Rolling back the years with a Scouting veteran

I am starting this week with a confession.

Saturday, 2nd November 2019, 10:20 am

I have never in my life been a member of a uniformed organisation.

I have no idea why, because my sister and brothers were in the Brownies or Scouts and most of my pals were the same.

I regret it now because so many people I know have had a lifetime’s pleasure from the great outdoors while the thought of spending a night in a tent gives me the shakes. It’s the ‘great indoors’ for me.

Still, it’s never too late to learn and last week I paid a visit to meet some of the 2nd Torwood Cubs and hear about the troop’s success from Scoutmaster Stevie Parker.

The 2nd Torwood was founded by the famous Sir Ian Bolton whose name looms large in all Scouting history in our area.

That was back in 1913 and, as the name suggests, it is second only to the 1st Falkirk in local terms.

I was surprised to hear from Stevie that the troop has over 100 young people and that there is a waiting list to join.

I had the false idea that all organisations for young folk were in decline since the great computer revolution put iphones, X boxes and Playstations into their hands.

Not so! Scouting is flourishing and many of the things that attracted previous generations are still included in the activities on offer today.

And that leads me to my reason for visiting Torwood.

My good friend Ian Matear, formerly of Slamannan, was the guest of the troop and he invited me along.

Ian has a great story to tell stretching back nearly 70 years to the time he joined the 30th Stirlingshire in Slamannan in 1950.

He has the distinction of being the only Queen’s Scout ever from the village and has the handsome signed certificate to prove it.

It was 110 years ago this year that Robert Baden-Powell dined with King Edward VII at Balmoral and the King’s Scout Award was created as the top honour for 1st Class Scouts who gained a Pathfinder Badge along with any three of the following: Ambulance, Marksman, Bugler, Seaman, Cyclist and Signaller. Changed days right enough.

But Ian has much more to show than that certificate.

In 1987, long after he left Slamannan, his mother passed away and he discovered that she, proud as punch of his Scouting achievements, had carefully preserved everything he had acquired during the early years and kept them safely at home.

At the time he thought it was interesting but didn’t do anything about it.

But, as the years went by, he realised that it was a unique collection which told the story of Scouting in an era very different from today.

There are all his badges and certificates, uniforms of the old style including kilts, shirts and hats, neckerchiefs, woggles and toggles and much more besides.

It is a fantastic collection which is quite rightly destined to end up in the Scottish Scouting Museum in Dunfermline.

But, before that, Ian had been speaking to the present generation of Cubs and Scouts recounting stories of the personal challenges faced by yesterday’s Souts including making a 15 mile solo hike from the Black Loch to Torphichen and then writing it up (with illustrations) for approval. And, yes, it is among the collection.

The youngsters were enthralled by these stories 
and more than a bit surprised.

Things are maybe not quite so demanding these days but the challenges are modern as well as traditional.

It was great to see the coming together of the generations as Ian and the children found common ground in bridging the years together.