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One Hundred Years On

DID SCOUTING FOR BOYS BEGIN IN THE MATOPOS ?

There are many places in the world which could attempt to lay claim to being the place where Scouting started. What claim has Bulawayo and the Matopos Hills?

The Bulawayo that BP knew in 1896 was a “frontier” town established only three years previously, on the site of King Lobengula’s deserted kraal - it was nonetheless the largest town in Rhodesia at that time. By the time that Baden-Powell arrived, Bulawayo had just come out of siege having been surrounded by rebels who had now withdrawn to the fastnesses of the Matopos Hills.

The boys of the Jesuit Saint George’s College had rendered invaluable service to the besieged town, assisting with, for example, running of errands and carrying of messages (in a manner very similar to that adopted by Baden-Powell during the Seige of Mafeking, four years later). Fr Barthdlemy from the College, served as Chaplain to the Matabeleland Relief Force in the Matopos and Matabeleland# and would have been in contact with Baden-Powell.

baden-powell-bulawayo-1906
"The Boys of Bulawayo"
Sketched by Baden-Powell following his visit in February 1906

In "Sketches in Mafeking and East Africa" published in 1907, BP makes note of this and says how he admired “the boys of Bulawayo”, not only their organisation but also their attitude. So is it just coincidence that when Baden Powell held his first Boy Scout camp on Brownsea island, the boys were organised on similar lines to those used originally by the St George’s College boys in Bulawayo ?

Much later, in 1933 Baden Powell wrote a letter to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Occupation of Matabeleland, in which he again noted that the qualities exhibited by Rhodesians of 1896 were the qualities that he wanted to see in boys, saying of them “...the spirit of the Pioneers of Rhodesia is not confined merely to their successors in the country, but has spread itself across the world”.



# Fr Barthelemy was mentioned in despatches for his role in assisting the MRF.


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Acknowledgements:-Dave Anderson
Colin Anderson
BGK