Everyday Scouting and the ultimate sacrifice

These are some wonderful images from the collection of the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling where I am a Trustee. Dr Elspeth King hosted a centenary exhibition for Stirling scouting in 2007 which attracted much interest.

Stirling Story no 31 for 8 August 2007

These are Scouts from the 1st Stirling Scout Troop building a shelter at Craigforth – the site was used for camping and training by local Scouts. The 1st were one of the early troops to be established and continue to wear the pale blue kneckie you see here. The photo dates from 1923.

Stirling Story no 34 for 29 August 2007

The flag on the left here was an early design for the Scottish Scout Flag – the boys are outside the entrance to Craigforth House. This image also features in Major FM Crum’s book “Memoirs of a Rifleman Scout”.


Scouts from the 1st and other Stirling Troops are seen here as part of the Ariel Club just before the Great War. Stirling has strong associations with flight – particularly through the Barnwell Brothers. These lads are pictured in the Kings Park nicely composed with the castle in the backdrop. The photograph was taken by Minnie Dewar, a talented local photographer. This period was one of great activity in Scouting in Scotland, and great growth. Scottish HQ archives regularly report that the demand regularly outstrips the supply of available adults to lead. The war to follow was to have significant impacts on Scouting. The Scout Hall at Queens Street in Stirling where the 1st meet is a District hall and it contains our memorial to Scouts who fell in both wars – it is a sobering list and perhaps some of the lads pictured above are on the list. They cannot have imagined the world they were to enter into.

To the Glory of God and in Grateful Remembrance of Stirling Scouts who gave their lives in the wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 : 


Tom Farman

Tom Gemmell

Chas. Greenhorn (also on St Ninian’s Old Parish Church memorial)

Deans Henderson

Jack Jamieson

Andrew McGregor

William Mackieson (also on St Columba’s Church memorial)

Sydney Smith

1939-1945 1st Troop 

Donald TP Crawford

James Davie

Peter (Pat) Davie

Henry Heron

Jack Horsburgh

Milne Johnstone

Leonard King

Alexander Lang

Robert D Liddle

Andrew McDermont

Angus McVicar

James Mailer

Hugh Matheson

Robert Millar

Alexander Miller

William Milne

Norman Murray

William A Murray

William Somerville

Cowan Stark

Ian Taylor

Leonard Watters

William Whyte

4th Troop

Robert Anderson

6th Troop

James Brown

Harry Cormack

William Lee

Ian Livingstone

Joe Ricketts

8th Troop

Anthony Gielty

John Kane

Michael Leonard

Joseph McDonald

11th Troop

James B Anderson

John WF Cullens

John McBride

Ian Menzies

George Miller

James Ritchie

20th Troop

D Chisholm

Robert Jackson

John Leckie

John Miller

L Stewart

E Vallance

C Younie

With grateful thanks to the Smith Art Gallery and Museum for permission to use the photographs here – www.smithartgalleryandmuseum.co.uk

The Scot who gave Scouting its spiritual home

This week I have had the opportunity to visit Gilwell, often described as the spiritual home of Scouting. Despite my love of Scouting this is the first time I have been and had the pleasure of being shown around by Caroline Pantling, Archives and Heritage Manager. I probably had a very similar experience to many other Scouts in visiting Gilwell in that it felt very familiar – its  symbolism, icons and stories run deep in our history.

I have not written on this blog before about the quiet Scot who made all this happen – but even after all this time his generosity remains impressive.

(c) The Scout Association; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

image courtesy of the Scout Association

William de Bois Maclaren (17 November 1856 – 3 June 1921) did his Scouting in Rosneath in Dumbartonshire where he was Commissioner, and made his wealth through publishing and other business interests in London, particularly publishing and the rubber industry. Gifts amounting to £10,000 saw the 109 acre estate purchased and the White House put in order for use. Gilwell became the place where Scouters were trained to “play the game”, and they came from across the world.


On opening, BP presented Maclaren with the silver wolf but the most lasting tribute came from the staff wearing his tartan as neckerchiefs. This developed over time to the patch on the Gilwell knock we know today. It was interesting to discover that MacLaren was buried in the same place as Major FM Crum who I have written lots about on this blog – Rosneath. Not sure if they are in the same graveyard but I feel a road trip coming on…

postscript – indeed they are – remarkable !

Rosneath old kirk

The Scottish Gilwell and a strange co-incidence….

Baden Powell desired a place which could be Scouting’s spiritual home. It was clear that his growing disdain for the business of Scouting over the game of Scouting was a constant battle for him. He eloquently described Scouting as a movement rather than an organisation – subtle but an honest perspective.

That spiritual home had of course to be in a natural environment to represent our ideals and in 1919 William de Bois Maclaren bought the 55 acres of Gilwell Park. Maclaren was District Commissioner for Rosneath in Dunbartonshire and a successful businessman.


Early on Wemyss Firs served that purpose for Scotland, and in 1921 the first wood badge course was run for 13 participants. It trained Scouters for 18 years, running a total of 69 courses. Like Gilwell and accurate record was maintained and in most instances a photograph of the course participants was made for posterity.

These records passed to SHQ and as I worked my way through some boxes I found a beautifully bound photo album and book showing the participants details.

A wonderful insight of course but what surprised me most is that participant number thirteen, Mr WIlliam Johnstone lived just around the corner from me and as I tracked across the ledger I was startled to find he was from my own group – the 7th Stirling !

IMG_4422IMG_4424 William is second from left in the back row – he is the only person not in uniform – it looks like he was a scouter in training perhaps in the most literal sense. He is not noted as a Scoutmaster in the ledger.


The course was intended to teach leaders to be Scouter through being a Scout – organised in patrols they worked together just like their charges, taking part in activities and learning outdoor skills which they could pass on.


I hope to have the chance to explore this further because our Troop was not meant to exist in this time period !

Monzie Rover Moot 1939 – insights

Monzie was special. The first large scale international gathering in Scotland and 42 countries represented many of whom would be fighting each other in the immediate years to follow. The official record of the camp was published afterwards and provides a detailed account of life at the camp.

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Hundreds of Scottish Rover Scouts turned up the week before the camp to set things up – the weather was reasonably fair as representatives from 42 Countries started to arrive at the campsite adjacent to Monzie Castle in Perthshire.

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After a good start the weather closed in with some heavy and prolonged rain – this must have been interesting for Rovers from Iraq and Egypt…

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The focus at Monzie was on international friendship ahead of what must have been increasingly apparent to these young men was looming on the horizon. At the end of the camp the entire camp re-located to Edinburgh for three days of activity.

The image below shows an Indian Rover leaving the camp for Edinburgh.

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A huge reception and display was held at Murrayfield following a march past of the 42 participant countries down Princes Street.

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At the conclusion of the Moot the International Conference was held – one of the first BP did not attend.

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Finding hidden treasure….

So I am a self proclaimed ‘acquirer’ of old scouting stuff…..I don’t want to say collector because 99 percent ends up in our little museum at 7thscouts.org . I like to root around antique fairs and you can often find little scout badges for a few pounds or often less – its good fun and the kids describe it as looking for treasure.

Whilst its perhaps sad to think these were once the prized possession of a wolf cub, scout or rover scout, I think perhaps a little romantically, that I have found them and they will once again be enjoyed by a different generation of scouts.

Today was a good day – the usual scout buttonhole badges and unusually a button – hole Thanks Badge in silver – so dirty it was only £2! Also pleased to find a Rover Scout badge too.


A stallholder rummaged around and also produced a few badges – the diamond shaped are nylon membership and Scout Standard Badges from 1967 – 71 and a nice ribbon Fife badge – looks like the 1960’s or 70’s – result.

Just as I was about to leave I spotted a familiar figure looking at me -

IMG_4298 IMG_4300 IMG_4301

It was inevitable thereafter – I did some good haggling however and delighted to have him. I think he is called the eternity of youth or something similar – if anyone can tell me more I would be delighted to hear.

Scouts Scotland have one too – the version they have is cast in bronze whereas this one is cast in spelter – a much cheaper metal.


courtesy of Scouts Scotland

All thats left to do now is convince my wife he will look good on the mantlepiece……..

Preserving our Scouting history for future generations

Very pleased that Scouts Scotland have appointed me to curate the national collection of archives and objects held by Scottish Headquarters. Having had a good rummage there is some fabulous stuff that tells the history of scouting in Scotland in great detail. Complete archive records remain largely intact and a few gems relating to key people in the early years of Scouting.

So we intend to form a National Collections Working Group to take this work forward and are looking for people with appropriate expertise and particularly some of our younger members who have an interest in history or are thinking about a career in the heritage sector. Get in touch if you are interested.

Some nice examples from the collection are the prints of the National Conference held at Callender in 1922 and Dunblane in 1917 – BP is sitting in the middle of the assembly with his wife Olave seated beside him.


Jamborees, badges and the new generation…


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Just back from a great week at Wings Jamboree in Windsor great Park. 7000 Scouts and Guides from across the world representing 42 countries made for a great week. Lots of the Scouts we took were young and this was their first taste of international Scouting. I took a big box of old badges with us and they all had a pile to get started on badge swapping…..some of them looked at me oddly to begin with but by day two they were experts. One of the nice things of course is that they then meet and talk to other Scouts. Some of us less young Scouts enjoy this too of course but have more particular tastes. Inevitably I have a liking for old Scout badges, particularly Scottish ones, and have been collecting old Scottish District badges.

At Wings I met a nice SL from Dorset who had a box of incredible vintage badges given to him by someone – I was able to tell him quite a bit about what he had and that these were actually very valuable indeed ! I hope he holds on to them – they were from someone local to the area and it would be nice to see them passed on. His little girl looked a Scout in the making too…


I did get a few nice items from him and also from a lovely older couple who were selling badges to kids. On asking if they had any older stuff they produced a folder of stuff that got me more than a bit excited. I picked up some great Scottish badges, including the Isle of Arran District page at the top of the post, and the Angus badge below complete with pictish design – fab.

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Also delighted to find an old Glasgow badge – I think it is the first generation of Glasgow badges- my father and grandfather were both Glasgow Scouts so thats a nice find.

photo 1

One which is very very cool is an early felt scout badge. I think it is a First Class badge (correction – its a tenderfoot badge) dating from between 1909 and 1929. Something of that vintage is rather lovely to own – I wonder who it belonged to….

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