Polar Academy Team

OUR TEAM 

Our approach, and indeed organisational mission, is to support the progress of our young people every day.

OPERATIONAL TEAM

Craig Mathieson, Founder and Lorna Craig, Operations Manager are collectively responsible for the day-to-day relationships with our young people, their parents/ carers, and their teachers. Claire Kinloch oversees our business, fundraising and marketing strategy and Cath Alldred oversees Quality, Risk and Compliance Management.

Craig Mathieson

Craig Mathieson, Founder & Managing Director

Craig MathiesonAs head of the Polar Academy as well as having many years experience in the military and as a mountaineer, Craig has expedition experience in both Arctic and Antarctic regions. He established ‘The Polar Academy’, a project aimed at the youth of Scotland to instil confidence and self-belief through participation on polar expeditions.

Craig Mathieson

Founder & Managing Director

Lorna Craig

Lorna Craig, Operations Director

Lorna CraigLorna was first introduced to the Polar Academy in 2017 when Craig came to her daughter’s school seeking the 2018/19 expedition team. Alongside others, Lorna was part of a dedicated team of parents who chose to support and fundraise for the expedition for their children. Having seen the life-changing benefits Polar Academy presented to her own daughter, Lorna joined the team as an official member of staff in 2019. Prior to working for the Polar Academy, she was a Parliamentary Assistant in the office of a Member of Parliament before branching out to become a Community Development Worker for a children’s charity in West Lothian. She has a degree in Nursing and a black belt in the Korean martial art Tae Kwon-do. Lorna supports Craig in all day-to-day operations and logistics of running the charity.

Lorna Craig

Operations Manager

Claire Kinloch

Claire Kinloch, External Relations

Claire was introduced to The Polar Academy in 2021 through her professional network.  Since that time, she has passionately volunteered to provide support across business, fundraising and marketing strategy, helping build relationships with key partners and Patrons and raise awareness of the academy in line with the organsiation’s goals. In 2022 Claire completed an Arctic Expedition with Craig, Richard Smith and Mark Wood, Chair of the Explorers Club Great Britain and Ireland to the North West Passage.

Claire Kinloch

External Relations

Michelle Mathieson

Michelle Mathieson, Fundraising Consultant

Michele has been in the background of The Polar Academy since the outset, supporting founder (and husband) Craig Mathieson as he set up and developed the charity. Over the years she has personally got to know many of our graduates and their families as they have gone through their Polar Academy journey. This unique position has given her a deep understanding of all aspects of the charity and the children we support.

Michele runs her own visual arts business and through this has many years of experience working with young people in health, education, and social care settings, with an emphasis on the importance of social inclusion. As a landscape painter and keen walker, Michele is also a strong believer in the benefits of the outdoors for both physical and mental health.

She has now joined our team in an official capacity, to help support our fundraising efforts.

Michele Mathieson

Fundraising Consultant

Fiona Simpson

Fiona Simpson, Marketing Consultant

Fiona has worked in marketing for many years, having spent ten years working at the sportscotland institute of sport before moving into an agency role for five years and working with a range of businesses throughout Scotland. Her years in high performance sport and working with clients such as Developing the Young Workforce have always inspired her to make a difference for young people. The Polar Academy is a truly special opportunity to do just that.

She now works at SAC Consulting, part of SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), as Marketing and Communications Manager and joined our team in 2023 to help support our marketing efforts.

Fiona Simpson

Marketing Consultant

GUIDING TEAM

Our guiding team is complimented by a highly talented and experience guiding team throughout our training programme and final expedition. 

Nigel Williams

Nigel Williams, Principal Guide

Craig asked me to join the Polar Academy Charity from the start, hopefully complementing his vast Polar experience and skills with a range of outdoor qualifications relevant to cross country skiing and winter mountaineering. I have had a long involvement with youth expeditions and outdoor education in remote parts of the world going back to the 1980s. Added to that a Greenland crossing and a winter ski journey in the Tasiilaq area a few years earlier was quite useful as well.

The role of Head of Training at the Scottish National Outdoor Centre, Glenmore Lodge, which I did for 20 years, encompassed programme and risk management, operating procedures and staff development. Working across a number of outdoor disciplines and National Governing Bodies along with access to an amazing network of instructors, and outdoor equipment suppliers has enabled me to support the Polar Academy both as the principal guide and more recently as a Trustee.

It is a great privilege to be a part of the Polar Academy, supporting the young persons’ progress through selection, training and the expeditions as well as supporting management decisions around staff recruitment, equipment and safety processes.

Nigel Williams

Principal Guide

George Machardy

George Machardy, Principal Guide

Born in Edinburgh, George attended Lathallen School, in the North East of Scotland throughout his primary years. He returned to his home town for secondary education, at Merchiston Castle School, where he developed a passion and aptitude for rugby. Academic studies were never his strong point! Subsequently, he went on to study Mineral Surveying & Resource Management at Exeter University. Later, Sergeant MacHardy, pursued a rewarding career in the Royal Marines. Deployments included two tours of Afghanistan, where he received a Commendation for Distinguished Service, from the Joint Chief of Operations. After specialising as a Mountain Leader, George gained over a decade of experience in teaching various aspects of mountaineering, navigation, rock climbing, ice climbing, and cold environment survival skills. He counts himself lucky to instruct in a variety of environments, including the Swiss Alps, Albanian Mountains, American Rockies, The United Arab Emirates, Arctic Norway, Cornwall’s sea cliffs, the Welsh mountains, and of course, in countless locations throughout Scotland.

Since retiring from the Royal Marines, George has pursued a career as a freelance expedition leader and instructor, working both in the UK and overseas. His business, MacHardy Mountain Journeys, was established with the ambition of providing people from all walks of life with a memorable, positive experience. George has a strong belief that exposure to nature and the elements, along with physical exertion, is greatly beneficial for both the body and mind. Though he has been with the Polar Academy since 2017, every season he feels fortunate to be working with such an inspiring charity. Seeing the remarkable growth of the children over the year, as they gain confidence and become true artic explorers is humbling.

George Machardy

Principal Guide

Jess Ridgeway

Jess Ridgeway, Principal Guide

I feel very lucky to have been part of the guiding team for Polar Academy from the beginning. The toughest part of our job has always been selecting the young people to take to Greenland. We try to make sure we select the young people that we believe need it the most. We then spend a week with the team, training them in the Cairngorms to prepare them for their expedition, alongside their tyre hauling and training at school. Once in Greenland, we are all hands on deck to ensure a smooth expedition, dealing with whatever the weather throws at us! By the end of our time on the ice, the young people are leading the expedition themselves, it is a privilege to watch the transformation!

Jess Ridgeway

Principal Guide

Dr Mike Wild

Dr Mike Wild, Expedition Doctor

I am an anaesthetic trainee in South East Scotland, currently working in Edinburgh. Prior to studying medicine, I worked as a Sport Physiologist at the Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Sheffield, with sports ranging from boxing to disability athletics. Having developed an interest in the outdoors through childhood holidays in Wester Ross, Scottish Highlands, I have climbed during both summer and winter in the UK, Norway, France, Russia and Morocco, with notable ascents including Mt Blanc, and Mt Maudit via the Kuffner Arete. I have travelled or worked throughout Europe, the USA, Africa, and Central and South East Asia. I am a keen runner, particularly over longer distances having completed the Paddy Buckley Round in North Wales, and Ironman France in 2009. Other interests include ski touring, sea kayaking and mountain biking. When energy reserves run low, I can be found fishing for either trout or salmon in the Borders.

Dr Mike Wild

Expedition Doctor

Luke Robertson

Luke Robertson, Guide

Luke, alongside his wife Hazel, is an ‘Explorer-in-Residence’ at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Having explored many corners of the planet and worked in the low carbon energy sector, Luke is also passionate about the environment and making a difference to climate change.

Overcoming obstacles and turning fear into an opportunity is something Luke believes in passionately thanks to his own personal experiences.

In 2016, less than two years after undergoing brain surgery and with an artificial pacemaker, Luke became the youngest Brit, the first Scot and one of less than 20 people in history to ski 730 miles solo and unsupported to the South pole.

Luke Robertson

Guide

Hazel Robertson

Hazel Robertson, Guide

Hazel, who is an ‘Explorer in Residence’ for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society alongside her husband Luke, passionately believes in the physical and mental benefits of being active and adventurous in the outdoors as well as the importance of teamwork.

She has a love for anything that takes her outdoors, including back-country skiing, mountain biking and long-distance
multi-day ultra-marathons.

In 2016, she ran a 140-mile Ice Ultra on snowshoes in Arctic Sweden and the very first 250-mile Cape Wrath Ultra through the beautiful and remote west coast of Scotland. In 2017, she completed the 156-mile Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert.

Together with her husband Luke, she also spent 75 days kayaking and biking over 1600 miles through one of the world’s last great frontiers; Alaska.

With a background in geophysics, Hazel has 8 years’ experience in the low carbon energy industry and develops strategic projects to help the UK meet its climate change targets. Her talks also explore how we can all make a difference to climate change.

Hazel Robertson

Guide

Richard Smith

Richard Smith, Guide

Richard Smith, PhD, studied as an astrophysicist, moved into Information Technology and served with the Royal Marines Reserve and the Special Boat Service. Having brushed shoulders with cancer in 2000 and 2005, he made a couple of re calculations on the track his life was heading, and decided to jump the corporate ‘rat race’ ship he was at that time sailing, and disappeared around the world for half a year to have a ‘wee’ think about what to do next. Returning home he started up a friendly and successful luxury motorhome rental business https://motorhomeescapes.co.uk in the beautiful country of Scotland, where he lives just outside Edinburgh. Always keen to share what Scotland has to offer to youngsters and visitors from all around the world, he has always been a passionate outdoors man, never more happy than sea kayaking off the west coast of Scotland, or trekking and climbing the peaks of the Scottish Highlands. He has climbed, trekked or kayaked in Alaska, Greenland, Nepal, the French Alps, and explored the jungles of Belize and the deserts of Oman.

Richard Smith

Guide

Dr Alex Taylor, Expedition Doctor

Dr Alex Taylor, Expedition Doctor

Alex is an emergency medicine doctor training in Bristol. She has interests in expedition and wilderness medicine, and global health. She spent 18 months working in New Zealand and since then has worked as an expedition medic in Antarctica, Africa, Costa Rica, the Amazon, Fiji and South-east Asia. Her favourite expeditions are those that give young explorers the opportunity to challenge themselves and grow in self-confidence, because it was a similar experience that set her on her current life track!

She enjoys teaching wilderness medicine and has completed Diplomas in Expedition and Wilderness Medicine and Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. She is currently working towards a Global Health Masters with a dissertation looking into the care of local expedition participants on Kilimanjaro.

She is a keen skier, cyclist and hillwalker and dabbles in rock-climbing and mountain biking. She holds summer mountain leader award.

Dr Alex Taylor

Expedition Doctor

Lucy Dowland, Guide

Lucy Dowland, Guide

Biography to follow.

Lucy Dowland

Guide

Arran Goddard, Guide

Arran Goddard, Guide


Arran is a former Polar Academy graduate who came back to work with us a trainee guide on the 2022 expedition. Now working as a full guide, Arran will also be graduating from university in 2023, studying adventure tourism management at West Highland College in Fort William and will be starting a postgraduate job at Wilderness Scotland in Aviemore as Operations Assistant.

Arran Goddard

Guide

Paul Vicary, Guide

Paul Vicary, Guide

Paul Vicary, aka Vic, spent 35 years in the military working at the top of his game. Humble to the core despite his achievements and time serving with a Specialist Military Unit (SMU), he uses these experiences and adventures and translates them into real-life examples, as a way of showing how we can build our own psychological body armour, resilience, and confidence. 

From Soldier to Adventurer to Speaker, Paul has pushed himself and others to physical and mental limits, in extreme environments.

In addition to his exemplary military career, and his extreme expeditions, Paul is a qualified Paramedic, a Mental Health Fitness Coach, and has a master’s degree in security and risk Management, making him one of the most credible speakers and trainers in his field. 

Paul Vicary

Guide

Nicola 'Nic' Welch, Guide

Nicola 'Nic' Welsh, Guide

Nicola (Nic) is our resident travelling Geordie, often leaving the banks of the Tyne to head to the wild north of Scotland, seeking out the mountains, rivers and coastlines ready for adventure. When not working as an Outdoor Instructor in Scotland, you’ll find her leading expeditions around the world, recently in places such as Borneo, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Oman or the United Arab Emirates.

As an outdoor all rounder, Nic has a real passion for bringing out the free spirit in people, especially when she can combine that with the outdoors. Nic’s super strength is being able to connect with people. First working with the Polar Academy back in 2017 when Nic was part of Glenmore Lodge Instructor Development team, she was able to see firsthand the power of the programme and has enjoyed following their progress ever since.

With a degree in Learning Disabilities Studies, Nic went on to support people with profound levels of autism and those who had been labelled with severe and challenging behaviours, Nic found that the outdoors was a great way to connect with people and bring out their best. Whilst working in the care sector, Nic discovered that she was able to use her own passion for the outdoors as a way to help others build the skills needed to develop their ability to relate to others and get a sense of connection with nature. This approach is the foundation of Nic’s philosophy in all of her work, enthusiastically empowering others to gain a sense of achievement and autonomy through outdoor adventures.

Recognising the power of the outdoors to regulate behaviours, develop social skills and improve day to day wellbeing has been overwhelming for Nic and is something she aims to replicate with each person she works with today.

Nicola ‘Nic’ Welch

Guide

PROGRAMME SPECIALISTS

Our programme specialists provide a range of specialist skills required to deliver our programme from bush craft, exercise and science/ climate change. 

Craig Oswald Specialist Instructor

Craig Oswald, Specialist Instructor

Craig, aka Stovie, was brought up in South Lanarkshire learning to shoot, fish and explore nature from an early age with friends and family. After leaving University he spent time in the Territorial Army as well as hiking and exploring, culminating in successfully persuading his future wife to honeymoon on a self-led trek through the Annapurna region of Nepal.

More adventures followed with fell running and adventure racing, and when two sons came along, Craig became actively involved in Scouting – first as Scout Leader then Group Scout Leader with his local troop. Much of this time was spent leading bushcraft, hill and water-based activities at troop and district level. He is part of the Bushscout UK team, training scout leaders and young people in bushcraft skills. Craig has also spent time leading expeditions to Greenland and Sweden over the last few years.

When not in the woods, Craig is a full-time biologist having trained in physiology, pharmacology, and biochemistry, and has spent his career in clinical research.

Why ‘Stovie’? As well as researching and making his own historical outdoor kit, Craig also collects and refurbishes vintage camping stoves!

Craig Oswald

Specialist Instructor

Scott Graham  Exercise Physiologist

Scott Graham, Exercise Physiologist

Joining the Polar Academy team as part of a long-term Napier University study into the positive outcomes of the participants, their families and community.

Scott holds BA and MSc degrees from the University of Strathclyde, was trained by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist, is an EMT- Wilderness (R C of Surg. Edinburgh/ WEMSI) and Mountain Leader.

He is a Lecturer in Exercise Physiology and Health at Edinburgh Napier University and has worked with a number of World Record Holders, International Race (Top Ten World Ranking) winners, title contenders and prepared individuals and groups for activities on six continents including The North Pole, Jungles including Brunei, Belize and Amazon, Deserts including Sahara, Gobi, Namib and numerous other events.

Within Sports Medicine Scott has a research interest in the Psychological and Physiological determinants of elite performance in extreme environments with particular emphasis in Arctic and Desert conditions, elite soldier performance and Ergogenic Aids.

Scott Graham

Exercise Physiologist

Jerome Mayaud, Science Officer

Jerome Mayaud, Science Officer

Jerome is the Science Officer at the Polar Academy, meaning he organises the scientific research programme for the expedition. In his ‘other’ life, he leads the Data Science team at a transportation technology company based in Canada. He has over a decade of experience in business, academia and policy, having worked as a mobility researcher, as a sustainability consultant and as a scientific advisor for the UK Parliament. Jerome holds a PhD in desert science from the University of Oxford, and a Masters in glaciology from the University of Cambridge.

Jerome Mayaud

Science Officer 

TRUSTEES

Our Trustee’s Board contains Polar Academy graduate parents and experts in education, exploration, health and outdoors and a child trauma and mental health specialist. 

Chris Tiso, Co-Chair of The Polar Academy and CEO of Tiso Group

Chris Tiso, CEO of Tiso Group

Mark is the founder and director of Mark Brown Programmes Ltd and the award winning Best of You Programmes.

Mark and his associate facilitators deliver challenging and high impact programmes for young people and adults throughout the UK. This work is aimed at those who have either weathered tough and challenging times, or for those who are ready to make a change in their life and explore their own unique potential.

With over two decades of experience in working in social work, education and criminal justice settings, along with roles in leadership and personal development, Mark decided to create a programme based on his experience working with diverse and challenging groups to create an experience that not only prepares participants for their future, but helps them create it, and ultimately explore what they are truly capable of.

Mark is also author of the amazon best seller The Best of You: How to unlock your own unique potential.

Mark Brown

Chair of the The Polar Academy / Mark Brown Programmes Ltd

Prof Chris Imray, Doctor & Researcher

Prof Chris Imray, Doctor & Researcher

Chris is a surgeon who has a sustained  interest in wilderness environments. He started climbing at school and has continued to travel the world to fulfill this passion. It is his firm belief that youngsters should have similar opportunities, and so he is very excited to join the Polar Academy as a Trustee.

Chris is a member of both the Alpine and Climbers Club and sits on the Mount Everest Screening Committee. Recently, he completed a 30-year odyssey by climbing the Seven Summits. He is a world expert in cold injuries and has run the UK telemedicine frostbite service for the British Mountaineering Council for over a decade. In 2017, he co-founded the Global Polar and Altitude Metabolic Research Registry to help better understand the challenges of extreme environmental travel.

Chris is a co-author of The Oxford Handbook of Expedition and Wilderness Medicine, and although he has published extensively on altitude medicine, cold injury, vascular and renal transplantation surgery, he remains an active mountaineer, polar traveler and altitude/cold researcher.

Prof. Chris Imray

Vice-Chair of The Polar Academy, Doctor & Researcher

Chris Tiso  Co-Chair of The Polar Academy and CEO of Tiso Group

Andrew Ford, Finance Director

Chris Tiso is the CEO of Tiso Group, the leading national retailer of Outdoor Clothing and Equipment which was founded over 50 years ago. Chris took over the running of the eponymous business in 1992 and has led its growth to its current position. The company has 14 stores across four facias covering Scotland and the north of England with a group turnover of £30m and approximately 400 employees.

He was appointed a Trustee of the Polar Academy after having supported its founder on numerous expeditions over a twenty-year period. Tiso has sponsored the Polar Academy from its inception.

Chris is an ambassador for Dyslexia Scotland, Countryside Learning Scotland and is a past President of Scouts Scotland. He is also the recipient of several Scottish Business Awards and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

An experienced yachtsman, skier and mountaineer, he has participated in and led climbing and sailing expeditions all over the world including to the Antarctic, Arctic and Himalayas.

Chris lives on a farm in Kinross-shire with his wife, their children and assortment of animals.

Chris Tiso

CEO of Tiso Group

Andrew Ford, Finance Director

Mark Brown, Mark Brown Programmes Ltd

Andrew Ford is a former tax advisor and former Chair of the Glasgow branch of the Chartered Institute of Taxation. Andrew specialised in tax for nearly 25 years, working in both, big 4 and mid tier accountancy practices, and as Head of Tax for a legal firm.

Andrew is a former climber and has been a valued trustee of The Polar Academy focussing on accounts and finance since January 2014.

Andrew Ford

Finance Director

Nigel Williams, Mountaineering & Outdoor Instructor

Nigel Williams, Mountaineering & Outdoor Instructor

Craig asked me to join the Polar Academy Charity from the start, hopefully complementing his vast Polar experience and skills with a range of outdoor qualifications relevant to cross country skiing and winter mountaineering. I have had a long involvement with youth expeditions and outdoor education in remote parts of the world going back to the 1980s. Added to that a Greenland crossing and a winter ski journey in the Tasiilaq area a few years earlier was quite useful as well.

The role of Head of Training at the Scottish National Outdoor Centre, Glenmore Lodge, which I did for 20 years, encompassed programme and risk management, operating procedures and staff development. Working across a number of outdoor disciplines and National Governing Bodies along with access to an amazing network of instructors, and outdoor equipment suppliers has enabled me to support the Polar Academy both as the principal guide and more recently as a Trustee.

It is a great privilege to be a part of the Polar Academy, supporting the young persons’ progress through selection, training and the expeditions as well as supporting management decisions around staff recruitment, equipment and safety processes.

Nigel Williams

Mountaineering & Outdoor Instructor

Sandra Dailidyte

Sandra Dailidyte, Director

Sandra Dailidyte [daily-dee-tay] is a director at the private bank, Brown Shipley Quintet. Sandra is based in Scotland, Edinburgh where she advices wealthy individuals (many of whom are successful entrepreneurs) and their families and help them to plan their finances, whether that is post business exit or helping them to make the most of their asset base whilst they are still working. Having worked in the financial services over a decade, Sandra is well-connected across both corporate and business eco-systems.

 

Sandra moved to UK from Lithuania in 2010 and she is familiar with the concept of fighting for her place under the sun. She believes that having a clear vision and being pleasantly persistent helped her to achieve her dreams. Sandra is very passionate about diversity and equality. She was part of the project that changed the Lithuanian Constitution in 2013 to include LGBT rights. She is actively involved in various organisations, namely Future Asset, GAIN – Girls Are INvestors & Founders4Schools where she is a popular speaker at their events and mentors a number of students.

 

When not at work, Sandra can be found lifting heavy weights in the gym. Sandra has held a number of national records in powerlifting and won Lithuania’s strongest woman competition in 2020. She also participates in the dog sport with her beloved German Shepherd Zara.

Sandra Dailidyte

Director, Brown Shipley Quintet

GRADUATES

Many of our graduates complete the programme and go on to do incredible things. Some return to and continue to volunteer for The Polar Academy, some taking their passion for exploration further, inspiring others around the world. 

Arran Goddard, Guide & Polar Academy Graduate

Arran Goddard, Guide & Polar Academy Graduate

Arran is a former Polar Academy graduate who came back with us as a Trainee Guide and headed to Greenland on the 2022 expedition as part of the guide team, then a a full guide in 2023.

Arran Goddard

Guide & Polar Academy Graduate

Kim Codona, Polar Academy Graduate

Kim Codona, Polar Academy Graduate

Before Polar Academy, I was this shy little girl who would freeze every time I had to talk to strangers. I had no confidence at all due to bullying and I had serious anxiety in school which was affecting my studies. Now I’m doing talks in front of hundreds of adults and students my own age. I’ve probably only grown an inch since it started but I feel like I’m on top of the world!

Kim Codona

Polar Academy Graduate

Iona Somerville, Polar Academy Graduate

Iona Somerville, Polar Academy Graduate

Iona Somerville is 21 years old and a recently qualified Sports Therapist. Iona’s journey started when she was just 14 years old and was selected by The Polar Academy, to train and to take part in an Arctic Expedition to Greenland, completed in April 2016. Iona and the rest of the team have since gone on to inspire their peers, talking to thousands of other young people about their experience: demonstrating what is possible when a goal is set and a team come together, despite previous lack of self-worth or belief. Iona’s confidence has since taken a knock through trauma she experienced when part of the crowd at the Ariana Grande concert and bombing in Manchester. Iona is a determined young role model who would love to go on to inspire others with her personal story of developing confidence and overcoming trauma.

Iona Somerville

Polar Academy Graduate