Monday, November 13, 2006

Mayor to vote for scouts

South Tyneside Scouts bid for lottery cash.

South Tyneside District Scouts are bidding for over 58,000 pounds worth of lottery grants to help them bring West Hall in Cleadon up to scratch. South Tyneside's Mayor Cllr. Ed Malcolm is backing the bid and urging people to cast a vote for the youngsters as they battle with Durham's Wildlife Education Centre to win the cash. The bids will be featured in Tyne Tees Television's regional news tomorrow evening.

The scouts hope to refurbish and extend their bunk house in West Hall so that they can accomodate facilities for both boys and girls as well as disabled youngsters. I wonder if the Mayor was a Boy Scout?

Scouting has moved on a great deal since Baden Powell's days and the amount of activities has grown diversely, I remember as a young lad being a member of two church based South Shields scout troops, the 2nd. St. Mary's organised by the Revd. "Dickie" Hilditch, and the 29th. St. Francis run by the Revd. "Bert" Alderson. Both provided an outlet for young boys to let off steam and energy as well as adding to our education and instilling some small aspects of personal discipline. Scouting seemed to be a "noble" pursuit and we felt a sense of honour and self importance when standing in front of the whole group to make that oath "to God and the Queen".

For young lads who, for the best part of the week, kicked footballs around the back lanes and investigated the wrecked interiors of partially demolished terraced housing, it gave an added outlet to our energies. We always tried to be well turned out, and mothers meticulously laundered kerchiefs and jumpers on a weekly basis. Little did they know that we were learning "responsible" knifecraft, or splicing ropes for "irresponsible" bondage of tiresome bullying tyrants from the next lane!

The best part of the year of course, other than being awarded badges of achievement (more sewing for mothers) was the annual camp. I remember two particular camps that I was involved with during my spell with the 29th. One at Elsdon Deer Park in Northumberland was notable for the amount of adders found basking on the rocks in our midst, then there was the episode with "Saus" Rossiter who refused to wash the dishes or clean groundsheets. His punishment was to be laid on a ground sheet, bound hand and foot, and pegged down in the sun, while we told him outragious lies about the number of adders slithering around. He washed dishes diligently after that!
On the last day of camp we found that we were over supplied with butter, so seven or eight packs were melted down in a huge "dixie" and we were treated to the most delicious pile of chips that I can remember.

The second camp that sticks in my mind was in a farmers field at a place called Chop Gate just south of Stoksely on the North Yorkshire Moors. It was memorable because I and two others gained our "backwoodsman badge". David Flannaghan, Robert Glendenning and myself were close to the stage of trying to become Ranger Scouts, before moving on to the Queen's Scout badge, we were despatched from the camp with a large orange, a large grapefruit, a pound of plain flour, a gallon of water, a box of matches, our knives, and a ball of string each. We were given one map between the three of us and told that the rest of the camp would be moving shortly to a new location 15 miles away. It was our task to survive for five days and nights on the moors using the materials we had, plus our initiative, then meet the others at the new location near Helmsely. (We were not to know that our every move was being watched and noted by two experienced Ranger Scouts).

We set out at mid-day and followed the track of a stream towards our destination. We didn't get too far away on the first day, perhaps three miles at most, then we had to make the decision to stop and make shelter. We cut down long thin branches from a tree and lashed them together to make a U-shaped framework around the base of a large tree, tall grasses and reeds were woven into this frame to make it watertight, and a hinged "door" constructed close to the tree. Our biggest mistake was to remove our shirts as we laboured in the heat, we all got terribly sunburned and later our backs blistered.

Shelter now built, it was time to make a fire, the oranges and grapefruits were cut in half and the insides devoured, the two halves were then used to boil water in. We made a paste with the flour, wound it onto twigs and cooked it over the embers of the fire, when you are hungry anything tastes good! Shortly we settled down for the night with me sleeping in the narrow end of the shelter, furthest from the tree, probably because I was the smallest of the three.

It was during the darkness of the night that I awoke in terror as I felt "something" chewing my toes! I screamed out, and we all jumped! Whatever it was (it turned out to be an errant pony) was also startled and ran off, it's hooves caused the ground to shake beneath us. That first night was not good. However the second and third days were more profitable as we quickly established the most efficient means of making shelter and fire, and we became more adept at catching birds and rabbits to feed us. Bob was skilled at killing, skinning, and cooking! "Flan", on the other hand, had been a little distracted and appeared distant, he worried us greatly by sloping off for a walk on the third night. We had no idea where he went, we had no torches, so were unable to follow him, but he was quite determined that he knew where he was going. For a seventeen year old, he had found a sense of adventure. He returned in the early hours carrying a size 34b bra - yes "Flan the man" had found a Girl Guide camp!

Eventually on the fifth morning we were "accosted" by Father Alderson, quite out of the blue, like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, and he took us the last couple of miles to the rest of the troop at their new base, and what tales we had to tell!

It wasn't long before we received our badges back in South Shields and were ready to start new and more testing trials. I wonder if scouting is as good now as it was then?

If you have any scouting or camping experiences to share, please leave a comment.

You can view lots of information about South Tyneside Scouts here, and learn about the Big Lottery Funds Peoples Millions here.

Do make the effort to vote for South Tyneside Scouts and give lots of local youngsters the opportunity to grow within themselves and advance their potential as great citizens.

Three words for Ed Malcolm...............DIB, DIB, DIB!


Shields Gazette

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