Our troop has established links with a group of Scouts from Amersfoort in Holland. The Cupar Troop had previously visited and camped with the Amersfoort Troop and decided to host the Dutch Scouts at their 1996 Summer Camp being held at Kenmore in Perthshire, during July.
Around 25 Scottish Scouts from Cupar and a similar number of Dutch Scouts would be camped in the most glorious setting on the banks of the River Tay about 2 km down river from Loch Tay. A number of the Cupar Venture Unit saw themselves cajoled along as members of the camp support team. They were later to be names the "Ewoks." The explanation will follow (if they don't pay up!).
The prime mover for the camp was Cupar's "Cool GSL," Douglas Shearer whose opposite number was Eric van Schaick, the "Hopman" of the Dutch Scouts. It has to be said, the Scottish were beaten into second place when it came to being bilingual.
Well actually that point should be clarified as there are some strong similarities with English being a second language to both Scottish and Dutch Scouts!
Saturday 20 July, 1996 was a super day with brilliant sunshine, quite unusual for a Scottish Summer. The support team and leaders met at the Cupar hall, loaded the camp equipment, canvas and canoes then set off to Kenmore in convoy.
The camp started on the Monday for the Cupar Scouts with the Dutch arriving on the Tuesday by coach, having been uplifted from the docks at Newcastle. For the majority of the Dutch this was their first trip to Scotland and they were amazed by the scenery. It is so nice to find people appreciating what we have on our own doorsteps. But then again to someone from Holland even our local hills must resemble mountains.
"Was the water safe to drink?" was the main question from Eric. The answer was of course yes, especially as we had arranged to get access to a fresh water standpipe in the local caravan park about 1.5 km away. The transporting of the water was no great problem as the "Cool GSL" had arrived with his quad and trailer which easily coped with the rough track along the riverside to the caravan park.
The Dutch Scouts had excellent canvas for Patrol tents. Their tents were ridge tents, but divided into three compartments. The two ends sections were used for sleeping accommodation whilst the middle section could be unzipped and the tent guyed out and supported with two poles to form a covered storage or cooking area. Certainly beats the Icelandic 2's though I still favour the concept of the Icelandic, with flysheet, if the weather turns bad.
All the Dutch Scouts' equipment, other than their personal rucksacks and sleeping bags, fitted into large metal containers, rather like ammunition boxes, with each item having a place and a place for everything. Organised? it was like camping by numbers.
The Whistles. Well have you seen the "Sound of Music" and do you remember how the Von Trapp children first appear on screen at the call of a bosun's whistle. Well such was the organisation of the Dutch troop. An art which had long disappeared from our local scouting, but it worked and is a system we must revive for our own camps. Whistle signals were for: stop what you are doing and face the flag; patrol leaders to the Scout leader; everyone to fall in; patrol representative to collect the patrol's food.
Four patrol areas had been marked out and each area was occupied by a patrol of Cupar Scouts and one of Dutch Scouts. Patrols slept in their own tents but all other facilities were shared. Cooking, site maintenance, gadget making etc., were all undertaken as joint endeavours.
The Cupar Troop is mixed so there was one exception to these sleeping arrangements. The three female scouts were provided with a separate tent, nearer the leaders' tents. Yes we are forward thinking, but there are some limits.
The "Ewoks" were the exception to every rule and whilst they were a great help I would not like to think their display of personal camping skills would be copied by the Scouts. Remember "Return of the Jedi." Well if you can visualise the Ewok encampment you will understand why our Ventures were renamed.
The week's camping included making full use of the natural facilities. I was always brought up to camp away from water etc., because of the dreaded "midge." However although the camp was merely a stones throw from the actual river there was no problem.
A trailer full of canoes, paddles and lifejackets had been taken to the camp and the adjacent river was excellent. It provided calm and shallow areas for the absolute beginners yet had large deep pools and areas with stronger currents to challenge those who progressed through the week. It was noted that even the District Commissioner and Water Activities Advisor were seen to transport two canoes off up river and relive their youth through some mild "white water."
Schiehallion at 1083 metres was only a short mini-bus journey away and all the scouts were ferried to the foot to bag this "munro." Not bad going for the Dutch contingent with the highest point in Holland only being a few inches above sea level.
Short evening walks to over night hikes were arranged, allowing activities to suit the wide range of age and ability. The D.C. led the one overnight hike, but whilst the Dutch had been well bribed, they still did not manage to lose him.
The Camp fire was a feature of this camp and the antics of the Ewoks really made the event. With the Cool GSL standing with his camp blanket, arms outstretched looking like some high priest presiding over a number of manic disciples, any visitor could have been forgiven for thinking this was the set of a B-movie. The Ewoks really got things going and soon even the younger scouts were participating 100%.
One rather reserved young scout became to immersed in the campfire he organised a second event later in the week. This was so good and so well received, he was awarded his entertainer's proficiency badge on the strength of his performance! Well done Martin.
The actual fire itself was rather unique. At one point the flames were so high they licked the branches of a tree some 30 - 40 feet above ground level. To remove any potential hazard the next day saw a couple of leaders and Ewoks figuring out how to bring down a partially burn limb, which in its own right would fuel a good camfire. When the limb was duly dispatched there was nothing else for it.... another late night campfire.
Cooking Chilli by moonlight at 2 o'clock on a summer's morning on the embers of a dying campfire, whilst the scouts slept. Now I know the benefite of Leader training!
Swedish Dining Shelters, fully gimballed tables, pot stands, mug trees, seats, benches, drying racks... the few miles of sisal which had been provided came in really handy and every bit of loose wood, branch or tree trunk, ended up being used to form some gadget which had to outshine the gadgets of the neighbouring patrol. Having said that it was refreshing to see the constructions of the Leaders were every bit as good as those of the scouts. Education by example?
Well all good things must come to an end and after a week at camp the Cupar Scouts were ferried back to Cupar with their personal equipment and patrol tents, leaving the Dutch Scouts to break camp the following day. All arranged nicely so the mini-buses could cope without the requirement to hire in another coach.
Back in Cupar the Dutch were given the run of the Scouthall to use as a base and on a daily basis were accompanied by a few Cupar Scouts to "see the sights." This included a visit to Edinburgh which culminated in attending the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. A final Bar-B-Q was arranged at Kinshaldy beach, north of St. Andrews and this was attended by Cupar Scouts their families, helpers and the Dutch contingent. A great evening and a fine way to round off an excellent ten days of International Scouting.
During the camp, the "Cool GSL" was presented with a unique plaque, hand crafted by Paul Vale, Schipper with the Dutch Sea Scouts. He had been quite at home during the canoeing and ended up joining in the proficiency work for his "canoeists badge." Paul's artistic anc craft talents are now displayed for all to see, with the plaque mounted in our new Scouthall. Naturally Eric returned with a momento or two of Scotland, presented by the Scots. As with all Scout gatherings there was a considerable swapping of badges and neckers and many friendship made which will continue for many years to come. E-mail messages, letters and Christmas cards have already found no barriers between our two countries and International Scouting has to be commended to all in the movement.
Any troop wishing to have an exchange visit should give us a call. See the following "contacts" for information on who we are and where we are.
Group Scout Leader Douglas
Monday Patrols' Scout Leader Rennie Ritchie
Troop Information 10th Fife (1st Cupar) Scouts
This camp was only possible through the generosity of
Youth in Europe
Fife Regional Council
The Bruce Trust, Cupar
The Bank of Scotland
as well as many friends and colleagues.