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Scouting Personalities

Pearse, Captain D Colbron

Appointed by Baden-Powell to organize regional Scouting committees

Captain Pearse was Joint Commander with B-P at his first camp for Boy Scouts, see the Page on the Humshaugh Camp

Potter, Donald Steele. 1902 - 2004

Participant on first Wood Badge course. Woodcarver and Sculptor

Donald Potter was born on April 21st, 1902 at Newington, near Sittingbourne Kent and when this was originally written in 2003, he was coming up to his 101st year. His daughter, Annie Singleton, read this potted biography in early 2004 and told us that her father, 2 months off his 102nd birthday, had just completed another woodcarving! Sadly, she was to contact us again shortly after, to tell us of her father's passing on June 7th, 2004. Few men are blessed with such a life, especially one such as Don's which was filled with purposeful activity.

Don Potter's father was a school teacher and, though he was not a wealthy man, he was able to send Don to private school. One of his school reports was prophetic:

"Though by no means good at his books, he should do very well in later life. His character is developing along the right lines. He is fitted for an out-of-doors life. . ."
Don considered that he learnt nothing at school. It was the sound of the orchestra that accompanied the silent films he used to see on his visits to the cinema, that motivated him buy a second-hand cello - an instrument he played with distinction for most of his life.

When he was eight Don joined the Wolf Cubs and, by one of those amazing Scouting coincidences (or are they?), he soon fell under the influence of his Scoutmaster, none other than E E (Josh) Reynolds, who was also Don's English Schoolmaster at the time. Reynolds was to become the editor of The Scouter and the Official Historian of the UK Scout Association: His biography also appears on this Page.

B-P and Potter
Don Potter, wearing his Wood Badge, with B-P

The Potters moved to Chingford, Essex, very close to Gilwell Park, when Don was 13. At that time, during the First World War, the Park was run-down and privately-owned. Don left school in 1917 work in munitions factories, a job he detested. In 1919, W F de Bois Maclaren presented Gilwell Park to the Scout Association. Don with his Troop, which must have been the nearest to Gilwell, was invited on a regular basis to help with the clearing-up. This period coincided with the closure of the munitions factory in which he worked. After the end of the War Don was absolutely delighted to be offered a job as a permanent member of the full-time staff at Gilwell.

Don was in his element; he loved climbing trees and sleeping outdoors, and he was present at the first-ever Wood Badge course, as the photo on the Wood Badge Page on this Site shows. B-P gave each of the course participants two beads from his Dinizulu necklace to mark the fact that they had finished their training. When these beads began to run out, Don himself carved the replicas that were given to later generations of Woodbadgers.

In 1920, Don saw the cowboy Tex McLeod give a demonstration of rope-spinning at a London theatre. Don was entranced, went backstage, and invited him to visit Gilwell. By the end of the year, Don was more than proficient himself and was later to co-write a book on the subject. He was in constant demand to give rope-spinning exhibitions himself, including a star spot in one of Ralph Reader's early Gang Shows, and on the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales to Gilwell to accept a statute of a Bison, marking the rôle of an unknown London Boy Scout in the formation of the Boy Scouts of America. These exhibitions were to continue, at home and abroad, until Don was in his nineties!

However, it was carving and working in wood which was to become Don's trademark. He carved totem poles, gates, gateways and constructed the Gidney Cabin. This traditionally-constructed log cabin was built by Don in honour of Francis 'Skipper' Gidney, Gilwell's first Camp Chief and is still in existence. It was Gidney who had bought Don his first set of wood-carving tools.

B-P, Potter and Totems

By the age of twenty, Don Potter was recognised by Baden-Powell himself as a craftsman of distinction. He camped at B-P's house at Pax Hill, Bentley, in Hampshire and undertook carving commissions for him, utilising fallen Pax Hill oaks said to be 1,200 years old. For the World Jamboree of 1929, Don designed totems for the five British Dominions of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and New Zealand. Each totem was surmounted by a Scout fleur-de-lis and had carvings appropriate to the dominion concerned. On the back of each totem were the words Friendship Jamboree 1929 R. B-P, originally written by the Chief Scout and then deeply incised by Don. The totems were presented by the Chief at the Jamboree at Arrowe Park, Birkenhead. The photograph, showing all five totems, came from the official Jamboree Souvenir Handbook, which gave full credit to Don for his work, describing him as "Mr Don Potter, the Scout Carver of Gilwell Park Training Centre, Chingford, Essex." A Milestones correspondent, Bob Rodgers, a one-time volunteer archivist in the Canadian National Archives and author of 75 Years of Scouting in Canada told us in early 2004 that the totem Don carved for the Dominion is safely preserved. It is to be hoped that the other examples of Don's work are similarly preserved in Scouting Museums around the world.

Don began to work in stone as well as wood and recognised that, if he was to perfect his skills, he would need the guidance of a Master. He was to meet Jacob Epstein, who had himself studied in Paris with Rodin and, in 1931, on the advice of his old Scoutmaster Josh Reynolds, he approached Eric Gill, to study under him. Gill was an engraver, designer of typefaces and sculptor who had carved the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral. He offered Don a six month's trial, but Don stayed as his pupil for six years. During this time, Don's experience widened, as he worked under Gill's direction and he undertook commissions in his own name. Importantly, he was also able to meet and be influenced by other leading sculptors. In 1934, Don began to take on his own pupils and worked at Oldfield School in Swanage, Dorset. In 1941, he started to work at Bryanston near Blandford Forum, also in Dorset, and one of the foremost Art and Craft schools in the country. He worked there until 1982, an amazing 41 years! The list of his associates and pupils whilst he was at Bryanston is impressive - Sir Terence Conran, founder of the Habitat furniture design shop empire, is amongst many who rank Don as the major creative influence in their lives.

Don married in 1945, and he and his wife Mary had two children, Anne, born in 1947 and Julian, who has inherited his father's musical abilities, born in 1952. Anne recalls that her father learnt transcendental meditation in the 1960's and practised it on a twice-daily basis. She is convinced that this was a contributory factor in her father's longevity.

Don never forgot his Scouting roots and was a regular visitor to Gilwell. He was given three major commissions by the Scout Association, the Memorial Stone on Brownsea Island, the larger-than-life-sized statue of B-P outside Baden-Powell House, London and a large granite bust of B-P for the Dominican Republic. No one could be better qualified to have undertaken this work. Don not only knew B-P well but, as a Scout, had an understanding of what 'The Founder' meant to his Worldwide Movement. There can be no doubt that Baden-Powell would have approved as he had often and publicly recognised Don's artistic abilities. Don Potter, like his old master Eric Gill, never signed his work, so many of the people who walk up to and touch his monuments at Brownsea and B-P House have no idea of the identity of the sculptor, or his Scouting links.

His work will surely stand as a marker to a wonderful talent and a great Scout, for many generations to come.

As a tribute to Don, and to his mentor, Eric Gill, this biography has been set in Gill Sans 11pt, with headings in Gill Sans Ultra Bold 13pt and the quoted passage in Gill Sans Condensed 11pt bold.

For a full account of Don's life, I can recommend Don Potter: an inspiring century by Vivian Light, published by Canterton Books in 2002.

Primmer, Arthur.

Maintained a life-long interest in Scouting from 1907

Arthur Primmer was one of the boys who attended Baden-Powell's camp on Brownsea Island. Little is known of his later life, though he agreed to sponsor several Scout Troops, claiming in 1982 (erroneously) that he was the last living 'Brownsea Scout'.


Reynolds, Ernest Edwin 'Josh'. 1895-1981

Scouting author. Editor of The Scouter

E E Reynolds is perhaps best known for his books, a biography of Baden-Powell and the well-respected history, The Scout Movement. He wrote numerous other books and articles and was also very influential as the editor of The Scouter (See the table of Editors below). Though Christened Ernest Edward, I doubt you will have ever seen Reynolds' Christian names used before. His books and articles use 'E E Reynolds' as a by-line, but he was universally known as 'Josh' Reynolds.

I know nothing of Reynolds's youth, other than he was a Quaker, and though I can claim no acquaintance with him, or even people who knew him, it does seem to me that his religion might well have had a lot to do with the way he viewed life.

By one of those quirks of fate that seem to occur frequently in Scouting, Don Potter, a significant name in Scouting, particularly in the history of Gilwell, joined his Newington School Scout Troop near Sittingbourne, in the Medway District of Kent in 1910. Reynolds was to become its Scoutmaster and also Don's English teacher. He was to have a profound effect on Potter and it was he who persuaded Potter to write to sculptor Eric Gill in 1931, leading to a life-long career as a professional woodcarver and sculptor.

Reynolds tells us in one of his articles that he was an Akela for two years until he was 'rescued' from this 'embarrassing' time by a lady who could really do the job. In 1914 he had became a teacher and Scouter in the Mathematical School at Rochester, in Kent. An ex-pupil said of him, "If there was any good in a boy - and there always is - Josh always saw it." Teaching was not a 'Reserved Occupation', so Reynolds would have been eligible for conscription at the outbreak of the First World War, even had he not volunteered. Of course he may have been medically unfit to serve, but as many Quakers were Conscientious Objectors he may have been exempt.

The Gilwell Wood Badge courses started in 1919. Though Reynolds was not on the first course, he did complete his Wood Badge within the first year of its opening, 'graduating' from the second set of weekend courses. As so many have, he fell in love with the place and became Assistant Camp Chief to 'Skipper' Gidney for a short time in the summer of 1919. In 1929 he became the full-time Deputy Camp Chief at Gilwell and, according to the authors of B.-P.'s Scouts (Henry Collis, Rex Hazlewood, Fred Hurll), he brought "a sturdy individuality and shrewd intelligence" to the post.

Reynolds, a lifetime bachelor, left Gilwell in 1934 to give more time to his writing. From his cottage in the Chilterns, he wrote and edited many school books, and articles for journals on a range of subjects. It was around this time, about 1935, that Reynolds stood as a Labour candidate in a Parliamentary Election. A Scouting friend wrote to him, saying "I don't think much of your politics, but hope you win." Unfortunately for Reynolds it was not to be. (Had he stood in 1945 he might have faired better, as there was a massive swing to Labour after the war.)

Reynolds then became an English teacher at the Royal County Grammar School, Colchester, and was the Assistant County Commissioner of Training for Essex, as well as working for the BBC's News Service. In 1938, during the period of massive re-arming throughout Europe prior to World War II, Reynolds wrote an article for The Scouter, entitled Scouting and the youth of the world. His views must have been considered to be contentious, as the then-editor C Beresford Webb felt that he had to inform his readership that:

"The writer of the following article was an active Scouter for 25 years. He is now unattached and he expresses here the personal views of an onlooker."
The views expressed in the article that Scouts should travel abroad as much as possible and when they do they should "Go as Scouts, not tourists", seems nothing other than straight-forward restating of the 4th Scout law, i.e. interact as much as possible with Scouts from other lands. Reynolds wrote:-
"I think that it is most urgent that the numbers of these visits should be increased."
but, as we know, war became inevitable, killing the dream that many, including B-P, had held since the First World War that never again would Scouts ever have to fire upon their brother Scouts. Reynolds practiced what he preached and often took his Scouts abroad. His was the first British group to visit the International Scout Chalet at Kandersteg after it opened in 1923.

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939 Reynolds, at 44, would have been too old to have been conscripted, though volunteers up to the age of 50 were being accepted. By 1941, because of casualties, the age limits for conscription were raised to 50, but again Reynolds was not called. He rejoined Headquarters and became the Honorary Editor of The Jamboree Magazine, the magazine of International Bureau of World Scouting, just prior to becoming the acting-editor of The Scouter in September 1940, which led eventually to Reynolds becoming editor.

E E Reynolds

In 1941, Lord Somers was appointed Chief Scout and he set up a commission of 26 Scouters, drawn from every section, to plan for the post-war development of Scouting, and Reynolds was its Secretary. One hundred and forty conferences were held across Britain during the next year and the subsequent report set the standards for Scout training in the post-war years and enabled the Scout Association to live alongside Government-sponsored Youth Clubs, with qualified paid Youth Club leaders.

In 1943 Reynolds became ill and in 1944 resigned his post as editor of The Scouter. Staff missed his "wit and wisdom and his not always orthodox point of view. . ." Reynolds, however, was not finished with Scouting. The Allies were making gains in Europe and elsewhere and in every country vacated by the Nazis there were literally millions of 'displaced persons' housed in 'DP Camps'. Here was a rôle totally suited to Reynolds' Quaker principles. He had, within Scouting, set up an organisation called the Scout International Relief Service (SIRS) and by March 1944 the first party of Scouters were on their way to Greece. In September of that year Reynolds himself led a team to work in Belgium, Holland and Germany. He went on a tour of inspection of the various camps involved with his old friend Haydn Dimmock. The work of SIRS (to be a future Milestone article) has been described as ". . . one of Scouting's finest good turns." Reynolds surely would have seen this as part of his Christian duty - he had converted to Catholicism during the war and went on to write many books on faith and became an authority on the life of St Thomas More. In 1948 he published Scouting for Catholics and Others.

Following the war, Reynolds suffered injuries in serious motor accident, but he made a full recovery to become the Senior Leader Trainer at the first Wood Badge course to be held in Italy in 1949, in the wooded hills above Frascati. The year 1958, when he was 63, seems to have been a turning point in Reynold's life as, other than a brief article in Scouting in July 1979, his literary output was then exclusively connected with the Roman Catholic Church. It would appear from his personal scrapbook, in the possession of Dr Michael Foster, that he became as committed to promoting the Church as he had during his working life been committed to Scouting. Dr Foster notes that during this later part of his life Reynolds also grew a beard, this may of course be indicative of nothing but it could seen as a marker indicating that one way of life had been left behind for another.

Reynolds continued his work as a writer into old age. He died aged 86 on the October 18th, 1981. His obituary in Scouting of January 1982 was written by Rex Hazlewood, a friend of 50 years-standing, who had succeed Reynolds as the Editor of The Scouter. Hazlewood recalled his friend's many good points, but also the fact that Reynolds was "not the most patient of men . . . not suffering fools gladly", and that some found him "aloof and abrupt", but he also placed on record his view that a visit from Reynolds "was like the sun coming out." A tribute written during Reynold's lifetime in The Scouter, in 1944 on his resignation from its Editorship to oversee the work of SIRS, perhaps best sums up the man - "benign, irascible, thoughtful, impulsive, country lover and townsman . . . a man of many talents and contradictions. . . "

Editors of Headquarters Gazette / The Scouter

1908-1911 Unknown
1911-1926 H G 'Uncle' Elwes. In 1923 Headquarters Gazette became The Scouter
1926-1928 Ernest Young. Great geographer and headmaster of Harrow School. Met B-P in 1911, had been joint editor with Elwes since 1923
1928-1929 George Dymoke Green ('Jim') A 'brilliant young man', who died only 15 months after his appointment as editor. He was the son of C Dymoke Green, who was the General Secretary of the Scout Association from October 1917 to July 1918.
1929-1930 D Francis Morgan - The Scout Association's Legal and Parliamentary Secretary. Editor for six months only
1930-1935 Dr F W W Griffiths (Died February 1940)
1935-1939 C Beresford Webb Editor until Sept 1939. Died 1948
1939-1940 J S Wilson. Editor for three months only
1940-1944 E E 'Josh' Reynolds Acting Editor, leading to full Editorship
1944-1968 Rex Hazlewood Editor, also becoming Editor of The Scout in 1954
1968-1970 Ron Jefferies. In January 1971 The Scouter became Scouting magazine

Rodney: The Hon. George Brydges Harley Guest, 1891-1968; James Henry Bertie, M.C., 1893-1933; Charles Christian Simon, 1895-1980; William Francis, 1896-1915

Brothers at Baden-Powell's 'experimental camp' on Brownsea Island

Of three (or maybe four) Rodney brothers who took part in the camp on Brownsea Island, George Rodney went on to attended Baden-Powell's second camp for Boy Scouts at Beaulieu.

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