Seton, Ernest Thompson. 1860-1946
Lord Strathcona. 1820-1914Scouting Advocate and Benefactor
Lord Strathcona in later years, formerly Donald Smith
A biography of Lord Strathcona specifically for Scouts was written by no less a person than Baden-Powell himself, in his 1916 book Young Knights of the Empire. B-P was used Strathcona as a role model, stressing his rags to riches background, a 'Man who Stuck to It', starting life as a 'poor boy', to become one of the "richest men in Britain, not only the richest in money but having the admiration of his fellow-countrymen'.
Donald Smith was born in Forres Scotland in 1820 and immigrated at the age of 18 to 'Lower Canada' as an employee of the Hudson Bay Company (HBC). Four years later he had risen to the lowly status of a Clerk, but in 1842 he was giving administrative control of part of what is now Labrador. He continued to make meteoric progress becoming the Chief Factor of the Labrador area and having returned to Britain for spell in the companies head offices in London became Commissioner of the Montreal District in 1868. At this point he diversed into entrepreneurial activities starting with textiles. Smith assisted in the quelling of a rebellion at Red River in 1869 and in 1870 was HBC's senior figure in the Canadian North West Territories. The following year Smith entered politics and entered the Canadian House of Commons in 1871. His entrepreneurial activities expanded to include railway companies, newspaper publishing and oil. He was not only, as B-P stated, one of the richest men in Britain by across the British Empire. He was then well placed to indulge his philanthropic nature by making donations across a range of Scientific, academic and youth related patriotic charities. In 1897 Smith was elevated to the peerage becoming Baron Strathcona.
During the 2nd Boer War (1899-1902) he funded Strathcona's Light Horse which saw distinguished service in South Africa. Whilst Strathcona himself remained in Canada, Baden-Powell like all other serving officers in Africa could not help but be aware of his name, wealth and influence, particularly as a number of the Strathcona's Light Horse went on to join B-Ps regiment, the South African Constabulary, after the Boer War finished in 1902.
It is not known exactly at what point the two man firs met, but B-P's diary records several meetings in 1910. Strathcona himself however in article published in the Toronto World shortly after his death in 1914 claimed;
"On the initiation of the Boy Scout Movement … he (B-P) consulted me on the subject, as he found it impossible to procure the necessary means for proceeding with the project, owning to the fact that at the time very few had any belief that it would be a useful association. I was very happy to give him substantial aid with allowed him to proceed with this work."
Strathcona must have been referring to the appeals made by B-P to the 'great and the good' in 1906 or in his Boy Scout Scheme in 1907. The later is more likely because the money was used to furbish the first Scout Office opened in Henrietta Street London, just the publication of the part series of Scouting for Boys in January 1908.
Lord Strathcona was later to fund the appointment of the appointment of a Dominion Secretary to promote the develop of Scouting in Canada to the tune of £5000 year, over a three year period, provided this funding was matched by others. He became Godfather to B-Ps first child Peter in 1913 and when he (Strathcona) died left his grandson £1000, with a further sum to promote the development of Scouting in Canada.
B-P concluded his biography of Strathcona by saying that he was a "good scout " because he was, " kind and helpful to others."e Strathcona died in 1914 aged 94 after a long life of commercial success, public service, and wisely place philanthropic generosity.
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Swan, Captain Cecil Victor 'Swannie', M.C. 1887-1964Friend of B-P. Contingent Leader to early Jamborees
I have been fortunate in being able to read C V Swan's extensive personal papers, which were sold by auction in late 2002 and are now in the John Ineson Collection. Some of the information below has never been publicly documented.
C V Swan was the son of Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, F.R.S. (1828-1914), who "had a long and industrious life of discovery and invention", notably in photographic printing, discovering the autotype process and the art of making rapid dry plates, and is credited with inventing the first electric light bulb. His Gateshead house was the first to be illuminated by electricity in the country and the Swan brand of light bulbs was available until recent times.
'Swannie', as he was universally known, was at a 'prep school' during the time of Siege of Mafeking. (Children from wealthy backgrounds were, and still are, sent to a private preparatory schools prior to going on to Public Schools such as Eton, Harrow or Charterhouse.) His headmaster had been Baden-Powell's fag (a younger schoolboy servant - a system employed at the time by all public schools) at Charterhouse School, and he thrilled his pupils with tales of B-P's exploits at school, as well as the latest news from the besieged town.
Swan remembered these inspiring tales of B-P's exploits for the rest of his life and it was, no doubt, this 'personal' connection that prompted him to offer his services as an instructor for the Surveyors Badge to his local Scout District in May 1909, probably during his last vacation before leaving university. He had previous camped with Scouts at Prudhoe in Northumberland.
Swan lived for a time at Walwick Grange, near Humshaugh in Northumberland, which was the address shown on Swan's warrants as Assistant District Commissioner for Northumberland in 1912. Readers of these Pages will know that B-P held his first fully-fledged Scout Camp at Humshaugh in 1908, a location chosen because he knew it well from his stays at Walwick Grange in connection with his Territorial Army inspections. At that time, Walwick Grange was owned by the Noble family and B-P was a frequent visitor, to see Major George Noble, one of his best friends from their army days together in the 13th Hussars. Two boys from the Noble family attended Baden-Powell's 'experimental' camp on Brownsea Island and one of them, Humphrey, not only attended the Humshaugh camp, but was also at B-P's third camp at Beaulieu.
It seems possible then that there may be a link between the Noble and Swan families and that B-P may have known members of Swan's family from that time, and perhaps even Swan himself. In Swan's obituary in The Scouter, the then Chief Executive Commissioner, Fred Hurll, wrote that it was through Swan's generosity that B-P was able to use Walwick Grange as the location for his "first experiment into Scout Master training" in 1911.
Swan's promotion in Scouting was meteoric. He is often credited with running the first Sea Scout Troop in the country in Newcastle in 1911. In 1912 he held concurrent warrants, signed on the same day, as the Assistant County Commissioner for Sea Scouts in the separate Scout Counties of Northumberland and Durham.
At the outbreak of war he joined up as a private, was quickly promoted in the field and was awarded he Military Cross for Gallantry on the Somme. By September 1917 he was promoted to Headquarters' Staff Captain of the 13th Corps. He was wounded and twice mentioned in dispatches.
ALTHOUGH not present at the first Wood Badge training course, 'Swannie' gained his beads during the first year of this new Scoutmaster training scheme, and so was able to attend the first re-union of Wood Badge holders at Gilwell Park in 1920, as he was to attend every subsequent Gilwell Re-union during his lifetime. In an article published in 1952, Swan is named as one of four Scouters who had never missed a Gilwell re-union. The John Ineson Collection has a photograph taken in 1960 entitled Three Three Who Never Missed. John Ineson took the photograph himself and had written the names of trio on the back, the other two being W J Genese and A N Rule, so one had ceased to attend or died in the interim. 'Swannie' was made an honorary Gilwell Deputy Camp Chief and he enabled the building of the Swan Hut at Gilwell in 1953, as well as giving other benefactions. He loved the place, and paid his last visit to Gilwell only a few weeks before his death.
In August 1919 he became District Commissioner for Newcastle and would spend three nights every week visiting his Scout Groups. He was a brilliant fundraiser, and this alone would have made him welcome on any committee. In 1920, Swan was appointed to the Imperial Headquarters' Committee which later became known as the Committee of the Council. Though he did not attend its meetings, initially because of the distance between London and Newcastle, he was disappointed not to have played a more prominent role in its affairs. He did, however, become its second longest-serving member before retiring from it in 1959.
Swan moved to Hampshire and soon became its Commissioner for Scout Training in September 1924. He travelled extensively abroad, often at his own expense, to promote Scouting.
C V Swan is the second from the left. The photograph was taken for the 1924 Denmark World Jamboree. Why did the photographer not ask them to lift their heads?
He was asked to be the Contingent Leader and Scoutmaster of the Representative Troop to represent Britain at the 1924 Denmark Jamboree. 'Swannie' threw himself wholeheartedly into this task and I doubt that any World Jamboree participants have ever been better prepared. The Representative Troop was together for 20 days continuously prior Jamboree opening ceremony. During this time the Troop camped at Gilwell and visited the Imperial Jamboree at Wembley for the day and were the Honour Guard to the Prince of Wales. There were many competitions during the Denmark Jamboree and Great Britain came second to the USA overall, out of the 20 nations participating.
In 1929, Swan was appointed Chief of Sub-Camp V at the highly-successful World Jamboree held at Arrowe Park Birkenhead, and it was there that he met the US pioneers, Dan Beard and Ernest Thompson Seton. Following this success, he was awarded his Silver Wolf in 1930, presented to him by B-P himself, at a dinner in London attended by 500 Commissioners from all over Britain.
In 1937 he was the leader of the British Contingent in Sub Camp IV of the World Jamboree in Holland and although he was never again a contingent or sub-camp leader, Swan was to attend every World Jamboree from 1929 in England to the Canadian Jamboree in 1955, including the 'Jamboree for Peace' held in France in 1947 and the world's first Indaba (A Council of Scoutmasters) held at Gilwell Park in 1952, where 525 Scouters from 49 countries were present.
In February, 1929, Swan became the Group Scoutmaster of Medstead Scouts, Alton District, Hampshire, which at that time had just £3 0s 5d in the kitty and no camping equipment whatsoever. From this, the Group went on to build their own swimming pool, taking excavated soil away by means of a hand-propelled light railway. The pool was necessary because there was a swimming element for the 1st Class badge, and the nearest public pool was 15 miles distant. Swan maintained that "the troop must have first class Scouts" and under his leadership they did. Much of the funding for the pool came from what today we would call Gang Shows, which were advertised under the banner of, "If the Medstead troop do it . . . it will be good!"
'SWANNIE' was a much-respected and well-loved friend of most of the luminaries in Scouting history, many of whom had reason to be grateful for his generosity of spirit. He was a particular friend of Hadyn Dimmock, who invited 'Swannie' to become the leader of the first Train Cruise, a position he maintained for all subsequent cruises, which ran from 1935 until interrupted by the start of the Second World War in 1939. As far as Dimmock - a true railway fanatic - was concerned, Swan's proven ability to lead large numbers of Scouts, was only of equal importance to the fact that he was " a first rate engineer, possessing a passion for railways that is only second to his passion for Scouting." Only days before he died, Dimmock wrote; to Swan, asking him to be the judge of the National Scoutcar championships.
There is a file of correspondence between Swan and The Founder's son, Peter Baden-Powell, who held 'Swannie' in real affection. Peter divulged that he had initially kept his marriage to his South African bride, Carine Boardman, in January 1936 a secret 'for various official reasons'. In a later letter, to Mrs Swan, he promised to bring his wife and son Robert to see the Swans on his next visit to England.
Naturally the "close and sincere friendship" that Swan had with B-P, was one of his proudest memories, a friendship which started in 1909, if not before, and was to endure until after B-P finally retired to Africa in 1938. Swan recalled some of the high points to Fred Hurll, Chief Executive Commissioner, in one of his last Scouting letters, in October 1961:
"He did me the honour of consulting me constantly on every aspect of Scouting, asking me my views on all sorts of matters, e.g. qualifications for Scoutmasters, tests, badges, uniforms, camping, age limits for Scouts and the formation of "Water Scouts", (later to be called "Sea Scouts"), the problem of the older boy and other things, including IHQ commissioners, etc. Then, one day, he sent me a packet of manuscript saying "I want to you to read through this, criticise it, make suggestions for any additions or amendments." And some of these suggestions were incorporated in Rovering to Success. The same thing with IPISE [a short-lived training scheme] and many other ideas."
"Now as I am nearing the end of a long and happy life, I can only look back over 52 years of Scouting in which I have always so whole-heartedly believed, and feel that I have done my best for it: but there is always the feeling that I could have done so much more . . . However, there it is."
C V SWAN died, aged 76, on June 15th, 1964. His obituary is in the August edition of The Scouter and is just 262 words long, sandwiched between that of a Chairman of a Religious Advisory panel (267 words) and a member of the B-P Guild (243 words). As worthy as these other gentlemen undoubtedly were, the contribution of C V Swan surely ranks amongst the highest in Scouting.
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