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
|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
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
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
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
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.
|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
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
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
|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
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).
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
A radio-controlled "treasure hunt"
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
|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
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
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
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
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
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?