Once a Scout..

Last Friday, I had the privilege to meet with one of our old Scouts. Frank is 90 year old and first joined, as a Cub, in 1930! He and his friend Bill stated out at Longport Cubs and Scouts, but when they were Scouts, the Troop closed and the came ‘up the bank’ to my Troop.

He stayed with us until he was called up to serve in the army in World War 2. However once war had broken out, he and his fellow Scouts helped out as messengers with the ARP and then latterly served in the Home Guard, before serving in the regular army. Sadly, his pal Bill was killed while serving in the Navy and he told me the names of two other Scouts who were also, sadly, killed. I’m just in the process of researching them.

He told me what activities they got up to and they basically did the same as we do now! Hiking, swimming and camping etc.


The Scouts with Porthill Guides in 1940

He was very pleased to chat about his time in the Scouts and greeted me by shaking my left hand! He said he really enjoyed his time in the Scouts, but it was a shame his Scouting was interrupted by the War.

The other interesting thing about chatting to him was that he can remember the grocer’s shop that my Grandma ran. He told me that Mrs. Wellings (my Great Grandmother) was a nice lady and that he could remember Miss Wellings (Grandma) serving behind the counter! Nice to know they are remembered after all that time.

Interlectual Property

Back in 2008 I wrote about the importance of taking care of any Scouting related internet domains. This has been brought home to me recently as I have been trying to get a website closed!

The three Districts in my area come together to run a Gang Show called ‘Screamline’. This was the first Scout Gang Show to be produced outside of London in 1934. Although it was last produced in 2007 for the Scouting Centenary, it is hoped to be staged again in 2014 for its 80th birthday. When it was announced that it was going to be staged, I thought I’d have a quick look at the website that was set up for it in 2007. It was still running, but on closer inspection, it didn’t look right.

Digging a lot deeper it turned out that the domain expired early last year and wasn’t renewed by the person who had originally registered it as he had, by this time, left Scouting. A few months later, someone else bought the domain, copied the content from the original site, presumably from the Internet Achive, and set it up again but to be used for advertising and spamming on Twitter!

The domain was up for renewal last month and I’d hoped that I would be able to buy it. Sadly, about an hour before it expired, it was renewed.

Basically, the good name of the Gang Show was being potentially damaged by some unknown spammer! I tried to find out who they were, but they’d hidden their identity via an anonymity company in London. However after a phone call to them, they put me in touch with the domain registrar in Canada. I also found out who the hosting company was in America and emailed them both to ask them to take the site down because of the damage to the Show’s reputation and (this is the bit that they take notice of!) the copyright infringement (they’d nicked the old site effectively).

The hosting company totally ignored me, but the company that registered the domain did take the site offline (after about 4 weeks of nagging). Unhappily, a few days later the site came back online with the same advertising stuff, but without any reference to Screamline or any of the actual Gang Show site.

At least the connection between the site and the Gang Show is now broken and the Show’s reputation won’t be associated with spam. It was just a shame I wasn’t able to get the domain back!

This does show that letting domain registrations slip can result in unscrupulous people getting hold of them and using them for dodgy ends and potentially damaging the good name of Scouting.So the message is clear, make sure you keep hold of any domains you register, if you don’t you may not know what they may end up showing!

I haven’t put a link to the site as I don’t think they should get any more traffic to their site. But if you do a search it isn’t hard to find it!

The Olympics and Scouts

To be honest, when it comes to sport, I am not interested (unless it’s an Ashes Test!).

However, I have been very impressed with the Olympic games that have just finished. The performances by some of the athletes have been truly impressive, be it Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Sir Chris Hoy or Hamadou Djibo Issaka, the rower from Niger who had not even rowed a boat until three months before the games! They all took part and gave it there best, some won medals and some didn’t. The winners all came across as genuinely happy to have won and all (the ones I saw at least) gave well spoken and intelligent interviews afterwards (I do hope the overpaid and over self opinionated ‘professional’ footballers are taking note!).

Both the opening and closing ceremonies were really impressive and the whole thing showed what the country can do if it puts its mind to it. A positive experience in a lot of recent negatives.

A lot of praise was, rightly, lavished on the 70,000 volunteers who helped to run the games. Without them, I understand, it wouldn’t have been possible to stage the games.

Naturally a lot of these volunteers had Scouting connections. In fact a lot of Scouts ran with the Olympic torch as it was going round the country. Bear Glrylls even carried it down a zip wire in the North East!

This, of course, is not the first time Scouts have helped with the Olympics in this country (as I’ sure they have wherever the Olympics have been held, with a possible few notable exceptions – 1936 & 2008 for example), they were very involved in the 1948 London games.

In 1948 they carried countries flags and –

..the Boy Scouts’ services were offered to the BOC, who readily took on this squadron of volunteers. They were particularly useful during the opening and closing ceremonies where they performed a variety of conspicuous tasks, were used as distance markers on the marathon and 50km walk as well as running errands and conveying messages, and their skills and presence were made use of wherever possible during the Olympiad.
Scouts were required to sit at the edges of the stadium in front of the crowd during the opening ceremony, and at 4pm release a flock of 7,000 pigeons from 350 large wicker picnic baskets. Taxing as this may have been in the blazing heat it allowed them a prime view of the spectacle, and they were kept busy on tea-reconnaissance missions by the athletes seated behind them. Senior Scouts marched before each competing country holding the designation boards, placards with the each nation’s name on it, but all were a prominent part of the ceremony.
Perhaps most prominent to the overall organisation of the Games was the contribution of the Sea Scouts. These operated separately from the other scouting divisions, and were drafted in to ensure the sailing events ran efficiently. Arriving from all over the country, the boys were installed in the Torquay Scouts’ Headquarters at a cost of 3/6d per day, and were instructed to bring only their basic personal possessions and full uniform. A crew of 200 Senior Sea Scouts were maintained throughout the sailing events, consisting of 50 local scouts from the Torbay area and 150 from further afield. Duties included ferrying competitors and their gear between the shore and yachts, the repairs and adjustments to the rigging of the larger craft that were needed at the end of every day, issuing weather communiqués, and providing spectators with a running commentary.
The Scouts were praised for their efficient and capable contribution to the Games by officials and competitors alike. One admirer described them as the oil of the Olympic wheels.

As can be seen the Sea Scouts were also invaluable!


Photo and quote from Winning Endeavours

Hopefully now, some of the 70,000 who may have not been volunteering previously will carry on doing so in some other capacities. Hopefully it will be Scouting, but if not in sport or for young people or their local museum, the list goes on. A lot of good things are done by volunteers and the Olympics have proved that.

It would be nice to get, maybe, 10% of the Olympic volunteers as new leaders!

Roll on the Paralympics!

UPDATE 15/08/2012 It’s been announced today that Scouts will “strike flint against steel on Scafell Pike, Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Slieve Donard on 22 August” to light the Paralympic flames! See more here.

A Soldier Writes

I got this message sent to me the other day –

I’ll always remember my time with the Cubs and the Scouts because I reckon that it set the foundation for the man I am today.
You may not know it but the time and effort you, (and the other Leaders) put into the Scouts when I was in the Group have definitely played a part in me being the man I am today.
The last time I saw you or had any affiliation with the Scouts is at (my brother’s) wedding in 2008 and I’ve still got the badge that you gave me.
I’m getting out of the Army next year and going to New Zealand with my almost wife. (We get married on the 8th of August).
Before I do bugger off to NZ though, I’d like to give something back to 1st Porthill Scout Group.
I’m a Lance Corporal of the Corps of Royal Engineers and I’ve still got the majority of the kit I use when we go on exercise.
I’ve got two 24 hour ration boxes that the lads use in Afghanistan that I could talk to the Scouts / Cubs through and explain the need for so much food!
Even just turning up in my uniform and being rubbish at football would probably make a lot of kids day, so I’m up for anything.
I know that the Scouts is a dying breed and its a real shame, so anything I can do to inspire more young people to go to scout meetings I will do.
Kind regards

Wow. I’m not posting this as an ego thing, but to show the appreciation of an ex Scout. And one that has served his country in the Army. I guess we must have done something right, especially as after some nights you do feel you don’t do anything right (well I did at least!).

I’ve put him right about Scouting not being a dying breed and I’ve taken him up on his offer. So watch out for a post about his visit.

In the Newspaper

Earlier this month, my local newspaper, the Sentinel, in its Way We Were section, carried an article about my Group’s Scouts who had been in the Troop and had been killed in the First and Second World Wars.

I’d originally written to the paper thinking they put something in the letters section and the result would be some extra info on those Scouts. However, they decided to run it as an actual article, which ended up with me being interviewed and photographed (and they chose the worst photo of me looking particularly gormless!).  The article isn’t available online, but you can read it below.

As a result of the article, someone got in touch to let us know of another ex Scout who killed in WW2 – see here, so he is now added to our Roll of Honour.

I’m now seriously giving consideration to getting our Memorial updated with an extension as we have six more names to go on it! There is potentially a seventh, but I’m having a bit of difficulty confirming the man I have info on is one of our Scouts. Time will tell one this one!

Click to access 2012-06-30 Sentinel.pdf

Been a Bit Quiet Recently…….


Sorry about the lack of updates, but I’ve been a bit busy with other things (mainly 2 small girls!).

However, Scouting hasn’t gone all quiet, in fact I have been quite busy. Two recent highlights have been the Beaver camp that I went on and the Group’s Annual  General Meeting / BBQ / Olympics event.

The Beaver’s camp was a really good weekend and had the theme of Space Camp! Yes, they did dress up as astronauts and even went into space in their own shuttle! It was a brilliant weekend and we had fun too.


This year for our Annual General Meeting, we decided to do something different.

To mark this year’s Olympics, we thought that we would stage our own games! After having a BBQ lunch the games began. All the Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and parents(!) were split up into 5 teams representing a country from each continent. They competed in track and field events and even completed some swimming events. On dry land. Without a pool! The synchronised swimming event was particularly impressive!

After the games we all went inside for the AGM. Each section made their annual reports to let everyone know what has been going on in the Colony, Pack, Troop and Drum Corps.

As last year’s video report was such a success (so I was told), my Group Scout Leader’s report was again partially a collection of pictures of the activities that members of the Group have taken part in during the last 12 months. This is done so that I don’t repeat what has already been said and I don’t bore people to death!

So here it is –


Pi and Scouts

Yesterday, I managed to place my order for a Raspberry Pi. For those of you who don’t know what that it is, it’s –

… a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.

– from their website.

They want kids to get back into using computers to make their own programmes like many of today’s software engineers did when they were kids on the Spectrum or the BBC B. In fact it can be seen as a kind of successor to the Beeb, as the company that produced them, Acorn, were responsible for the ARM architecture the chip on the Pi uses!

When I was looking on their site the other day, I came across this article about Boreatton Scouts who had managed to get hold of one early on and were using it for a robotics competition. They seem to be a very techy Troop and have had a fun time using it.

I’m very impressed with what the Troop are doing with the Pi, not to mention the more ‘normal’ Scouting activities. I think it will be worth keeping an eye on how they get on and maybe this could be something we can do as well.

I wonder if any other Troops are looking at using a Pi in their programmes?

Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Captain Picard Likes Scouting

I came across this video on Youtube from 4th Golcar Scout Group today. Being a bit of a Trekkie, I was very impressed that they had managed to get Patrick Stewart to record it for them.

I wonder if we could get someone famous to do a video for us??

But It’s Boring…..

…is the kind of response you get when asking the Scouts (etc.) to go to St. George’s Day Parade on a Sunday afternoon. And in a sense, they are right! It’s not the same as hanging off a rock on a rope, paddling down a river in a canoe or even spending the night in a tent for the first time away from Mum and Dad.

However, when asked to attend, they do and do so in numbers! Last Sunday it was very pleasing to see so many of the young people from my Group had turned out for what was a rather soggy parade (the rain had been on and off all day and naturally was chucking it down when it was time for the parade!) through the centre of Newcastle. In fact the whole District had a good turn out and it was an impressive site to see virtually the whole of one ‘street’ (the Ironmarket) filled with Scouts and Guides. There were people watching on either side of the parade and they were not just family and friends. This is where such things as these parades come into their own as it shows to the general public that we’re still here and that a lot of young people are involved in Scouting!

The other good thing was that we got to show off our Drum Corps again. This time they had the junior section (the Cubs) with them for the first time and they were great. Hopefully, they will be at the front of the parade next year!

See piccys and video from here.


Scouting Grows In Numbers

It was very pleasing to read yesterday that the number of Scouts in the UK had risen again for the seventh year on the trot (see here). It was also pleasing to see that the number of 14 – 18 year olds showed a 6.8% increase.

Watching the social medial etc. it was quite noticeable that a lot of Counties and Districts were making quite a noise about the increase in numbers and trying to promote Scouting as the positive movement that it is. It’s just a shame that the total silence from my County was deafening! A couple of adjacent Counties were really pushing the good news and one County Commissioner was on their local TV. Us? Not a peep. I got my Counties figures from my DC (still waiting for a reply from the County…) and our figures are up. The County grew a modest 1.7%, but that is still growth. One of the Districts even grew their numbers by 13%, so well done to them.

The other downer yesterday was that the National Secular Society decided to start moaning again about the Scout Promise (see this from 2008) and the faith bit. Anyway, rather than going over old ground again, see what Chris at Be Prepared has to say – he makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, back to numbers! My District did actually lose a few young people over the past year, but that was mainly due to the (hopefully temporary) closure of a Beaver Colony due to the usual reason – lack of adult support. My Group increased its numbers by 19% on last year, and I’m sure it’s a lot higher now judging the number of kids I see at meetings!

I’m sure that this time next year we’ll be celebrating the huge increase in numbers across the District and in my Group (we’ll need more room to meet in if this goes on!).

My Group’s Drums

Following on from my last post about something from the past of my Group, comes something very up to date! Last night our Drum Corps had their first annual Band Inspection. All Scout Bands have a yearly inspection to ensure that they uphold the correct standards for a Scout band which performs in public. Happily we passed!


It’s very impressive to see how much effort the young people put into their playing and how good they are considering how short a time a lot of them have been playing!

I am very impressed and proud!

My Group’s Remembrance Site

Today the part of our website that pays tribute to the members of the Troop who were killed in World War 1 and World War 2 is being relaunched

When it was originally set up in 2005, the site had the list of the names that are on our War Memorial in St. Andrew’s Church with links to each man’s commemorative page on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website. It actually took a while to locate all the men and it has only been in the last couple of months that the last one has been properly identified.

On the new site, you can see information about each of the men, such as where they lived, information about their parents and siblings, what jobs they had, their grave or memorial and in a few cases a photo of the man himself. There is also some information on our Memorial and the Porthill War Memorial.

In addition to the men on the Memorial, we have found one Scout who was killed in World War 2 and four more, from a list we have of our original Scouts from 1908, who were killed in The Great War (WW1). These men are now commemorated here as well.

It is especially poignant that the site is being relaunched today as it is exactly 94 years to the day that one of our Scouts, Harold Bailey, died of the wounds received in battle (25th March 1918). He died while fighting on the Somme with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

Please take a look at the site here.

Internet Safety

I was at an internet safety conference this week and a couple of things caught my eye with regard to Scouting and thought it would be worth sharing.

Firstly is the Professionals Online Safety Helpdesk. This is for anyone who works with young people, whether voluntary or paid. If adults are worried about how their online presence can affect their career (or role in Scouting), are asking ‘is it ok to friend young people on social networking sites?’ or feel they are being bullied online, they can contact the helpline for advice. Contact them by ringing 0844 381 4772 or email helpline@saferinternet.org.uk Oh yes and it’s free!

Next is the OnlineCompass tool. It is a simple tool that shows you what you need to do to make the use of technology safer for your group. Once you rate where you are, it gives you advice on how to improve and the means to get you there. It is designed for any organisation that works with young people. See the other flyer. This would be used by Groups who have internet access at their HQs. This is free as well

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