Wigan Grammar School
Scouts

 

 

The School Scouts were formed in 1908. The day after Baden-Powell had addressed a public meeting in Wigan. The Headmaster, the Rev. G. C. Chambres, announced that a troop of Scouts would be formed forthwith in the School. Its official name has been the 1st Wigan troop, and it was one of the earliest in the whole of Lancashire.

 

THE FIRST WIGAN GRAMMAR SCHOOL SCOUT CAMP, AUGUST, 1908
(Reprinted from the School Magazine, Vol. 1, No 1)

During August of last year, a camp was held in connection with the Boy Scouts at Abergeirch, a very out-of-the-way spot in Wales. The situation of this place is delightful, and the camp lay in a small valley through which runs a brook. As the Irish and Atlantic cables emerge here, it is an important place strategically. The nearest village is Edeyrn, about a mile away – a typical Welsh village with its chapel, town-crier and many other institutions.

The camp consisted of about 35 boys in all, and the scoutmasters, the Rev. G. C. Chambres and Dr. Edkins. The boys came to the camp by the S. S. “Dora,” from Liverpool, and were most of them glad to set foot again on terra-firma, for a dining table is not the most comfortable place to spend the night on. Still the experience was novel, and we were all happy enough except one illustrious member.

The routine of the camp may be briefly sketched. At sunrise, the Scoutmaster, awakened by his alarm, dresses and wakes the cook, junior cook and two fags (cooks and fags are changed daily, a boy who is junior cook one day being promoted to head cook next day). After these four boys hearing the summons of the Head, and determining to have an extra 15 minutes in bed, have been called again, they proceed to light the fire. The cooks then measure out the required quantity of coffee or tea, and the bacon. Breakfast changes from bacon to eggs on alternate days, with porridge for those who desire it, followed by bread and butter and jam. The sight of the huge “blankets” of bread piled up for use is a thing to remember. About 7 a.m. the Scouts are summoned for breakfast, and very quickly receive their allotted portions. At 7.30 the fags clear up and wash, and the cooks prepare for dinner, taking care that the fags wash the dishes properly. (One member of the camp used to wash the top side of the dish only, because the “bottom side wasn’t used".) The hard-working fags are despatched at 9 a.m. for letters (at Nevin, 2 miles away). The rest of the boys either go back to bed or wander off at their choice. Bathing and walking fills in the time till dinner, which is at 12 prompt, and the fags again set to work. A rest of about two hours after dinner to let the food “get down” leads up to more bathing, rowing, etc. Each tent generally sends a representative to the town in the afternoon to obtain provisions for a “feed” in the tent after supper. Tea is ready at 5, and the cooks have to keep an eye on the boy who makes the tea (one budding Scout guessed at 8 ozs of tea for 14 boys one night). Supper is ready for 8.30, after which the scouts assemble for prayers, and bed at 9 p.m. At this time takes place the great feasts, which are a fitting termination to the day. As soon as lights are out, all talking ceases.

Thus passed three very happy weeks and the weather, which in England was wet and cold, was almost perfect, but luck deserted us at the end of that time, and we were literally washed out of the tents, so for that season camp was abandoned, and we returned by train, the weather being too rough for the “Dora” to put in to Porthdinllaen.

 

The Scoutmaster from the start to his retirement in 1926 was the Rev. G. C. Chambres, ably assisted by Mr Perry, the school caretaker. Dr Edkins acted as assistant Scoutmaster is the early years. From 1926-57 the troop was in the charge of Mr Denning, assisted by Mr Allanson, and later by Mr Savigny and Mr Child. From 1939-45, Mr Denning acted as District Commissioner and in 1953 he was awarded the Silver Acorn for Distinguished Services to the Movement. He organised no less than thirty Scout Camps and their success has been the result of his enthusiasm and experience.

For many years the scouts had an annual camp at Tolsarnau in North Wales. Some of them went at first by steamer from Liverpool to Nevin, but after an extremely rough passage, land travel was arranged for all future in years. The scouts also camped at such places as Anglesey, Brixham, Ilfracombe, Weymouth and Aberech.

Mr Savigny became Group Scout Master in the middle 1950’s and ran the up to 16’s group with Mr Eccles in charge of the over 16’s Senior Group. After the retirement of Mr Savigny in 1958, Mr Rigby took over the junior troop. Mr McQuade joined the troop in the early 1960’s and his experience as a scout with the Salford Grammar School troop was invaluable.

Lady Baden-Powell presented the prizes at Special Day in 1958 to commemorate the 50 th anniversary of the founding of the troop. A diarist of the 50’s writes :- “In the summer we always had a long camp which coincided with Wigan Holidays. In 1954 we all camped at Watendlath above Barrowdale. Mr Savigny went by car. Cars were fairly rare in those days; only four or five members of staff had a car and not all staff had a telephone at home. We slept in ex-Army bell tents and whether they were 14-18 or 39-45 vintage I do not know. Cooking was done by patrols to a menu provided by Mr Savigny. Mr Chambres’ menus were now redundant.

The next year (1955) the camp was held at Loch Ken in Galloway, Mr Eccles was in charge and we were accompanied for a few days by the Headmaster, Mr Ashley-Smith. The weather was wonderful, but it was the summer of myxomatosis – a dreadful disease “introduced illicitly from Australia” to wipe out the rabbit population. The effects of this plague were awful – swollen-headed, blind rabbits lay beside the paths.

The camp of 1959 was one with a difference – a tour of the Shropshire Union Canal in a seventy foot long coal barge. Fishing was indulged in under the guidance of Mr Eccles, known to be an expert, but the decrease in the catch after his arrival can only be a coincidence. I look back on all the camps as times of happiness.

Our equipment was primitive by modern standards and we had to be able to carry everything on our backs. It is remarkable that everyone survived.

As the years went by, members of staff left the school, and their replacements did not have the same interests as their predecessors. Mr Savigny tried to keep the troop going but times had changed."

             

Camp Routine documentation produced by Rev C Chambres (1911)
(Click page for larger version)
     


Camp Routine supplement produced by Rev C Chambres (1911)
(Click page for larger version)