Principles of Rovering




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By Gilcraft

I Aims

The Aims and Methods set out in Rovering to Success are: "Rovers are a Brotherhood of the Open Air and Service. They are Hikers on the Open Road and Campers of the Woods, able to shift for themselves, but equally able and ready to be of some service to others." (p. 210.)

"By using their primitive instincts of open-air living, camping and scouting, they can develop their health, their intelligence, their skill and their helpfulness, and so become better men and better citizens." (p. 216).

"I have only briefly sketched these points in camping and hiking as a general indication, because after all, enjoyable and health-giving as they are, they are only steps by which you go on towards your further aim - that is, to be prepared for manhood. Of course if you have the good fortune to be in a newly developed or uncivilized country, they are of direct value to you.

"Anyway, through their practice you gain the handiness and knowledge and the self-reliance of the backwoodsman, which makes you the more efficient for your life's work in whatever direction it may lie; you gain the appreciation of the wonders and beauties of Nature; and, more especially, it makes you efficient for doing service for others as a good citizen." (pp. 216, 217.)

I have a feeling that those fortunate Rovers who have been able to go over to some World Moot or jamboree or other Camp abroad have brought back more than just a memory of happy days spent out in the open and of good fellows met: they have been able to visualize more clearly both the purpose and the effect of Rovering. It has had the effect of clarifying their vision.

We all need some such experience to enable us to see exactly where we stand and whither we are travelling. Rovering still stands confused by a whole series of differing aims, chiefly because relative values and emphasis have changed. Some years ago "the high heid yins" (Scots!) piloted us right back and started us afresh from a definite point with a clear-cut line of advance set out ahead of us. Believe it or not as you please, but you will find that it is even so if you study the Rover Rules earnestly and dispassionately. Yet, the chart that Rover is handed to enable him to paddle his own canoe is so criss-crossed with lines, that both the pilotage marks have been obliterated and the dangerous rocks left unmarked.

There are, I am told, many who say that they do not agree that what the Chief has written, as quoted above, is a true description of Rovering, just as there are some, I fear, who quarrel with the beliefs of Scouting as set out in the Promise. They have their own remedy: if they do not believe these things then they must go elsewhere and find an association with whose principles they are in agreement. No one joins a football club and then is entitled to complain because they do not play darts. Darts may be quite an estimable game but it is not football. Similarly, one whose conscience will not permit him to subscribe to the promise of duty to God or to King, or whose inclinations do not lie in the direction of camping and hiking is not entitled to complain because the Boy Scouts' Association as a body subscribes to that promise and believes in the value of these activities in the achievement of its aims. Voluntarily he joined, and voluntarily he may go.

Manhood is what Scouting and Rovering aims at in the present. Those who lead must realize that this preparation for manhood is their immediate aim. Character and experience are the two qualities they themselves must strive for. They must be men who remember their own anxieties, wasted time, foolish mistakes, and perhaps worse, and who won through, or may be still fighting to win, and are willing now by their own personal example in life, experience, comradeship and sound leadership to help Rover Scouts complete their Scout training in good citizenship. Experience in Scouting will undoubtedly be an asset, but experience of life, and of different kinds of life, is of prior importance.

We who seek to lead must be absolutely firm in our own minds that each one is to be encouraged to take his proper place in life, to make good there so that he cannot be a burden on others or on the State - though that may be beyond his control in his own particular circumstances - to consolidate his position and not imperil it by devoting too much time and attention to the sideline of Scout activities. We must be firm, too, in our conception of Scouting as embracing the whole of life, and not as something apart from the lives of ordinary men and women. Our fellows must be trained so that they can mix with others as well as with each other.

There is an undoubted tendency to "nationalize" Rovering whereas it is the individual qua individual that we want to help. We want each individual Rover Scout eventually to stand on his own, and not be dependent on others, not even to be dependent for his strength, of body, mind or soul on other Rovers and on his Crew. That strengthening is a matter of his training, of his preparation. We achieve our immediate aim when he stands on his own, because then he is in a position to help others in his turn.

For us it is the preparatory, practice stage that stands out as important. We do not want quick results with the duration of a flash in the pan, but lasting results which will come to their fruiting later on when the fellow is quite likely no longer an active Rover Scout.

This preparatory, practice stage must be real and not a fairyland. We fail - abysmally - if we seek to ignore the hard facts of life, if we attempt to gloss over the inevitable and tragic difficulties our Rovers - and any young man for that matter - are bound to encounter in their struggle for a livelihood. Scouting and its associations and its activities can be a help in and a solution for these difficulties; but we cannot expect an immediate victory; there will be skirmishes and defeats before that is attained.

As leaders let us realize these difficulties and dangers, let us seek to understand them, let us sympathize with our fellows and their struggles in the certain knowledge that we ourselves probably could not have fought so well at their age and in their circumstances. For God's sake and I say it in all sincerity - let us have something of Christ's sympathy and understanding and patience. Then and only then shall we be doing the work that has been given us to do.

It is a sad thought that millions of men living to-day are or have been members of our Brotherhood, and yet by their corporate example they do not appear to have influenced Mankind one jot. Is it because the vast majority of those who lead have failed to grasp the purpose of it all? Or is it perhaps that some of us are too impatient? I do not know, but I realize that even the Master failed ignominiously so far as the eyes of his own generation were concerned. They did not realize his purpose or his aim. Do we realize it in our Scouting?


"The object of the Rover Training is to enable young men to develop themselves as Happy, Healthy, Useful Citizens, and to give each his chance of making a successful career for himself. It gives the older boy an aim for remaining under helpful influences. . . .

It provides Scouting for young men with its joys of Backwoodsmanship and Nature-Craft.. . It helps young men . . . who desire it, to train for Scoutmasters or Instructors.. .

It gives young men the opportunity of doing useful service for others on a recognized footing." (Rovering to Success, p. 218.)

This quotation seems to put the whole purpose of Rover Scouting in as clear, concise and definite a manner as possible but it all needs developing and interpreting aright according to the particular Crew or Rover Scout concerned. For instance, the term "happy, healthy, useful citizens" need expounding, and perhaps I may be pardoned if I attempt to do this in one way and in my own fashion.

These three characteristics certainly make for an excellent disposition, but this is not enough. The young fellow whom the Crew, the R.S.L. and the R.M.s have to train as Rover Scouts are neither a body of Sir Galahads nor a crowd of loafers. They are just ordinary folk, both in their virtue and in their vices. They are kind, yet occasionally very thoughtless. They are amused by buffoonery, tolerably clean, yet frightfully pagan, or, at times, frightfully religious. Their strongest characteristics are vigor and vanity; the former is qualified both in work and play, while the latter is more the absence of humility than the presence of conceit. Their general attitude is a sort of cheerful cocksureness the same sort of attitude as carried the youthful subaltern and the British Tommy through the war. The one thing the majority lack is a spirit of quiet, unostentatious RESPONSIBILITY. But they are all so likeable, and all such good fellows; they are all so full of possibilities. That is how I in my middle age see them.

A Good Citizen is a man who understands and perform: His Duty to God; his Duty to other people (both individually and collectively); and his Duty to himself.

His Duty to God is in no way satisfied by a passive reception of religion and the formalism of prayers, however good. It demands active, constructive ideas built on a sound basis, and vigorously carried out in everyday - not on Sundays only. It is a matter, not for spasmodic fits of emotion, but for clear, cold REASON translated into continuous action.

In the way of Duty to other people, the average citizen's virtue lies more in the omission of bad rather than in the commission of good. Good Citizenship is shown by voluntary service, and by functioning in one's Rights and Privileges to the best of one's ability. The Rover Scout must, therefore, have an intelligent, instructed interest in all subjects that concern the community, especially the community in his immediate neighborhood.

His Duty to himself is of great import, because he must BE right before he can DO right. He cannot render service before he has trained himself for the purpose. He has his soul, mind and body to look after. He and no one else is responsible for that. The soul is served by training the mind how to think, and the mind is further served by training it what to think

Rover Scout training consists of


Duty to God

Duty to Other People

Duty to Self:

  1. Soul-training in systematic thought; 
  2. Mind-training is sound knowledge; 
  3. Body-training in practical outdoor Scouting and 
  4. healthy recreations.

Chronologically the third should come first, and should bring about the second and the first, as the seed of humanity in himself grows into the tree that gives fruits to other people and thanksgiving to God.

More Gilcraft Gleanings






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.