They may not look it but this year the 1st St Margarets Scout Group is 100 years old. It all kicked off on Monday 24th November 1919 when a local man, Mr Arthur William Laurence, came to the conclusion that the only thing St Margarets needed to turn it into an earthly paradise- all the other necessary attributes being in place - was a Scout Troop, so he started one. He cunningly called it the “1st St Margarets” and himself, being the leader, “Skipper” The story has it that the first meetings were held under a gaslight on a street corner.
1919 was a great year for the development of Scouting. The 1st World War was over and men returning from the horrors of the battlefields were looking for a way to build a new world based upon peace and international brotherhood. If they cared to look there was a way forward in Baden-Powell’s best selling 1908 book “Scouting for Boys”. In it the Scout Law promises that “A Scout is a friend to all, and a brother to every other Scout, no matter to what country, class or creed the other may belong” Baden Powell supported this notion in the Preface by stating:
“The League of Nations many be for the moment, as its critics term it, a soulless legislative machine: but this growing spirit of personal friendship and wide minded goodwill among the future citizens of the nations may not only give it that soul, but may prove a still stronger insurance against the danger of international war in the future.”
By 1920 the district was in the grip of ‘Scoutitis’ Scout groups were springing up like mushrooms from Whitton to Hounslow encouraged no doubt by the arrival of 5000 Scouts from all over the world who were camping on the Old Deer Park as part of the 1st World Scout Jamboree. The ‘Rich and Twick’ was euphoric.
“A great camp - a remarkable demonstration of what is possible in the way of training boys in civics”.
The paper even carried an advertisement for “Scoutees” boots - designed for scouting and schoolwear. Like the Scouts themselves they were ‘solid, serviceable and all-weather’.
By then the fledgling 1st St Margarets Troop found themselves settled in a room over Shipman’s Garage behind St Margarets Hotel. Encouraged by “Scoutitis” Skipper Laurence started a Wolf Cub Pack for younger lads. It was an instant success with droves of snotty nosed boys queuing up to learn the mysterious “dyb, dyb, dyb - dob, dob, dob” chant that opened Pack meeting in those days.1 In 1936 Shipman’s Garage was sold and the 1st St Margarets moved to Ballards Removals in Crown Road with their new leader Monty Garrett who was later to become Mayor of Twickenham.
During the war the Scouts held their meetings in Twickenham Film Studios. By then the group had grown to include Wolf Cubs, Scouts, Senior Scouts and Rovers. Sadly during the war two Scout Leaders from the group, “Polly” Parrott and Ted Chance, were killed in action. They are still remembered today with a commemorative plaque on the shaft of the Troop Flag.
After the war the 1st St Margarets met up in a number of different locations. In 1957/58 the Senior Scout Section met in the White House in Marble Hill Park. The fact that their leader, Ken Freeman, was the son of Bill Freeman, the head keeper at Marble Hill may have had something to do with that nice arrangement. Other sections of the group made do with the garden of the Rising Sun pub in East Twickenham, the Orleans Secondary Modern School and more recently in the old Mission Hall at St Stephens School where the group is still based today.
Lifestyles have changed radically since Baden Powell started the Scout movement in 1907. Most young people are better off, better educated, healthier and with more leisure time than they ever had 100 years ago but for all this the Scout Movement’s main purpose - to promote self discipline, respect for others and a love of the outdoors - and have fun doing it - still retains its irresistible appeal. The only thing holding them back is the same problem that Baden Powell faced 100 years ago and the same problem that “Skipper“Laurence faced in St Margarets 90 years ago - not a shortage of gaslights or street corners, but a shortage of leaders. It was something the 1920 “Richmond and Twickenham Times”, was aware off…
“It is not recruits who are wanted so much - although any number would be welcome - as officers and scoutmasters. Here is an opportunity for men who lack an aim in life or wish to use their time to the best advantage. Let them help to create citizens…”
The 1st St Margarets have found one way around the problem. Once they find leaders they really hang onto them! Doris Stephens became Wolf Cub leader in 1937 and held this position for 40 years until 1977. Another Cub Leader, Janet King, held the post for 37 years, from 1970 - 2007. The legendary “Ossie” Stanley joined the Group as a Wolf Cub in 1949… and after years serving as Beaver Leader and Scout Master was dragged kicking and screaming into retirement 58 years later - and despite that he is still around today offering advice and support to those who have taken his place… and young people of the district are grateful for it. . As Socrates once said… “No man goeth about a more godly purpose than he who is mindful of the right upbringing not only of his own, but of other men’s children.”
100 years on the 1st St Margarets thrive, doing what they have always done - camping, learning new life skills, earning badges, looking for leaders and having fun doing it. So if you happen to see a 1st St Margarets Beaver, Cub or Scout in the street, take a moment and wish them a very “Happy Birthday”. They may not know it yet, but this year they’re 100 years old!
- from Martyn Day
1. “Dyb, dyb, dyb” was an instruction to “Do Your Best!”. The Cubs replied with “Dob, dob, dob” which means “We’ll Do Our Best!”