Last month saw the end of an era in Craigalmond District, with the passing on 3 September of Jim Kelly, former District Commissioner of Haymarket District (now Craigalmond) and Assistant Area Commissioner of Edinburgh Area (now SE Scotland Region).
Jim’s Scouting career spanned over 80 years, and a celebration of Jim’s life on 18 September saw dozens of Jim’s former Scouting colleagues come to pay their last respects and share their many fond memories. At that service, Graham Inglis, a former 10th Haymarket Scout, read a moving tribute to Jim’s Scouting life, a shortened version of which is reproduced below.
Our thoughts are with Jim’s daughter Irene, her husband Harry, and their children David and Emma.
It all began in 1938 when Jim joined the newly formed 9th West Lothian Cub Pack. This channelled Jim’s enthusiasm for outdoor activities and he became their first Senior Sixer.
During the war years, Jim’s service continued with the 3rd West Lothian Scouts, where Patrol Leaders ran the meetings, and the Scouts provided support to the local ARP Wardens and the Home Guard – this led to Jim gaining his National Service Flash and earning his King’s Scout Award.
After a period of National Service at the end of the war, Jim immediately began his career as a Scouter with the 33rd Ayrshire, where he coached his Troop into winning the County Flag Competition again and again.
Jim moved to Aberdeen in 1954 with the Air Ministry works Dept, where he continued his Scouting as Leader of 1st Oakbank Troop, based inside an “approved” school. In 1961 Jim moved his family to Cyprus, where Jim continued his scouting journey with the 1st Akrotiri, before returning to Scotland in 1965, settling in Edinburgh.
This brought him to the 10th Midlothian based in Corstorphine and during the next 8 years he thoroughly enjoyed bringing his brand of Scouting to his boys. He loved competitions, worked hard to ensure all gained the most they could from Scouting, and continued to develop young people with fun and care.
At his first camp as ‘Skip’ with the 10th at Loch Doon, not far from his old stomping ground, Robert Young, then a Troop Leader, was responsible for the canteen and was almost caught out, having left it at the hall. He just managed to get his sister and her husband to drive it over to camp before canteen call in the afternoon – without it they would have not seen Jim showing off his party piece…
Kenny Berry had got a large bottle of fizzy juice and some sweets and Skip asked him for a swig of his juice. Jim swirled the bottle and the whole lot went down the hatch in a oner – Jim didn’t even burp and Kenny’s Jaw hit the floor! Needless to say, Jim bought him another bottle and Kenny left a happy and amazed lad.
At camps, Jim was always up at first light, hot water on for a cuppa and away for a morning wash in the stream (even if there was a toilet block on site!). On his return he would politely ask you to get up and then open and roll back both ends of the tent and allow the wind to hurtle through. Although a small lesson, one worth learning – get up and enjoy the best part of the day, and Jim always had a brew waiting to get you going!
In 1972 Jim was asked to add to his roles and become District Leader Trainer for Haymarket District. This was a role he loved, helping others to develop their skills and become enthusiastic leaders. Jim was recognised for his efforts and awarded the Medal of Merit in 1976 and by 1978 was part of the Edinburgh Training Team and the Bonaly Committee.
Having been awarded the Silver Acorn in 1983, he became District Commissioner for Haymarket District in the same year and ran a very successful team of leaders that brought Haymarket to the fore in Edinburgh Scouting. Jim was responsible for planning and running a particularly memorable event – the Cycleathon, where members and their families cycled round the grounds of Donaldson’s School to complete a marathon and raise money for charities. Jim was first there and last to leave!
In 1988 he took up the role of Edinburgh Area Commissioner General Duties and was a member of the Scottish Training Team. Jim returned as District Chairman of Haymarket in 1990, running the Executive Committee and encouraging all Groups to play an active part. During this time, he was awarded the Bar to the Silver Acorn and became Honorary Scouter of the 10th Haymarket.
This was a role he truly revelled in, coming and speaking to the young people, attending every AGM, sharing his memories with joy and enjoying the friendship of all the Scouters. He was always encouraging and continually praised the efforts of the Group – ‘no one can do it like the 10th’ Jim was often heard to say! He also was part of the team making arrangements for the 100th year celebrations, even writing to the Lord Lyon to request the inclusion off EST 1907 on the flag which appropriately covered his coffin earlier today.
Jim was of course a brother to all Scouts, extending his left hand with friendship and openness any time you met him, a trusted pair of hands who treated people with respect and care.
Jim continued in various roles including Chairman of Bonaly Fellowship right up until he retired from active service Aged 81. This sounds like the end but scouting was part of his life for so long Jim was always going to be involved. He remained a supporter through Haymarket Scout Fellowship, Corstorphine Scout Active Support Unit and of course regularly visited the 10th at the Douglas Brown Scout Hall.
Jim loved Burns and he Chaired the Scout Burns night at the Hall for many years – where he kept the honoured guests, Scouts and Executive Committee amused with his irreverent rendition of ‘Tae a Fert’!
In 2014 Jim received the highest award in Scouting, his Silver Wolf – which you can see was wholly warranted; he treasured it and was proud and honoured to wear it.
His letter from the Regional Commissioner fittingly said ‘you have made a huge difference to the lives of hundreds of young people and probably as many adults. You lived by, led by, and insisted on, the highest ideals of Scouting. Your service has been impeccable and your personal values and the standard of your leadership both an example and an inspiration’.
He was of course a Scouter to the end, often telling the staff at Murrayside Care Home when old Scouting friends came to visit, that some of his Scouts were here and they were just going upstairs for a Scout meeting.
Baden Powell said, ‘No one can pass through life, any more than he can pass through a bit of country, without leaving tracks behind, and those tracks may often be helpful to those coming after him in finding their way’. Jim certainly left tracks for us to follow – not on the ground, but in our hearts, in our integrity, in our respectfulness, in our care for others, in our beliefs, in our voluntary service and in ourselves.
In true Scouting tradition he leaves this world a better place, with many better people across the world to this day following Jim’s example, lessons, guidance and tracks.
No one can ask more of him than that.