THE SCOUT JAMBOREE BOOK
Much as we enjoyed being in the center of the Scout universe at Arrowe Park, we also got a great kick out of some of the educational trips outside of Birkenhead which were arranged for us.
One day, for example, we went to Chester which name we found to our surprise and interest is nothing more nor less than an English version of the Latin word "castra." To some of us it was familiar from our pages of Caesar, meaning camp. This shows the antiquity of the town which must date back to the Roman invasion.
Naturally, we were interested to be visiting so ancient a town and one so full of historic tradition. We were received by the local Sheriff.
But he was nothing like our favorite wild western movie sheriff. He had only the kindest: of intentions toward us and made us a pleasant speech, representing the mayor. Then he presented us with the keys to the city. We walked, around the city on the old Roman wall, which was still in fairly good condition. It dated back to the BC period!
Another interesting bit of this day's experience was our visit to the Castle of the Earl of Derby where we were met by a lady who told us about the ghost that haunted the place. However, it takes a lot to spoil the appetite of, a Scout and we all did full justice to the lunch which we had immediately after our visit to the castle.
After lunch we went to the Cathedral which was very impressive and also frightfully old. Our guide told us it was built between 1000 and 1500 AD After wandering about for an hour or so we went back to camp feeling full of historical knowledge.
On one of the jamboree days five hundred Scouts of the American contingent visited the largest locomotive construction plant in the world which was located at Crewe in West Cheshire. This place was about sixty miles from Birkenhead. There were so many of us that a whole train had to be chartered to get us to our destination. The trip took us again through the Roman ruins of Chester, but this time we didn't stop because it would take all day to see the enormous locomotive works.
We were the guests for the day of the London, Midland and Scottish Railroads, one of the best railway lines in Great Britain and one of the finest in the world. We were greeted by the Mayor of Crewe by a fine speech of welcome. He stressed the value of the World jamboree as a factor in World Peace, the great object for which all nations were now striving.
The first impression we got of the locomotive plant was that of a maze of men, machinery and belts. There were ten thousand employees and the whole plant covers a space approximately two and one-fourth miles long by one-fourth mile wide. As we walked through it the workmen were very kind in explaining any particular thing that we wanted to know. For about forty five minutes before lunch we just walked around and watched the machines in operation. Later we were shown a great deal more.
No doubt different people would be impressed by different things but surely one of the most interesting things in the whole plant were the huge hammers and presses which were both steam and hydraulic. The most powerful press, was truly a thrilling thing to watch in operation. The whole mechanism was about thirty feet in height. It moved very slowly, but its pressure was enormous. The huge steel hammer was raised from its block by means of water pressure. When it got far enough up the piece of red hot steel to be shaped was placed on the block by a giant crane. As soon as all was in readiness the pressure of the water was reversed to the opposite side of the hammer and it moved slowly downward with a pressure of some two thousand tons. It made your head whirl to see how that huge block of red hot steel was smashed out as if it were nothing more than a huge pie. Thus are railroad forgings made.
In the yards we saw a huge crane at work, lifting thousands of pounds of iron in one load. There was no shovel on the arm of the crane the iron clung to another piece of iron which was fastened to the end of the crane arm. This was called an "electromagnet." It worked on the principle of the horseshoe magnet except that the magnetism was induced by an electric current.
The next most interesting machine that we came to was a huge roller used chiefly for rolling out rails. A block of red hot steel about thirty inches square was run through this machine and came out a rail sixty feet long. Each time the rail went through it was certainly a very interesting process to watch a piece of iron go through and through and finally end up a long shiny steel rail.
The most awe inspiring sight in the whole mill was the molten steel. There were huge furnaces specially built so as not to melt when they are full of steel so hot that it runs like water. The manager had one of these furnace doors opened so that we could look in and see the steel boil. Because of the bright light and the terrific heat we had to protect our eyes and faces by means of glass windows which were already standing at the furnace door. When we looked through the glass everything took on a darkish hue, but we could plainly see the steel bubble and boil.
After making a tour of the great locomotive plant we were taken to the factory canteen for tea and listened to an address by Sir Henry Fowler, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the "L. M. and S." We were pretty tired by this time and could not fully appreciate any speeches.
We hated to say goodbye to our friends who had shown us such a wonderful time during that short stay at Crewe and at the machinery works. But at last we got into the waiting buses and started on our journey back to Arrowe Park.
On the way we passed the famous Piccadilly Castle where Oliver Cromwell died. just before he died he had been watching his troops slowly but surely driven back across the River Dee. When he saw that nothing else but defeat was at hand he left the castle which now stands in the city of Chester and went to Piccadilly Castle where, after a few weeks of pining, he died.
We saw nothing of special interest on the return trip except that we were becoming more impressed than ever with the great beauty of the English country, which was so colorful and so natural, and always so amazingly green. But when one considers the large amount of rainfall that England has one cannot see how it could help looking so green and fresh all the time. The fields were all set off with hedges which were kept neatly trimmed. Nearly all of them had dairy cows in them. Those cows must have given a lot of milk. Talk about your contented cows! They couldn't help being contented with so much green grass to eat!
Every once in a while our train would race by a farm house. These houses were nearly all painted white and they nearly all had vines growing on them while in the front there were flowers growing. That's why people call England a "garden spot."
Another interesting trip we made was our tour of inspection of the huge cotton works at Bolton, a town not far from Arrowe Park.
At about daylight one morning we were all routed out and after a hasty breakfast set out on the three mile hike to the railroad station. This was certainly no hardship as it was just enough to make us all feel fine. No person visiting England should miss the thrill of an early morning sunrise. The air that morning was rather moist, but not enough to make one feel uncomfortable. The trees were all fringed with dew and we could hear the birds singing in their nests. It was very easy to imagine that the birds were just as glad to be alive as we were. Everything was so bright and beautiful and cool that the fellows started singing. Even when we reached Birkenhead we did not stop singing and I bet there were a lot of people who were wondering what we had to be happy about that morning.
The Bolton cotton mills, which employ five thousand men, are among the largest and finest in the world. These mills, we were told, use Egyptian cotton which was the best to be had. The whole thing was extraordinarily interesting to us but hard to describe in detail.
One thing that impressed us especially were the huge planes and lathes run by electricity. They were not built for cutting wood but for cutting and smoothing steel! It was surprising how rapidly this machinery could cut down a huge slab of steel. We were told that the machines cost thousands of pounds each.
We passed from one mass of machinery, men and belts to another. As we stopped before one whirling machine to watch it in operation the guide told us that the particular part that we were looking at was going round at the rate of fifteen hundred revolutions per minute. This meant that it went around something like twenty five complete revolutions every second!
One thing that showed the immensity of the Bolton cotton mills was the fact that they had their own wood factory and own planing mill. There were whirling saws here that cut through inch lumber as fast as the men could feed it. There was one giant saw in operation which cut through a three foot board at the rate of fifteen seconds to the foot. It was some different from the method of rail splitting used by Abraham Lincoln!
We spent four hours wandering around the buildings, asking questions and finding out all we could about things we wanted to know. Finally we were all called together and told that we must go if we expected to get any lunch. This, of course, made us all hurry to get to the waiting buses. We were taken to the largest grammar school in Bolton and there had a fine lunch. We ate all that we had brought with us and then were served with meat pies, a characteristic English delicacy.
When we had finished we were taken to a place known as "Hall i' th' Wood," a typically English name. "Hall i' th' Wood" was the home of Samuel Crompton and actually the birthplace of the Cotton Spinning Industry. Before his marriage in 1790, Crompton, who was part farmer and part weaver, lived and worked here. The little room over the porch was his private study. One may claim for this small chamber, it is only six feet square, perhaps the greatest potential value of any space in the world. Here it was that Crompton brought into being the spinning mule which now directly, or indirectly, gives employment to millions of people. In the year 1790 Crompton turned over the secret of this wonderful machine to the public. The rest of his life was full of a long series of mishaps and bitter disappointments.
From the factory we went to the town hall of Bolton where we were greeted by the Mayor and other city officials. Not only were we welcomed by these dignitaries but also by thousands of the people who had come to see us.
Mr. Oscar A. Kirkham, our tour leader made an equally fine speech to the city officials and the people on behalf of all the boys present. At the conclusion of this speech he presented a silk American flag to the Mayor. When the Mayor unfolded it and held it up before the crowd the cheering was terrific.
One cannot help feeling that when people from one nation cheer so much for the boys and the flag of another country, that thing called "World Peace" is being brought more and more into the hearts of men and of nations.
We ended by two or three rousing yells for Bolton, which had certainly shown us a fine hospitality.
When we started on our parade through the street to the railroad station the crowd that lined up to see us off could only be equaled by a "Lindbergh Welcome." All the streets were packed with people and all the traffic was stopped as we marched along. There was so much cheering along the way that our ears felt numb, but it made our hearts glow with happiness and pride in being Boy Scouts.
As a pleasant aftermath of this visit each of us Scouts received a few days later a miniature coat arms of the city of Bolton as a remembrance from the Mayor and the town.
Some of the other Scouts went on other interesting tours which not all of us had time to get in. One especially interesting one was an excursion to Liverpool where the Scouts were taken over the Cunard liner "Laconia" and given a chance to inspect the great docks of the "Gateway of the Empire," as it is called. Later they visited the beautiful modern Cathedral of Liverpool where they were addressed by the Bishop of Liverpool and by David Lloyd George. They also took in the museums and the dye and match factories f or good measure.
It was a pity we couldn't all do everything; but there were simply not enough hours in the day for it all. As it was, we had almost more than we could digest.
Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1998