The Jamboree Book, 1920
1st World Jamboree, Olympia, England

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The Grand Hall at Olympia, London, 1998

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Colonel E. A. P. Hobdey, C.M.G.
Stage Manager of the Chief’s Pageant

Stage Management.
From: Boy Scout Association, The Jamboree Book, 1920

NEXT to the Box Office came the very important matter of Stage Management which included the all too brief rehearsals and the conduct of the Stage "’ for the run of the jamboree. The Chief Scout, however, had thought out the general scheme months in advance, and wrote entrancing articles in " The Scout " on the manners and tribal customs of the different savage races who were to appear in order to prepare the performers for their tasks. He even worked out a time-table of the whole pageant, giving the number of minutes allotted to each episode. Then when the time came, he selected a stage manager to run the pageant, put the whole thing into his hands, and gave him full liberty to 14 carry on."

Although this was some two months before the opening date, the time for preparation was none too long. The first thing was to get into touch with the musical director, and he soon established relations between the stage manager and the officials of the various districts, to whose Scouts had been assigned the parts of the different nationalities in the Pageant. John Smith’s following in the Pageant, "The Genesis of Scouting," were all London boys, from Kensington, Hammersmith, Paddington, Chiswick, Ealing, Hanwell, Wandsworth, Putney, and Barnes. The modern Boy Scouts were drawn from St. Pancras and the Lord Mayor’s Own (City of London), while the parts of the Red Indians of Virginia were performed by Manchester Troops. They had already appeared in a display of their own at Manchester, and agreed to provide a contingent of 100 " braves," ready dressed and equipped:.

Getting in touch with these scattered elements took a little time, but once connection was established, the organisation of the pageant on a proper system was started in earnest. Notes for instruction ‘and guidance were written out and sent to all Commissioners of districts concerned, and a group manager with two assistants appointed for each unit, who proceeded to enlist the number of boys required, and instruct them in the outlines of the Chief’s scheme. Sketches of the different tribal types, their arms and equipments, were prepared by the. stage manager after several visits to the Ethnological Department of the British Museum, and a long study of books and authorities on the different nationalities concerned. Lists of all " properties " required were made out, as well as plans showing the position of all groups on the stage. When all this material was ready, a meeting of 44 group managers" was called at Imperial Headquarters, where the stage manager explained fully to them how to start training, and handed out copies of all the information and instructions above detailed. A complete time-table of work up to the day of the opening performance was also drawn up.

Then the real work began on properly organised lines. It was not all plain sailing. The time of year, with the attraction of outdoor sports in the long summer evenings, camps, and other fixtures, interfered considerably with attendance, but by degrees things took shape, and once the boys caught the idea of what was wanted, they played up enthusiastically, and the pageant was fairly started on its way. After some weeks of this individual training of groups, the time came when they were fit to be worked together to " join tip " what each had learnt, and to svnchronise the various episodes, so that one unit should not take longer than another over any item such as camping, cooking, signalling, etc. By the kindness of the authorities a large field behind Kensington Palace was lent for rehearsals, and all groups met there twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for " combined practice." Independent rehearsals still went on between the " combined practices " and the stage manager was able to visit any group that needed extra polishing up on the intermediate days of the week. At this period dancing was the chief occupation, as each group had to perform its own type of dance, and so five different "steps" had to be evolved and taught.

Now came Manchester’s turn for a visit by the stage manager. He was given a hospitable invitation to attend a " pageant " performed there by the Manchester Boy Scouts, in which the " Red Indians " detailed for the chief pageant were to appear. Returning to London, the stage manager was able to secure the Chief Scout’s presence at one of the later combined rehearsals, when he was pleased to approve of the progress made.

After a final rehearsal at Kensington, it was announced that Olympia would be open on July 29th for rehearsal. What a scene of confusion it was. Hammering going on everywhere, scenery being painted on the floor of the arena just where one wanted to marshal the actors-no dressing-rooms ready, Manchester, who only arrived at Richmond in the small hours of the morning, meeting the London groups for the first time and, stranger still, the first sight of the orchestra and choir. All this with a dress rehearsal before H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught in prospect for the following afternoon. Somehow, every difficulty was tackled in the true Scout spirit and things dropped into their place so that there was some hope that the show would run fairly smooth on the morrow.

Who will forget the first time the "savages" appeared in all their glory of war-paint and deshabille " ? The babel of excited voices behind the scenes, impossible to quell, in spite of endless exhortations to " make less noise." The joy of banging the newly issued tom-toms, regardless of what might be going on in the arena. The wild congestion in the very inadequate dressing-rooms. Groups of half-naked imps enjoying impromptu duels with assegais and boomerangs in the gangways regardless of the traffic. Every kiddy brimming over with happiness and the joy of " dressing up," and excited as anybody at the arrival of the " day."

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Showing the Pageant of Nations
Center (next to large flag): B-P Takes the Salute

The Stage in Full Swing.

At last, after what appeared to be ages of waiting, came the moment. The stage manager was up in the gallery near the choir superintending the display of the notices explaining the different incidents. Up went the conductor’s baton, out blared the opening trumpet from the orchestra. The first performance had commenced !

Then came the rush for tea, followed by a wash at the lavatories. The stage manager now returned to his " office " (a very, rudimentary specimen) to dole out railway fares and answer a thousand and one questions. " Please, sir, what time do we conic on to-morrow ? " " Look at the notice board, my lad." " Please, sir, I’ve lost my hat." " Some one’s taken my stockings." " Enquire at the lost property office, and if you can’t find them, tell your group leader." " I want fares for the Cubs for three evenings." " Can you give me some smaller change ? " " May I have your autograph, sir ? "’ " Could you get me two complimentary tickets for to-morrow evening ? " etc., etc., ad infinitum.

The daily performances now began to get into their swing, and the little performers became such adepts at the game that one could depend on them for any emergency. One day, time had to be saved, and they got the show off in about seventeen minutes instead of half an hour, the stipulated time. Another day they ran it a little longer and finished exactly at the hour required. Once more they were put in the middle of the programme instead of the finale, and had to improvise an "exit " to short notice as the curtain did not come down on their show. Every time the boys rose to the occasion and there was no hitch. Each morning the stage manager’s duties took him to the treasury to draw his " fare money " for the day. He then verified the day’s programme and posted up a large copy on the stage manager’s notice board behind the scenes for the information of all performers.

As the stage manager went home for the last time his heart must have been full.

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"Macnamara’s Band" — One of the Funniest Things at the Jamboree
Photo: Tella

Scenic Displays and Competitions.

THE following is a record of the Scenic Displays and Competitions in the Arena during the run of the jamboree, under the name of the County or Country providing it :


BANBURY gave a Trek-Cart Display;
BIRMINGHAM, a Ragtime Circus by the Carr’s Lane Troop and a Fire-Fighting Display
BRISTOL, Moriis Dancing; Tumbling Display;
CORNWALL, Morris and Sword Dancing by the Madra Troop
DEVONSHIRE, a Single-Stick Display by Lady Baird’s Troop
DURHAM COUNTY, Display showing the evolution of Physical Training;
ESSEX, Swedish Drill by the Royal Infant Orphanage, Wanstead, and Patrol Exercises by the Ilford Local Association.
HEREFORDSHIRE gave a display showing the county industries, its charms and customs a century ago, which included :-

  • Cider-Alaking with an old mill and press, with straw mats for straining liquor. Boy bitten by adder, in which an old charm was used to cure bite.
  • Descriptive of the Corn Harvest, an old custom to banish evil from cornfields was shown, viz., 12 boys (representing the 12 Apostles) each with a sheaf of corn. The sheaf representing Judas was raised on a pole. while the 11 danced round it and finally destroyed it.
  • In connection with Wye salmon fishing were boys with coracles ; fishing ; making and mending nets.
  • There was also a supposed case of drowning and the ancient method of artificial respiration was shown.
  • Boys with coloured wands and ribbons also " beat " the parish bounds and at disputed points in the boundary a boy Was birched to impress upon his memory the boundary, and coins were scrambled for.
  • The ancient ceremony of blessing the young apples was also depicted in which a pole with a large bough of mistletoe, a white gloved hand, flowers and charms fixed to the top, was erected in an orchard, round which boys danced an old folk dance, etc. During the dance a boy falls from an apple tree and breaks his leg and ancient first aid was applied.
  • During this latter episode the following old song, entitled "Tommie," was sung by the 80 performers.

As Tommie was walking one fine summer day,
Some rosy-cheeked apples him saw on his way,
Him saw on his way-yes, him saw on his way–
Some rosy-cheeked apples him saw on his way.

Those rosy-cheeked apples they seemed to be
Some way from the ground, so him climbed up the tree,
Him climbed Up the tree-yes, him climbed up the tree
Some way from the ground, so him climbed up the tree.

So Tommie did climb, and the tree him did fall,
And down came poor Tommie, tree, apples and all,
Tree, apples and all yes, tree, apples and all
So down came poor Tommie, tree, apples and all.

And after his tumble poor Tommie was sore;
Him vowed that he’d never steal apples no more,
Steal apples no more-no, steal apples no more
Him vowed that he’d never steal apples no more.

KENSINGTON gave a Display of Physical Training, and a humorous concert party entitled " Macnamara’s Band."
KENT, a Parallel Bar Display by the Canterbury Scouts and a Gymnastic Display by the Dinnington Troop and the 1st Yalding Troop.
LIVERPOOL provided a Display illustrating the return of Captain John Smith to his native land. In this was a Punch and Judy Show and the crowd of holiday-makers dressed in the costumes of the time.
NORTHUMBERLAND gave a Colliery Display in the Annexe, a full description of which appears on page 82.
SHEFFIELD showed some Physical Training and an instructive combined Fire and Ambulance Display. The idea was that the hut in the arena caught fire, and the inmates were unable to escape. The Scout–, came to the rescue, and, with the use of the jumping sheet, escape, chute and ladders saved evervbody, and the fire was extinguished. A synopsis of this Display is as follows :

  • 1st Display.-Each method of rescuing to be taken separately. Two Scouts, homeward bound, discover a fire. Rousing the inmates. Giving the alarm to the Fire Brigade. Turn-out of the Brigade. Rescuing by sheets or blankets improvised as ropes. jumping sheet. Fixing scaling ladders. Carrying down patients. Escape by means of a chute. Running out hose. Use of extincteurs.
  • 2nd Display.-Gaining admittance without a ladder. Hauling up a line of hose. Lowering branch. jumping into a sheet.
  • 3rd Display.-Approaching a fire in dense smoke on knees. On stomach. Picking up insensible persons. Carrying out. Dragging with life-line.
  • 4th Display.-Extended lines passing buckets. Scrumming to keep back a crowd.
  • The teaching of fire fighting plays an important part in the training of the Boy Scouts. Already they have extinguished many fires in the country, and it is hoped in the near future to form many Scout Fire Brigades, in addition to the seven already recognised. The object of giving such displays in the Arena was to demonstrate to the public that the boys are capable of handling fire-fighting equipment and of rendering first aid to the injured.

WILTSHIRE provided a Musical Drill with poles and Free Gymnastics over a horse by the Devizes Scouts.
WESTMINSTER also provided Physical Drill and Bridge Building by the 1st Westminster Troop. This Troop was the first to have a Wolf Cub Pack, which is officially known as Peter’s Own," Peter being the eldest son of the Chief Scout.
WORCESTERSHIRE COUNTY gave an Indian Club Swinging exhibition and Pyramid Building.

IRELAND.-The Belfast Scouts made the Red Hand of Ulster. The popular legend is that in two boats which were approaching the shore of Ulster were two rival claimants to the Lordship of those lands and it was agreed between them that he who landed first should be the Lord Neill, one of the claimants, seeing that his boat was losing, cut off his hand and threw it ashore, thus establishing his claim to be Lord of Ulster.

This was followed by a display illustrating the various processes of the linen industry in Ireland. The ripe flax was pulled and stooped, dipped in the lint-hole, spread out to dry, and eventually taken to the spinning-mill. A hand-loom was seen at work ; the web was bleached, made into aeroplane wings, and the circular eyes of the Allied Flying Machines.

In the background Irish Troops were seen pitching camp and going through their day’s work, to the accompaniment of music rendered by the Belfast Scouts’ pipe and bugle bands.

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Irish Sea Scouts in Their Rocket Life-Saving Display
Photo by courtesy of "The Sphere"


"AN EPISODE FROM THE LIFE OF ST. PATRICK." Synopsis. (Easter Eve, A.D. 433.)

The Episode depicted was connected with one of the patient and successful attempts of St. Patrick to convert the subjects of King Legaire from Paganism. St. Patrick was first seen accompanied by some faithful followers and peasants about to light the Paschal fire. The firewood was blessed by St. Patrick, the fire built and set alight. St. Patrick explained the celebration to his seated followers. In the meantime the serfs of King Legaire arrived and built up the King’s fire to celebrate a festival, and, while awaiting his signal to light the fire, are entertained by the King’s Bard. A half-witted youth with the serfs was chased by a man whom lie torments. While they are separated from the others, they suddenly notice the Paschal fire burning and are dismayed, for it was the King’s law that no fire should be kindled while the King’s fire burns. The boy, Benen, to whom St. Patrick was very much attached owing to his gentle disposition, saw the King’s serfs and told St. Patrick, whose followers were alarmed. Two messengers met the King and his Chiefs and told the ill news. The King was vexed and threw them down, after which he consulted his chiefs and then his wise men the Druids, but none could explain the fire. The Druids said, " If that fire which ‘we see be not extinguished to-night, it will never be extinguished, but will overtop all our fires, and he that has kindled it will overturn thy kingdom." In great wrath, the King summoned his fighting men, only to find that the majesty of St. Patrick, who had calmed his followers and set forth to face his adversaries, overawed the armies and brought them to their knees in fear and respect. The King was about to kill St. Patrick, but was prevented. His Druids, overborne in argument, knelt also. The King, in despair and rage, departed, and saw St. Patrick address his people and lead them to the Paschal fire. The half-witted boy wanted to follow the King, but was roughly ordered away, and hastened to join the throng.

SCOTLAND showed a Highland Gathering and an historical episode from Scottish History: "The Lady of the Lake."

The Display was preceded by a Procession of County Flags, headed by "The King’s Flag," which was won for Scotland this year (1920) by the 40th (Stepps) Glasgow Troop. Each flag had been keenly competed for in its county, and was carried by a picked Scout from the best Troop in the county.

The following counties were represented : King’s Flag, Scottish Headquarters, Aberdeen, Argyll, Banffshire, Berwickshire, Berwick-on-Tweed, Bute, Clackmanan, Coatbridge, Dumbartonshire, Dundee, Dumfrieshire, Edinburgh and Leith, East Lothian, Fife, Forfarshire, Glasgow, Kirkcudbrightshire, Kincardineshire, Kinross, Midlothian, Orkney, Peebles, Perthshire, Renfrewshire, Roxburgh, Selkirk, Stirlingshire, Wigtownshire.

The procession was headed by the St. Andrew’s pipe band (Mackintosh), with the addition of pipers from Stirling (Argyll and Sutherland tartan).

The Display represented a Scout Highland Gathering in which various games, piping, dancing, wrestling, tossing the caber, pole jumping, etc., were carried on at the same time as well as other Scout activities, such as fire fighting, bridge building, pole jumping, etc.

The Combat Scene from "The Lady of the Lake " was acted by Perthshire Scouts.

At a given signal, the whole of the 150 Scouts left their various occupations and joined in one wild Highland Dance. The scene ended with the return of the procession of Scottish County Flags.

WALES gave an excellent colliery display by the 24th Swansea Troop. A pit-head was erected in the Arena, and the miners descended into the mine. A Troop of Scouts were in camp near by. An explosion in the mine occurred and a rescue party from the Scout camp was organised, and proceeded to the pit-head, where the rescuers found it impossible to descend on account of the damage done to the cage by the explosion. The Scouts erected a single-pole derrick and rescued the miners by this means. First aid was rendered where necessary.

FRANCE gave a day in the life of a Chevalier; building human pyramids.

GIBRALTAR provided a Gymnastics and Physical Training Display; the rendering of first aid in accidents.

HOLLAND gave three simultaneous displays : A cycling demonstration’ with a patent cycle brancard ; pitching camp, physical training and singing songs ; dancing the national wooden-shoe dance.

JAMAICA had an illustration of the tribal customs of the Arawak Indians, the aboriginal inhabitants of Jamaica.

LUXEMBOURG showed Combined Physical Training and Signalling.

SWEDEN also gave a Physical Training Display. A Troop was seen returning from their morning bath, after which they did Swedish exercises and gave a display of the use of their life-lines.

SWITZERLAND provided a representation of a Swiss Wrestling Feast.

TRANSVAAL gave a Display representing native life in South Africa.


TUG-OF-WAR. — The teams were of 12 Scouts aside ; the length of the pull, 8 feet the best of three pulls to be the winner. The shoulder pull was allowed. Warrant officers were not eligible to coach competing teams. The coaching had to be done by a Rover or a Scout, who had not to be more than 18 years of age On July 31st, 1920. Scouts had to be dressed in shirt or vest, Scouts’ shorts or running shorts, stockings and soft shoes, heels not being allowed.

OBSTACLE RACE.-The teams were Of 3 Scouts, the distance, twice round the Arena, approximately 500 yards ; and the obstacles, an 8-foot wall, an 8-foot water j Limp, a hedge, climbing carts and tree-trunks, running through turnstiles, through paper screens into lanes, etc. Scouts were dressed in shirt or vest, Scouts’ shorts or running shorts, stockings and soft shoes or boots.

OBSTACLE TREK-CART RACE. This was competed for by troop teams of 6 Scouts with trek-cart made up to the minimum weight Of 5 cwt.

The obstacles were an 8-foot wall and a 9-foot ditch. The wheels of the cart had to be dismantled at least once during the race ; carts might be further dismantled if desired. Scouts, caits, and the contents had all to go over the wall and over or through the ditch. Carts, with contents, had to be fully assembled before reaching the winning post. Competitors were dressed in shirt or vest, Scouts’ shorts or running shorts, stockings and soft shoes or boots.

MARATHON LONG-DISTANCE RIDE.-This ride was accomplished by Troop Teams of three Scouts on pedal bicycles, and the distance was 100 miles, finishing in the Arena. Members of each team had to arrive together, and the ride spread over a period Of 48 hours, Marks were given on arrival for the good condition of the Scout, uniform and bicycle, for the best log of the ride, and for camping and cooking arrangements made. The teams were permitted to start at any point 100 miles from Olympia, but, in order to be eligible for the wreath of laurel, which was the first prize, they had to reach Olympia between the hours of 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Wednesday, August 4th, 1920.

Teams on arrival had to be dressed in accordance with Rule 23 of the Policy, Organisation and Rules Pamphlet, 1920, with the exception that during the ride the Stave and Equipment might be carried on the bicycle.

Each competing Scout had to carry a certificate signed by the District Commissioner or his deputy, stating the date, hour, and place from which the competitor started. Scouts of the same team might assist each other, but no assistance could be accepted from the railways, air or road transport, etc. At night Scouts had to camp and feed themselves.

RELAY DISPATCH-CARRYING (PUBLIC SERVICE).-This Competition was in two sections : (I) For counties as a whole, for which the prize was free entrance to all the Boy Scouts in the winning county to the jamboree, (2) was to encourage long-distance dispatch carrying, and for this England was divided into eight districts to which were given special names. The prize in this section was a certificate given by the Chief to each Scout who. helped to carry the dispatch first handed in to him at Olympia.

The eight districts referred to were known as:

  • "Dick Turpin’s Way "-i.e., York to London 196-3/4 miles.
  • "The American’s Way"-i.e., Liverpool to London 205-3/4 miles.
  • "The Fish Way"-i.e., Grimsby to London 166-1/4 miles.
  • "The Nelson’s Way"-i.e., Portsmouth to London 73-1/2 miles
  • "The Norman’s Way"-i.e., Hastings to London 64 miles.
  • "The Pilgrim’s Way"-i.e., Exeter to London 164-1/2 miles.
  • "The Saxon’s Way"-i.e., Norwich to London 108-1/2 miles.
  • "The Minstrel’s Way"-i.e., Carmarthen to London 218 miles.

The dispatch had to be carried by individual Scouts, who had to proceed on foot or on some vehicle propelled by themselves-e.g., bicycles, scooters, roller skates, boats, etc. The dispatch had to pass through at least 25 Troops. The prize was awarded to the Scouts who carried the dispatch in the shortest time from the starting-point to the Chief Scout in Olympia.

BAND AND BUGLING COMPETITIONS. -These were carried out under the direction of Mr. Arthur Poyser, the Master of Music.

Other displays shown daily, but not in competition, included the Pageant:

"THE GENESIS OF SCOUTING," written by the Chief Scout.
The scene showed the coast of Virginia, wooded hills in the background, John Smith’s ship moored in the bay.

THE STORY OF THE PAGEANT. Captain John Smith landed in Virginia with his band of British Adventurers, and brought with him representative groups of those races who were eventually to become members of the British Empire–East Indians, South Africans, Maoris, and Australians from whom the Briton has derived so much of his knowledge of "scoutcraft." Groups of modern Boy Scouts and Cubs also came on the scene, and, during the progress of the play, imitated in modern, up-to-date fashion the various elements of scoutship displayed by the various tribes in their original savage beginnings. All John Smith’s followers transported their baggage and equipment from the ship and marched, each group in its own fashion, to their camping grounds.

Meanwhile, the Red Indian natives of the country had watched, through their scouts, the arrival of the strangers, sending the news to their chief, Powhatan. Powhatan, with his daughter Pocahontas and their followers, came down from the forest and pitched their camp in the neighbourhood. The British scouts captured one of the Red Indians and brought him before John Smith, who, instead of ordering him to be killed, as the Indian expected, treated him kindly, and made him his guide when he went hunting, tying the Indian’s wrist to his own to prevent his escape. John Smith fell into an ambush and was captured by a party of Powhatan’s " braves." He wounded one of his assailants, but was overpowered in spite of a brave resistance. He rendered " first-aid " to the man he had hurt, and was then taken before Powhatan. Preparations were made for the tribal ceremonial, which began with the initiation of Indian boys to manhood by the medicine men. After witnessing the initiation ceremonies, John Smith was tried by the Council of Chiefs,, and condemned to death by having his brains beaten out by the Tribal Executioner with a club. John Smith bore himself bravely, and put on a bold front throughout the preparations. At the critical moment Princess Pocahontas, who had been struck by his gallant bearing and fortitude, came forward and interceded with her father for his life. Powhatan granted her request, John Smith was released, and the pipe of peace was smoked. John Smith then took Powhatan, Pocahontas, and their retinue to visit the camps of the British Adventurers and their allies. During this visit Lieut. Rolfe (who accompanied Capt. John Smith) conducted Princess Pocahontas, and was struck by her beauty. (They were eventually betrothed and married, and came to England, where Pocahontas died, and was buried in the chancel of St. George’s Church, Gravesend.)

The Totems of all the different races were then collected beneath the British Flag, and Powhatan declared that he, too, would honour and respect the emblem of the British Empire, the Union Jack; so he and John Smith proceeded to signal to their followers in different ways and they, after a Dance of Rejoicing, joined with the Modern Boy Scouts and Cubs in a grand united "Rally" round the British Flag. Powhatan then guided John Smith and his Colonists into the interior of Virginia, and all marched off through the woods, singing as they went.

CHORUS singing by the London Scout Choir.

DISPLAY by Roland House, Stepney Green, London, and London Diocesan Boy Scouts Association.

WOLF CUBS.-This display is fully described on page 25.

BRIDGE and Hut Building by the Peterborough Rovers.

LONDON ROVERS.-A Pageant of Boyhood.

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