JUNE 30 – JULY 15
1. How it all began - Kate Lillie
2. Fund Raising - Hugh Gryspeerdt, Tim Gossage
3, History of Antigua and Barbuda - Robin Lyon, Chris Cooper
4. Project - Lydia Pearson
5. People and Media - Tom Chater
6. Daily Routine and Free Time - Jenny Gossage, Duncan Gibbs
7. Transport - Alex Blakesley, Tom Trouton
8. Antiguan Scouting - James Millward, Ben Pothecary
9. Antiguan Campfire Songs - Matt Nolepa
10. Trips and Excursions - Tom Hennigan, Naomi Jennings
11. Slave Trade - John Gammage, David Pearson
12. Sport - Phil Meier
13. Antiguan Way of Life - James Dawson, George Wallington-Smith
14. Summary and Observations - Mike Banks
Rabka, Poland 1995
Rabka, Poland 1997
Aiud, Romania 1999
Aiud, Romania 2001
Plovdiv, Bulgaria 2006
Antigua and Barbuda 2008
Alan Armour Mike Banks
Alex Blakesley Tom Chater
Chris Cooper James Dawson
John Gammage Duncan Gibbs
Jenny Gossage Tim Gossage
Hugh Gryspeerdt Tom Hennigan
Naomi Jennings Kate Lillie
Robin Lyon Phil Meier
James Millward Matthew Nolepa
David Pearson Lydia Pearson
Ben Pothecary Thomas Trouton
George Wallington Smith
Antigua June 30th – July 15th 2008
How It all Began
Our trip to Antigua came about following an extremely successful trip to Plovdiv,
Bulgaria in the summer of 2006. Gladiator Explorer Scouts, formerly Gladiator
Venture Scout Unit, have been completing expeditions abroad for the past 14 years.
The trips have been enjoyed by all, and many on the last trip to Plovdiv asked for a
more ambitious location following their A levels. This would allow 2 years in the
planning stage and give a longer time for fund raising.
The expeditions have always contained a considerable amount of time, and in some
cases, resources on a project. These have included basic construction work in Poland
and Romania, working with children in Belarus and Romania and redecoration of part
of an orphanage in Bulgaria.
Various locations for 2008 were suggested and finally, though contact with David
Bull, International Commissioner for Scouting in London, communication with
Norman Spencer, Scouting Commission of Antigua and Barbuda was established.
Norman assured me that a suitable project could be found in conjunction with the
Environment Department led by Carol Faye George.
Despite the efficiency and speed of modern technology it became clear that a first
hand recce trip would be advantageous. And thus in February 2008, accompanied by
Sue Banks and Diana Armour, I visited Antigua. Whist there we met Norman and
Carol. Carol was able to elaborate on her ideas for the project. This would be quite
different to anything we had done before; there would be no start and completion
point; we would be helping at the Government Plant Nursery. A far more nebulous
concept but still within the ethos of the scout movement. The nursery grows plants
for use in numerous ways around the island. These include planting at eroded
beaches, beautifying public areas and replanting after storm damage. The last
hurricane that hit Antigua was in the mid 1990‘s. The Environment Division also
works to encourage the local community to plant in their own gardens. In November
they would be holding a swap a plant month where local people would bring 2
unfilled plant bags to swap for an established plant. Therefore, in July there would be
plenty of seed sewing and grafting to complete.
Norman took us to see the proposed accommodation at Gilberts Methodist Centre
near Wilikies village, towards the eastern side of the island. The centre is on the
foundations of one of the original plantation houses and it is from the steps that
Gilbert first preached Methodism in the Caribbean. Norman was also pleased to hear
that we would be able to provide some Scout Leader training if necessary and that the
Explorers were keen to mix with the local Scouts as much as possible. We were able
to visit island landmarks and historical places of interest such as Betty‘s Hope Sugar
Plantation, Devils Bridge, Shirley Heights and Nelsons Dockyard. This would be
equally important to add to the cultural aspect of the trip.
Upon returning home I discussed the proposed accommodation with Alan and Mike
and we decided that an alternative would be sought which would be more centrally
located to our needs. I had visited The Loft in Bolans village on the way to the airport
which was a new plush hotel that would accommodate us. Alan trawled the Internet
and was fortunate to find the Anchorage Inn who were happy to have us stay in
multiple occupancy in the rooms. The Anchorage Inn was nearer to St. Johns and was
complete with swimming pool. It was just round the corner from the nursery which
meant that we could be independent on occasion and walk to our project rather than
wait for transport – despite the high temperatures and humidity. Internet searches
found economic flight costs with XL Airways from Gatwick to VC Bird International
Airport on Antigua.
And so our group of Explorers was formed and everything was in place and the fund
raising could take off in earnest as the costs were going to be much higher than for
previous trips. Fundraising proved to be a challenge as the island is regarded as a
luxury holiday venue and not a location of need. However away from the 365
beaches there are some very needy areas. We were also keen to support the Scout
organisation by way of training resources and our thanks go to Head Office for their
support in this area.
The Explorers had a full programme of fund raising events, some tried and tested and
some new activities. We would like to thank everyone who contributed in various
ways to the efforts and the funds raised
With thanks to our Sponsors
The Ammco Trust
Bucks County Scouts
Donald Leslie & Co
The Entertainer, Amersham
The Leslie Sell Charitable Foundation
Misbourne Valley District Scouts
Mr. A Welch
BP Volunteer Scheme
Cake Stall Old Amersham
Car Boot Sales
Car Wash at St. Johns Church
Chesham Bois Village Fete, stall and assault course
Cycle Ride, St, Johns Church, Amersham to Antiguan High Commission, London
Gang Show All Together Now! Refreshments, raffle and DVD‘s
Marks and Spencers Beaconsfield, bag packing
Mayors Day, Water into Wine Stall
Mobile Phone Recycling
Race Night at Spices and Herbs, Amersham
Quiz Night at Amersham Rugby Club
Waitrose, Chesham and Rickmansworth Bag Packing
Year 7 and 8s social disco
Expedition Leader, District Explorer Scout Commissioner Misbourne Valley
On April 12th, some of the members of our group held a car wash in the car park at St.
John‘s. Supposedly (I wasn‘t there myself) the cars were all dull and rubbish, until a
Porsche made an appearance and the everyone helping flocked to it, proving how
shallow we all really are. We also received numerous donations from members of the
public and business, as well as several grants that Kate applied for, which made up a
large proportion of our total funds raised.
The Gang Show held in March also provided an opportunity for fund raising, as Tom
Hennigan and Tom Chater held a raffle, as well as helping Tim and Jenny serving
refreshments in the interval on all three nights. The generous Gang Show patrons
gave us more than £450 towards our trip, and we would like to thank both them and
all the people who made the Gang Show possible this year for the opportunity to raise
a bit more money.
The bike ride, which we would like to thank Nick Gammage for organising, was my
favourite fund raising event, and it was held on a surprisingly sunny Sunday afternoon
in May. Many people had great success with their fund-raising, and altogether £1450
was raised. It was perhaps my attitude towards, one of excitement rather than dread,
put together with the non-stop talk of friends at school about how they cycle 100
miles every weekend that put people off sponsoring me, so unfortunately I was only
able to contribute £10 towards this particular event. The route that Nick had planned
for us took us by road out to Rickmansworth, then along the banks of the Grand
Union Canal almost to the front steps of the High Commission itself. The day went
incredibly smoothly, with no major injuries and no-one losing their way, as far as I
recall. There was of course the odd fall or cycling accidentally off the path. I
personally was guilty of the second offense, as, having seen Phil cycling with his
palms under the handlebars of his bike (though I believe thanks are in order to Ian
Gossage for lending it to him), I attempted to out-do him by cycling with my hands
crossed. Naturally, this lasted for all but a second before I plunged into the thick
bushes of nettles to my right, which I can‘t help feeling was better than plunging into
the canal to my left.
Huge thanks must also be directed Mike Taylor‘s way. Once again he organised,
built and oversaw the assault course at the Chesham Bois fete, the proceeds of which
went towards our trip to Antigua, and would have done the same at the Chalfont St.
Peter Fete had it not been rained off, for the first time as far as I know, despite the
weather being just about as bad the previous year.
Overall, taking into account all the events and donations, we achieved a total of over
£18,000. Unfortunately, we cannot thank all of the people involved in raising the
amount we did specifically, by name, in this presentation, as this would take possibly
all night, and I know you would rather hear all of the other sections, but needless to
say, we thank you all, for your time, money and help in making this project go ahead.
Hugh Gryspeerdt and Tim Gossage
History of Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda‘s history can be split into three parts. Firstly, the pre-
colonisation period which lasted until the second wave of European settlers. The
second phase started when the British colonised the island in 1632. Finally, the
islands were given independence to become the modern country of Antigua and
Barbuda in 1981. The pre-colonisation period spans from 2900BC until 1493, and
consisted of four groups of people living on the island: the Siboney people, the
Saladoid people, the Arawaks and finally the Caribs. Although there is not much
information on the Siboneys or the Saladoids, the Arawak stay was well documented.
The Arawaks paddled to the island by canoe from Venezuela as they were ejected by
the Caribs. Arawaks introduced agriculture to Antigua and Barbuda, raising, among
other crops, the famous Antiguan "Black" pineapple. They also cultivated various
other foods including corn, sweet potatoes, chillis, guava, tobacco, cotton and
cassava. Some of the vegetables listed, such as corn and sweet potatoes, still play an
important role in Antiguan cuisine. An example is fungi (FOON-ji), a cooked paste
made of cornmeal and water, which we ate when the scouts of antigua hosted a
campfire for us. In the year 1100, most of the Arawaks left, leading to the take over
of the islands by the Caribs. They took some of the remaining Arawaks as slaves, but
many were slaughtered.
Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1493, and called it Santa Maria de la
Antigua, but he could not colonise because of the defence held by the Carib people.
Britain finally colonised the island in 1632, and the first sugar plantation was set up in
1674 by Sir Christopher Codrington.
During the 18th century, the Islands became the bases for the Caribbean fleet of the
British Royal Navy, and Lord Horatio Nelson commanded the fleet from English
Dockyard, later renamed Nelson‘s Dockyard. Surprisingly, Nelson never actually set
foot on the island of Antigua, as he was afraid of mutiny on the ship, so lived for
nearly two solid years aboard the boat!
Antiguan slaves were emancipated in 1834, but continued to work for minimal wages
until 1939, when the first trade unions were started in Antigua with the help of royal
commissioners. By 1949 a political party had been elected in, under Vere Cornwall
Bird. The Bird family stayed in power until 2004, when Baldwin Spencer, the cousin
of Norman, one of our hosts, was elected in a general election.
St. John's is the capital and largest city of Antigua and Barbuda. It is a bustling city,
centred around St. John's Cathedral, built in 1845. The church is now in its third
incarnation, as earthquakes in 1683 and in 1745 destroyed the previous structures.
The towers are the first sights of Antigua for about half of the island's visitors each
year, many of which arrive by boat. With its recently completed cruise ship dock and
several hotels, St. John's is a lively city for shopping and dining. The island today
still has it‘s past clearly visible everywhere and in every part of the island you visit.
Tourists to Antigua and Barbuda are welcomed with gratitude and everyone‘s open
hearts. It is also a very popular tourist destination, both for its endless past and the
Robin Lyon and Chris Cooper
We were all keen to get started with our project as soon as possible, so we went to the
nursery on the first day. When we got there we met Mr Simon, who fed us with sugar
cane and tamarind until Mr Blanchette arrived, an hour later. When he got there, Mr
Blanchette showed us around, telling us about the nursery, what they grew, and how
they worked. He While we were there we filled potting bags with soil and sand,
which provides better drainage for the plants.
The next day we went to Mr Christian‘s farm in the centre of the island. He showed
us round his farm and discussed his farming techniques. He is an Eco-Safe farmer,
which means that he uses crop rotations and natural pesticides, and he grows
multicrops, as they are easier to sell. While we were going around, we saw that some
workers were busy clearing a field of dead branches and trees, only three workers in
the whole field, so we stepped in to help. With so many of us helping out, the work
was done much faster than it otherwise would have been. Mr Christian let us try
many fruits while we were there, including mango, orange, grapefruit, peppers,
shadok which is a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine, and cassava, which is a
type of sweet potato. We took some cassava back with us and Tom Hennigan boiled
it and tried it one night, I don‘t think he was too impressed by it.
One day we met Mr Blanchette at Ffreyes beach to replace rotten and termite infested
pallets around the trees, which were there to prevent people leaning on the trees, and
to stop animals from eating the buds. These trees grew wide with branches and leaves
to provide shade and shelter for people. We were using very old nails, and were
surprised to hear Mr Blanchette say that people had stolen nails from the pallets
before. This work was quite slow, as there were just two hammers between us all.
In the second week we returned to the nursery to move saplings out from the shaded
area into the sun. There were many plants to be moved, and at first we were running
round in circles, becoming quite tired out in the heat of the day. Soon though, Tom
(Chater) suggested doing a human chain, to prevent us becoming over heated. This
made the work a lot less tiring, and much more efficient. The Antiguans had never
seen such a thing before, so were suitably impressed. Matt took a video of our chain
Moving over 100 plants, Matt naturally decided to invent a game to keep our spirits
high, which was called ―Do you want to buy a duck?‖. Whilst picking up the pots at
the front of the chain, Tim found a tarantula. We all ran over to have a look, as Mr
Blanchette told us that it was very rare to find one, and said that they would normally
find one only every few months. About 10 minutes later, another tarantula was found
in a different pot, which surprised Mr Blanchette more than anyone. After just an
hour, we had achieved a whole day‘s work. Mr Blanchette was very pleased that we
had managed all this, so set about finding us a greater task for when we returned.
The following day at the nursery Mr Lewis taught us the 3 different methods of
propagating and grafting that they practised there. The first is ―inverse T grafting‖,
where you score an upside down T shape into the bark of the plant you are grafting
onto, then slide the bud of the plant you want to grow into this T. Wrap plant tape
around the bud to hold it in place for a couple of weeks to let the plants fuse, and in a
couple of weeks the bud should develop into a new branch. The next technique was
called ―Air Layering‖, where you remove about an inch and a half of bark around the
branch of the plant you are propagating. Put moist soil around this area held in place
by foil, which makes the plant grow roots. After a couple of weeks, the branch can be
cut off below the new roots and re-planted as a new plant. The other propagating
technique was ―Serpentine Layering‖, which is similar to Air Layering except the
bark is stripped and placed straight into the ground where it begins to grow roots to
start a new plant. Another grafting technique they used was ―Saddle grafting‖, where
you cut a V-shape into the stem of the plant you are grafting onto, and cut the end of
the plant you want to grow into the shape that will fit into this V. Put the branches
together and wrap plant tape around them to hold them in place. This allows different
varieties of fruits to grow on the same plant which could have a better root system.
We then tried some of these techniques ourselves; I don‘t know how much success we
had. We also planted some papaya seeds in pots, placing two seeds in each to
increase chances of successful germination. We loaded termite ridden pallets onto a
pick-up truck to be taken away and dumped as they were so rotten. This was the last
time we were seeing Mr Blanchette, and so we said goodbye and thanked him for
letting us work at his nursery.
People and Media
I‘m Tom, and I‘m going to introduce you to some of the characters that we met whilst
we were staying in Antigua. First of all, we have Mrs Carol George, who is the
Antiguan Officer for Education and the Environment, and was one of the most
important people to our trip. Without her, it would not have been the amazing
experience it was. She arranged many excursions for us around the island, and even a
few media appearances. She also adopted Tim and Ben as her own during our stay, a
somewhat dubious choice, but it was fantastic for all of us to be treated like family.
Another major contributor to our trip was Mr Blanchett, who was the manager of St
John‘s National Tree Nursery, and had an incredible talent of laughing continuously
for several minutes, then stopping dead, as if it had never happened, and leaving us all
a little confused over what had been funny in the first place. He always made sure
that we had something to do at the nursery, and introduced us to his employees,
beginning with Mr Eric Lewis. Mr Lewis was a senior employee at the nursery, and
may well be the world‘s most knowledgeable man when it comes to grafting and
layering of plants. He spent an afternoon teaching us the various methods of
propagating shrubs and trees.
Mr Simon was another employee at the nursery, who was actually the first one we
met when we arrived for the first time. He showed us the many fruits growing in the
area, and gave us many to try, even though we had absolutely no idea what exactly we
were putting in our mouths.
Jeanine George is Carol‘s 15-year-old daughter, and she joined us on many of the
excursions we went on, along with a group of young people known as the
Environmental Cadets. The cadets are a government-run youth group which meet
regularly and help with the running of holiday camps for younger children.
The final person I will mention is Mr Basket Weaver, a man we met at Shirley
Heights who was weaving souvenirs for tourists out of palm leaves. He made us
several baskets and roses, and a handbag for Mike of course, and whilst doing so,
explained to us how the Stonemasons were taking over the world. We met many
more than just these few people, but hopefully you will hear a little more about them
from the others, as there are far too many for me to mention here.
As I mentioned earlier, Carol arranged for our group to have some contact with the
Antiguan national media, and we became rather minor celebrities over our time in the
island, often being recognised as we walked around St John‘s, the island‘s capital.
Soon after our arrival in Antigua, Kate, Matt, Lydia and I appeared on the Antiguan
equivalent of GMTV, also known as Good Morning Antigua and Barbuda. We were
interviewed by a presenter who was still on the phone when cameras started rolling,
about what we hoped to achieve on the island, and our previous experiences on
Later on in the trip, the whole group appeared in the Antiguan Sun, and Observer
national newspapers, following our trip to St John‘s with the cadets. George and Kate
also made another appearance on television on the penultimate day of our trip, on the
same programme as before.
We stayed at the Anchorage Inn Hotel just outside the capital of St Johns. It was a
relatively small hotel and luckily there weren‘t many other people staying there.
Altogether we had 5 bedrooms: ladies, lads, littlies, limelite and the leaders minus
Kate. Each bedroom had enough beds tightly squeezed in. All of our rooms over
looked the swimming pool, which looked relatively small when it had twenty scouts
in it! For most of us the swimming pool was a life safer and just the thought of being
able to go for a swim to cool down made the hot and humid Antiguan weather
The rooms were basically furnished and relatively clean except for one horrible night.
Earlier on that evening Duncan had knocked onto the leaders bedroom asking how
you put out an electrical fire. So that night in the ladies room we had no air
conditioning which made it pretty much impossible to sleep so we decided that having
the door open was the only option little did we know what was to come. There I was
lying in my bed dozing off to sleep when I heard scratching and rustling I opened my
eyes and to my horror I saw a rat! Not wanting to stay in a room with a rat I called to
Naomi to tell her that there was a rat in our room this woke up Lydia and Kate. Next
thing Naomi and myself did was jump off our beds to see if we could see it not the
smartest move but we quickly jumped back onto our beds when Kate exclaimed that
there was no way we were sleeping in a room with a rat. Quick as a flash Kate
grabbed her bag and made for the leaders room downstairs ignoring looks from the
security guard she knocked on their door. Alan was the only leader to wake up being
a gentleman he gave up his bed and climbed into bed with Mike. I think Mike had a
shock when he woke up the next morning with Alan in his bed. Meanwhile Naomi.
Lydia and I made our way screaming and laughing down the corridor to the next
bedroom much to the annoyance of the sleeping lads.
Our daily routine in Antigua began with a wake up call from either Kate or a phone
call from the leaders room at about half 7 or earlier for breakfast . However in the
ladies room we were often awake before that due to a text message from Tamsin
informing us of the Wimbledon results useful, however not appreciated at 5 o‘clock in
Most days we had breakfast and dinner in the hotel restaurant ‘Aqua‘. At the
beginning the chef Andrew cooked us a variety of food served as a buffet. For
breakfast we could have cereal, fresh fruits or cooked food and for dinner there was
usually a couple of meat dishes and some vegetarian options too. We were spoilt for
choice! Apparently we weren‘t eating enough food I think most of us beg to differ, so
the evening meal was changed to a food to order service.
Most mornings we had to wait down in reception for our transport, which was
provided for us by Carol George. We sometimes used the environmental departments
bus or a borrowed minibus like the party shuttle hired from the local nightclub but
don‘t go getting the wrong idea! The wait for our transport gave us the opportunity to
fill in the diary. Each day we would write down a list of all the facts and interesting
information that we learnt from that day and also the funny memories.
Being quite a large group we were split into five work groups, each day a different
group was on duty. They were expected to do tasks like go to the local supermarket
to buy food for lunch or carry around some water for the group, while we were out.
In between our busy schedule there was time for us to mainly relax and explore the
local area. In the heart of the hotel was a swimming pool. This, due to the intense
heat, is where we spent most of this time. The sun also caused most people to swim
with t-shirts as well as swim wear, unfortunately we did not learn this lesson until
after everyone got severely burnt. In the pool is also where we invented the great
sport of ―swicket‖ a water based version of cricket in which we had inter room
A short walk away there were the outskirts of the capital St Johns and a small
collection of shops in which the groups did their shopping and we could walk up to;
to buy snacks and sometimes even KFC. One day on our way back from the shops a
safari patterned people carrier pulled up to us beside the road. The man inside offered
us a lift back to our hotel, a group of about eight of us got in the back, all a bit
concerned but happy for the lift and to everyone‘s relief we arrived back at the hotel
safely and befriended the driver to find out his name was Ken, this came in handy
when he gave us another four lifts.
A few days we all went down to the local beach, which was a twenty minute walk and
rented kayaks, snorkels and catamarans.
There were several means of getting around the island including: buses, boats, taxis
and by foot. But first, of course we had to get there.
We travelled to Antigua with XL airways, which have since gone bust, from Gatwick,
which is now for sale, both of which has absolutely nothing to do with us. This
needed an early start, which required being up and ready to go at 6am. This did not go
down well. We arrived at Gatwick and went quickly through check in, which was
surprising considering we were such a large group, we found a very nice employee
who showed us through to a less busy security check. At the security checks we
encountered a few security issues. The first was with a certain James Dawson who
accidentally brought through an after sun bottle. The second was Dave, Tom C and I
being asked, ―who brought through the knife?‖ Luckily the bag the knife was in the
bag from the person in front of us. We then proceeded through to the departures
After eating breakfast at McD‘s we went and got on the plane. The plane journey was
9 hours ―fun‖ we landed in St Kitts and then off to Antigua. After getting off the
plane we realised what a bad idea it was to wear full uniform in Antigua until we
reached the nice air conditions arrivals lounge, where Kate happened to decide that
we were Antigua Nationals, so when everyone decided to walk to a different queue
we realised how stupid we had been.
The main way of getting around the island for us was by bus which was usually
driven by Tyrone, who soon became much loved by us all. We also got around the
island by taxis, which were only recognisable by their number plate and poor driving.
We used these to and from the shops. If no taxis were available or we walked to the
shop, we sometimes got a lift with Ken; a man with a pickup truck with seats in the
At our stay in Antigua we decided to go to Antigua‘s sister islands, Barbuda and Bird
Island of which you will hear more from Tom Hennigan later on. After the Barbuda
Express being fun for the first ½ hour some soon realised that maybe it being rough
wasn‘t so fun after all. After arriving in Barbuda we split into 2 groups, some went to
the lagoon and some went to the cliffs, the highest place on the island. We then went
to lunch on beaches. We then faced the same journey back again.
The journey to Bird Island wasn‘t as bad as the journey to Barbuda and on the way
back we sailed around the ―rich and famous‖ island, very nice. The plane journey
home was several hours shorter than on the way there. However landing at 9:00am
UK time it felt like 4 in the morning for us and with little sleep we were fairly
grouchy on the way home.
Alex Blakesley and Tom Trouton
There are over 28 million scouts world-wide from 216 countries and territories.
400000 of these are from the UK participating in over 10000 groups. Our trip to
Antigua was an ideal way of experiencing the ‗globalisation‘ of scouting and learning
about Scouting in the Caribbean.
Scouting in Antigua was established in 1913 in a secondary school by an Anglican
priest, who lead a group of twenty-five boys. Nowadays, Antigua has nine groups,
although it has had up to twenty in its history. However, many of these groups folded
due to a lack of funds, helpers and participation.
Five of these groups are situated in the capital St. Johns, two in a large area called All
Saints, one in English Harbour and one in Barbuda, which was recently established in
Easter. Its membership has already grown to fifteen cubs showing that Scouting is
popular in the region. Many of the groups are associated with churches and two with
secondary schools. This association provides not only a meeting place for the groups
but also a way of attracting new members.
Participation within the groups varies dramatically, with geographical location playing
a significant role. For example 2nd Antiguan, situated in St. Johns, has sixty cubs
whilst more remote groups situated in All Saints have lower membership.
Participation also decreases as age increases with significantly more cubs than scouts
and almost no Explores (only five throughout region). This occurs due to a growing
lack of interest in scouting due to other activities, often sports clubs, or in some cases
the boys progress to the army.
Female participation on the island is limited with only two groups accepting females.
Many leaders oppose the involvement of females in scouting and this coupled with the
strength of a highly successful Guide movement in country accounts for the lack of
female membership. In contrast 2AC is 25% female and throughout the UK groups
are being pressurised to increase female membership to aid the progression of
The Island of Antigua has no scouting HQ due to a lack on funding within the
Caribbean branch of scouting. Despite a UK scouting connection very little actual
monetary backing occurs; a more practical backing in the shape of scouting
magazines and leadership materials are sent whilst Antigua also partake in British
Despite problems with funding there are over 32 leaders, predominantly female,
spread over the whole of Antigua and Barbuda with parental help aiding the running
of activities. The uneven distribution of leadership however means some groups
suffer due to lack of adult help, especially in regard to outside activities such as
camping. An example of this uneven distribution is a comparison between 2nd
Antiguan and 17th Antigua with 8 and only 2 leaders respectively.
Our contact with the scouts in Antigua came through Norman Spencer, the Chief
Commissioner for the Islands. His laid back approach lead to many last minute and
surprise meetings with the Antiguan Scouts.
There are various parallels between Antiguan and English scouting in regard to group
nights. A similar uniform, although suited for the Caribbean climate rather than rain,
consists of white trousers, a burgundy shirt and a troop scarf (blue in the case of 2nd
Antiguan scout group). This is worn by all sections except beavers, who do not have
The same age groups also apply; beavers -7 and under, cubs- 7 to 10, scouts-11 to 15
and ventures 15+. The scouts themselves are organised into patrols or sixes at a
younger age with patrol leaders as within 2AC. Group meetings themselves cost $2
EC (roughly 40p) weekly per child and meetings are usually 3 hours long in the
cooler hours of the late afternoon before sunset. The nights open and close with a
prayer with various activities packed in between. The range of these activities varies
seasonally and geographically with financial and leadership restrictions also shaping
the programme. An example of this is sailing which only occurs at the Barbuda
troop. However all groups enjoy a varied and stimulating programme. Activities
such as cricket, football and going to the beach with local scout troops and the local
children in the community seemed to be favourites amongst the scouts we talked too.
However practical skills such as cooking local dishes (which we got to enjoy at the
campfire), hiking (incredible in such heat), fishing, building fires and even knot tying
(once a month) were also eagerly anticipated.
Many activities also revolve around the church and fundraising. Gift wrapping at
Christmas, cake sales, sponsored hikes and the sale of popcorn at church raise funds
for the group whilst community projects and recruitment drives through the church
further the reputation of scouting on the island. Fundraising is influential to the
success of scouts in the Caribbean. Unfortunately due to financial restraints no
Caribbean scouts were able to attend the UK 08 Jamboree with only one scout
enjoying the Thailand jamboree in 07.
All scouts though do enjoy patrol camps around the Caribbean for seven to ten days
every year. These camps offer a similar camping experience to 2AC summer camps
with a variety of activities on offer as all the islands groups come together.
Campfire acts as a centrepiece for this weeklong camp and we were lucky enough to
experience a campfire in Antigua with the 2nd Antiguan scout group. We enjoyed
eating the local dish of fungi before engaging in some very tuneful singing of both
Antiguan and English songs. We are very lucky here tonight to have 2AC‘s own
campfire MC in Matt who will now recreate that nights beautiful music!
Our day to day interaction with Antiguan youth did not come from scouts but rather
Carol George‘s environmental cadets. The cadets are part of a government initiative
to increase awareness of the biodiversity found in the country and respect for the
The group of 10 to 15 Antiguan‘s of similar age, containing many ambitious and
colourful characters with a Newcastle football trialist and hopeful pilot, entertained us
throughout the two weeks. The entertainment included football and cricket matches,
a trip to the cinema, a tour of St. Johns and their environmental camp and a gala
dinner. The cadet‘s took an active role in running the environmental camp, teaching
and playing games with younger children during the summer holidays in a large
Antiguan school. At this camp we were all introduced to roughly 50 youngsters,
making us feel very welcome if not a little embarrassed!
Overall, the involvement we had with both the Antiguan Scouts and Environmental
cadets was not only enjoyable and interesting but introduced us to many exciting and
colourful characters as well as throwing us into Antiguan culture!
James Millward and Ben Pothecary
Antiguan Campfire Songs
There is something magnificent and almost magical about the worldwide family of
scouting. You can travel thousands of miles and still be greeted with left hand shake,
a smile and knowing that you are meeting on common values.
And what more of a common ground in Scouting - than a campfire evening. The pitch
of land we were invited to had great views of Fitches Creek Bay in the daylight but
we didn‘t have permission to light a campfire at night. So like all good scouts we
made do - with a lantern… and this didn‘t detract from the atmosphere, nor did it stop
the choir from singing.
We shared many songs with 2nd Antigua that night: including ―Together‖ and ―Riding
along on the crest of a wave‖ of which you may remember from the 2AC Gang Show.
The Antiguans followed suit with an exchange of songs. The first campfire song is all
about Mr Charlie and his pet bulldog:
Old Mr Charlie,
He had a bull dog,
In his back yard,
And when it gets mad,
Charlie has to chain it,
Charlie has to chain it…
Now also we learnt to sing this song with a slight Antiguan accent. If you just change
a few words, you can add a Caribbean twist to the song.
Old Mr Charlie,
He ha’ a bull dog,
In de back yard,
And when it get mad,
Chaney hav da chain it,
Chaney hav da chain it…
The second song is all about a boy scout, who went to camp ill prepared - with out a
lamp or torch. Now one night he found a bug in his bed… But he remembered what
his SM said (SM stands for scout master by the way). Well you can read the rest…
Once a Boy Scout went to camp, went to camp,
He went to camp without a lamp, without a lamp,
And in his bed he found a bug,
And this is what the Boy Scout said, Boy Scout said,
Little weevil go away, go away,
I’m afraid you cannot stay, you cannot stay,
Because this is what the S.M. said,
“No two persons in one bed, in one bed”,
“No two persons in one bed, in one bed”.
The song is sung in the tune of ―heads, shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes‖, a
bit like this… ―Once a boy scout went to camp, went to camp‖
Trips & Excursions
After a long days work, we learnt that the Antiguans like nothing more than visiting
one of the 365 beaches on the island, to relax in the sweltering afternoon sun. One of
the first post work excursions that we were taken on was to ―Johnson‘s Point‖ at the
south of the island. The beaches in the area were known to be less touristy than the
beaches nearer St Johns. True to form, we were met with an empty beach, and we
couldn‘t think of a better way to wind down. We were also taken to ―Ffryes Beach‖
near Bolans. I must admit, this seemed much more suitable for honeymooners than a
group of scouts. However we found out here from Carol George, that the beaches in
Antigua cannot be bought, and so we had every right to be here. The last beach we
visited was ―Dickinson‘s Bay‖. This was a final treat, and many people took the
opportunity to buy souvenirs. A group of the girls (including Kate!) got their hair
braided as well.
One of the educational trips we made was to ―Devil‘s Bridge‖. This is a natural rock
formation that was created by the natural erosive process of the sea. The area around
Devil‘s Bridge is scarred with many natural blowholes where swell from the sea is
pushed up through cracks in the rock.
Barbuda & The Frigate Bird Sanctuary
Barbuda has the largest nesting colony of frigate birds in the Caribbean. There are 5
species of frigate bird, and they can be traced back over 50 million years, making
them the oldest surviving avian species. They‘re nicknamed ―Man o‘ War‖ because
they steal the catches of other seabirds. We were luck enough to visit a sanctuary for
these birds over at Codrington Lagoon. After visiting the sanctuary we were taken to
a fantastic beach by our local tour guide. We had a barbeque lunch with lobster on
offer to a lucky few.
Another trip we went on was to the very touristy island called ―Bird Island‖. Bird
Island‘s proudest resident is the Antiguan racer snake. It also houses rare lizards,
brown pelicans and many birds, including brown pelicans, West-Indian whistling
ducks and red-billed tropic birds.
Our trip to ―Christian Valley‖ was one of our final destinations on this trip. The valley
is hidden in the ―Shekerly Mountain Range‖ in southern Antigua. It is Antigua‘s
largest collection of mature fruit trees. They have a national rainfall of 50inches,
which is 20% above the national average, which gives ideal conditions for growing
mangos, citrus fruits, avocado, guava, malay apple, cashew, breadfruit and soursop.
They produce 18 varieties of mango in the valley. Even though Christian Valley has
a large variety of fruits available, the demand from the islands inhabitants quickly
outstrips the stock, and some 180 tones of fruit is imported every year on top of what
is produced locally.
Tom Hennigan and Naomi Jennings
Within the first week of our eye-opening trip we learnt the importance and
significance of slavery to the history of Antigua and Barbuda. Slaves were introduced
to the Caribbean to provide labour for the sugar and cotton industry. There were
usually 30-40 slaves working one plantation; this would consist of men... women...
children... and even the sick and dying.
Plantation owners would often lose all sense of moral obligations when it came to
their slave‘s upkeep; and care for their well being due to their human rights being
In fact... disease was an inevitability which all slaves had to come to terms
with...because with all the rats... lack of food... and water and the severe heat they
were forced to work in, it was hard to avoid a most uncomfortable death.
Unfortunately, if a slave had become ill or diseased then it would be no surprise if the
slave owners chose to do little about it as the cost of keeping them alive simply was
not worth it. Because if one slave had died... the cost of trying to save one was almost
the same as replacing the deceased with 5 new slaves... at the weekly markets... where
slaves were bought and sold like cotton and sugar.
We visited Betty‘s Hope, which was Antigua‘s first sugar plantation, founded about
350 years ago in 1650. It is now in ruin, so we had to imagine what the estate
buildings would have looked like as we walked amongst the remaining ruins of partial
brick walls and steps. The founder of the estate was Governor Keynell, whose widow
inherited the estate on his death in 1663, but she was forced to flee Antigua during the
French occupation in 1666.
When Antigua was re-occupied by the British in 1674, Parliament granted the estate
to the Codrington family. Sir Christopher Codrington named the estate Betty‘s Hope
after his daughter, Elizabeth. Under the Codringtons, Betty‘s Hope was soon
transformed into one of the most efficient and large-scale sugar estates in Antigua.
The Codrington ownership lasted for 270 years until 1944, when it was sold to
Antigua Sugar Estates Limited.
Betty‘s Hope was an agricultural and industrial business, and it was home to many
people. Hundreds of African slaves were managed by a few European managers, and
lived their lives here. We visited the museum, which had displays of the history of
the estate. This showed that life was very hard for the slave labourers, who cultivated
and processed the sugar under exhausting conditions. We were all quite shocked at
how harsh the conditions must have been. Despite the hardship, the slaves developed
great skills as craftsmen, boilers and distillers which gave Betty‘s Hope its reputation
as the most successful sugar plantation in the Leeward Islands.
Betty‘s Hope had two great windmills. The windmill sails turned about 4 to 7 times a
minute depending on the wind strength, to turn the mill rollers which crushed the
sugar cane and extracted the juice. Working from sunrise until well into the night,
each mill could crush 60—70 cartloads of cane per day. This produced about 5,500
gallons of syrup in a week, which in turn made about 12 tons of sugar crystals.
As we saw, one of the windmill towers has now undergone major restoration with
some modern machinery installed. The windmill is now in working condition
complete with authentic sugar cane crushing machinery salvaged from a similar mill.
In 1995 the sails of the restored mill at Betty's Hope were fitted. We were able to
visit inside the windmill, but unfortunately it wasn‘t operating – the sails haven‘t
turned since 1998!
Another of the many interesting places we visited was Devils Bridge, which is
situated on the north eastern point of Antigua in what is now a National Park. Within
the park Devil's Bridge is a remarkable example of sea-water erosion. It is a natural
arch carved by the sea from soft and hard limestone ledges. A bridge was created as
the soft part of the limestone has eroded away by action of the Atlantic Ocean
breakers over thousands of years. From this bridge many slaves from the surrounding
estatesare said to have thrown themselves into the sea to commit suicide. Legend has
it, that they went there to try and see their homeland, over 4500 km away in Africa.
As this was a place of many suicides, people used to say the Devil had to be there,
and so Devil‘s Bridge acquired its name. The sea around Devil's Bridge is always
very rough, as we saw (and got splashed by) and anyone who fell over the bridge
never came out alive.
John Gammage and David Pearson
Sport and in particular football and cricket were an area of the trip we were looking
forward to. After playing on our previous trip two England v Bulgaria games, we
fancied putting ourselves up against some Antiguan football teams, and as we had
been informed about the apparent West Indian talent of cricket we hoped to play them
at their own game.
In advance of the trip we sent challenges to Norman Spencer the International Scout
Commisioner to see if he could organise a team to play us. We also prepared a kit for
the team to play in and dished out the squad numbers ranging from Tim with the
number 0 through to myself with number 27. All the leaders were number 1.
After setting out for antigua we bought a football and pump at the airport. Soon after
arriving at the Ancourage Inn we quickly invaded the pool which we then occupied
for the next two weeks. We also pumped up our newly purchased football to have a
kickabout. Unfortuneately this punctured the football and the post mortem suggested
that the cause was a Hugh gryspeerdt blistering shot into a sharp palm tree behind the
goal. On the first television apperance Kate issued a daring challenge on live national
televison. This challenge resulted in reponses from a grand total of nobody.
The next day at the Plant nursery we learnt about how small and unpopulated the
island was when we discovered that out of three employees at the nursery two were
called Mr. Simon and both had represented their country. One Mr. Simon was a
distance cyclist who had competed at the Manchester Commenwealth games in 2002
and told us fond memories of riding through places such as Bolton. The other Mr.
Simon was the countrys international football goalkeeper who makes appearances on
both Wikipedia and the computer game Football manager 2008.
On a subsequent day we were down on a beach working with him and some of his
other colleagues. We got talking to them about sport after we had spontaneously
started playing cricket with a plank of driftwood. The end of the discussion resulted in
us having a match arranged against a team from his club SAP FC, an Antiguan
Premier division side. The match would be played after dark at a floodlit pitch in
Bolans. Ironicaly close to one of the places we looked at for accomadation.
With this first match confirmed for the first Saturday, we set about having some
practice sessions on the grass area outside the hotel and started devising a starting
eleven and formation. We played these sessions with a patched up football that
needed to be regularly reinflated. A replacement football was bought from a shop in
St. Johns whilst we were on our unsuccesfull seach for a national team jersey.
And then Saturday came. Everyone gradually got changed into their kit and the
players began warming up. Whilst we were realising just how hot and tiring the game
was going to be, the WAGs were participating in a little photoshoot. Once everyone
one was present their was just time for a slurp of water and photo before we piled
onto Tyrone‘s bus. The team were in high spirits with emotional renditions of Swing
Low Sweet Chariot and God Save The Queen. We arrived at the pitch and
immediately claimed one of the goal mouths attaching a St Georges flag to the post
and began warming up. A couple of young boys who probally were roughly 6 or 7
also came to play with us and one of them proceded to skill up Tom Trouton. After
this embarrasment and us helping build and move both goals the other team were
almost ready in their rather interesting kit. So we gathered for a team talk and a team
photo. The dreadlocked ref then got the game started with a kick off from the slightly
raised cricket wicket in the middle of the pitch. Janiel Simon the international
goalkeeper was playing in defence wearing some special glasses due to his eye injury.
He informed me that with him in defence and his mate in goal that there was no
chance that I would score. We continued to play our little hearts out but we soon
realised that playing full pace for a full 90 minutes probally wasn‘t possible so we
started to perform a couple of substitutions. Chris had to go off injured and our
Captain James was also one our first substitutes but not untill he had been tacked and
skilled up by the only female player. James made way for Shane. Now let me tell
you a little bit about shane. Shane was a large chap who turned up and declared to the
people sitting on our bench which consisted both the floor and breeze blocks that he
was going to play for us. He was quickly provided with a shirt and after passing the
contents of his pocket to Kate he came on for James. Kate learnt that these pocket
contents included a screwed up piece of paper. This piece of paper was a charge sheet
from the Antiguan Police. Shane was on bail, for two firearms offences commited
only days previously. Us players on the pitch were not aware of this but there was not
much discussion after he won a penalty for us. I think everyone decided in their own
minds that after he picked up the ball and put it on the penalty spot that maybe he
should take the penalty. Shane scored another goal and eventually came off, James
who had previously returned to the pitch also bagged himself a goal. Two other
locals played a part for us, one had a short stint as a goal keeper who played erraticly
and conceded two goals. The other known to us only as Antiguan no. 9 as he
borrowed Duncan‘s shirt. He scored one and provide the pass for me to score and
prove Janiel Simon wrong. All the boys on the trip made an appearence in this match
but most didn‘t play the whole match. Except George who refused to leave the field
despite limping around and looking visibly fatigued. He even spent the last five
minutes in attack where he performed two of the most spectacular dives you have
ever seen, launching himself from the ground and into the air with arms flailing
everywhere, the second even included a beautifuly theatrical roll across the floor.
Antiguan footballers never slide tackle. So it startled them somewhat when we
arrived and were sliding from the very start. However we learnt why Antiguans dont
slide tackle. Its because there pitches are a similar texture to to a brillo pad or a
washing up scourer and every slide left its mark on the legs. Me Hugh and George
came away with particularly good grazes but they were nothing in comparison to
Timmys, which eventually required a hospital visit. Our bench of cheer leaders which
included the substiutes, the leaders and ―wags‖ sat beside the pitch with Carol George
and her cadets. The Wags especially spent time playing with some of the local village
At the final whistle the score was 7 - 5 to the Antiguan team and both teams came
to gether for shaking of hands. We made a tunnel of applause for them to walk
through and gave them a small trophy which they paraded like it was the world cup.
We were then invited for some food at a little hut near the pitch but everyone had lost
there appetite, and with some incredibly bizaare and intimidating locals hanging
around we soon made our way onto the bus to return to the hotel.
We had a trip organised before our arrival to the Antigua Rainforest canopy tour. At
the end of the tour whilst waiting for two hours due to a difference between our
completion time and our collection time, we organised a football match with a man
called Keegan. He played for the Villa Lions, another premier division club, and said
they would give us a game he told us where it was and we arranged for the match for
Our next sporting engagement involved the game of cricket. We had two games
arranged for the the middle Monday and Tuesday. The first was a game orgainised by
Carol against her cadets. The second was orgainsd by Norman Spencer and it was
against Mervin Richards brother of the great Sir Viv Richards team. This second
match even got a mention in the paper prior to the game. So our first match was
billed as our practise match. It was just round the corner so we walked there other
than Timmy and Benny who met us there due to their hospital visit. The cadets batted
first in a 10 overs match. With Dickie Banks the umpire and him giving some
debatable not out decisions they reached 63 for 6. Then with the light completely
faded and the flood lights finally illuminated we came into bat. Our opening
partnership of Duncan and Chris were pretty steady amd rarely looked in danger but
unfortunately there run rate was not quite enough and our innings finally finnished on
38 for 3. So with this thrasing behind us we started to think and worry about our next
match the following day.
The following day in a large stroke of luck, part of Hurricane Bertha hit the island.
And after hours of rain and waiting at the hotel, the match was called off. With our
blushes spared we went to the beach.
I must now introduce you to a new sport. Having brought a miniture football with us
and a small inflatable we combined the two and a new game was born. It played very
similarly to cricket only in a swimming pool. Therefore it got named swikit. There
was even a swikit inter room league competion. Which with three teams competing
ended up with a three way tie.
Now returning to football. We turned up at a small stadium with floodlights perimeter
walls and a spectators stand ready for our second match. Unfortunately the
opposition didn‘t. Nevertheless we started playing in one of the goal mouths with a
couple of the cadets. Gradually some local street guys started playing (bare foot i
must add) and a group of adults turned up ready for their training session on the pitch.
We challenged both to a match of England v Antigua. We then lined up with our first
XI ready to started and they lined up with roughly their first 25. They talked and
argued between themselves about who would go off, using words and phrases we
couldn‘t understand due to their use of local dialect. Eventually with their numbers
reduced to roughly 24 the game kicked off. We started rather brightly with a couple
of oppurtunities including David missing an absolute sitter. We then went four nil
down, including an own goal by Wallington-Smith. Then with a things started to go
our way. Firstly i scored with a driving shot, which as i returned to the kick off led to
me recieving high-fives from quite a number of their team. A goal by David then
made up for his earlier misses. And withe the gaming coming close to its conclusion I
managed to steal a final goal. Which their keeper wasnt to happy with so he broke
my finger. With the game finished and we again shook our oppositions hands and
had some watermelon provided by the wags. George then led a cheer for the
opposition who then ridiculed him for his hip hip hoorays. With another loss under
our belts we got onto the bus to return to the hotel.
After witnessing these to games in the searing evening heat Carol realised how great
our devotion and commitment truly was. She then said she would organise a match
for the final Saturday against her cadets. This match however was a daytime match.
We arrived at the National Athletics Stadium at around ten after yet again playing in a
goal mouth pre-match the game finally got under way around eleven with James
Dawson and Alex boosting the oppositions numbers. Due to fears of dehydration
Hugh was dropped after suffering a mystery illness. He did however come on to play
a part in the match. In the first half we played a very attacking game and took a three
nil lead with two goals by myself and a bullit header by James. We then got punished
for our style of play and our heads dropped and went into half time at three all.
With the second half and the prospect of not losing a match we regained our
momentum and another goal by James pushed us towards victory which was
confirmed by two goals by a slightly injured tim. The first was definately with a
strong shot into the corner. The second however was most definately an own goal by
an Antiguan. But this left us with a finishing score of 6-3 and finaly under a
completly overhead sun at midday we had our first victory.
The Antiguan Way Of Life
Whilst we were in Antigua we made a conscious effort to embrace as much of the
local culture as possible. This included attending a church service on both Sundays
that we were on the island. The first church that we went to was the Moravian church,
Spring Gardens. This was set up in 1756 as a place for the slaves to worship because
they were not allowed to worship with their masters and celebrated their 250th
anniversary in 2006. The church was packed with locals who turned out in force to
the lively energetic service. It became quite obvious that church and religion is a big
part of the Antiguan culture with the vast majority attending a church service at least
once a week. There was a very friendly atmosphere at the church and George‘s
speech ―it is clear to me that we are all worshipping the same god here‖ achieved a
great uproar of support from the congregation. One of the lasting impressions that I
will take from the service, ignoring the unbearable heat, was the song ‗bind us
together‘, sung by a band that seemed to resonate throughout the hotel for the rest of
the trip. We also partook in a regular part of the service where you had to walk round
the church, shaking other peoples hands. We were honoured to be invited into the
colour party at this church service, much the same as we do it here, along with some
Antiguan scouts who made us, again feel very welcome.
After learning the hard way at the Moravian church, we all took bottles and water to
the 2nd church service at the Ebenezer Methodist Church. However 2 hours in, long
after the water had dried up, we resorted back to paper fans made out of the order of
service and sods law, the fan aimed right at us didn‘t work! Again we were made to
feel very welcome by the congregation and again we were part of the colour party
with cub scouts that they had hurriedly assembled specially for us. There was also a
band at this church with a steel drummer, the first that we had encountered, which, for
some strange reason the minister seemed to be very jealous of. The thing that I will,
somewhat painfully will remember is when a member of the congregation thwacked
me on the shoulder from the other side of the isle to indicate to join hands with him
for a particular hymn. At both services there was a great sense of passion and soul.
Which brings me quite neatly on to the cinema experience. Now in this country, you
go into the cinema, sit down and quietly enjoy the film. Not so in Antigua!
In Antigua everyone has great respect for their elders. We noticed this at both of the
church services where a swarm of people would surround an old lady struggling on
the stairs or a wizened old gent telling a story and young children listening avidly.
Certainly we had a lot of respect for Mr. Blanchette when he was talking about
inverted T grafting to us or when we were on our best behaviour in the hope that
Carol would let us out for a ride in her Hummer!
We all expected that the Caribbean would be laid back and that we weren‘t to expect
a work rate similar to ours in the UK. The experience that really hammered this belief
home for me was the small matter of the electrical fire at the hotel. Whilst relaxing in
the room one afternoon, suddenly the power goes off, unfortunately taking the air
conditioning with it. Duncan goes to reception to investigate only to find the
receptionist in a right state shouting that there‘s a fire and thrusting a fire extinguisher
into his hands. Now I don‘t know how to use a fire extinguisher and apparently
neither did Duncan but luckily Alan does, so after Alan charging out of his room, the
fire was put out. Luckily, the receptionist called the fire brigade based a mile down
the road when she first smelt smoke. 40 minutes later they arrived in no great hurry.
The disappointment on one fire-fighters face was spectacular. It turned out that it was
his turn to use the axe and he didn‘t get to! In addition at 11 that evening, the
receptionist said, ―I‘m going home‖ and left Alan in charge.
On a couple of nights at the hotel, there were graduation parties in the restaurant.
When we talk about graduation in the UK we usually mean after university. However,
graduation in Antigua is very different. They celebrate the fact that they are moving
on at every stage of their education. The party that we witnessed was a group of
student‘s moving from middle school to secondary school. As the night went on the
teacher called each pupil up and asked them to say something about themselves and
what they wanted to be when they got older. Ironically, most of the boys wanted to
be firemen so let‘s hope the service will improve in the future! Strangely though,
most of the girls at the party looked about 18 and were taller than me whilst the boys
of the same age, some were not even as tall as the chairs they were sitting on.
From my experience I can really understand why the Caribbean islands are so laid
back. Everything is influenced so heavily by the heat that simply you can not adapt to
and as a result everything slows to a near crawling pace which is why someone could
not take western pace of life over to Antigua. We were told, ―American facing -
British grounded‖ to describe how the Antiguans firmly found their roots from
Summary and Observations
I'm going to attempt to pull all this together and add some views from a Leaders
perspective. What a lot they know about Antigua! What was the overall experience
and what had been gained as a result of the trip?
Previous trips have centred on a labour project as the central theme. The leaders have
always considered, however, that other aspects deserve a focus, such as interacting
with young people and understanding the history and culture. These features became
more prominent in the last trip to Bulgaria.
Well, it all started probably soon after the last trip to Bulgaria in 2006 as Kate has
explained. I'm not sure Kate was expecting to plan a trip so soon – 2 years after the
last one, but many of the older Explorers enjoyed Bulgaria so much, they persuaded
her to organise one before they went off to University.
It isn't all about the trip itself as you have heard, after all fund raising started towards
the end of last year, ending up above target. This was particularly important given the
much higher costs that were expected. This period helps to gel the group together and
really does make the trip itself run much better.
If you are thinking of visiting Antigua, I suggest that you make it a winter trip! We
are a bit stuck with July as the only really feasible time. Certainly we met our match
weather-wise this time. It wasn't so much the heat as the very high humidity in
combination with it. We had wonderful ideas of working on the plant nursery project
for 4 or 5 hour a day. As it turned out we were all exhausted after an hour and glad of
the respite of a bit of shade and copious amounts of water!
Having said that, we all found Antigua a wonderful place. Despite the papers being
full of the escaped rapist, a drive-by shooting and the subsequent murder of 2 tourists,
which hit the international headlines, we can say that the Antiguan people we met
were wonderful! The way of life is certainly laid back, as James has described, with
nothing ever on time. The people however have a smile, always welcoming, polite
and happy. Young people are respectful and friendly once they get to know you. This
gradually dawned on us and so I decided one day, after waiting in the heat with the
other leaders to get on the bus, last, after the Explorer crush, that some of their
etiquette would not hurt us. So we had etiquette lessons when required, like letting
leaders on and off the bus first, leaving room for locals to walk past you, always
saying please and thank you when asking for something and doing it with a smile. I
have to say the Explorers responded really well. So if you parents feel taken for
granted at home at any time, just ask for a little ―Antiguan Etiquette‖!
Other times when our group scored for young people and scouting, were at the
restaurant by the hotel where we had breakfast and dinner. Andy, the manager, who
thought we were girl scouts at first, was always very chatty... and served a slap up
meal on our last day. Plus all the people mentioned at the nursery, Environmental unit,
the farms and centres, scout leaders, church congregations bus drivers, school kids
etc. Plus the man on the plane out to Antigua, who had the dubious privilege of
sitting right behind us, said that our group was the best behaved young people he had
ever seen and were an excellent shop window for British youth.
We became well known – on TV and in the newspapers. When we went to the St
Johns market at 6.30 one morning and bought 22 pieces of bread, the young lad
serving us said ―that must be for the scout football team‖! Our regular coach driver
every day, Tyrone , a man of few words, but very sensible and knowledgeable, told us
he had been a scout in the past. As a result of our trip he has decided to go back to his
old group and take a warrant. Our first result in international recruitment!
And of course through the 3 football matches and one cricket match. It doesn't take
much to get the English and Antiguans onto the playing field. As usual we always
had to wait for the opposition. Phil has told you how we got on. I remember
Explorers really sweating! not only some of the goals and the lack of a midfield on
occasions but also many of them giving piggy back rides to young kids living nearby
allowing their strange hair to be played with and the huge beaming smile of the lad
who got the man of the match award.
All the other people mentioned gave us time and effort in helping us enjoy our visit.
Amazingly, all the Explorers say they enjoyed the church services, despite the stifling
heat and that they lasted over 2hours. Was it simply because there was music? - and
especially at steel drum player!
We managed to meet a good proportion of the island's scout leaders at the first Sunday
service we went to and several more on the 2nd Sunday. This was despite Scouts
having finished for the summer holidays the week before. About 20 of the leaders
came to a meeting at our Inn, where we discussed involvement of parents and leader
recruitment in particular. Some things are no different wherever you go! Most of
them didn't know we were coming, but the 2nd Antiguan group then decided to
organise a camp fire and meal for us. They meet at the church in Spring Gardens.
When asked where, they pointed to a tree in the grounds. They have no facilities, little
equipment and money. We have decided to help them.
So what of us Leaders? My special memories of them, apart from being great fun to
be with on a trip like this, are as follows -
Matt – his continuous flow of enthusiasm and ideas. Especially when chairing the
daily debriefings and diary write up, always making it upbeat and fun.
This is despite comments from a few like - ―This is boring‖, - ―I'm so tired‖ - and
―My legs hurt so much‖.
He could also sleep long hours, such that Alan and I had to stumble about as quietly
as possible when making a cup of tea at half past 6.
Alan – more t shirts than I have ever seen, early morning business tycoon (on his
Blackberry doing some mining deal or other), fireman, late night hotel receptionist,
and giving me the shock of my life by climbing onto my bed in the middle of the
Kate – the ―island girl‖ as she became known, for her extensive knowledge of all
things Antigua after her recce tip and research, which even astounded (and put right
on occasions) the locals. Her impromptu 'mother hen' sessions with most of the
Explorers crowded round. Plus the image of her tiptoeing round the outside of the
hotel in her pyjamas, with her handbag, at 2am, past a startled night security guard
and tapping on the other leaders door asking for refuge from a rat! Who'd ever
So what will last from this trip? Hopefully, Antigua‘s positive impression of young
people from the UK. I've already mentioned that we will help the scouts. They would
like to make a trip to England at camp time next year if at all possible and we have
been invited to their centenary in 2013! I'm sure we will keep in touch with Carol in
lots of ways. The buzz has gone round the group already with several scouts asking
to be on the next trip!
The Explorers have some strong friendships, which I'm sure will last a lifetime. Some
of them are now off to Uni. Some are going to study maths, so I hope you learn to
add up and become bankers as quickly as possible!
One of the rewards of leadership is seeing scouts develop into fine young people.
Many of them have come through from Beavers at 6 years old, so I've known those
for up to 12 years.
They will remember this trip as probably the highlight of their scouting time and
hopefully the skills they have gained over the years, plus the travelling they have done
will make them feel confident in any situation and interacting with anyone the world
over. Hopefully some will return as leaders one day. Phil already has. May we say a
big thank you to our sponsors, especially Misbourne Valley District and Bucks
County, the Leslie Sell Trust and all those that made a donation to our trip. But also
especially to the parents for putting up with this for a year, and making it possible for
their son or daughter to participate. They have left a very positive impression of
young people in Antigua.
We as Leaders are proud of them. They are a credit to you.