Scouts will march through the streets of Shaftesbury on Sunday for the town’s first St George’s Day Parade for over a decade.
The group couldn’t get together on the 23rd April, the day of the movement’s patron saint, because of the Easter holiday. “We do parade for Remembrance Sunday and for the Battle of Britain. I always encourage the group to do that,” said Leader of the 1st Shaftesbury Scout Group, Jenny Merefield.
She added that Shaftesbury Scouts have recently travelled to other North Dorset towns to parade on St George’s Day, but this weekend they will be able to march to music in their hometown. “I’ve got some members of the Town Band helping us because they’ve got a concert in the Town Hall on Sunday.”
Jenny has been planning Sunday’s afternoon activities with some formal and some fun events scheduled. “We’re going to be having a small parade from our grounds at Trinity to the Town Hall, where all the sections will renew their promise, which is what St George’s day is all about. And we will go through the Scout law,” Jenny said, before adding that she is doing this to raise the profile of scouting.
“We will march back to our headquarters and we’re having an activity afternoon in the Trinity grounds. Hopefully the weather will be kind. We are going to be doing back-to-basic scouting and we’re having a barbecue.”
A programme of events is planned for both parents and the youngsters. “The Beaver section is going to be icing biscuits. The Scouts are doing pioneering and building things with lashings. We’ve got lots of games organised to interact with parents. We’ve got a campfire at the end and hopefully parents will stay and enjoy that – if we don’t smoke out the Abbey!” Jenny laughed. “There is going to be a real campfire.”
During the afternoon, Hugh Honeywell, who often supports the Cubs, will be teaching traditional scouting skills and the children will learn how to craft the loop through which the ends of a Scout’s neckerchief are threaded. “He’s one of the old school. He will sit in his chair. He will do knots with the children and he will help them make a woggle. They love it and they will wear them with pride. It’s going back to the old skills of scouting really,” said Jenny.
Jenny recognises that the organisation is changing and she is keen to preserve some of its traditions and values. “Sadly the Scout Association, dare I say it, is trying to get away from the formality of going to church and doing things as I would recall doing them in ‘the old way’. So we’re trying to bring the fun into it. We still do our promise to God and the Queen. To me, it’s very important that we remember that. I always finish Cubs with a prayer. We don’t forget that but it’s just highlighting the modern way of young people, I’m afraid,” Jenny said.
Jenny hopes that there will be a good turnout on Sunday. “I’m hoping that they will all show. I do say ‘unless you’ve got a very good excuse, you should be on parade for this’. It just makes it a special day. I’m hoping that the majority of the group will be there. If we get 75% it’ll be a bonus. There are about 60 in the group and we’ve got a very good leadership team as well. So we’ll all be in our uniform and we will bring the flags out.”
Jenny says the group will assemble at Trinity at 1.30pm before heading to the Town Hall by 2pm. They will fly their flags in the grounds of Trinity on their return.
We often we hear about traditional clubs and organisations dwindling in number but Jenny says Shaftesbury youngsters are still keen to get involved in scouting. “There is a need, especially in the lower age range. I think scouting gives young people a lot of grounding. A lot of famous people say they did scouting and I think we have to be very proud of that,” said Jenny.
Scouting has played an important part in Jenny’s life. “This is my 35th year in Shaftesbury and love it. I won’t give up. I was actually a Guide in Fontmell Magna many years ago, but my husband was always a Scout. And if you can’t beat them, join them. Joe was always involved with Scouts in Shaftesbury and that’s how I started. He’s got many more years in front of me but I think that to get 35 years in is quite an achievement. I just want to give more to the community, really,” Jenny said.