What is Scouting to you? Is it the camping outdoors whatever the weather? The skilful building of temporary structures and fires? Deftly whittling a new tent peg from a block of wood with your trusty penknife, (usually) to replace a lost or damaged one?
Or, is it the camaraderie, the friendship and the bonds made with other Scouts (from all over), never to be forgotten? The unity of almost every nationality in the Scout name?
I am Cameron, aged 15, living in Abernethy, and I belong to the Worldwide Family of Scouts. For me, Scouting all began (like many others) when I was 6. My Mum, my Dad and I all headed down to the Pavilion with others. The others were boys in my class at Abernethy Primary School. We were going to join the Abernethy Beavers (aged 6-8). At the Beavers we took part in activities like hand painting, basic baking and games. Not very Scoutish you might say. Then I reached Cubs (aged 8-11 with most of the other Beavers.
My earliest memory of Cubs is when my Dad and I went to a Father and Son camp with one other pair from Abernethy. We were at the well established Scout campsite Meggernie in Glen Lyon. I remember looking around as I tentatively gripped my Dad’s hand and seeing a Cub, near Scout age with the back of his Cub jumper absolutely covered in badges and thinking that they couldn’t all have been Cub badges, ever since then I’ve wanted to sew non-Scout badges onto the back of my scout shirt, something I am still to do. And then a massive “Wow!” as I realised we were walking up the hill towards a giant spider web made of ropes stretched between two trees. Although I was on the small side of 4ft when I was 8 I would still climb anything in sight and was desperate to climb it, but it had been a tiring journey so my Dad helped through one of the larger gaps and after a quick supper we went off to bed. I got up early the next morning to try and climb it but had to wait for Dad to get up and then breakfast and teeth cleaning before activities started.
To my disappointment I didn’t get to climb it till lunchtime and even then I had to wait on others to get off, I doubt I was very patient then. After that we returned to our Sub camps (“Megg” & “Ernie”) for Lunch. I can’t remember anything after that.
There were many, many more camps that followed, including a Harry Potter themed camp which coincided with my (10th) birthday and as a gift I received a wooden Gryffindor Banner made for the camp. But the camp that stands out the most is the one where I met Roger who can only be described as jovial with a serious side. When I was 8 he seemed a giant of a man with a big voice and commanding authority. He still is all those things (perhaps less huge in my eyes) but he’s also the kind Leader who I’ve known since I was 8.
On that camp Roger taught us how to make a rope bridge which was… an experience. It was a bridge suspended between two trees an each side of the banks of a river/stream. No one wanted to venture down to the boggy river and jump across there but we had to get to the other side, so, with my permission, Roger picked me up and lightly tossed me to the other side. It was very steep but evidently not as steep as it looked as I didn’t slide down. Wrapping the rope around a thick tree I threw the end back to Roger. He then tied it off and sent a lighter adult along the doubled up rope to tie it off and build the rope-rails at that side. On that camp we also climbed a waterfall and I lost a welly boot half way up which I thought I would never see again but as it turned out it had caught in a step in the waterfall lower down and was brought up by the next person. Roger organised the bridge and my Dad organised the waterfall. This was my Dad’s first camp as a Leader (as opposed to an adult helper) for he had recently taken over from the last Leader who had left after many years of service.
And now onto Scouts (aged 11-14), Cubs was thoroughly enjoyable and I learned a fair bit but it was time for Scouts. I was the only one from Abernethy to move up as the Scouts were in Bridge of Earn. Tom- my Messenger moved up a year later (although he is a year older than me) after deciding to quit Scouts for a bit but he argues that he lives in neither Abernethy or Aberargie, more like in the middle of the two. Now, Scouts was the exciting group. The one where you; learned how to use penknives responsibly, attend week long camps and took part in more interesting activities. It was all that and more. I even camped on Mull once as a scout. I made two friends there that I’ve known for 2-3 years now, one of which was coincidentally moving to Abernethy in six months (at the time). I learned; how to tie Reef knots, Clove Hitches and Square Lashings (those are the ones I can still tie anyway), how to put up tents within 10 minutes (hike tents) or 30-40 minutes (old-style patrol tents), and how to start a good fire, what’s good kindling and so on. A good thing to remember is that “lichen” or “old man’s beard” which is a green/white/turquoise flaky, mossy substance that grows on trees is good kindling and so is Ash wood which is so flammable that it burns even when wet. I remember being shouted at while a friend and I were climbing a tree to get lichen when a rather protective Leader came running over and told us to get down.
During my time as a Scout, I guess the most enjoyable camp I went on was the Blair Atholl International Jamborette in 2008. It had over 2000 Scouts and Leaders and many, many worthwhile activities. On that camp each Scottish patrol (of roughly 6) was teamed up with an overseas patrol of the same number. We were teamed up with Americans and through them we learned that Cubs and Beavers and Explorers were only British, being called other things in other countries. In America a Scout needs to earn ranks to progress onwards, and is different from European and Middle Eastern Scouting.
At the end of the Blair Atholl Jamborette (my last camp as a Scout) the Scottish contingent could offer hospitality to the overseas Scouts, taking them into their home for a week and around Scotland to see the sights. My two American friends, Alex and Nils were, I’m pleased to say, very impressed with the Abernethy Round Tower. The Jamborette had been held in July of 2008 but we saved up and went to America in the October. Partly to see old friends of my Mum and Dad’s in Virginia, Nr Washington, also to stay in New York and then to visit my new friends Alex Vernon and Nils Andersson in New Canaan, Connecticut. While visiting them we also saw another friend I had made at Blair Athol, Evan Shapiro, we even camped in his back garden. The gardens were huge and set in wooded glades.
That escapade in America was after my fellow Scouts and I had left Bridge of Earn Scouts. But, we left with a bang! Seven of us (myself included) earned the Chief Scout Gold Award which is the most prestigious Award you can attain in Scouts. And also the Zodiac (or Brass Monkeys) badge which is uncommon among the Scouts being required to camp once a month for a year and in obscure places e.g. on an island (Mull) and abroad (USA). These two badges coupled with my experiences cause me to believe that I did quite well out of Scouts.
After that I progressed onto Explorers (14-18) (previously known as Ranger Scouts) and am currently enjoying myself immensely. All of the Bridge of Earn Scouts of my age moved up too. Some have now left but perhaps the full Scouting career isn’t for everyone.
In July 2009 I was in Denmark with several other Explorers and a Scout Group. We went to the Bla
Sommer (Blue Summer) Camp in Stevninghus, Denmark which is the Danish equivalent of Blair Atholl, the Danish Jamborette., which had a strong theme on environmental issues. We learnt skills, many aspects about Danish Scouting (e.g. whereas we keep our uniforms clean for inspections, they use them to protect their normal clothes from dirt and cooking stains and were really impressed with our clean uniforms) and made friends with who I still keep in contact online. I’m happy to say I have been selected to return to Blair Atholl as an Explorer in the last 2 weeks of July 2010 and I am very excited about it. It will be my last chance to go as a participant as the one after (2012) if I go will be as a helper in Network. I am also looking forward to an expedition with at least two other friends in Cumbria where we have 36 hours to get from one place to another undetected in the first weekend of July 2010.
I’ve made new friends and met up with old friends. I have caught up with an old friend I’ve known since a young age but moved from Abernethy a while ago who joined Explorers (after Auchterarder Scouts) and I now meet up with him at least once a week. The Explorer Unit I belong to is called West Perth City and is coincidentally now run by the aforementioned Roger. I’m only a year and a half into my Explorer time but I’ve experienced a lot already.
After Explorers you can join Network (aged 18 -25) and become a Young Leader and from age 25 you can become a Leader.
As you can see, over the years I have gained a lot from Scouting and am very proud to be part of the Scottish Scouting Association.
So, when can you start?