Western Cape Scout Groups - Country Districts

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Please see Scout Groups in South Africa for a list of all the current Groups in the Western Cape

Scouting spread to South Africa only a few months after its birth in Britain in 1907. Initially several troops formed in and around the suburbs of the larger cities like Cape Town and the country towns were quick to follow. However, with transport and communications being what it was in these early days, all Troops beyond the City limits in the Cape, were classified as 'Country Troops' and formed their own District.

The Paarl troop was started in 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. 1st Somerset West was also formed in 1909 by a few eager boys who formed a Patrol. They studied 'Scouting for Boys' until they reached First Class Standard, and then each boy 'adopted' a new recruit. Early documents show that Worcester was started in the same year. The 1st Mossel Bay Scouts were formed in 1910. Records also reveal there were even Troops in towns like Beaufort West, Bredarsdorp, Ceres, Caledon, Malmesbury, Oudtshoorn, Port Nolloth, Riversdale, Wellington and Villiersdorp.

Helderberg District.jpg
Outeniqua District.jpg

Many of these groups that were once 'distant cousins' are still very active. New groups have been formed in towns that have shown economic growth and expansion, but sadly there are almost no Scouts in the smaller towns and villages.

Over the years boundaries have changed and in 2022 we had the following Districts: -

  • Helderberg District that includes 1st Somerset West, 2nd Somerset West, 1st Strand,1st Gordons Bay, 1st Hermanus and 1st Stellenbosch
  • Outeniqua District that includes 1st Mossel Bay, 1st George, 1st Sedgefield, 1st Knysna and 1st Plettenberg Bay

The migratory population of many country towns meant that leaders would come and go resulting in these groups fading and then being resuscitated. The following is an alphabetical list of the Country Groups, both past and present and a short history sourced from the very limited documentation in the Scout Archives.


Beaufort West (1940/50's) - The decade of the 1940’s was one of the high points for the Troop having attended the 1944 Country Rally in Worcester and the 1945 Jamborally in Stellenbosch. In 1946 the Jamborally was held in Oudtshoorn and their skills and enthusiasm were such that they were the winners Scoutcraft Trophy with Carl "Serpent" Rayner as the Chief Judge. Camp fee was £1.1s (R2.10) and highlights were a trip to the Cango Caves, meeting the Polish Scouts, a Swimming Gala and the Campfire. Later documentation mentions that in 1958 a new Local Association had been formed and in December of the following year 1st Beaufort West Scout Hall was opened and that they had about 25 Scouts. The Group remained active during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Caledon (1940's – 1960's) - Earliest records for this group come from the personal scrapbook of the Assistant Scoutmaster Mr Donovan Magennis. During the 1940’s and 1950’s the Group flourished, and attended the 1944 Country Rally in Worcester, the 1945 Jamborally in Stellenbosch and 1951 in Wilderness. But like many troops they had their ups and downs and it was recorded in September 1967 that the Troop closed. The Pack however seems to have carried on until 1970. Read more ...

Ceres (1940 – 1970's) - Although there is little documentation, there seems to have been a Troop active in the 1940's through to the 1970's. However, from a Scouting perspective, the town was well known after 1942 when the local Chemist and Scoutmaster, John Henry Fox 'Scorp' obtained permission from the Ceres Municipality for the Scouts to use the nearby Wit Els campsite. 'Scorp' Fox was the first warden, a position he held for 16 years until 1958.

Conville (George) (1980) - In the early 1980's a Scout Troop was formed in Conville in an effort to give young boys the opportunity to use their free time constructively. The reception of the group among the community was better than expected and it was reported that around120 boys had joined. Read more ...

George (1912 – Active) - The troop were amongst the first to be established in the country. The first meeting of the George Troop was held on 12 December 1912 and records from 1914 have Mr Edward Johnson as their Scoutmaster. Read more ...

Gordons Bay (Active) - 1st Gordon’s Bay is a Sea Scout Group and is located in Somerset West. Current activities can be found on their Facebook Page

Hermanus (1933 - Active) - The Group appears to have had a stop/start existence, with the earliest records indicating that the Group was initially started on 1st March 1933. Current activities can be found on their Facebook Page

Hornlee (Knysna) (1980's) - In October 1980 the Cape Town based Field Commissioners Chris Hendricks and Martin Lewis travelled to Knysna and approached Mr James Hector, who had previously been a member of the movement, to form a Scout Troup in Hornlee. With the help of the local school principals and ministers a group was formed. Consequently, the investiture of the 1st Hornlee Scouts Troop took place on Saturday 4th April 1981 at the Hornlee Community Centre when twenty-one scouts and four cubs were invested. Michael Spies was invested as the first Scout Master and Mr James Hector as Group Scout Master. Glenda Bruinders and Olive Neldrit were the Pack Scouters in charge of the Cubs. The Regional Commissioner Mervyn Schmidt from George officiated. Sadly, the group didn't last very long.

Knysna (1952 – Active) - The 1st Knysna Sea Scouts were founded in 1952. Current activities can be found on their Facebook Page

Mossel Bay (1910 – Active) - The 1st Mossel Bay Scouts was formed in 1910. Current activities can be found on their Facebook Page

Paarl (1909 – Active) - 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 Rive and this led to the formation the1st Paarl Troop. It was officially registered in February, 1910 which makes it one of the oldest troops in the country. Read more ...

Plettenberg Bay - Current activities can be found on their Facebook Page

Sedgefield - Current activities can be found on their Facebook Page

Somerset West

1st Somerset West (1909 – Active) - The Troop was formed in 1909 by a few eager boys who formed a Patrol. They studied 'Scouting for Boys' until they reached First Class Standard, and then each boy 'adopted' a new recruit.

2nd Somerset West (1956 – Active) - On the 12th of October 1956, Mr. Carl Rayner, as Divisional Secretary, signed the papers for the 2nd Somerset West group to officially start. The original scout meeting place was at the All Saints Church Hall. 2nd Somerset West received the old 1st Somerset West scout scarf colours of Red and Yellow. Since then, they have moved to a Scout Hall on Drama Street which was officially opened on the 12th November 1971 by Mr. E. Glass, who was the District Commissioner at the time.

Strand - Current activities can be found on their Facebook Page

Stellenbosch - Current activities can be found on their Facebook Page

Villiersdorp (1962 - 1966) - The Troop was started in April 1962 with a Mr Smith as the Group Scout Master who travelled every Saturday morning from Cape Town to Villiersdorp to run the troop. A somewhat unique group from an administrative perspective in that the Scouts were mainly boarders at the De Villiers Graaf Primary School in Villiersdorp and the parents committee met in Cape Town. Running a troop at a boarding school meant that there was a 'migratory population' with boys often leaving at the year end to attend another school. Read more ...


Additional information from the Scout archives provides an insight into Scouting in the area.

Caledon

Earliest records for this group come from the personal scrapbook of Mr Donovan Magennis. In February 1930 he came to work in Caledon and joined the local Troop of Scouts as their Assistant Scoutmaster. As a Rover Scout he had had lots of Scouting experience and his leadership was of great assistance. At the time the Scoutmaster was Mr C Moore and Cubmaster Miss Lotter.

Easter Camp, 1930
During the 1930 East week-end the 1st Troop of Caledon Boy Scouts went into camp at Diep River, on the farm of Mr. J. W. Metcalf, about eight miles from town. Twenty-three boys participated, under the charge of Scout Master Cyril Moore and Assistant Scout Master Don Magennis. The Scouts were lucky in having perfect weather until just before packing up to return home, when it began to rain very heavily. Everyone was very cheerful though and no one suffered any ill-effects from the wetting. The boys all thoroughly enjoyed the outing, which is part and parcel of their Scout training.

1st Caledon Scouts in 1930

Reveille sounded daily at 6.40 a.m. and physical exercise parade was at 7 a.m.; breakfast at 8 a.m.; kit and camp inspection at 10 a.m. with further duties till noon. Then followed lunch at 12.30 p.m., swimming parade at 3 p.m., tea at 4 p.m., games till 6 p.m. and supper at 6.30 p.m. This was followed by a camp-fire concert till 9.30 p.m. First Post was sounded at 10 p.m. and lights-out at 10.15 p.m.

The camp-fire concerts were a great success and the star performer was Madame Frederika (Scout Albertyn). Her ballet dances were wonderfully graceful and called for rounds of applause. The musical items provided by A. S. M. Magennis and Scout, D. Hitchcock were exceptionally good.

On Easter Sunday two short services were held, which were attended by all the boys.

The camp was a great success and it is hoped it is the forerunner of many more such enjoyable and healthy outings. If other lads but realised how much pleasure they were missing there would be crowds of new recruits for the Caledon Troop of Boy Scouts.

Scout Association formed and presentation to Mr. Don Magennis, 1932

1st Caledon Group c1930’s

In February 1932 a meeting of well-wishers of the Boy Scout movement was held, when it was decided to form a local association to promote the welfare of Scouting. After the local Scout Master had explained the objects of forming the association, a strong temporary committee was formed with instructions to call a public meeting of all interested.

After the meeting those present adjourned to the Scout Hall where a full parade was mustered to bid farewell to A.S.M. Don Magennis, who has been transferred to Paarl. Mr. C. Moore, the Scout Master, in presenting Mr. Magennis with a framed photograph of the troop, paid a tribute to his sterling qualities, and staid that scouting had progressed locally since he had become Assistant Scout Master. He then called on Miss Lotter (the Cub-mistress) to make the presentation.

Mr. Magennis suitably replied and said that he had 15 years of practical Scouting experience, and hoped to continue until he died. He would certainly join up at Paarl, and hoped he would be able to arrange joint camps.

Ack: Cape Times February 1932

Wolf Cub's Co-operation Rally, Caledon, 1936

The Town-Country Wolf Cub's Co-operation Rally which was held over the weekend 1 - 3 August in Caledon and proved to be a great success. Cub Packs from all over the Peninsula participated, the underlying idea of the event being to bring the Town and Country Cubs together.

On the Saturday evening a Campfire Concert was held when the youngsters staged some excellent turns. Quite a number of parents and friends were present and the various songs, music and play-acting were thoroughly enjoyed by all and heartily applauded. It is surprising to perceive how much talent these youngsters possess and how outstanding it is developed by means of this organisation the Cub Section of the Boy Scouts' Association. The Cub Commissioner, Mr. G. M. Peake ("Rama") was the Camp Chief and the 4th Rondebosch Boy Scouts acted as cooks.

On Sunday morning the Cubs attended divine service in the Dutch and English Churches and in the afternoon a "Cubs' Own" Service was held in the Caledon Park, when the Cubs renewed their Promise. The Promise was also repeated in Afrikaans.

On Monday, the Rally proper was held when the various Packs staged displays. It was opened by the Chief Commissioner, Mr. Cedric G. Withinshaw ("Woodpecker") who was accompanied by Commissioner A. E. Percy ("Grey Wolf").

Great praise is due to the Cubmaster of the 1st Caledon Scout Group, Miss M. Lotter ("Lupus") and her willing band of helpers for the excellent organisation, and also Mr. C. Abbot ("Wontolla") Cubmaster of the 4th Rondebosch Group who so ably assisted in the arrangements. The Cubs all remarked, Gee but there was lots of grub", an eloquent tribute.

Birthday card from Cubs
Birthday card from Scouts

In 1943, on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Dr Jan Dommisse, Cubs and Scouts from the Division sent him their best wishes.

The cards recorded the Group having 16 Cubs and 24 Scouts. Dr Dommisse was the Cape Western Divisional Commissioner from 1940 to 1955.

During the 1940’s and 1950’s the Group flourished, and attended the 1944 Country Rally in Worcester and the 1945 Jamborally in Stellenbosch and 1951 in Wilderness. But like many troops they had their ups and downs and it was recorded in September 1967 that the Troop closed. The Pack however seems to have carried on until 1970.

The name 1st Caledon was revived in 1988 in the Coloured suburb with Marge October as the Pack Scouter, but did not remain active for very long. There is also a record that in 1948 the 1st and 2nd coloured groups had 75 Cubs, Scout and Rovers


Group Scoutmaster
Timothy Bravington (1959)

Troop Scouters
Cyril Moore (SM 1930), Donovan Magennis (ASM 1930/32), Ronald Durston (ASM 1950), Theunis Du Toit (SM 1954), Robert Curle (ASM 1964)

Pack Scouters
Miss Lotter (PS 1930), Stephanie Muller (PS 1964), Richard Llewellyn (PS 1966), Jan Knos (PS 1970)

Conville

In the early 1980's a Scout Troop was formed in Conville in an effort to give young boys the opportunity to use their free time constructively. The reception of the group among the community was better than expected and it was reported that around 120 boys had joined. The parents had also set up a parent committee that would help raise funds.

At the inauguration of the 1st Conville Scout Group were District Commissioner, Mervyn Schmidt with his wife, Field Commissioners Charles Mehana, Chris Hendricks and Martin Lewis. From Knysna, the 1st Hornlee Troop was represented by Mr. James Hector and Mr. Hans Morgan and from Cape Town, Winston Adams the Area Secretary.

From the local newspaper cutting

A Scout Troop was formed in Conville in an effort to give young boys the opportunity to use their free time constructively. The reception of the club among the community was better than expected, 120 boys have already joined. The parents have also set up a parent committee that will help raise funds.

At a recent symposium organized by the Babs organization to discuss the gangs in the neighbourhoods, it was found that there were no extracurricular activities to which the boys and girls could belong. This suffering then gives rise to the formation of gangs that lead to all the violence in the neighbourhoods.

Representatives from as far as Dyselsdorp, Knysna, Mossel Bay, George and Pacaltsdorp came to a camp for the training of leaders in the Scout movement. The Scout Groups in Knysna, Dyselsdorp have already been established.

George

The first meeting of the George Troop was held on 12 December 1912. Records from 1914 have Mr Edward Andrew Johnson as their Scoutmaster and a brass plaque in the hall dated attests to this history. The troop therefore can be counted as being amongst the first to be established in the country. Since then, many hundreds of young Scouts have attended meetings in the Scout Hall. The Cubs were started or maybe restarted in April 1952.

The ground in Davidson Road on which the hall is built, had been used by the Scouts over the years and in 1957, Dr St Leger, a long-time resident of George who was very fond of children, bequeathed the grounds to the 1st George Boy Scouts.

The two stalwart Scoutmasters, who served faithfully for many years were Clay Whittal and Graham Savage and they kept the Scout movement alive in George.

From the local newspaper, the George News it was reported in 2012 that: -

Graham Savage and Clay Whittal spent decades with several generations of boys enjoying Scouting.

It was a jovial gathering of 1st George Scouts, their parents and former Scout members who in 2012 celebrated the 100th anniversary of the troop at their Scout Hall on Friday.

The leadership of two popular Scoutmasters was praised during the occasion.

The two stalwart Scoutmasters, who still serve faithfully today, were honoured for their indefatigable leadership. Clay Whittal (Badger) (77) and Graham Savage (Wolf) (63), have been at it for 34 and 27 years respectively.

Commenting on his involvement and that of Whittal, Savage said "We are just grateful that within our Scout group we were able to help to lay the basic building block of skills for later use."

Ken Gie, a former Scoutmaster said, "Every Friday evening, when most folk bolt home to rest after a hard week at the office, these gentlemen are down at the hall, supervising a bunch of boisterous boys, who learn, during their play time as well, important life skills not often found at home or school.

They organised camps which provided the opportunity for lads to fend for themselves in the bush (away from home comforts and nurturing mothers) and great friendships are formed while they realise the importance of their mates, when the odd hardship strikes. 1st George had, at the time, produced 12 Springbok Scouts, the highest award a young man can achieve during his Scouting career.

Paarl

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. Scout Bull Frater remembers camping on his father’s farm with a group of boys and this led to the formation the1st Paarl Troop. It was officially registered in February, 1910 which makes it one of the oldest troops in the country. One of the first ever combined Scout camps in South Africa was held on the Frater Estate premises near the wool washery and the Troops participating were – 1st and 2nd Claremont, 1st Paarl, 1st Observatory and 1st Simonstown.

In 1910 Mr. A.E. Percy succeeded Mr. Swan as Scoutmaster. Another early Scoutmaster was Mr. Wemer Decker, who first joined the troop in 1910 as a Scout and went on to attained the Kings Scout Badge. After leaving the troop he became Scoutmaster in 1913 taking over from Mr. Percy and later became Group Scoutmaster. Much of the group's history is recorded in a scrapbook of his filled with newspaper cuttings and photographs. There were trips to Robben Island, camping in the mountains and annual concerts in the Town Hall.

Like many Troops, they had their ups and downs and in 1918 the troop strength fallen away and was 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. Records indicate that in 1921 a Scout Hall was built in Hof Street and the Foundation Stone laid by the then Mayor of Paarl Councillor F. G. Roux, today the Hall can be found at 193 Bonaparte Ave. The May 1932 records showed that the troop had again dwindled down to only seven active scouts, but this soon changed and by September Scoutmaster Donovan Magennis reported that there were now 16 Cubs, 33 Scouts and 3 Rovers.

During the war years of 1940/5 the troop remained active participating in Divisional events like the Long Street Swimming Gala and Gordon Shield. Camping, both Patrol and Troop was popular at the many sites alongside the Berg River. Campfires and hikes on Paarl Mountain were often with the Girl Guides. A number of the Scouts passed the wartime National Service Badge. During this period their Scoutmaster was W Decker. The Cubs too were active being mentioned for a number of acts in the May 1941 variety concert in the Town Hall.

In February 1960 the Paarl Post reported that Don Magennis was to revive the Paarl Scouts, but there was no indication if the Troop had ceased to function. The revival certainly had excellent results and towards the end of 1961 there were 72 Scouts and Cubs.

Villiersdorp

The Troop was started in April 1962 with a Mr Smith as the Group Scout Master who travelled every Saturday morning from Cape Town to Villiersdorp to run the troop. It was a trip of approximately 100 kilometres and in those days, it probably took around 2 hours one way. A somewhat unique group from an administrative perspective in that the Scouts were mainly boarders at the De Villiers Graaf Primary School in Villiersdorp and the parents committee met in Cape Town. Their flag, which in those days came all the way from England, was presented to the troop on Saturday 17 November and the following Sunday a very successful Church Parade was held at the English Church and was attended by several parents.

The group had a good relationship with the 2nd Claremont Scouts in that the committee held many meetings their Scout Hall and their first camp was a joint effort between the two troops. The week-long camp was held in Kommetjie and was a great success with 15 Villiersdorp boys attending. A campsite within walking distance of the school, known as "Rooi Pad' was made available to both them and 2nd Claremont by a local famer a Mr Le Roux. It was an ideal setting with a stream running through it.

The boys were soon experiencing true Scouting, with a number of hikes, some being overnight and logbooks of the trips being produced. In addition to the normal badge work, a Senior Scout from Claremont examined of the boys for tests and was a great help with the advancement and badge passing. To keep the parents informed of the troops' progress and activities, the Group Scout Master published a quarterly magazine called the Protea.

At the October 1963 Annual General Meeting, the Group Scout Master reported that he was unable to find a local man to run the Troop as Scout Master or even an Assistant Scout Master. This however did not deter the Troop from holding their annual Summer Camp and 19 of their Scouts teamed up with 15 from 1st Hermanus to have a most enjoyable camp in Hermanus. Many tests were passed including 5 boys that completed the one-mile swim.

First quarter 1964 saw 28 very keen Scouts in the Troop and by May a Cub Pack with 12 boys had been formed under the leadership of Mrs van der Velde the Akela of 6th Rondebosch Pack. Also, in May a Scouts Own Service was held on the farm 'Radyn' supported by parents and the Worcester Scouts.

The 1966 Summer Camp was again held in Hermanus, and this time only 5 Scouts from Villiersdorp joined up with 5 Scouts from 4th Observatory. Sadly, from the committee minutes for June it was reported that the Troop was now down to only 8 boys and the Cubs even less. Consequently, it was considered no longer worthwhile going all the way to Villiersdorp and the group closed down. Running a troop at a boarding school meant that there was a 'migratory population' with boys often leaving at the year end to attend another school.