Mar 12

Winter Camp 2012

Our group is taking it's first Winter Camp since I joined as a Leader. I really can't wait. I've tried to recreate the programme we used at Lapwing Lodge in Paisley with my old group. We have a movie on Friday night. Pioneering and backwoods shelters on Saturday and a campfire on Saturday night. We've had a full turn out of kids for this one and I think it'll become a yearly event for our group.

It's so great to see the group grow so much. We now have a patrol of 7 Scouts. The challenge is to keep them there.

Watch out for the camp video and pictures from the camp which I'll publish soon.

Oct 11

Rudyard Kiplings "If"

This is a poem very close to my heart. It's one that should be read and re-read by anyone involved in Scouting or not as it really hits the mark. Read it when you're feeling discouraged or down.

If by Rudyard Kipling

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Oct 11

Scouts Letter to Parents

Dear Mom & Dad,

We are having a great time here at Camp CatchaCough. Our Scoutmaster is making us all write to our parents in case you saw the flood on TV and worried. We are OK. Only 1 of our tents and 2 sleeping bags got washed away.

Luckily, none of us got drowned because we were all up on the mountain looking for Charlie when it happened. Oh yes, please call Charlie's mother and tell her he is OK. He can't write because of the cast. I got to ride in one of the search & rescue jeeps. It was neat. We never would have found him in the dark if it hadn't been for the lightning.

Scoutmaster got mad at Charlie for going on a hike alone without telling anyone. Charlie said he did tell him, but it was during the fire so he probably didn't hear him. Did you know that if you put gas on a fire, the gas could blow up? The wet wood still didn't burn, but one of our tents did. Also, some of our clothes. John is going to look weird until his hair grows back.

We will be home on Saturday if Scoutmaster gets the car fixed. It wasn't his fault about the wreck. The brakes worked OK when we left. Scoutmaster said that a car that old you have to expect something to break down; that's probably why he can't get insurance on it. We think it's a neat car. He doesn't care if we get it dirty, and if it's hot, sometimes he lets us ride on the tailgate. It gets pretty hot with 10 people in a car. He let us take turns riding in the trailer until the highway patrolman stopped and talked to us.

Our Scoutmaster is a neat guy. Don't worry, he is a good driver. In fact, he is teaching Travis how to drive. But he only lets him drive on the mountain roads where there isn't any traffic. All we ever see up there are logging trucks.

This morning all of the guys were diving off the rocks and swimming out in the lake. Scoutmaster wouldn't let me because I can't swim and Charlie was afraid he would sink because of his cast, so he let us take the canoe across the lake. It was great. You can still see some of the trees under the water from the flood. Scoutmaster isn't crabby like some scoutmasters. He didn't even get mad about the life jackets.

He has to spend a lot of time working on the car so we are trying not to cause him any trouble. Guess what? We have all passed our first aid merit badges. When David dove in the lake and cut his arm, we got to see how a tourniquet works. Also Raymond and I threw up. Scoutmaster said it probably was just food poisoning from the leftover chicken.

I have to go now. We are going into town to mail our letters and buy bullets. Don't worry about anything. We are fine.

Your son

P.S. How long has it been since I had a tetanus shot?

Aug 11


One of the most important Scoutcraft, or bushcraft skills you can learn is preparing and lighting a fire. With a fire, we can dispel the darkness of the forest if we’re lost, stranded or injured and with it, dispel the negative spirit that could come into our minds and plant thoughts of defeat.

We can drive away the cold, which causes hypothermia, we can purify our water and cook our food. It is light, from the darkness.

These are the basic principles when starting to light a fire. The first thing is to find a suitable location where there is access to fuel. This is very important. Secondly, clear the ground down to the bare earth, if possible. This will help you to ensure your fire is manageable and is in no danger of becoming an uncontrollable fire.

Next, always lay down a platform. Preferably made from dry wood. This has several reasons. Firstly, it will help to ensure your tinder is protected from the moisture on the ground below. Secondly, it allows air to come up underneath the fire, and it provides insulation from the cold ground below. Even on a hot day, the ground may be cold, but the wood is warm. When the temperature drops to -50, this could mean the difference between success and failure at fire lighting. But, the most important purpose for this platform is that it’ll start to burn early on and create embers and a good heart to the fire which makes it certain to start and light properly.

The next step is to provide kindling. Thin dead twigs are exactly right, and a good thick bundle as well. What I like to do, is to split it in half into 2 bundles and to cross them, over the pile of wood.

The next step is to place tinder. The tinder is placed under the sticks. Now, you can use different types of fibrous materials such as dried grass, moss etc, but one of the best tinder is birch bark. I like to find a good birch log that has rotted, but not the bark. This is because of oils in the bark. The oil acts as a preservative and also burns very well. So this will make very good tinder to place under the kindling. I just just shred it down so its very thin and will take very easily when I introduce a flame to it.

The next step is to get ready to introduce fuel to the fire. I can add it to the kindling once we've ignited the kindling. The fuel goes upto little finger thickness. I won’t need anything else thicker that for the time being. There should be plenty of other thicker fuel within arms reach that I can just grab if and when I need it.

To start the fire, I’m going to use sparks. To turn the sparks into flame, I’m also going to use some of the birch bark. I have to prepare that for lighting. The best way to do this is, with a sharp knife, to shave the inside of the bark until you have fragments of birch which will light when I introduce a spark to it. The device I’m going to use to light the fire is called a ‘firesteel’. It’s basically an alloy of metals that, which, when a striker is scraped against the metal produces a shower of white hot sparks. This can be used to ignite many different materials. The way I use it is I point the firesteel towards what I want to ignite, and with the back of my thumb with the striker near the end of the firesteel, I push down on the striker. This will shave off pealings of metal. So what I do now is to drop the sparks onto the shavings and when they catch alight, I’ll move the flames underneath the kindling.

Once the flames come through the top, you can add more fuel. And that is one of the most important skills in Scoutcraft. Lighting a fire.

May 11

Activity - Learning Proper Compass Use

It's District Camp this weekend in Park Woods near Brighton. I've been racking my brains trying to come up with an original activities base for Scouts. In the end, I decided to do a base to cover compass bearings and orienteering. It is expected the Scouts have knowledge of the compass rose before attempting this exercise. They should know the cardinal and intercardinal points on a compass. The "compass rose" is the fairly common picture of a compass. It looks kind of like a star. Cardinal points are N, S, E & W and Intercardinal points are those in between, such as NE, SE, SW and NW. The Scouts should have previously learned the associated degree bearings for these points (N = 0 & 360 degrees, NE = 45 degrees, etc.). They should also understand magnetic north for the location of this activity.

At the start of the activity, the first Scout is to stand at the first cone and reads out a bearing from a sheet prepared by the leader (NE in this example), the Scout then turns to what he/she believes is NE and takes the required numbers of paces to a coloured floor spot. The Scout then marks down (on a record sheet) the colour of the floor spot and the number that has been written on a card and placed under the floor spot.

The Scouts then move to the next cone and repeats the procedure at each cone (read the bearing from the sheet, position themselves, record the colour of the first floor spot on this bearing)

Once the course is complete, each Scout must hand their record sheet to the leader who will mark their score and record the time it took to complete the course.


There are some variations that can be used in this exercise. You could use compass bearing such as 0 = N or 45 = NE etc to encourage good compass use. You could also reinforce compass direction and bearing use without a compass.

You could also use this exercise as a competition. e.g. 20 seconds added to total time for each missed colour. This is recorded on a penalty section of the record sheet.


Ensure the leader has prerecorded all the colours at each cone and hold the master sheet with all the answers.

May 11

Events for Adults in Scouting

I've always believed that adults in Scouting should always take the opportunity to meet up and share ideas. The best way for adults to learn and deliver better Scouting is from your peers. it helps to meet people who are like-minded enough to come together in a friendly environment to talk and share ideas. I believe it is in the best interests of any Scout Group, District or County to organise events which encourages adults in Scouting to come together socially. It is understandable when an event catering to the adults in Scouting, organised by the district or county, is considered to be not in the best interests of Scouting as events such as this exclude the people who receive the end product of all the hard work put in by the volunteers in Scouting, i.e. the young people. This couldn't be further from the truth. How many times have you found yourself stuck for activities to keep your Scouts interested on troop night? I know I have. I continually trawl the internet searching for ideas for activities, but I know that attending events organised for adults in Scouting would help me to deliver better Scouting to our Scouts as i'm sure I would take away a lot of new ideas due to meeting other adults in Scouting. So when the chance of attending an event such as this arises, please try to attend, as it'll help you give you Scouts a better experience and will increase your enjoyment in Scouting.

Enjoy Scouting
David McGuinness
Assistant County Commissioner for Scouts

May 10

7th Paisley JNI Scouts in Inchmurrin, 1975

I discovered an old video posted by Gordon Barr, the son of my old Scout leader, John TK Barr (Ian) from a scout camp in Inchmurrin, just off Loch Lomond in Scotland. I wasn't there (I would have been only a few weeks old at this point), but I do recognise some of the leaders (love those glasses Roger) who are still there to this day.

1975 Scout Camp - Inchmurrin from Gordon Barr on Vimeo.

The video was created in 1975 by Ian who was an avid film maker and has made several films over the years. I think it's interesting to look at these videos and realise how much Scouting has changed over the years. I hope some old members of 7th Paisley JNI Scouts will look at this video and maybe bring back some long forgotten memories. Thanks to Gordon for posting this.

May 10

Scouts & Activities

I've been involved now with the 30th Southwark Scout Group in London for a couple of years now.  We meet on Monday nights and usually about Thursday/Friday on the week before I start my research on activities and games for the group to do.  I'm always trying to find unique games for the children to play as these tend to be more fun and original.  Some of the activities I have suggested have been taken from my days as a scout in the 7th Paisley JNI Scout Group and I always remember them as great fun and a really good way to get to know your fellow scouts.   I've made up a list of so many games now that I feel I need to find a better way to organise them, so I'm going to print them all out on cards and store them in a card file box and then, maybe on troop nights, we can ask one of the children to randomly pick a game from the box and that's the one we'll play.

So.  Here are some examples of the games our children play...

Dodge ball - This one is always a winner and the children seem to love it.  But maybe a variation on the game, such as the leaders stand at one side of the hall and the children on the other.  The children have to make it from one side of the hall to the other without getting hit by any of the balls the leaders are throwing at them.  Once they make it, they're safe, however, if they don't...they have to join the leaders and try to get the other kids out.

Doodle Bug - We haven't played this one yet, but I think it would be a great game.  I'm sure I remember playing this when I was a Scout.  Take 2 staffs and put them on one side of the hall.  Have the scouts line up on the other side of the hall in 2 single file rows.  Now, the patrol leader has to run up the other side of the hall, grab the staff, run back down the hall with the staff held horizontally at chest height and run past the scouts to the end of the line whilst the rest of the scouts have to duck to avoid being hit by the staff.  The leader then continues round the other side of the scouts with the staff held below waist level and each scout has to jump to avoid being tripped up by the staff.  The leader then runs back to the other end of the hall and places the staff at the start point, run back to the scout, taps the next person in the row who then continues in the same manner and then runs back to the back of the queue.  This continues until every scouts has had a turn.

Sheep Sheering - We've not played this yet, but we plan to introduce it soon.  You need some printouts from the Scout Associations Programmes Online for this.  Make several printouts of sheep, place them at the end of the hall with some scissors.  The scouts then form 2 single file lines at the other end of the hall.  When the leader shouts GO, the scouts run up to the printouts, takes the first one and, as neat as possible, cuts round the sheep with the scissors.  The scout then runs back to the front of the line.  The leader then checks the cut-outs.  Any cuts  into the sheep and not the fleece is an injury to the sheep and is marked with a red marker and any spare paper is considered bad sheering and loses points   It's a race.  First one to complete is the winner.

It's great fun devising games for the kids to play.  I'm really trying hard to ensure that the children have the same amount of fun as I had in the Scouts when I was young.

Apr 10

Scout numbers are up!

I was reading on various news websites and the national newspapers that Scouting numbers are up.  This is great news.  The results of the 2010 census are in and the number of young people in Scouting has increased to 499,323.  This is also the greatest increase in numbers in 38 years.  Also, the number of adults becoming involved in scouting is also up.  As always, however, there is always a need for more leaders as there are 33,500 young people still on the waiting lists...so get involved.

Read the full story here

It's always encouraging to see the media looking to the Scout Association in a positive manner again which is good as there has been somewhat negative views of the scouts for various reasons over the past number of years.  Also, our new Chief Scout Bear Grylls is also mentioned.

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