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The history of 2nd Claremont Scout Group

2nd Claremont Scout Group had a history closely linked with 1st Claremont, and the story was told here in 1961 by George Peake “Rama” who played a major role in both Groups.


I have been asked by our Group Scoutmaster, “CHO”, to place on record my recollection of the early days of Scouting in CLAREMONT and the founding of the SECOND CLAREMONT GROUP.

I did not start my Scouting in Claremont, although I have had close associations with Claremont District ever since I joined the movement on 22nd. February 1913, in the 3rd. CAPE TOWN (St. George’s Grammar School) TROOP. One of my first Scoutmasters was Mr. Cyril French, son of Mr. George French, first Scoutmaster and founder of the first Boy Scout Troop in Africa (1st. Claremont). We had many joint meetings and outings, and my first Scout Camp was a joint affair (1st. Claremont & 3rd. Cape To.) at Strandfontein – there being no roads to Strandfontein in those days, we had to hike along the beach from Muizenberg, carrying kit and grub on our backs – we slept in a large homestead on the floor. I passed several of my Second Class tests in the grounds of “French’s  School” (now known as Claremont Public School) in Queen Victoria Road. 

In the early days Scoutmaster (or “Officers”) wore Norfolk Jackets and either “knickerbockers” or riding breeches and leggings or puttees, white or khaki shirts with high stiff white collars and green ties, and white shoulder knots reaching from shoulder to well below the elbow. Only BOY Scouts wore scarves, shirts long-shorts, usually to the kneecap or below. No “officer” was properly dressed unless he carried a walking stick, and no Boy Scout was properly dressed without his “broomstick” – I can well remember being called “broomstick warrior”. 

We had annual “Rallies” at the old Rosebank Showgrounds, which were nothing short or Military Reviews, at which the highlight was the “Trooping of the King’s Flag” to the music of the Boy Scout Brass and Bugle Bands. The “King’s Flag” was presented annually to the Troop with the most King’s Scouts. 

After some 12 years of Scouting and Cubbing in the Cape Town District, I was invited by the late Mr. W. Baker, more affectionately known to Scouting as “UMHLANGA”, to take over “THE CLAREMONT TROOP” as Scoutmaster. As a “Scouter”, I had got to know “Umhlanga” very well, for he had been Hon. Secretary for Scouting in the Cape Province for  many years, prior to being District Commissioner for Claremont District. Most of what I have to say of the history of Scouting in Claremont up to 1925 is what I was told by “Umhlanga”.

I remember I caused quite a stir on coming to the Claremont Troop because I dressed “just like a BOY Scout”, with shirt, shorts and scarf, and not a bit like an “Officer”. Anyway, they soon became used to “Scouters” dressing like Scouts and not like Officers. The existing 2nd. Claremont Group is not the same as the original 2nd. Claremont Troop which was started by Mr. W. Baker (“Umhlanga”) way back in 1908, and when he wrote to H.Q. in London to register the 2nd. Claremont Troop, he received a reply “Why 2nd.? there is no 1st Claremont.” Mr. George French had started the first Scout Troop in Africa, at his School but had not written to London to register it, so “Umhlanga” had to get him to write for registration of 1st. Claremont Troop. There being no airmail in those days, and ships did not travel as fast as they do today, correspondence was slow. 

Meanwhile, 1st Observatory Troop had started and had registered, hence their claim to “Primus in Afric” inscribed on their Troop Flag. 

Scouting in Africa actually started right here in our local School, and the man who started Scouting in Claremont, Mr. George French was called to higher service a few years ago, just after reaching his century. 

When I came to the Claremont Troop in 1925, the Group system had not come into being and 1st. Claremont Pack – which was formed with the advent of Wolf Cubs in 1916, continued as such and wore the uniform of blue shorts and shirts, with a plain green scarf, until the Group system was adopted when the Pack changed to the uniform of and became part of the Claremont Group.

In 1926, the first Gilwell Training Course  for the Scout Wood Badge held in the Cape, was run in the grounds of the Claremont Group, it was then that I qualified for the Wood Badge (Scout). The Scout grounds in Bowwood Road were very much larger in those days – there was only 1 bowling green and two tennis courts adjacent to our Scout Hut Sam (Wood and Iron), the rest of the grounds, which were well wooded, were used by the Scouts. Many week-end camps were held there, including a Gordon Shield Competition. 

I cannot tell you much about the original 2nd. Claremont Troop, apparently it had a short life, and closed down in the early stages of the First World War (1914 – 1918), due to lack of Scouters. 

There was also a 3rd. Claremont in existence at that time, which managed to survive the First World War, and at the first Gordon Shield Competition held for Camping and Scoutcraft, in 1918 (or 1919), my old troop and 3rd. Claremont were next door neighbours, and I got to know some of their fellows very well.

Eventually, through lack of Scouters, 1st. and 3rd. Claremont Troops amalgamated and became “THE CLAREMONT TROOP”. They compromised over uniform. 1st. Claremont had worn blue shirts and shorts, with a plain green scarf, whilst 3rd, had blue shorts, khaki shirts, with a plain royal blue scarf. The uniform adopted by the Claremont Troop was blue shorts, khaki shirts, and the scarf green with a 1″ royal blue stripe, as worn by 1st. Claremont today. Not leng after I took over we changed to khaki shorts (on the score of expense). From the 1st. Claremont Flag (the Title on which had been hand-worked) the lettering “1st.” was removed leaving “Claremont Troop”.

In 1929, six of us represented Claremont Group at the World Jamboree at Arrowe Park, to commemorate the 21st. birthday of Scouting.

Early in 1930, the late Miss Beatrice Finch approached me about starting Scouting and Cubbing in East Claremont. She had built “Craven Hall” (now Claremont East Congregational Church) where she was running an inter-denominational Sunday School, and suggested using her hall as a meeting place. I approached our District Commissioner (“Umhlanga”) and the Claremont Local Association – which was virtually a Group Committee, there being only one Group in the District – and they were not at all keen, they wanted to know where the Scouters would be found, in fact they were against the starting of another Group.

At the time I was G.S.M. with an S.M and two A.S.M.’s, a C.M. with two A.C.M.’s and a Rover Crew of 18. I put it to my Group Council, they were not keen and I could get none of them to offer even to assist in the launching of a new Group, so I decided to take the job myself, without even the blessing of the D.C. or the local Ass.

I started with four prospective Wolf Cubs, under the pines on what was vacant land adjoining Craven Hall, and that very afternoon, Mr “Jock” Lawson, an ex Cub of the old 1st. Claremont Pack, was passing and stopped to watch what was going on, and when I explained, he offered to help. A week or two later, Miss Helen Scott – an ex-Guide and sister of one of the Claremont “Jampats” – joined us, and at the end of one month we had the foundations laid of the 2nd. Claremont Group, viz 1 C.M., 2 A.C.M’s and five Wolf Cubs – one of the first to be invested was Mr. John Clark, present G.S.M. 1st. Claremont. The Claremont Group reverted to 1st. Claremont. when we registered the 2nd. Claremont. We took for our scarf, one very similar to that et let. Claremont, a green scarf with two ½” royal blue stripes, to perpetuate our connection with the CLAREMONT GROUP. 

The D.C. and the Local Ass. were rather amused and told me that I was wasting my time, only 5 boys after 4 weeks, but what they did not realise was that those 5 were to become our first sixers and seconds, for they were told that the first to bring along another 4 or 5 boys would be made Sixers, which they soon did, and the laugh was on the D.C. and his Ass. 

I have always been keen on doing Cub Work, and was very happy to be a C.M. again, but that pleasure was short lived, for as older boys came along, and those in the Cubs reached 11 years, a Scout Troop Toy became a necessity. There being no one else available at the time, I handed the Pack over to Jock Lawson as C.M. with Miss Scott and Miss Hilda Firth (who had joined us) as A.C.M.’s.

In the Troop I was joined by Mr. W. Halliwell (“Rhino”) ex Scouter from 1st. Salt River Troop, and Mr. Alec Fenton (“Red Feather” – yes he was “ginger”) ex 1st. Worcester Troop, as A.S.M.’s and Mr. Moreland (“Polly”) as Troop Leader – he later became A/S/M/ – and he went from strength to strength. (Mr. Moreland was ex 1st. Maitland Troop).

Although happily associated with Craven Hall, and able to hold our meetings in the Hall when thee weather was unsuitable for outdoor meetings, we felt the need for a Scout Den of our own, which we could decorate and have Patrol and Six corners etc. and managed to secure use of a dilapidated loft above an old coach house (used as a garage) near the corner of Stanley and Queen Victoria Roads, owned by Mr. Hirsch. (The house and Coach house have been demolished, and several new houses built on the site.) After a great deal of hard work put in by Scouts and Scouters, we had the loft converted into a small but cosy Scout/Cub Den, with iron steps leading up to it from the ground. Our lighting was Hurricane lamps. 

We continued to use Craven Hall for functions and Committee meetings, and the Children’s Church held in Craven Hall, being of an inter-denominational nature, we held regular Church Parades there.

Talking of Committee meetings, I feel I must record that practically from the start of 2nd. Claremont Group we had a Group Committee of workers, with Mr. Cunningham as chairman, Miss Cathie Condie as Secretary / Treasurer, and of course Miss Finch, who was a fairy god-mother to us, and some of the parents.. We were fortunate in having a good foundation laid in this respect.

It was in 1933 that Divisional Headquarters thought I could be better used as Asst. Div. Com. for the Wolf Cubs, and I handed over the Group to Mr. Jock Lawson as G.S.M. (and S.M.). Mr. Fred Heath (ex 1st. Retreat) had come along as C.M. and Mr. Lawson had taken over as S.M. just before I left the Group as a Scouter; for I remained on as a member of the Group Committee to keep in touch. The Committee presented me with a Group Scarf and made me a Life Member of the Group, and the boys, unbeknown to their Scouters and the Committee, had collected amongst themselves, and “Polly”. Moreland (T/L) presented me, on their behalf, with a fine statuette of a Boy Scout, which I still proudly possess. 

Shortly after that, our beloved C.S.M. Mr. Max Raphaely (“CHO”) joined the Group as A.S.M. and has been with it ever since, and kept it going through thick and thin. So it is over to “CHO” for the rest of “History of 2nd. Claremont Group”.



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