I recently came across this image of a boy in his Scout uniform. I though that there was nothing particularly remarkable about this image, taken of Ross Ashby in 1915, until I read that the Scout troop he belonged to was based in Westcliffe-On-Sea – a place well known for not being in Scotland. Why then, did this Essex troop have kilts and bagpipes as part of their uniform? The founder of the troop believed he had relatives from Scotland, so when he began his Scout troop in 1914 he named his troop the 1st Chalkwell Bay Highland Scout Group and its members wore kilts and sporrans. It seems the troop were quite serious about their Scottish ‘heritage’ One local Scout recals “To be different, they opted to become a highland (Scots) troop and took to wearing kilts, and stalking haggis’s in the undergrowth of Chalkwell Park. Of course they were serious about this venture and even, to the dismay of the locals, formed a bagpipe band.” (3rd Chalwell Bay Sea Scouts)
In 1934 the group was made to drop the ‘Highland’ from their name and were no longer able to wear the kilt or sporran as they were not located within Scotland. Personally, I wonder whether this was due to a decision from the office in London regarding the acceptable national identities of English Scouts, or whether this was a decision from Scotland regarding misuse of their national symbols. I think that it is likely the former – that Scottish identities were not welcome within the English Scouting system, particularly when this was a very visible display of deviation from the English ideal.