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A Short History on Scouting in Paarl

Where it all began

Scouting in Paarl dates back to 1909 when a Mr. Swan – a Post Office Official – got together a group of boys to meet and camp on the banks of the Berg River on the Frater Estate.

Cubs 1915

Cubs 1915: Back row: Scully, H. Gribble, Mrs Harris, Thackery, "Ticket" Walder, Heldzinger. Middle: Van Niekerk, Cross, I. Perold, Thackery , ?,"Chum" Fisher, (Bill) W. Clift, ?. Front: Cyrill Scott

This group of boys became the 1st Paarl Troop which makes it one of the oldest troops in the country. The first ever combined Scout camp in South Africa was held on the above premises near the wool washery and the Troops participating were – 1st and 2nd Claremont, 1st Paarl, 1st Observatory and 1st Simonstown. The following year Mr. A.E. Percy succeeded Mr. Swan as Scoutmaster. The very first edition of the publication “The South African Scout”, which appeared in February 1910, gives a list of 24 warranted Scoutmasters in the then Cape Colony. Mr. Percy’s name is among those listed. The oldest surviving Scouts as far as can be ascertained, from 1st Paarl Troop are – Mr. Gerard “Bull” Frater, Mr. H.Q. Gribble and Billy Clift, all 83 years of age. Bull Frater remembers camping on his father’s farm with a group of boys who formed the 1st Paarl Troop, which was officially registered in February, 1910. Mr. H.Q. Gribble, a resident photographer, has in his records, photographs dating way back to 1915.

He was probably the first unofficial Akela to our Cubs. Billy Clift a well-known Paarlite and stone mason. Another surviving scout is Mr. Ben McGee who remembers joining the troop in 1913. He stayed with the troop until 1917 when he joined the navy during the First World War. On being discharged from the navy he eventually came back to Paarl in 1932 and again became active working for the scouts. Except for the period of the Second World War he has been involved right up to the present. Although he cannot remember when the first Group Committee was formed he does remember serving on this committee and took over the chairmanship in the 1960’s. He relinquished the chair in 1976 at the age of 74. However he is still active and is always willing to assist the group in whatever capacity is required – even at the age of 80 years!

Another early scoutmaster was Mr. Wemer Decker, who first joined the troop in 1910 as a scout. He subsequently became a Kings Scout (as a Springbok Scout was then called) and was the holder of 21 Scout badges. After leaving the troop he became Scoutmaster in 1913 taking over from Mr. Percy and later Group Scoutmaster. In 1946 he was the 3rd recipient in the country of the Long Service Medal for 35 years of service. His certificate was signed by the Governor-General at the time The Hon. G. Brand-Van Zyl. Mr. Decker died in Paarl at the age of 78 after almost 60 years in Scouting. It is to Mr. Werner Decker that we are indebted for much of the history available today of the 1st Paarl Group. He kept a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings and photographs to do with scouting including some of our Founder Sir Robert Baden-Powell – affectionately known as B.P. Notices of Troop meetings appeared every week in the local newspaper asc well as notices of special outings and camps. Even in the early days Scouting was fun. There were trips to Robben Island, camping in the mountains and annual concerts in the Town Hall (admission sixpence, reserved seats one shilling).


Scouting in the early days

Half the net proceeds from these concerts were donated to the Paarl Hospital Fund. In 1916 their share was Three pounds Sixteen shillings and Four pennies.

In 1918 the troop strength fell away and was at one time down to a few boys. When the revival took place is not known but in 1941 Mr. Decker was back as Scoutmaster succeeding a Mr. Hahn. In the interval however there were ten or eleven other Scoutmasters whose names appear on a 1st Paarl Troop Letterhead found in Mr. Decker’s scrapbook. Mr. Decker resigned as S.M. in 1918 and between then and 1945 his scrapbook is devoid of information. Perhaps he served in the army forces during the 2nd World War. However other records indicate that the old Scout Hall in Hof Street was built in 1921 and the Foundation Stone laid by the then Mayor of Paarl Councillor F. G. Roux. That Scout Hall was in continuous use until 1982 and is replaced by the hall in which we are now. The 1st Paarl Group hosted a Scouters Conference in 1945.

During the conference Mr. Decker received his warrant as Group Scoutmaster. Another conference was held at Paarl Scout Headquarters in 1949. A letter to Mr. Decker from the scouters attending maintained that they had a “slack time” but ended with a plea for some electric heaters next time. In 1952 Scout Neville Norris received the highest award which could be gained by a Scout- the Queen’s Scout Badge – and was promoted from patrol leader to Troop Leader. Also in that year Mr. R. Wilding received his warrant as Scoutmaster. Apparently in the 8 year period prior to 1955 there was no local Association or Group Committee in Paarl. In May of that year all parents of scouts and other interested persons were invited to a meeting at the Central hotel for the purpose of forming a “Scout Association” and to elect a committee. In the mid sixties scouting in Paarl went through a difficult time financially.

The group Secretary wrote to Divisional Headquarters requesting a reduction in the levy on country groups as the last levy had severely depleted their coffers. From the minutes of a committee meeting held in May 1966 the financial statement included the following:- General Account R32,06 Cash on Hand R 4,96 Building Fund R24,76 This last item was obviously the start of a drive for funds to build a new hall and which has culminated in the opening of this new hall tonight. Very much involved in this drive for funds was the Grand Old Man of scouting in Paarl, Mr. Ben McGee. A cub and scout himself as a young boy, Mr. McGee eventually became Chairman of the Group Committee – a position he held until only a few years ago. Ben is still with us and we would like to record the thanks of all in the Group for the start he made to make our new hall possible.

In more recent years the Group has gone from strength to strength. In 1975 the first Scout Cord earned in 30 years was awarded. Within two more years every Patrol Leader had earned their Cords.


The present strength of the Group is:-
Scouts 33
Cubs 26
Uniformed staff 6

In addition we have the services of three ladies who assist as Pack Helpers. Unfortunately, it is not possible to find any history relating to the Cub Pack in the early days, but the Pack was revived and registered in 1949. They too are doing well and a fair number have earned their Leaping Wolf badges over the past two years before moving up to the troop. To the uniformed staff we owe a note of thanks for giving unselfishly of their time and energies in teaching tomorrow’s leaders to be good citizens – for this is what Scouting is all about as epitomised in the Scout Promise and the Scout Law.

Mentioned below is a list of scouters through the years but unfortunately all dates are not included against the names and these are the only names we have on record. The list is as follows:

Mr. Swan – 1909-1910
Mr. Percy – 1910-1913
Mr. Decker – 1913-1918
Mr. Opie – 1918-1930
Mr. Needham
Rev. Evans
Mr. E.A. Fisher – 1918-1925
Rev. Constantine
Rev. Bowen – 1928
Mr. du Toit – 1940
Mr. Willard – 1928
Mr. Macgregor – 1930
Mr. Magennis – 1936
Mr. Hahn – 1940
Mr. Decker 1941
Mr. J. van den Berg – 1931
Mr. R. Wilding  – 1955
Mr. A. Scott  – 1958-1966
Mr. D. Scott – 1966-1970
Mr. P. Stalling
Mr. C. Scott – 1929
Mr. D. Schreuder – 1968-1975
Mr. G. Maggott – 1975-1978
Mrs. Harris
Mr. E. A. Fisher
Mr. H. Q. Gribble
Mrs. I.Algar
Mrs. L. Loubser
Mr. I. Leigh
Mr. A. Hawkins


Scouts August 1982

Scouts August 1982: Front Row, left to right: M. Henrick, A. Dewar, S.M. Eddie Seaman, G.S.M. Kevin Hemick, G. Kroukamp, R. Retief, M. Sikora. Second row, lefl to right: B. Vertenten,J. Kronberger, A. Swart, H. Swart, C. Young, C. Wilkinson. Back row, left to right: F. Hacker, B. Hart, A. Murray, A. Bryon, T. Geyer, A. Bonafede, S. Mountford, O. Kronberger, D. Longworth, A.S.M. Blackie Swart, W. Muggenberg, A.S.M. Aubrey Willainson, I. Dickie, A.S.M. I. Leigh. Absent boys: C. Pickersgill, G. Duxbury, H. Hacker, W. Steenkamp , G. Strutt, I. Sutherland, S. Young, A. van Nes, A. Birtwistle, J. de Paulo, H. Wynne,J. Finnern, C. Pedder.


Cubs August 1982

Cubs August 1982: Front row, left to right:S. van Eeden, E. Keith, T. Heinzle, P. Barker, C. Strachan,J. Wittek, C. McMillan. Second row, left to right: P. Tyler, M. Sclmeider, M. Hinderberger, T. Morton, C.M. Pat Henrick, T. Kroukamp, E. Jakins, M. Longworth. Back row, left to right: B. Spindler, M. Heinzle, Helperjune Kroukamp, G. Heinzelmann, R. Hart, Helper Jill Longworth, M. Smit, J. Frieslaar, Helper Denise Vertenten, M. Tyler. Absent boys: L. Bryon, J. Stigant, P. Haasbroek, G. Cullen, A. Thomas, I. Blatchford.


1st Paarl Scouts in 1955

1955: Top let: Reggi Wilding. Top right: Gert van den Berg. Sitting: "Skipper" Decker (Scouter), H. Hodgkiss (Country Commissioner), D. Walker (Divisional Secretary), Mrs. Jack de Villiers (Guider).


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