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HISTORY OF SCOUTING AT COLLEGE – PART 1

From The Archives…

The Beginnings: 1912-1946: 

At present S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia is one of the finest educational institutions of the country. The College was originally inaugurated in Mutwal in 1851 by the first Bishop of Colombo, Rt. Revd James Chapman and brought to its present location in Mount Lavinia in 1918.

From there on, the College took the leading role in producing all-rounded citizens to the country, where Scouting as an activity, has played an anchor role.

According to the oldest records available at College, Scouting as an activity seems to have germinated and started in an unofficial way at S. Thomas’ while the School was still at Mutwal.

The College Magazine for August 1912 states under “School News”:

“The Junior Cadets or Boy Scouts attended the Empire Day Parade. They look very smart in their uniforms and do credit to Mr. H.J. Wijesinghe who is in charge. Their total strength is 130.”

Furthermore, the College History written by Mr. W.T. Keble also suggests that some activity relevant to Scouting was around in the 1900’s:

“The Cadets won the Inter-school sports this year as well as the Physical Training Cup. They were also reinforced by Scouts, who were afterwards called Junior Cadets”

Dr. R.L. Hayman

Certainly Scouting was “officially” permitted according to our records only in 1922 after the School had moved to Mount Lavinia with the formation of the 1st Cub Pack by Mr. V.P. Cooke and the 1st proper Scout Troop by Mr. S.L.H. de Zylva in that same year. Thus, although the 16th Colombo Scout Group came into being much later as our extant historical records indicate, at least since August 1912 Scouting as an activity was being experimented. Certainly it may not have been as popular as Cadetting that it was initially a part of.

Mr. W.I. Muttiah, the legendary Group Scoutmaster (G.S.M.) at S. Thomas’, writing an account of Thomian Scouting in 1968 based on an earlier account by Dr. R.L. Hayman, comments on this earliest reference to Scouting at S.T.C. as thus:

“The first record of Scouts at S. Thomas’ College was in 1912. In that year the C.C.B. (Perhaps misunderstanding the nature of Scouting) started the Junior Cadets and called them “Scouts”. S.T.C. had a platoon of these “Scouts” from the outset, and in 1917 they won the Athletic Shield and the Physical Training Cup. Soon after, they were given their proper name of Junior Cadets.”

From the article of Mr. Wilson Muttiah it is clear that whenever the existing records refer to “Scouts” or “Boy Scouts” in the years between 1912 and 1922, they were in fact referring to the “Junior Cadets”. It could also be argued that as the School authorities at S. Thomas’ did not encourage Scouting, as it was felt it would rival the Cadets which in turn allowed the Scouts to be active as Junior Cadets or as part of the Cadets.

In any event, the first true Scout Troop started by the Headmaster Mr. S.L.H. de Zylva ceased to exist on his departure due to the fact that it was not encouraged by the School and was revived for good only in 1928 with the advent of Mr. W.T. Keble and Dr. R.L. Hayman who went on to take Scouting at S. Thomas’ to great heights including encouraging Scouting at their Schools at Gurutalawa and Bandarawela in the Uva hills in 1942. Dr. R.L. Hayman is also a distinguished Sub Warden of College who assumed duties as Sub Warden in 1935. Dr. R.L. Hayman is a Wood Badge holder himself. Hence it is clear that the Scout Group celebrates either a centenary or 90 years for Scouting at S. Thomas’ as of 2012.

During the first two and a half years from inauguration, the members of the Troop were practically confined to boarders. Hence the dayboys joined the neighbouring “Open” Scout Troops – namely 15th Colombo and so forth. In 1932, the day boys wished to have a Troop of their own and it was constituted with Mr. Carl V. Cooke as the Scoutmaster. He was already Scoutmaster of 15th Colombo at the time. These two Troops were titled “A Troop” and “B Troop” respectively.

In 1933, the Troop won the All-round Shield for Scouting at the annual C.L.A. (Colombo Local Association) competition, for the first time. In the same year, five members attended the World Scout Jamboree at Godollo in Hungary.

In 1935, Messrs. Hayman and Keble left to Gilwell for a Training Course for Scouters. In their absence, Mr. Godfrey Faussett – the District Commissioner at the time undertook to run the Troop. With his knowledge and skills in leadership, the Troop was even strengthened in certain weak areas such as the Badgework progress of the Scouts. In September same year Messrs. Hayman and Keble returned and Mr. Keble took over as the Group Scoutmaster while Dr. Hayman became Scoutmaster. However Mr. Faussett was to overlook the progress as long as possible. At the end of 1937, Mr. Keble left the staff to start off the new S. Thomas’ Preparatory School in Colpetty.

Later on, in 1940 the Scouts yet again won the C.L.A. competition. The seniors won the C.L.A. Shield the following year. At the end of 1942, the dark clouds of the war approached the country and the College had to be shifted to so many other destinations as it was being used as a military hospital. However, due to the unstinting efforts of Dr. Hayman, the Troop ran smoothly in Gurutalawa (Still as 16th Colombo), at least until the war was over. Later on a new Troop in S.T.C. Gurutalawa was registered at the Badulla Scout Association too.

Compiled by: Sidath Gajanayaka

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by Bliss Drive Review