Baden-Powell Council BSA at the 50th Anniversary
Blair Atholl International Patrol Jamborette
July 16-26th, 1996

Haste ye back, haste ye back,
Haste ye back, and don't forget
Happy days here at Blair Atholl
May God bless our Jamborette...

The summer of 1996 marked the 50th anniversary of the first of these of these wonderful camps. They were started by Jack Stewart, the Scottish International commissioner at the end of the Second World War. The idea was to have patrols of Scouts from all around the world camping with patrols of Scottish Scouts, with each pair of patrols operating as a single patrol for the duration of the camp. The Scottish Patrols would bring the necessary tentage, etc. and all the visiting Scouts need is their personal kit.

Once at Blair Atholl, the patrols are organized into six sub-camps named after Scottish Clans related to the site - MacDonald, MacLean, Morrison, Murray, Robertson and Stewart - with each subcamp having 10-12 patrols under a staff of "uncles" from Scotland and International Contingents.

Jamborette attendance was 600 Scouts - 300 from Scotland, 300 from twenty six other countries - organized into mixed patrols with equal numbers of Scottish and international Scouts. There were six BSA councils sending contingents - Baden-Powell, Transatlantic (Bonn, Germany), Hiawatha (Syracuse, NY), Land of the Oneidas (Utica, NY), Longhorn (Texas), Mason-Dixon (Pennsylvania/Maryland) and Santa Clara (California). Other countries represented included Austria (the largest contingent, with 42 Scouts), Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Ireland (Republic and Northern), Japan, Malta, Mongolia, Norway, Sweden, and Thailand.

Baden Powell Council, BSA (Freeville, NY) sent a patrol of four boys - Joe and Trevor from Troop 80 (Cortland), Andrew from Troop 46 (Freeville), and Will from Troop 12 (Ithaca) - and two leaders - Mike Brown, Scoutmaster of Troop 80, Cortland, and Tioughnioga District Vice-Chairman for Program (me), and my Assistant Scoutmaster Peter Cowan.

The Jamborette was a fantastic experience for Scouts and Leaders alike. My thanks and appreciation to the great Staff of the Jamborette.

- Mike Brown, Baden-Powell Council Contingent Leader

Our Trip

Thursday July 11th: Arrived at 8 in the morning at London Heathrow airport. After clearing customs and immigration, we took the Underground into London and checked in at Baden-Powell House. Then, to the first Scout Shop in the world, across the street from Buckingham Palace. We then walked to the Palace and waited for the Changing of the Guard. While we waited, Nelson Mandela and his entourage came out of the Palace after visiting the Queen - quite a treat for our Scouts as his motorcade went through the crowd. After the guards changed (it was hard to see because of the crowds, but how could you be in London and miss the Changing of the Guards?), we walked to the Tower of London and took the tour from a very entertaining Yeoman Warder. We ran into a group of Italian Scouts who wanted directions to Baden-Powell House. Lots of hand-waving and map pointing later, they disappeared in the direction of the Underground. Hope they made it - we never saw them again. Our first ride on a double-decker bus to Piccadilly Circus and dinner, then walk to Baden-Powell House for the night.
Waiting for the Changing of the Guard
Friday July 12th: I picked up the Previa (don't call it a van - that means "delivery truck", I discovered) in Kensington and drove (somewhat tentatively) to the Imperial War Museum, located in the former St. Bethlehem's Hospital ("Bedlam"). The War Museum had a huge collection of planes, tanks, guns and so on from WWI and WWII, and two special exhibits: "The Trench Experience" and "The Blitz Experience". 

Then off to Stonehenge. 

We got lost on the way out of Stonehenge, which led us to Avebury - a stone ring even bigger than Stonehenge (serendipity was in effect at all times this trip). After a few more false starts and wrong turns, and at least one turn out of a roundabout (Traffic Circle) which wound up on the wrong side of the road - I was trying not to teach the Scouts British Obscene Gestures, but that truck driver I just missed taught them anyway - we arrived at Beaudesert Trust - a Scout Camp complete with Iron Age fort on the grounds.

The Standing Stones of Avebury
Saturday, July 13th: Off to North Wales. As soon as we crossed the border, the rugged beauty of Wales met us. We stopped at a mountain lake to take in the scenery, and the Scouts got to see their first flock of sheep (at right-Joe shows fleece to Pete, who is not impressed) which was to become commonplace as we went further north. 



We drove through Wales to the northern coast, where we reached the island of Anglesey, for the mandatory visit to Llanfairpwllgwngyllgogerychwrndrobllllantysiliogogogoch, for lunch and a snapshot (left) next to the railway station sign (the longest in the UK). The sales clerk at the gift shop was the local Girl Guide leader, so Trevor traded a council patch for a local patch (the name was so long, it had to spiral inward in ever-decreasing type size).   
The railway station sign at Llanfair PG
Then to Conwy, where we walked the medieval city walls and toured Conwy Castle - although largely ruined, it's still impressive. At a gift shop, I bought a stuffed lamb with a confused look on its face, on the theory that a Lost Lamb would attract the Lost and keep us on course. It didn't work. We got a police escort into Sconce Scout Camp that evening. They were having their Backwoods Weekend, and we were invited to take part. We went to the campfire and Joe got to help skin a rabbit for dinner.
On the Conwy City Walls, with the Castle in the background
Sunday, July 14th: We visited York, my favorite city in all Great Britain. The interior of York Minster was closed because of a special service for the survivors of the evacuation at Dunkirk in WWII. One of the veterans introduced himself to the Scouts and told them about his days in the Boy Scouts in the 1930's before he left for the Army and captivity as a POW after Dunkirk. We climbed the 300 stairs to the top of the Minster (cathedral), rode a train through the underground Jorvik Viking Centre, saw Clifford's Tower where the entire Jewish community of York died in 1150, and took a double-decker bus tour of the city. A trip to the Shambles and Scottish shops there revealed Joe's membership in Clan Campbell - "Horse Thieves and Murderers" according to one shop assistant, obviously a MacDonald (Sorry, Joe) - and Pete's in Clan Coloquogn. 

Then, up the coast to Whitburn to stay for the evening at Westhall Scout Camp. The boys played frisbee by the North Sea in the twilight - at nearly 11PM.

Clifford's Tower
Monday, July 15th: Beamish Open-Air Museum, a recreated turn-of-the-century village, complete with a real coal mine. We put on hard hats and went down in the mine - we needed them, the ceiling was only 4 foot 6 in spots - then rode the trolley into the village. 
Beamish Open-Air Museum

From Beamish, followed Hadrian's Wall west. The road was interesting, to say the least - narrow even by British standards, with one dip having scrape marks from the exhaust systems of numerous cars. Stopped for a Roman Temple to the soldiers' god Mithras, found in a farmer's field, and the Roman Army Museum, then hiked to an overlook for a beautiful view of the wall and the countryside. Then, we entered Scotland to stay at Auchengillan Scout Activity Centre near Glasgow. While I did laundry, Pete and the Scouts met their first Scottish Scouts for a football (soccer) game and patch-trading session.

Hadrian's Wall

Blair Atholl Jamborette

Tuesday, July 16th: Finally, we arrived at the 50th Anniversary Patrol Jamborette, on the grounds of Blair Castle in Blair Atholl. 

Our Scouts were integrated into a patrol with four Scottish boys from the Greater Glasgow district and the contingent leaders joined the Jamborette staff for the ten day period. To promote the integration, the Scouts were actually forbidden to contact us - Pete and I saw them at most once a day or so, as our paths crossed. I was assigned to the Activity Office, and Peter became "Uncle Pete" to the Morrison Subcamp. 

The day ended with an opening campfire, with the contingent leaders being presented with leaders' neckerchiefs ("neckies") by Scottish Patrol Leaders. The campfire was set on a hillside near the Castle, and as the campfire got under way we watched the sun leaving the highland hills across the valley - a perfect end to our first day at the Jamborette, and a sign of things to come...

International Leaders file in to receive Neckies from Scottish PL's

Wednesday, July 17th to Wednesday, July 24th: The Jamborette was in full swing. A few highlights and random thoughts:

Got a Sticker? Each Scout collected stickers in a book, representing each of the activities in which he or she had taken part. Special "White Cockade" and "Gold Cockade" patches were awarded for stickers over a given number.

The White Cockade patch
Patrol Activities: During the day each patrol took part in several activities. The following just scratches the surface of the activity menu:
  • Day-long or half-day hikes into the Highlands, or a "Dawn Patrol" to watch the sun rise over the Highlands (which was more often than not fogged out).
  • Mountain biking
  • Canoeing ("kayaking", we would call it - our "canoes" are "Canadians" to the Scots), sailing and boardsailing on Loch Tummel
  • Swimming in the River Tilt at one of Queen Victoria's favorite spots.
  • A radio-controlled "treasure hunt"
  • Orienteering
  • Blacksmithing ("Smiddy") and Backwoods Cooking
  • "Master at Arms" - shooting sports
  • Abseiling ("Rappelling" in American)
  • Visits to Blair Atholl and Pitlochry,
  • 1946 games, such as tossing a dual-cone toy on a string, rolling a hoop, and others.
  • An introduction to Judo
  • An activity involving assembling and racing with a wooden cannon
  • The "Atholl Experience" appears to have involved trekking through the woods in the company of space-suited staff(?!).
  • Tour of Blair Castle: Each patrol got a chance to tour Blair Castle. The castle, first built in the 13th century, and converted to a Georgian mansion in 1746, was the last castle in the British Isles to be besieged (during the 1745 uprising of the highland clans led by Bonnie Prince Charlie). To add to the irony of the 1745 siege, the officer of the King holding the castle was a Scot himself, and the Highland general besieging the castle was the brother of the Duke of Atholl. After taking the tour once, I was offered the chance to become a tour guide, which I jumped at. Lots of frantic reading and boning up on Scottish History later, I soloed with my first group - a patrol of Scottish and Austrian Scouts. The language barrier was evident at first, but the Scots soon got used to my American English... (It was confusing for a couple from New Jersey, who attached themselves to the tour and afterward asked me why the Castle would hire American guides in Boy Scout uniform?)

Radio Treasure Hunt


Castle Tour

The Country Fair: Each contingent had a booth at which it presented something typical of its area's culture or crafts on Saturday morning. Half of the contingent were provided with "Atholls" to spend at the booths, while the other half work the booth "selling" their wares for Atholls. Then, the first group manned the booth while the second group went out to spend the Atholls they earned. The B-P Council contingent taught the visitors and Scouts to make "Dream Catchers", a device common to most Native American tribes. We brought the materials (yarn, beads, etc) with us, except for twigs to use as frames, which we collected in the forest surrounding the campsite. Over 100 Dream Catchers were made - necessitating three increasingly frantic twig-gathering trips on my part. Other American groups made doughnuts or corn fritters, and other groups presented games or dances, and so on.
Evening Activities: Every evening there were special activities for pairs of Scouts - one Scot with one international Scout. There were special hikes, blacksmithing, outdoor cooking, special games, archery, scavenger hunts, and so on. Contingent leaders contributed additional activities on the last night - there was a patch-trading treasure hunt, I ran a story-telling festival, Pete helped on a hike to Bruar Falls, and at least one of the Scouts took part in an Austrian folk-sing.

Ceilidh: Scouts and staff had opportunities to take part in a Scottish Ceilidh ("Kay-lee") or dance party (albeit on different nights).

Shorts and Shades Party: One night, the rock group "Mirage" performed for Scouts and staff at the Kross (the huge activity tent). Strangely enough, the group at the Staff Club that night was mostly grey, bald, or both (present company included).

Folkfest: Scouts and staff from Scotland and a number of international contingents performed one night at a folkfest. Highlights included a Highland Fling by a Scout from Fife, accordion and violin performances of Scottish music by various Scottish Scouts, and a rather odd performance of "Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini" featuring a (male) contingent leader in the starring role. The Japanese contingent performed a folk dance, and two Mongolian Scouts sang a song from their country. The Swedes performed a medley of Christmas music (?), and a Maltese leader entertained with his bagpipes (John Denver as rendered on the bagpipe is an experience not to be missed. Or repeated).

Got a kilt? Two of our Scouts managed to trade American uniform parts for kilts and other Scottish Scout paraphernalia. Andrew holds the record, getting a complete Scottish dress uniform, kilt and all.

Food: Not bad, if you approach it with an open mind (and don't ask what's in it). We had a Burns Supper one night featuring Haggis, Bashed Neeps and Tatties (the latter two being diced turnips and mashed potatoes). A large Haggis was piped in by bagpipes and ceremoniously sliced to a Robert Burns poem "Address to a Haggis". Each participant got his/her own haggis which was, surprisingly, very tasty. Our evening meal with a Scottish/Japanese Patrol was interesting, as an opportunity for those of us on the staff to meet some of the Scottish Scouts (the Japanese boys did not speak much English). I don't suppose I will ever become a fan of British Sausage, a concoction closely resembling mashed cardboard, or Grosvenor Pie (aka "Long Pork Loaf" - a poor choice of words, considering "Long Pork" is what cannibals call their favorite dish). The American Scouts became addicted to "IRN-BRU", (pronounced "iron brew"), a Scottish drink approximating a combination of fizzy Gatorade and Scope mouthwash in taste (eccch) and nothing on earth in color (I think it glows in the dark, or should).

Staff: I was impressed by the attitude of the entire staff at the Jamborette. Without exception, the Scots I met were warm and friendly and ready to help in any way they could. In some ways, I suspect that the international contingent leaders are assigned to work positions as a courtesy rather than through need, but the Scottish staff I worked with seemed to welcome whatever help I offered.

Thursday, July 25th: The last day of the Jamborette. In the morning, all of the subcamps competed in the "Atholantics" - a collection of games, including cannon races, building towers, wet-sponge throwing, saving princesses, etc.

The day ended with the closing campfire. As the campfire ended, each Scout lit a candle, starting with torches lit from the campfire by the subcamp uncles, until the entire campfire slope was covered with light. The camp sang "Auld Lang Syne" and the Atholl Hymn (the chorus from which begins this web page). As the camp finished the last chorus of the hymn, the Scouts blew out their candles, starting from one side of the group and progressing across in a spectacular effect. All were more than just a little sad as we made our way back to our tents.


After the Jamborette

Friday July 26th to Monday July 29th(Scouts): Home visit - the Scouts took the train to Glasgow for three days, each with the family of a Scottish Scout from their patrol. Apparently their visit went well, with no international incidents I heard of, anyway. Several went to Stirling Castle, one to a Highland Games, and all to an amusement park, and they managed to get together each night for games.
Friday July 26th (staff): We finished off the Jamborette with a Camp Chief's Reception at the Blair Castle Ballroom. Congratulations to Camp Chief Alec Duncan who was presented with his Silver Wolf - roughly the equivalent of our Silver Buffalo national award.

Saturday July 27th thru Monday July 29th (Staff): Pete and I went to Edinburgh for three days of R&R and good food. What a pleasure to be able to eat stuff the Scouts wouldn't touch on a bet! ("Abid Basti" has the best Indian food I ever tasted!). We were able to catch the Lottery program on TV Saturday night, when the Scottish Scout Association was presented with a check (cheque) for 1.5 million (pounds sterling, that is). Wow.

Monday July 29th: evening Pete and I picked up another Previa ("not a van"), and met the Scouts at the Glasgow train station. By that evening we were back at Beaudesert.

Tuesday, July 30th: To London, with a stop off at Stratford-on-Avon to see William Shakespeare's birthplace. Then, the 6:00 PM flight back to JFK. All of the scouts were awarded their "United Air Lines Wings" by the stewardess.

Wednesday, July 31st: Return home, accompanied by all of the rain we didn't get during the preceding three weeks. All at once. Other than a Bad Moment at the Marathon exit from Route 81 (WHAT side of the road was I supposed to be on????), it was good to be home, for now. When is the next Blair Atholl Jamborette?


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