Vivienne’s extensive travel and varied career.

Name Vivienne Cochrane (Nee Martindale)
Degree Course MA Hons Geography
Year of Graduation 1965
Vivienne Cochrane

Your time at the University

As a young girl, I was always curious about the world around me. As a teenager I visited Europe every summer, staying in International Youth Camps. My dream of becoming a BOAC Air Hostess so I could travel the world was dismissed as a fantasy by my elders. I was advised to go to university instead. So that is what I did, and I’ve never regretted it. I came to Edinburgh as it was a city I knew and liked.

I chose to study Geography because of my fascination with the world around me and my love of exploring new places. I was unaware at the time that my fellow geography students would become far more important to me than anything I studied. From the start we became friends. Many field trips brought us closer together as a class. Not only did we work hard, we also had great fun. We are still friends 50 years on. Those of us who can still do so meet up at functions and reunions when we laugh a lot and talk non- stop.

In addition to Geography I studied Mathematics, a fortunate choice as my numeracy and analytical skills proved essential for my future employment.

Towards the end of my final year I learned of the organisation Voluntary Service Overseas which was in its infancy. It offered the opportunity to travel and work in a third world country so I applied and, to my astonishment, was accepted.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

I spent a year in West Africa with VSO. I taught ‘O’ grade Geography and French in a small boarding school for girls deep in the bush of Sierra Leone. The pupils were Christian and Muslim. The staff were British, American and Sierra Leonean. I learned how to live in a small community which was fairly isolated from the rest of the world as communication was almost non-existent. I learned to deal with spitting cobras, vipers, and other curious snakes as well as rats, lizards, and all kinds of biting, flying insects. I left Sierra Leone with two friends and we travelled in native transport, sleeping where we could, for six weeks across West Africa to Nigeria where we got caught up in the start of the Biafran War.

We met with such kindness from ordinary people who put us up in their modest homes and asked for nothing. Travelling through Nigeria was interesting, particularly being held up at rifle point! That year taught me to be afraid of nothing, to be self reliant in most things, and to tackle challenges head on.

On returning home, I spent a year at Moray House and then taught Geography and Modern Studies in an Edinburgh school for two years. I decided I needed a change and became Head of Sales Forecasting for Scottish and Newcastle Breweries. I thoroughly enjoyed my job but had to leave when I had my son six years later. Over the following years I met family commitments while earning a living as best I could.

I have sailed up the Amazon, have walked in the Andes and the Himalayas, have met the tortoises of the Galapagos Islands, the dragons of Komodo and have been held up by bandits in Ecuador!

Vivienne Cochrane

I qualified as a Freight Transport Manager and ran the family haulage company. I also worked as a supply Maths teacher in and around Edinburgh until I was offered a job as Marketing Analyst for Scottish Brewers. I loved my job but I was made redundant aged 50. I became Senior Information Analyst at the Western General Hospital NHS Trust, attended evening classes and gained an HNC in Computing. Then my life changed completely.

An inheritance set me free from work and gave me the opportunity to explore the world. I have travelled extensively, even visiting Antarctica. I have sailed up the Amazon, have walked in the Andes and the Himalayas, have met the tortoises of the Galapagos Islands, the dragons of Komodo and have been held up by bandits in Ecuador! I have sailed round the world twice, once being a world cruise on the iconic QE2. During my travels I have met and befriended fascinating people from all walks of life and all cultures. It has been such a privilege.

In 2010, I returned to Sierra Leone. Its courageous people are now trying to pull their country out of its violent past and build a safe, secure future. I went with a small charity and spent two weeks in Freetown, plastering and painting and meeting the most inspirational people. Their stories were horrific yet they smiled and got on with life. I have such admiration for these extraordinary people. My modest contribution to their recovery was my way of saying “thank you” to them for their country’s kind hospitality all those years ago.

I continue to explore the world. I still have that curiosity I was born with.

Alumni wisdom

I would simply suggest that you do your best, always be aware that the unexpected can happen so prepare to be adaptable, but most of all enjoy yourselves and have fun.