By John Thurman
Report from a more-than-usually-observant fly on the ceiling at the Court of Honor
Meeting of the 1st None-such Troop, a Troop which has been established for ten years, owns its own Headquarters, and seems to be a fairly lively show.
Bill Springs: age sixteen years, Queen's Scout of eighteen months standing, Troop Leader
(TL) [Senior Patrol Leader] and formerly PL of the Owl Patrol (in the Chair).
Tom Jackson: First Class Scout, PL Owl Patrol.
Jim Baxter: First Class Scout, PL Woodpecker Patrol.
Ron Hammants: First Class Scout, PL Pigeon Patrol
"Tubby" Cross: First Class Scout, PL Cuckoo Patrol.
Skipper Harrison: SM (holds the Wood Badge).
Tony Thomas: ASM
The Group is an Open Group containing boys of many denominations from various districts in the town.
The meeting was called for 8 P.M. on a Tuesday evening and duly assembled in the Court of
Honor Room in the Troop Headquarters.
The Court of Honor Room is quite small, being eight feet by six feet. The walls are attractively decorated and hold copies of the Camping Standards Certificates for the last nine summer camps, an
Honors Board showing all the First Class Duke of Edinburgh Awards and Queen's Scouts, twenty-six of the former and fourteen of the latter. There is a board for each Patrol, setting out the names of the previous Patrol Leaders and the dates of their terms of office, the Troop Flag and the Union Flag, and illuminated copies of the Scout Promise and Law. In one corner
is a small bookcase containing the Court of Honor Library, and in the center of the room is a small table surrounded by ten
collapsible chairs, only seven of which are needed for the meeting this evening. The table itself is covered by a Scout-green cloth in the
center of which is worked the Scout Badge and the Troop emblem as worn on the point of the scarf.
The meeting is called to order by Bill Springs and he asks them to stand in silence for a moment. (In an Open Group this is clearly the best way to begin as a prayer would be inappropriate with mixed religions). The
meeting then gets under way without any delay and the Troop Leader asks the Scribe to read the Minutes of the last meeting, which are short and to the point and contain nothing of outstanding interest.
The procedure is then as follows:
TL [SPL]: May I take it that the Minutes, are a correct record of our last meeting? Those in
favor say 'Aye.'
TL: Is it your wish that I sign them?
The TL signs the Minute Book and passes it to the Scribe, first looking through it and announcing :
TL: That seems to be all right and I don't think there is anything arising.
The TL then calls on each PL in turn:
TL: Tom, what have you got to say about the Owls?
PL Owls: We're pretty good. Since the last meeting two of my Patrol have gained their Second Class; we held one Patrol Meeting, part of which was spent repairing the Patrol Den bookcase and part of which we gave over to mending our buzzer equipment and then
practicing with it. We had a full turn out.
TL: The Woodpeckers, Jim?
PL Woodpeckers: The two recruits we had from the Pack aren't bad; they have both done fire-lighting and cooking. I always try to get this testing through in the winter so that they can get real experience.
TL: Well, that's nothing to boast about; its Troop tradition anyway, but I am glad you are carrying it out for a change.
PL Woodpeckers: We haven't had a proper Patrol Meeting,
except that we went on a hike a fortnight ago; all present except three. We went
about eight miles and explored the old mill.
PL Owls: It's about time you found another hike route; you've been reporting about the old mill for the last eight months.
TL: Well, perhaps you can offer him one of your more imaginative hikes.
PL Woodpeckers: Thanks very much, but we're doing all right. The Owls can carry on with their own route marches.
TL: Anything else, Jim?
PL Woodpeckers: Yes. My Patrol thinks we ought to change round the Patrol Corners in the Troop
Headquarters. We've been nearest the draft and furthest from the fire ever since the Troop started and we think it's time
someone else had a turn.
TL: Well I think that's a matter for the Scoutmaster.
SM: It certainly opens up all sorts of possibilities. Perhaps we
have been a bit hard on the Woodpeckers. In any case, I was going to suggest later on that it was time some of the Patrol Corners were re-made as the decorations are looking a bit musty. It might be a good idea to draw lots for the corners as some are obviously better than others and then to agree to move round once a year.
TL: That seems a pretty sound suggestion to me so long as the Owls don't have to move.
SM: I think it has to be all or none.
TL: I suppose it has really, but there will be a bit of hard feeling about it.
PL Woodpeckers: Well, there's hard feeling in my Patrol
anyway; we think the best corners ought to be shared round as well as the worst.
TL: Anybody else want to say anything about this?
PL Cuckoos: I'm prepared to vote in favor of Skipper's suggestion. There'll be a bit of grumbling to start with but I think my chaps would benefit from a change of scene and I can't get them interested in doing anything with their present corner, so I hope we do shift.
TL: All right then, we'll put it to the vote, but I think before you come to any final decision you ought to consult your Patrols in Council and then we can vote on it at the next meeting. Is that agreed?
Nods of assent make it obvious that it is agreed.
(Comment : The SM had been wanting to make this suggestion for many months as there was no doubt that the
Woodpeckers had been handicapped by having the worst corner in the Headquarters, but very wisely he had not made the suggestion until the opportunity arose and he feels pleased with the way things have gone).
TL: Now, Ron, your turn: what about the Pigeons?
PL Pigeons: Well, I think we're doing all right except that I've chosen the wrong Second. I thought young Bob was going to be a great success but each time I have left him to do
something he has let me down and he doesn't seem interested any more. Since we made him a Second he hasn't passed a single badge and neither is he working for
TL: Any comments, Skipper?
SM: I think Ron is right, but he made the choice and he either has to stand by it
or recommend that he has a new Second. Might it not be an idea to have Bob up before the Court of
Honor at the next meeting and see what he has to say for himself?
PL Pigeons: Yes, it might be an idea, and I think we ought to give him a chance, but just at the moment I'm not getting anywhere at all with him. Other than that, the Patrol is very happy and I hope they'll all be Second Class before summer camp.
ASM: Could I say a word about the Pigeons?
TL: Yes, of course; carry on.
ASM: Well I think they are getting too keen on their own personal progress and letting some of their other activities slide. Last month, as you know, I was in charge of the Duty Patrol for Headquarters. The Owls, the Cuckoos, and the
Woodpeckers did quite a good job but the Pigeons hardly did anything at all and, in fact, I had to wash up the cocoa pot and sweep out the Troop Room because they all slipped away as soon as the meeting was over. I don't mind doing this sort of thing, but I think it's bad for the Patrol.
TL: What about that, Ron?
PL Pigeons: It's true enough. The ASM had to do those things. The washing up was the Second's fault as he was in charge of that but I must take responsibility for
the lack of sweeping. As a matter of fact it looked all right to us and I was in a hurry to get away so we just skipped it.
SM: I think there is a point I ought to make here. No one is more keen than I am that chaps should get through their tests, but their
personal progress must be lined up with the general responsibility of each Patrol as a whole. I think the Pigeons have slipped back a bit and it is up to you, Ron, to pull them together again."
PL Pigeons: O.K. Skipper; I think we've just had a bad month.
TL: Now the Cuckoos. What about you, Tubby?
PL Cuckoos: There's no doubt about it, we continue to be the best Patrol in the Troop. We've had two Patrol Meetings and twelve tests passed in the month. We had a hike three weeks ago, and not to the old mill either, but I'm not going to tell you where we went as we've found a grand new place. I'm pretty pleased with my Patrol and I think they are terrific!
TL: I agree it all sounds very nice, and there's nothing like blowing your own trumpet
because no one else is going to do it for you. Any comments, Skipper, on the Cuckoos?
SM: Yes, I have. I think they're getting a bit 'uppish' and a little bit too keen to win. It's true they have had a good month, and they won the Patrol Competition again, but once or twice in games I think they've been more keen than fair. In a way it was good management on your part, Tubby, to put all your heavy men against the small ones from the other Patrol in the "Horses and Riders" game, but I don't think it was very good Scouting.
PL Cuckoos: Maybe we have got things a bit out of focus. We've a meeting next week and I wonder if you would come down, Skipper, and have a yarn with them without mentioning anything in particular?
SM: Yes, of course I will. We'll fix up a time after the Court of
Honor is over.
TL: The next item we have to deal with is the program for the Troop
weekend camp in two weeks' time. Anybody got any ideas?
PL Woodpeckers: We talked this over in the Patrol and we suggest that one meal should be Backwoods Cooking, preferably Saturday night's
TL: All right, what do you others think of that?
PL Cuckoos: I think it's a rotten idea. Last time we tried
it I didn't get any supper at all.
PL Owls: Gosh, you're big enough to live on your fat for a week! I think it's a jolly good idea and we ought to do it.
TL: Ron, what do you think?
PL Pigeons: I'm all for it: I'm not too sure about the Patrol though, but I'll ask them.
TL: Who's going to arrange it? I wonder if the ASM
could have the right sort of food available?
ASM: Yes, I can do that. Will you just leave it to me or does anybody want to suggest
anything in particular?
PL Owls: Oh, lets leave it to Tony; he'll fix us up all right. I'd only say that it is a rotten time of the year for eating rabbits and I hope they won't be on the menu.
ASM: All right, Tom; duly noted. It will probably be hedgehog instead.
TL: Any other ideas for the program?
PL Cuckoos: My chaps want to try out the Patrol Swing Bridge.
PL Owls: Never heard of it!
PL Cuckoos: We know you can't read, but we didn't suggest that everybody tried it. Can't we have a couple of hours on the Sunday when each Patrol has a definite project, pioneering or whatever else they like?
TL: What do you think, Skipper?
SM: I think it's an excellent idea. If you like I'll produce four separate projects and let you have them next week so that you can discuss them with your Patrols and we will make sure all the necessary gear is there.
TL: That's a bit easy, isn't it? Why can't each Patrol provide it's own gear?
PL Owls: Since you became TL you've been jolly keen on the
PL doing all the work. I like Skipper's idea.
TL: Well. I think you're wrong, but if that is what you want have it
your way. Agreed?
TL: The next thing I have on the list is an application for membership, and perhaps the
SM will say a word about it.
SM: Actually, I've had two boys along to see me, Harry Bryce and Jack Rawlings. They are both eleven years old and very
keen to join. They've not been Cubs and that is part of the trouble because we have to keep room for four Cubs coming up later this year and all the Patrols are full except that the Pigeons can take one more. I think we have to consider having a fifth Patrol.
PL Cuckoos: That's going to make a mess of the Patrol Corners if anything is. We can't get five corners out of four.
PL Owls: But there's plenty of wall; you can have a flat corner, can't you?
PL Woodpeckers: Try telling that to my math teacher!
SM: I've seen these two boys and their parents and I think we ought to take them. Perhaps between now and the next meeting you can think over the idea of extending the Troop to five or six Patrols. I must say I'd like to see six, and your Second, Tom, is about ready to become a
PL and I'm sure we could produce another.
TL: That's seems a good idea. Perhaps these two recruits can be invited to the next Troop Meeting and come up before the
Court of Honor in a month's time when we shall know a bit more about them. Now the next thing is the
SM 's announcements. Over to you, Skipper.
SM: I've not much this month. I have had particulars of the Camping Competition and it is for one normal Patrol.
PL Cuckoos: What makes you think we've got such a thing? All ours are a bit screwy.
SM: All right, as normal as we can get it. It's the third
weekend in September; the usual site and usual rules. We've not won it for three years and I must say I wouldn't mind winning it again as I think it is about time we did.
TL: Whose Patrol is it to be, then?
PL Owls: Wouldn't it be better to wait until after our
weekend camp and then the Scouters can decide which is the best Patrol. I think they ought to decide in any case.
TL: If that's how you want it, it's O.K. with me. We'll leave it to you,
Skipper to run the weekend camp and then tell us which Patrol you've chosen. Anything else,
SM: No, that's all for this month, but I would like to have a word at the end of the meeting.
TL: Any applications for Proficiency Badges?
PL Owls: Yes, young Jack Hilliard wants to go in for the Pioneer Badge. I'd like to support it; he's doing all right and is very keen, and he hasn't missed a meeting for over six months.
TL: Is that agreed?
TL: Any other business? O.K. then. Skipper, you said you wanted to have the last word; what's it about this time?
SM: Smoking, for a change. I expect I'm old-fashioned but I still think Patrol Leaders in uniform puffing cigarettes in camp sets a bad example to the rest of the Troop. I would like to ask that you put a ban on it and, if it would help, the
ASM and I are willing to give up smoking during the Troop weekend camp.
PL Cuckoos: Well that will save you a lot of money, Skipper.
SM: How many of you smoke regularly?
Rather hesitatingly the TL and the PL Pigeons put up their hands.
SM: Mind you, I don't think this is the sort of thing we can make rules about, but I am concerned about the example we set to the younger fellows in the Troop. I think we ought to try to avoid smoking in their presence.
TL: O.K., I'm willing to play ball with this one. Skipper is right and we do seem to have got a bit slack about it. I suggest that at the
weekend camp we really do make an effort to pull ourselves together, about this and one or two other things, Any other business? No? Then I declare the meeting closed. Next meeting a month from tonight.
The fly on the ceiling noticed that although the formal business was over nobody seemed anxious to go away. The
PL of the Pigeons slipped off to the kitchen and returned ten minutes later with a brew of tea for everybody. As his Patrol was not on duty this week it was obvious that the point the
ASM had made had gone home, at any rate temporarily.
Whilst having tea the SM began one of his apparently irrelevant but actually very valuable yarns. He knew his Patrol Leaders and he had the happy knack of suiting his yarn to the needs of the moment. On the face of it he wasn't talking about anything very much but somehow he was underlining the decisions they had arrived at and illustrating them with reminiscences from the past. It was three-quarters of an hour before the cups were washed and the final "Good Night's" said.
As the Patrol Leaders left the Troop Headquarters they looked a little bigger and more like Patrol Leaders than when they arrived.
The Court of Honor