Return to 'Scouting Milestones' links
Scouting Personalities

Return to the Index


Gidney, Francis 'Skipper'. 1890-1928

Gilwell's first Camp Chief. Wood Badge pioneer

GIDNEY started one of the first Scout Troops in the country in 1908, when he was a 16-year-old pupil attending Lichfield Grammar School. He went on to Cambridge University in 1911, graduating in 1914 the year the First World War started. He volunteered and was sent to France with the rank of Captain and, although escaping the fate of many of his contemporaries, he was seriously wounded and invalided out of the army before the Armistice. Gidney's war experiences took a terrible toll and, though not many people realised it at the time, he was as a very sick man.

24-Years' Hike

I have yet to discover how Gidney met B-P, or to learn of his Scouting service after university and before Gilwell. It is known that B-P thought him the 'perfect Boy-Man', a term which, though very non-PC today, was at that time one of the highest accolades that B-P ever bestowed. Gidney was described as having an angular, bespectacled face which was sad in repose, but he had a boyish sense of humour and was a natural enthusiast. B-P appointed him Gilwell Camp Chief in 1919 over John Hargrave who, as Commissioner of Woodcraft, might have been thought of as the natural choice, particularly as it was he who had impressed upon B-P the need for a training ground for Scouters rather than just a campsite for Scouts. But Hargrave had ruined his chances with his outspoken comments on militarism in Scouting, and trying to subvert Scouting in general to his Red Indian woodcraft-based version, founded on the principles outlined by Ernest Thompson Seton

As soon as he was appointed, Gidney exhibited a showman's love of stunts and tricks, as well as tree-climbing and log cabins. His first camp fires were enlivened with displays of axe and knife throwing, and he did embrace some of Hargrave's Red Indian ideas, as the various totem poles at Gilwell and the Indian sign-writing on the Gilwell Log Book testifies. The Camp Chief kept a resident quartet of singing Rovers, and an early helper said "Gidney brought a touch of controlled lunacy to the place." Charles W Emlyn in his book, A Twenty-Four Years' Hike wrote, "Gidney was a man who could persuade anybody to do anything." The boys who visited Gilwell adored him, as did the many helpers, not least Don Potter.

GIDNEY'S wife, a twice-married actress, cared little for Scouting, and could not have been impressed by her husband's low salary because, as early as October 1919, Gidney had complained that he was inadequately paid. B-P agreed but, after 2 years, nothing had been done. Such things did not deter Gidney from doing his best, and he threw himself into his job heart and soul, his reputation spreading as the graduates of the Wood Badge courses returned to their homelands across the globe. B-P was a frequent visitor to Gilwell and was particularly happy to bring with him any potential benefactor to Scouting as, as he readily acknowledged, there was no better place to see the 'Scout Spirit' at work.

'Skipper' Gidney
'Skipper' Gidney, photographed sometime between 1921 and 1923

In November 1921 Gidney went to India to establish Wood Badge training there, but only a month later one of Gidney's children died and that, together with other difficulties, made him take time off. When Gidney returned to Gilwell, things had changed. The Finance Committee had found that Gilwell was costing too much money and looked askance at Gidney's 'extravagances', such as log cabins and the like. B-P tried unsuccessfully to calm the situation down, but the Committee wanted Gidney merely to be in charge of training and not the management of Gilwell Park. B-P agreed and proposed that Gidney should be Camp Chief, but that the Finance Committee should have overall control of 'the Department' that managed Gilwell. B-P himself promised to represent Gilwell on the Committee of the Council.

In September, 1922, Gidney's wife was ill and he went with her to the USA for three months, came back to England for three months and then returned to the US for a further six months, during which time he helped US Chief Scout James West set up Wood Badge training courses there. Whilst he was away, Percy Everett found that Gilwell was in chaos. He reccommended that control from the centre was the only solution and he urged The Founder start a new system before Gidney came back from the US. On his return Gidney and B-P lunched together at the Gilwell re-union, a Gidney creation which was now annually attracting 1,000 Scouters, but the news that Gidney's Assistant had been dismissed was broken to Gidney at B-P's home at Pax Hill on October 3rd, 1923, with Everett present. On the morning after this confrontation, Gidney was too ill to go to London with Everett and B-P, and so he left alone later in the day. Gidney was happy enough with the proposal that he should remain Camp Chief, in charge of training under the 'Head of Training' at HQ, as B-P himself had taken on that rôle, but he was less happy with the proposal that he loose all control over the management of Gilwell Park. He was particularly aggrieved at the dismissal of Chapman, his Assistant, especially as it was he (Gidney)who had persuaded his friend to leave a regular and well-paid job to assist him at Gilwell. He therefore tendered his resignation to B-P.

Baden-Powell was sincerely saddened and surprised by the resignation and he did his best to try and talk Gidney round. From Headquarters Gazette, November 1923:

"Unfortunately, He could not see eye to eye with me in the matter of changes which, in my capacity as Commissioner for Training, I have made in the administration of Gilwell.
The movement as a whole, both at home and overseas, owes a great deal to Gidney, to his personal charm, sincerity of purpose and capability; and nobody owes more to him than I personally.
I am consoled by the fact that he is not leaving the movement."

James E West, Chief Scout of America, who had worked on training courses with Gidney when he was in America asked B-P if he would mind if he offered Gidney a job. B-P replied that Gidney was on the edge of a nervous breakdown, but conceded that he was "an outstanding personality . . . a genius at training", and that he had resigned mainly "through a misunderstanding with myself."

'SKIPPER' Gidney died from the effects of his war wounds at the age of 38, in 1928, five years after leaving Gilwell. Before that his marriage had foundered. He worked briefly as a Master at a preparatory school in Bournemouth, before returning to his parents' house to die. On his death-bed he wrote to Baden-Powell and quoted the 8th Scout Law. "I have tried to 'smile and whistle' through it all." He asked to remembered to B-P's children particularly to Heather. (Gidney also had a daughter called Heather).

It was decided, appropriately (did no-one see the irony?) to build a log cabin to his memory on the edge of the Gilwell Training Field. The Frank Gidney Memorial Cabin, was mainly, and appropriately, built by Don Potter, and was opened by B-P on Easter Day, 1930. B-P was accompanied by his son Peter and Gidney's parents. Gidney's children, Heather and Alan, were also present. (The Gidney's had twins, one of whom had B-P as a Godfather. Heather and Alan may have been those twins. I regret that at this stage I know nothing more about his children, including their dates of birth and would, as always, welcome any additional information readers may have.) Major and Mrs Gidney had donated their son's Scouting trophies and mementoes to decorate the hut, which was furnished with hickory wood items donated by the Boy Scouts of America.

Spare Time Activities THE significance of Gidney's short four years as Camp Chief cannot be over-estimated, both in the UK and throughout the Scouting world. It was his idea to start the 1st Gilwell Scout troop for all Wood Badge holders, with its distinctive neckerchief and he successfully established the pattern still used for modern-day Gilwell reunions. Under the pen-name Gilcraft, he, and a number of writers whom he commissioned, wrote on training matters for the Gilwell courses, starting with his own work Spare Time Activities. This led to articles in The Scout and Headquarters Gazette, then to separate booklets. E E Reynolds wrote, "It is impossible to estimate the influence exerted by these Gilwell-sponsored books; they reached thousands of Scouters who could not get to training camps." And from B.-P.'s Scouts, by Collis, Hazelwood and Hurll. "He took B-P's ideas of the theoretical session and the practical demonstration and gave them a pattern which no change of circumstance or personality has effaced."

B-P was, as ever, also fulsome in his praise.

"It was he who started the training of Scouters on the right lines, and who laid the foundations for the spirit of Gilwell."

Gidney's contribution to Scouting, bearing in mind that his short but very influential career was increasingly affected his serious war wounds, was remarkable. His loss to Gilwell, and particularly the manner of his departure, must surely be a matter of deep regret.

Return to the Index


Hazlewood, Rex.

Early supporter of Air Scouting

REX Hazlewood was one of the first Travelling Commissioners for Air Scouts. There is more to be found on him on The Early History of Air Scouting

Return to the Index

Hillcourt, William 'Green Bar Bill'

Authoritative writer of Baden-Powell: The Two Lives of a Hero. Awarded five-bead Wood Badge

THERE is more to be found on 'Green Bar Bill' in the review of his important book and his attending the first Wood Badge course to be held in America.

Return to the Index

'Hergé' - Georges Remi (1907-1983)

Scouting creator of 'Tintin'

Georges Remi was born near Brussels, the son of Alexis and Elisabeth (Dufour) Remi. His father worked in a Gent's Outfitters and had a talent for devising pictures of the 'outfits' he sold modelled on 'characters' he created that he then displayed in the shop. Young Georges was educated at the Ixelles primary school (1914-1918) and then at St. Boniface's Catholic College where he joined the School Scout Troop, transferring from the non-religious 'Boy-Scouts of Belgium' to the 'Federation of Catholic Scouts'. His Scout name was "Renard Curieux" (Curious Fox).

Totor the precursor of Tintin
Totor the precursor of Tintin

The illustration opposite is from a reprint, as it was not until 1924 that Remi first used his now world famous pen-name Hergé, created by reversing his initials to RG, which of course in French have the pronunciation Air-Zhay.

In 2007 a mural was discovered in a corridor his old school, St Boniface's, Brussels that was painted when Remi was only 15 i.e. 1922. The frieze consisted of knights in armour, Red Indians and Boy Scouts. His cartoons were first published in Jamais assez, the school's Scout paper, and slightly later his first picture story appeared in Le-Boy Scout as Totor de la Patrouille des Hannetons (Totor, Patrol leader of the Hannetons which is the French word for both a type of beetle and a Scatterbrain). Totor is acknowledged as the precursor of Tintin and so it is unsurprising then the world famous comic hero should, for much of his 'life', display Scouting characteristics - though as we shall see this did not pertain throughout the whole of his 'career'.

The editor of Le Vingtième Siècle, asked Hergé to work for the youth supplement of the paper, Le Petit Vingtième and on the 10th of January, 1929, the first episode of 'Tintin au Pays des Soviets' was printed in this right-wing paper. The series proved very popular and at a publicity stunt on Thursday May 8th 1930, managed by Le Petit Vingtième at Brussels's Gare De Nord, a real Boy Scout, 15-year-old Lucien Peppermans acted the role of Tintin returning with his dog 'Snowy' to Brussels after his exploits in Russia.

The following year (1931) another but bigger publicity launch was staged in connection with Hergé's new series Tintin au Congo. On Thursday 9 July 1931, Tintin played by another Boy Scout, 14-year-old Henri Dedonker, dressed in a pith helmet and accompanied by ten real Congolese natives with African animals rented from a circus also appeared at the Gare de Nord. There was then a procession back to the offices of Le Vingtième Siècle. The 'stunt' was later re-enacted in Liege in front of a crowd that was so large the police had difficulty in controlling it.

With the advent of the Second World War (1939) Vingtième Siècle disappeared, but Hergé continued to write 'Tintin' for Le Soir, a magazine under German control. It should be remembered that Georges Remi like all of his compatriots of that generation had grown up under German occupation and so this was not a totally new experience. What has been questioned however is that Tintin's Scouting ideals allegedly changed to include Nazi stereotypes. Hergé however survived both the war and the recriminations that followed, perhaps because his most famous character again took on the more loveable character traits of a true Boy Scout.

This biography might have ended at this point had I not heard the BBC From Our Own Correspondent Radio 4 broadcast of August 22nd 1909. As a tail piece, the BBC Brussels' Correspondent Dominic Hughes told the story of Hergé and the two Boy Scout Tintin stand-ins. Apparently Hughes had visited the new Hergé museum in Louvain La Neuve near Brussels and found a photograph of Henri Dedonker at the 1931 Tintin au Congo launch. This caused him to research both this and the other Scout, Lucien Peppermans. The following fascinating history emerged. At the outbreak of the 2nd World War Pepermans joined the Walloon League and according to the BBC broadcast was killed, however it is clear that he survived into old age, giving an interview about his experiences in the year 2000. On May 28th 1940 Henri Dedonker after the capitulation of Belgium escaped to Britain where he was recruited as a member of the Special Operations Executive and sent back to the continent. He was eventually captured by the Germans and sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp where he spent the rest of the war. His mission is still protected by the Official Secret Act!

After the war Dedonker returned to England to live in Coulsdon, Surrey using the anglicised version of his name Henri Black (or may be Dark). As the BBC correspondent Dominic Hughes remarked, the ex-Boy Scout would now be over 90 years old.

Since the broadcast I tried to research both Hergé's, Peppermans' and Dendonkas'Scouting lives and found the website and forums at Tintinologist.Org extremely helpful. There are photographs in existance of Hergé as a Scout, of Peppermans in later life, and of Dendonker at the Gare De Nord dressed as Tintin in 1931. If anyone can help with facts about the Scout 'Tintin' Impersonators, and have access to images that I might be able to use on this pages, then not only Scouting Milestones but Tintin Fans and the Martin Hughes of the BBC would be very grateful.

Return to the Index

Ince, Stanley, OBE. 1886 - 1941

Assistant County Commissioner for London and Warden of Roland House

STANLEY Ince's early life was spent in South Hackney, a district that was to remain his focus for the rest of his life. Whilst this area is decidedly urban, close to the East-End of London, its proximity to Hackney Common and Victoria Park gave the young Stanley a chance to appreciate the joys of the natural world. It was not long before his inquisitive nature took him further afield to the Hackney Marshes then to Epping Forest in order to extend his knowledge and natural history collection.

His father was a Methodist Lay Preacher and Choirmaster and Stanley, a keen member of the church, led walks for the church's young people - a natural if not appointed youth leader. His garden became his informal 'youth club'. Stanley was 14 in 1900 when B-P was at the height of his fame as the 'Hero of Mafeking', and a year later, when he began writing a daily journal, he recalled his memories of Mafeking Night and his admiration for Baden-Powell.

When he left school Stanley became a junior clerk in the firm of Burroughs Welcome, a post not best suited to his talents, but one he endured until his war service.

Given his love of hiking and camping, which had taken him to the Alps, it is not surprising that he was easily converted to the Game of Scouting. He founded the South Hackney Troop in June 1911 when he enrolled most of his Bible Class. Stanley was attracted to the spiritual dimension of Scouting and throughout his Scouting career had the ability to communicate this to fellow Scouts at all levels.

Baden-Powell inspected Ince's troop in November 1911 and again one year later, when he was met by the troop's special 'yell', the now-famous Maori Haka. The troop grew from strength to strength and weekend camps were held near Chingford very close to the site of the present Scout Headquarters Camping Grounds at Gilwell Park.

In June 1913 Stanley married Hilda Larter who was an early member of the Girl Guides and unstinting in her support of Stanley's Scouting for their entire married life.

Working in the adjacent Scouting District was Roland Philipps, who was from a totally different social background, but was equally dedicated to East End Scouting. The two men soon became firm friends, and they worked together on a series of lectures on the Ten Scout Laws. When Roland Philipps left to go to France in 1914, he charged his friend 'Oliver', (a name given to Ince from one of the principal characters in the 12th century Classic French poem Chanson de Roland), to 'keep the Scout flag flying in East London', something he strove to do from that point on.

Ince took over Philipps' post as Commissioner for East London and, utilising his talents as a motivating speaker, he energetically involved his Scouts in all areas of war-work including organising a 'Special Service Corps' of Scouts who were training for, or had won, Baden-Powell's special Scouts Defence Corps badge.

Ince himself joined up in May 1916, after doing all he could to leave Scouting in the East of London in good hands. One month later, his friend Roland Philipps was dead and Ince named his second daughter, born one week after, Rolanda, in his memory.

Ince's relatively humble origins failed to gain him a commission and he joined the Buffs as a signaller, managing to keep in touch with Scouting in South Hackney on his leaves. Unfortunately, he contracted influenza in 1918 and weakened by this was paralysed by poliomyelitis in 1919. He was encased from his waist down in Plaster of Paris and treated in Shorncliffe Military Hospital for eight months before being pensioned out of the army in April 1920. He returned home in his plaster cast, after being told that he would never walk again. His daughter Enid-Mary Marsh who has recently written an excellent biography of her father, Stanley Ince Boy Scout, tells us that on his return he was visited day after day by a group of East-End youngsters who begged her father to become their Scoutmaster. These repeated requests and contact with Scouts motivated her father to conquer first the use of crutches and then a wheel chair to the point where he could be of use.

DESPITE his handicap, Stanley once again became prominent in Scouting in East London and began a series indoor 'Campfires', which were not only sing-songs, but had important visiting speakers, including B-P himself, who could inspire the Scouts of the East-End. From these campfires came the Hackney Campfire Songbook which was to sell over 130,000 copies and be translated into 27 languages.

One of the greatest testimonials to the work of Stanley Ince was when he was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to deliver an address at Lambeth Palace to a conference of visiting Bishops.

In 1927 Stanley Ince was invited to become the warden of the establishment his friend Roland Philipps had left to East End Scouting, Roland House. He seemed, with his quiet and relaxed manner, to be able to solve all disputes and everybody else's problems. He encouraged the development of the Roland House Pantomimes: originally a means of raising funds, they were the first Scouting Productions of the already famous Ralph Reader.

Unfortunately, Stanley's disabilities grew worse, so to help him carry out his duties he was assigned a Morris 8 car and a driver, who was one of the residents of Roland House. With his wife, Ince was given tickets for the joint Boy Scout and Girl Guide cruise on board the S.S. Adriatic in April 1934, but his wife Hilda did not feel she could go, so Stanley was accompanied by his daughter Enid-Mary. She recalls that her father was held in great respect, not only by fellow Scouters on board, but by the Scouting representatives of every country they visited. Stanley Ince delivered the address at the 'Scout's Own' held aboard, and attended by all the participants.

IN April 1927, Earl Jellicoe presented Stanley Ince with Scouting's greatest award, the Silver Wolf , in recognition of his services to Scouting in the East-End of London and to Roland House. His influence however was felt over a much greater area, as Stanley had had many Scouting articles published, often concerned with its spiritual dimension, under his pseudonym 'Grey Wolf'.

Stanley Ince was awarded the Cornwell Award in 1938 - the first time it had been awarded to an adult leader. The precedent was agreed upon, as the criterion for the award was to show 'Courage, Capability and Endurance', which was thought to perfectly match the fortitude of Stanley Ince. A newspaper report of the presentation noted:

"A victim of the Great War, Mr Ince has suffered for twenty years the encroachment of slow paralysis, but with astounding cheerfulness he has fought this dread enemy, and has given to the Scout Movement the full benefit of his hands and brilliant brain."

Stanley retired from the active wardenship of Roland House on September 30th 1939, an amazing co-incidence as on that very day a German air-raid damaged the property so much that the place had to be temporarily closed for residential use. In the 1941 New Year's Honours List, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire, a timely recognition, for just eight months later he died, aged only 55. Scouting tributes flowed in from every great name in the movement, but perhaps his greatest accolade was written in the Times on October 28th, 1938, three years before his death when he was described as 'London's Chief Scout'. Technically, no such rank exists, Stanley was not even the Commissioner for London, but the unknown non-Scout reporter probably never knew just how correct he really was.

Return to the Index

Kerr, Rose. 1882-1944

Friend of The Founder, International Commissioner for Girl Guides. Author of books on the 'Peace Cruises'

ROSE was born to Major and Mrs Wilfred A Gough in 1892. When only three years old, her father was killed in action and, a few years later, her mother met and married the Hon. Henry O Denison, a wealthy yachtsman. From then on the family spent their winters abroad either in Italy or the South of France.

Rose Kerr

Baden-Powell met Rose in the South of France in December 1903, when she was 21 and he was almost 47. She was intelligent, had studied music in Dresden, was multi-lingual and not given to covering her features in make-up. B-P was attracted to her and in the following year, during Cowes week, he stayed with the Denisons and Rose at their property on the Isle of Wight, next to the Royal Yacht Club - something he was to do again for the next two years. According to B-P's biographer Tim Jeal, B-P proposed to Rose, probably on December 5th, 1905. His proposal was spurned, however, and Rose married Captain (later Admiral) Mark E R Kerr, R.N., a grandson of the 6th Marquis of Lothian, in the same month. He was just a few years younger than B-P and, according to Jeal, theirs was "a loveless and unhappy marriage.".

Baden-Powell met Rose again in April 1907, and the Kerrs were introduced to Olave after B-P's own marriage in 1912. B-P invited Rose to help with the Girl Guides, and she became the Commissioner for London in 1916, a position which she held until 1940. She and her husband stayed with the Baden-Powells at Pax Hill in the 1920's. Rose Kerr was to write The Story of the Girl Guides, which was published in 1932 with a preface by B-P. The 1949 edition carries an additional forward by the Chief Guide, Olave Baden-Powell, where she tells of "their very valued friendship" and of B-P's meeting with Rose in 1903 in the South of France, when The Founder was "attracted to a trio of English people talking always together in perfect French"

Mrs Kerr became an International Commissioner for Girl Guides in 1928 and retained this position until her death in 1944. It was in this capacity that she became involved with the three pre-war 'Peace Cruises', The Voyage of The Calgaric, The Cruise of the Adriatic and The Voyage of The Orduña. Mrs Kerr was present on all three cruises, as were the B-Ps, and she wrote the official history for each of them.

I am not qualified to assess the importance of Mrs Kerr to the history of Guiding, but she was a significant person in the life of Baden-Powell. Her involvement in the 'Peace Cruises', which has led to the writing of three Milestones articles to be found on this Site, make her a worthy subject for inclusion in this series of biographies.

Return to the Index

Kipling, John. 1897-1915

Attended Baden-Powell's second camp for Boy Scouts. Lost in the First World War

SON of Rudyard Kipling. Invited by B-P to attend the camp at Beaulieu. Caused great anguish to his parents when he was posted as missing, presumed dead, in France in 1915. See Rudyard Kipling and Baden-Powell for more on this

Return to the Index

Kipling, Rudyard. 1865-1936

The 'Poet of the Common Man' and friend of Baden-Powell

KIPLING'S works and ideas were incorporated into many areas of Scouting. The lives of B-P and Kipling had many parallels, the two men were friends and their paths crossed on many occasions. See Rudyard Kipling and Baden-Powell for more on this

Return to the Index


Marr, James W S. 1903-1965

Accompanied Shackleton on his last Polar expedition. Later became a Polar Zoologist

THERE is a separate Page on Scout Marr and the voyage of the Quest and a brief review of the book he wrote about his experiences Into the Frozen South.

Return to the Index

Reginald Brabazon, the Earl of Meath, P.C. K.P., 1841 - 1929

Loyalist, Member of the Council and great supporter of the Movement

BADEN-POWELL wrote a eulogy on his friend Lord Meath in his Outlook in Headquarters Gazette of November 1929. A more formal obituary followed in the same issue. The warmth and sincerity of B-P's writing make it worth quoting his words in full.

"We have lost a staunch friend and the Empire a valiant and enthusiastic supporter. He was an outstanding example to everyone of us as an intensely human, great-hearted soul whose long life was devoted to doing his duty to his country and doing good to others. In this kindly work for others - and especially for poor children - he was ably seconded by his wife until her death a few years ago, particularly in the organisation of the Empire Movement and the Ministering Childrens' League.
"With the public his great memorial lies in the institution of the observance of Empire Day and the flying of the National Flag in schools. He also originated the hospital Saturday Fund and the original body forming the Church of England Men's Society.
"In the Scout Movement he has occupied the unique position of Chief Commissioner of both Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State, as well as being an active member of our Council. Although leader himself of a widespread movement, namely the Duty and Discipline Movement, Lord Meath recognised the value of Scouting when it came into being, and was willing to take a minor place in it when he could be useful.
"At the age of 80 he went through the Scouters' Course at Gilwell, taking conscientiously and seriously its lessons in boyhood. Age scarcely seemed to slacken his energy or joy in life. His very last act was to seal up an envelope of Scout business and then to fall unconscious. Giving out love he was universally beloved, and in his passing away he leaves a blank, but at the same time an example."

The Earl of Meath was born Reginald Brabazon on July 31, 1841. The family seat was Killruddery, County Wicklow, Ireland to which he succeeded on becoming Earl in 1887. Brabazon had attended Eton and passed through the Foreign Office to the Diplomatic Service. He had postings to Germany, The Hague in Holland and to France, arriving in Paris with Lady Meath in October, 1870, "to find the fires of the commune still smoking." He retired in 1873, to devote himself, as he wrote, "to the consideration of social problems and the relief of human suffering."

He founded the Metropolitan Public Gardens Society in 1880 and as its chairman, was a staunch advocate of parks and public places, and one of the earliest campaigners for London's Green Belt. He became a London County Council Alderman and Brabazon Street in Poplar and Meath Gardens at Bethnal Green survive as memorials to his name in the capital to the present day.

In 1890 the Earl of Meath's Physical Education Bill was presented to Parliament. Like Baden-Powell, Meath was much concerned that the youth of the nation was unfit in body and mind. A short daily burst of physical exercise for all school children, he thought, would bring great benefit. The Bill did not succeed, but was received sympathetically by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, who did bring in compulsory P.E. but not on a daily basis. Because Lord Meath championed compulsory Physical Education in schools, he is sometimes cited as being the 'father' of modern sports and gymnastic teaching, (The reality, I fear, was somewhat different, he was more interested in drill than modern gymnastics.) and in 1891 Lord Meath, along with Lord Charles Beresford the future Chief Sea Scout, were elected as Honorary Members of the Much Wenlock Olympian Society. Unlikely as it may sound this society, which is still in existence, was founded by Dr William Penny Brookes and claims to be the founders of the modern Olympic Games in that they have run their own enactment of the Games in Much Wenlock each year from 1850 to the present day. They were visited by Baron de Coubertain in 1890 who was inspired to create the world revival of the Games. Although he became known as 'The Father of the Modern Olympics', de Coubertain always acknowledged his great debt to his friend William Penny Brookes. In 1994 Juan Antonio Samaranch, then president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), visited Much Wenlock in 1994 to lay a wreath and declare the that the Modern Games could trace their origins to the Society.

I have yet to discover exactly when, and in what circumstances, it was that the Earl and the future Lord Baden-Powell first met. It may have been in connection with an organisation called the Legion of Frontiersmen. The Earl of Meath was a senior member of this organisation, which was founded in 1904 and is still in existance today. Its original aim was to provide the British Army with volunteers to act as reconnaissance scouts. They had to be ready to serve whenever asked to do so, without pay, and provide their own horses and uniforms. As Baden-Powell was the acknowledged 'King of Scouts' having written a book in 1884 on Reconnaissance and Scouting and in 1899 Aids to Scouting, he was obviously well aware of the organisation and had close links with some of its leading members. Frontiersmen assisted at many early Boy Scout Camps until they were eventually phased out after the First World War, when B-P felt that they made Scouting an easy target for those who maintained that it was too militaristic.

In 1905, Lord Meath was invested into the Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick, a very prestigious honour that has not been granted since 1934. Only twenty-three men were elected to the order in the 20th century including HRH Edward, The Prince of Wales and HRH Henry, the Duke of Gloucester who were the last to receive it.

In December 1909, Lord Meath wrote an article, What the Boy Scout Movement may do for Britain, in the Windsor Magazine, he praised the Chief Scout and the blossoming Scout Movement in glowing terms, commenting on the large number of Scouts who marched at his Empire Day Parade on March 24, 1909. With some degree of prophecy, nearly two years before the start of the Guide Movement, he also wrote in the same article:

"I trust it will not be long before we shall see a Girls' Scout movement developing on lines suitable to the female sex."

Later, in his Brabazon Potpourri, Meath returned to the theme of his life's work, namely that in order to save the nation, British Youth must have a disciplined training.

"The Scout Movement provides just the discipline which our lads require. It arrives in the nick of time and will save the weak lad from himself, and his parents' folly."
Lord Meath at the Cenotaph
Scouts from Ulster and The Irish Free State laying wreaths together at the Cenotaph whilst attending the Imperial Jamboree 1924. Lord Meath, with the white beard, is in the centre

Reginald Brabazon, the 12th Earl of Meath was, as B-P stated, the founder of his own organisation, 'The Duty and Discipline Movement'. This had a thriving membership of 4,200 members in 1917 and had but two objectives.

a. To combat softness, slackness, indifference and indiscipline ...
b. To give reasonable support to all legitimate authority.

B-P was a member of its council and wrote a leaflet for them, number 32 in a series of 40 entitled British Discipline. The Head Office of the Movement was located at 117 Victoria Street, London. Was this opposite or next door to Scout Headquarters at 116 Victoria St. and was the proximity of the head offices of the two Movements merely a coincidence?

Lord Meath was an active member the Committee of the Council, the controlling body of the UK Scout Movement and certainly no mere figurehead. He was, for example, particularly concerned when various Scout conferences expressed opposition to the use of the term 'Scouter', a term that the Committee of the Council had already sanctioned. This issue required some particularly smart footwork on the part of B-P to resolve.

Meath's attendance at early Jamborees is illustrated on these Pages. The classic photograph of him as the oldest member of the Olympia Jamboree, taken alongside the youngest Wolf Cub in 1920 is to be found on The History of Cub-Scouting and he is photographed with the Prince of Wales around camp-fire at Wembley in 1924 on The Prince of Wales and the 1937 Coronation Page. When the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) visited Ireland in July 1911 he planted a tree in the pleasure gardens at Killruddery and was welcomed by Lord Meath together with the 1st Bray troop of Boy Scouts. As the Commissioner for both Northern Ireland and Eire, Lord Meath uniquely represented both sides of the divide many thought impossible to cross. Under his leadership, Irish Scouts from both sides of the border laid wreaths at the Cenotaph during the 1924 Jamboree as shown above.

The Earl of Meath will be best remembered for his Empire Movement, whose watchwords were "Responsibility, Sympathy, Duty and Self-Sacrifice". This movement promoted the Empire-wide adoption of Empire Day, 25th May, to mark Queen Victoria's birthday. In many areas this became an official school holiday with parades and festivities. On May 24th, 1909 B-P, with Lord Roberts and the Earl of Meath, attended the Empire Day Youth Parade on The Embankment, London. Six thousand young people were present, 3,000 of whom were Scouts. Empire Day became 'British Commonwealth Day' in 1958 and was celebrated by schools in my own childhood. In 1966 the name was changed to 'Commonwealth Day', and the date moved from May 24th to the second Saturday in June to coincide with the official birthday of HM Queen Elizabeth II. It is still widely celebrated across Commonwealth countries, another legacy from the Earl of Meath.

Lord Meath died on October 11th, 1929 and was buried close to his family home at Killruddery in Delgany, County Wicklow, where his coffin was carried past lines of uniformed Scouts. The Scout Association sent representatives as did its president HRH The Duke of Connaught.

The Earl of Meath - a Chronology
1880 Lord Meath founded the Metropolitan Public Gardens Society
1890 Earl of Meath's Physical Education Bill presented to Parliament
1905 Election to the Illustrious Order of St Patrick
1909 Empire Day Parade, London. Earl of Meath, B-P and Lord Roberts reviewed Scouts and other Youth Organisations
1911 Chief Commissioner for Northern Ireland
1915 B-P's stayed with him at his home at Killruddery, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
1920 Meath gained his Wood Badge aged 80. Co-edited the Irish Scouts Headquarters Gazette and attended the Olympia Jamboree
1920 Earl of Meath gave a dinner for Lord and Lady Baden-Powell during the Olympia Jamboree
1924 Attended the Wembley Imperial Jamboree and the Copenhagen World Jamboree
1929 The last Scouting function Lord Meath attended was the 1929 World Jamboree at Birkenhead
1929 October. Buried at Delgany near Killruddery County Wicklow, Ireland

Return to the Index

Continue to browse alphabetically

Return to the "Milestones" introduction, or go to Childhood Memories First Page
Johnny Walker hopes that you will sign the Visitors' Book, look at the Feedback Page and welcomes your comments about this Site,
which is v 3.6 and was last updated in February, 2009.
If you have any technical queries or comments, contact WebPages designer, Mike Ryalls.

This article, the text, the images (unless separately acknowledged) and the underlying coding are Copyright C R Walker©, 2003 - 2009