The following tribute to Ken Thomson, who passed away on 20th May, was compiled by Alan Willoughby and John Bruce
Ken joined Scouting in the 1950s and progressed through the 30th Midlothian at Davidsons Mains becoming a Queens Scout in 1967 and later that same year taking out his first warrant as an Assistant Cub Scout Leader
Ken Being Presented with his Queens Scout Award
This was the start of an unbroken record of service to Scouting which lasted 53 years and included roles in District, Area, Regional, Scottish and UK Scouting.
Ken soon transferred to the 30th Inverleith Scout Troop, Davidson’s Mains becoming part of Edinburgh County Scout Council in 1968 and he was responsible for the growth of a strong and large troop, which split into two in the late 70s.
In 1979 he left the group and became Assistant District Commissioner for Scouts in Inverleith District, which had at that time over 400 Scout section members.
Colin Mackay appointed Ken as District Commissioner for Liberton in the summer of 1980 where he quickly established a robust district which had in it, the special needs group at the Royal Blind School, the Dr Guthrie’s List D school group and groups in the Inch, Gilmerton, Burdiehouse and Gracemount.
Ken’s people skills blended the diverse groups into a solid and sociable district with life long friendships being formed.
In 1983 plans were made for the Sri Lanka Water Expedition and Ken and Alison were appointed as the leaders. The planning and preparation came to fruition in the summer of 1985 when a party of over 20 Venture Scouts supported by 12 leaders went to build wells and help development projects aimed at giving clean water to villages as well as education
There was great support across the Area for the project, including the setting up of the Scoutpost operation and it is indicative of Ken and Alison’s leadership that the team from Sri Lanka still meet and many have remained in Scouting.
Ken’s involvement in training grew at this time and after a Trainer’s Basic Course and a role as Assistant Leader Trainer, he completed a Trainer’s Advanced Course at Gilwell Park in 1986, taking up the role of Leader Trainer later that year, an involvement with training which lasted until 2016
In 1987 Ken was appointed as Area Commissioner Designate to become Area Commissioner with effect from February 1988.
He had been AAC Scouts for just one year when he was appointed AAC (without portfolio) for the six months until he took up post, time which he used well in getting to know the Area.
The ten years from 1988 were full of activity and action:
- The Scouting into the 90s report
- The Opening of Forth Lodge
- The Management and Support of the Area Report which resulted in, among other things, the creation of a seven district Area with Blackford District and an enlarged Leith District
- Scout trek, a youth camp for 14-25 year old members
- An Area Celebration in the form of a Service in the Assembly Hall on the Mound in November 1994
- A European Scout project on the Scout section and methods of learning based on an Edinburgh troop
- The report into links between Scouting and Guiding and a joint Conference at Drummond High School
- The introduction of computers into the Area office
- A drug awareness project at conducted at Area level
- A blend of youth and experience in the Area and District teams
- Chief Scouts Visits
- The integration of six groups into Edinburgh Area from West and Midlothian
- The ‘Scouts go for a million’ campaign resulting in a million millimetres of haggis being cooked at a Bonaly Open Day
- The Opening of the new Building at Longcraig
- And so much more..
In 1998 Ken retired as Area Commissioner but took up the role of AAC Development and provided leadership to the Lottery Project. which was run by Edinburgh Area from 1998 until 2000, focusing on recruitment
Ken had served on the Scottish Committee since 1994 and in 1998 he was appointed as Chair, where he served during an incredibly busy time for Scouting, overseeing the Centenary of Scouting as well as the initial stages of the regionalisation of Scottish Scouting where he managed masterfully to tread the fine line between supporting and encouraging local opinion whilst considering the broader view across the whole country. He demitted office in November 2007
Having served on the UK Board in 2006 Ken was elected as Chair of the Finance Committee at Gilwell Park and regularly commuted to and from London. He served in this role until 2008
When John Kennedy was wanting someone to co-ordinate the Centenary Camp, Ken was approached and he agreed, taking on the leadership of the event with the usual attention to detail and a most successful camp was held at Dalmeny.
When South East Region was formed in 2008 Ken took on the role of ARC Training and played a major part in all the workings of the Region despite his health problems. He organised training courses, conferences, hosted countless meetings and greatly supported individuals in their roles and tasks. He used his many contacts in Midlothian and Borders to great advantage
He became Deputy Regional Commissioner in 2013 and served until 2016 when he demitted as ARC Training as well but retained a training adviser role which was a well-used appointment until the past year. He had become a Regional Vice President in 2016.
He was awarded the Silver Wolf in 2003 following on the receipt of the Silver Acorn and Bar and the Medal of Merit as well as the 50 year long service award.
Ken with Andy Matthews who was the Chief Commissioner for Scotland
He was deputy head and headteacher at Drummond Community High School and headteacher at Lasswade Community High School and taught at several city schools and was a highly regarded Head.
Ken was also heavily involved in Rotary in Edinburgh and Dalkeith, serving as President in Dalkeith.