Have You Ever Wondered…
I have often. So, I just did the things I wondered about. It wasn’t always easy because sometimes there were those in established positions who, well, just didn’t want to see change.
Here are a few things I wondered about over the years.
Why did we have a Cub Pack of 42 boys (8-10 year-olds) but a Scout Troop of only 6 lads? That thought led to me volunteering to become the first female Scout Leader in the Greenford District.
I was 23 at the time, and our cubs just didn’t stay in scouts. I became the Assistant Scout Leader (ASL) and within 6 months was the SL as he stepped into the GSL post. So, there I was, in over my head, but determined to succeed. And I think that was a turning point in my life. I had always been fairly average at pretty well everything I turned my hand to up until then, suddenly, I was thrust into a position of responsibility and well, off I went.
I had amazing support from ‘Uncle Tom’, “Come to a meeting,” he said, “and meet the other leaders.” I did just that and as I walked through the swing doors the hall fell silent and I heard, “It’s a Bl**dy woman.” That was ‘Uncle Ted’ as we called him. He became one of my greatest supporters, friends and colleagues in scouting in the Greenford District.
I visited ‘Uncle Tom’s’ Scout hut and he proudly showed me a trail of 6-inch shields which went along one wall, across the bottom and halfway back along the other wall. “They’ll be to the end in a year.” Announced ‘Uncle Tom’ proudly. I politely asked him what they were and he said they represented every trophy his troop won (there were 13 a year). “No, you won’t.” I replied. I can still remember the look on his face, “Because my troop is going to beat you.” Now Uncle Tom had arguably the best troop in the District. He laughed at me. By the way, this is not a sensible thing to do in front of me.
We won the next event 2 weeks later – The Underground Widegame, came 6th in the swimming gala out of 20 (with barely any kids who could swim, but I can tell you the rest of the troop shouted so loudly, they never stopped trying, and even if they came last we still got a point, whereas other troops wouldn’t put anyone in.
Then we started winning. By my second year, we won every competition except the Swimming Gala (our troop was the furthest from a public pool – eventually I persuaded a dad to drive our old minibus there every Thursday and I plus a friend taught our kids how to swim.) We only ever managed 3rd place as our best, but it was enough. We continued to do this for the next 8 years my lads and I.
We won: The Night Hike, Tent Pitching (holding the up and down records for 10 years until equalled and eventually beaten by mere seconds), Underground Widegame, Gate-building, Pioneering, Chess, Shooting, Fire-lighting (my kids were pyromaniacs on the quiet), and of course the jewels in the crown the Campcraft and Scoutcraft Competitions as well as the Tony Whyte Trophy and Country Trophy.
Easy. I told my boys what the all-male leaders had said that first night. “You only have a female leader. And they laughed at me and said you would never beat them.” They had something to prove, and prove it they did.
I remember walking into a Night Hike Competition where we had entered 3 teams and hearing another leader saying, “The 7th’s here, so guess we’re all playing for 2nd.” We came 1st, 2nd and 4th. The boys would get to our scout hut an hour before a competition and spit and polish their boots as we as the 10-year-olds boots, iron their uniforms and comb hairs, check hands and behind ears.
I am proud to say some of these lads are fine young gentlemen that I am forever proud of: Lee Walker, Marc Thorpe, Paul Walker, Stuart Songhurst, Mark and Alex Lindsay. You were all made of true grit. There were others but I only remember first names and some faces now as that was all 30+ years ago.
I didn’t do it on my own, I built an army: Uncle Ted, Mike Parker, Jimmy Dinglebell, Robyn, Josie and Barry Cole, Stuart Parsons, and others whose names escape me but who I hope will forgive me, but were essential in their support over the years.