Sadly the good intentions of the few yielded little or no response to invitations and pleas for new members. Only the wasps remained, now undisturbed, except when the hut was used by the bowls club as an extra changing space for their matches during the summer.
It's been difficult to pinpoint the factors behind the decline but a combination of the following has clearly contributed to the Unit's ultimate demise ...
... the upsurgence of a strong Duke of Edinburgh - with training sessions that fitted neatly at the end of a school day, suiting busy parents, and which were delivered in the safe and familiar environment of the classroom - is one obvious factor;
... the constant message by the school to get involved with DofE as "... it looks good on your CV ..." when university and career choices have to be made;
... that the traditional Friday night meeting had become a no-go for the older unit members, who preferred to socialise and party at the week's end;
... the lack of a forward-looking, energetic, characterful and dynamic Unit Exec to provide wanna-be-like role models for younger Richians;
... the greater choice of activities within the school, especially sports, with increasing involvement demanded right from the outset of year 7;
... the waning of helpful and public support for the Unit by school management;
... the lack of any new leadership blood to assist and ultimately take over from the ESL (who is eyeing up early retirement).
Yes - these (and possibly other) contributing factors have led to the sad decision being made on unit closure. A great tradition of Tommies bids its final farewell, going out quietly rather than with a bang. And the local Scouting world loses a valuable member of the Gloucester District.
Those who have been fortunate to be part of the school's Venture Scout Unit will have had the best and most unique experience of Scouting Adventure à la 44th. One only has to look at where some of these guys (and gals!) have ended up and the exciting, most fulfilling and rewarding lives they are now living, to see the true worth of the Venture Scouts at Tommies. Their original founder, mentor and guide Frank Henderson would I'm sure be so proud at their achievements and those of us who knew him as a leader and a friend should be thankful and honoured to have done so.
The cycle of life goes on; perhaps one day Scouting and School may rejoin in creating another character building joint adventure for young Richians and a sequel to the 44th's chapter in history may yet be written. Who knows? Only time will tell.
As the saying goes, "All good things come to an end", and so it is with the 44th. And the 44th was very good indeed!
'Garde Ta Foy' & 'Be Prepared'
Phil Brown, VSL/ESL
16 September 2012
A word on the unit resources ...
- The Scout Hut will be used by the school's Duke of Edinburgh organisation for kit storage and pre-expedition meetings as well as the Bowl's Club as additional changing facilities;
- As much of the Unit's stores and equipment as possible will be passed on/sold to other Scout Troops, after which the remaining items will be sold off;
- The Unit's finances will be audited by the school finance office and the funds remaining after the settling of any debts will be given to charity ('Meningitis Trust' & 'Crack Cancer Campaign') as agreed at the final unit meeting.
This arrived shortly after final closure of unit had been notified to District & County Scouts ...
... typical really!