Friday, 23 March 2012

Her royal scoutness

The Duchess of Cambridge has gone from new-girl Brownie to the world’s most famous Scout. Sam Taylor celebrates the association’s Royal volunteer – and says she’s sure to make the woggle a must-have fashion item

Written by Sam Taylor

For anyone looking to earn their Entrepreneur badge this year, a hefty investment in woggles could be well advised. For if her previous fashion choices are anything to go by, the Duchess of Cambridge’s decision to join the Scouts could elevate this practical little device used for tying neckerchiefs into this season’s must-have item. The question is: will the current wogglewearers be able to cope?

On past glories it would seem they are well placed – 26 of the first 29 astronauts were former Scouts and despite the fact that we no longer have an international space programme, Scouts can still earn a badge in Astronautics. Proving they are still nothing if not prepared.

The young Catherine Middleton was eight years old when she enrolled as a Brownie with the 2nd St Andrew’s Pack in Pangbourne, Berkshire, about which you can read much more overleaf. In a pattern that has been unchanged for generations, she would have met with other little girls from the village to play games, work towards winning badges and do good deeds in the community – the Scouts were among the first to help tidy up the riot-hit streets of Croydon last year.

The announcement that from last month, the Duchess was to start working as a volunteer with the Cub Scout packs and Beaver Scout colonies near her home in Anglesey, North Wales, has ignited interest in the campfire activities of this organisation founded in 1907 by Robert Baden- Powell. Scouting For Boys, the official guide published in 1908, is fourth in popularity only to the Bible, the Koran and Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book.

Full of helpful tips, at its core is a belief that idleness is rather frowned upon. Baden-Powell was (rather unsettlingly) keen on the earnest working practice of bee colonies, believing they were the model community: ‘for they respect the Queen, and kill their unemployed’.

Although they are still more committed than ever to keeping idle hands busy, the Scout Association has moved with the times and is a more inclusive organisation. UK membership is more than 400,000 and Scouts can now do badges in subjects as diverse as circus skills and Disabilities Awareness. The association has been mixed since 1991 and numbers are increasing rapidly. Last year, for the first time ever, more girls than boys joined.

The Brownies have had a long association with the Royal Family. The Queen and her sister, Princess Margaret, joined the 1st Buckingham Palace Unit in 1937. The Queen went on to become the Second of Kingfisher Patrol, and was enrolled by her aunt Princess Mary, Association President. At the outbreak of war, the company was closed, and the Queen and Princess Margaret were attached to a Balmoral Company. Then, in 1942, the Buckingham Palace company reopened at Windsor, and the Queen became Patrol Leader of Swallow Patrol. In 1943 she became a Sea Ranger, gaining her boating permit and taking the Queen Mother out on a dinghy. She became Chief Ranger of the British Empire in 1946.

When she and Prince Philip were married, two of her bridesmaids were former members of the Buckingham Palace company. Last year, the UK Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, lead a party of 200 Scouts to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey.

His appointment saw an upsurge in membership applications, but it has also presented the association with a problem. Despite having 100,000 adult volunteers, Scouting requires a ratio of one adult to six children and the result is over 35,000 disappointed children on the waiting list, due to lack of volunteers.

The Duchess of Cambridge agreeing to become a volunteer will hopefully help boost numbers. The association is keen to stress that any time that potential volunteers can give would be gratefully received. The fact that the Duchess will be helping out on an ad hoc basis is not a privilege especially awarded to her. Nor will she be exempt from undertaking a CRB (criminal record) check; again, the Scouts are nothing if not democratic.

Naturally, like all new recruits, both young and old, she will be required to take the Scout Promise: ‘On my honour, I promise that I will do my best, To do my duty to God and to the Queen, To help other people, and to keep the Scout Law.’ But mercifully, she will not be expected to don the traditional brown and yellow uniform she wore as a young girl. Instead, she will be wearing the Scouts distinctive blue shirt and the famous woggle. Followers of fashion, please take note – place your orders now.

For more on becoming a volunteer: 0845-300 1818, www.scouts.org.uk

Mud fun and friendship

Chief Scout Bear Grylls on their Royal volunteer

Bear-Grylls-HQ-bear-grylls-9945957-1200-1600The Duchess of Cambridge has an incredibly busy life, which makes it all the more inspiring that she has chosen to volunteer. It has been my mission to make it easier for adults who volunteer, and to give as much or as little time as they are able – it is how we change our society: many people doing a little bit.

The Duchess has specifically chosen to focus on working with Cub Scout packs and Beaver Scout colonies, with boys and girls aged from six to 10. As a volunteer the Duchess will help run various activities, similar to the 100,000 other adult volunteers that are part of the organisation – this could include running games, teaching first aid and helping out with cooking and campfires. It is hard work but also so rewarding – trust me, my sons are that age and are Scouts.

I know the Duchess will love the buzz that Scouts always bring to their communities and their adventures. There are few greater joys than being part of empowering young lives through the simple principles of Scouting: fun, friendship, faith and adventure. One tip is to realise just because it is raining the Scouts don’t stop. They call it Scouting sunshine.

There is something for everyone as a volunteer, and adults get so much out of their involvement whether it is skills for the workplace, confidence, or simply the satisfaction of knowing they are helping their community. So many of our volunteers are also mums of Scouts – as it is a great way to learn together. Scouting is for everyone and the movement inspires young people to strive to achieve the best they can.

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