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 !
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 !