75 years ago Bryden MacKellar and his friend, Andrew Borland, founded the 33rd Gleniffer Scout Troup. At 18 Andrew joined the Army while Bryden joined the Royal Navy. After his training Bryden was summoned to Head Quarters in London. After a long walk down a long corridor, a door was opened to reveal a row of Top Brass. They asked, “Would you be willing to do a dangerous job for your country?” The immediate answer from an 18 year old scout was, “yes, sir”. He was trained to go behind the Japanese lines in Burma to find out the depths of the Klongs (canals) in preparation for the planned invasion by the U.S. forces.
His first exercise was to travel from London, through a military zone, to Sandwich on the Channel Coast. This had to be done without uniform, money or food. He walked at night for miles, sneaked on to a stationary train, dodged ticket collectors by hiding in the toilet. In one instance that was not enough. He had to climb out of the toilet window and drop onto the line. When he arrived in Sandwich he had to cross a narrow river. If he swam he was in danger of being shot. He marched up to the guard at the bridge, with great confidence he saluted smartly, walked past him. He was home – mission accomplished.
Bryden swore that his experience at night chases and games at scout camps had taught him to use his initiative and to think quickly.
His Swimming Badge served him well in the Caribbean when he had to learn how to fend off sharks armed with a spear and steely eyes. When he came face to face with two sharks, the strategy worked and he reached his boat safely. He had fun, too, holding onto turtles who pulled him along under the water.
In Ceylon he was told to cross from one side of the Island to the other in the clothes he stood up in. He had to identify the plants, fruit and leaves of trees which would be edible. He had to light fires (without matches) for warmth and cooking – all things which were familiar to a scout.
On his journey a little monkey befriended him and crossed the island at his side. He was really sad to say goodbye to it. In the centre of the island he found a deserted town where chickens, once domesticated, were running about wild.
From Ceylon he travelled by train the length of India. The train stopped at what was called a station but was virtually a platform in the middle of nowhere. On the platform was a little boy with no clothes – only a neckerchief round his neck, Skipper gave him the Scout Salute. His face broke into a huge smile. He ran forward and the two scouts shook hands. Skipper maintained that if you are a Scout you need never be alone in any part of the world.
Now came to the real test. He was dropped, with a small canoe, from a submarine off the Coast of Burma. He paddled through shark infested waters and, under the cover of darkness entered the first Klong. He was alone. Here, he admits, all that the scouts had taught him came into play. He was hiding under vegetation at the bank when an open boat full of Japanese soldiers passed very close to him. He was putting his gun in position when it gave a loud click. There was a moment of silence. Bryden with his teeth chattering, thought his last moment had come. Fortunately, so did the Japanese. They turned and fled back up the Klong. Eventually, job completed, Bryden rowed back to the pre-arranged meeting spot where he boarded the submarine. He had survived. Not so his good friend, Andrew. It was always Skipper’s great regret that he did not know that, down the coast in Burma, Andrew fought to save the soldiers around him. He fired at the enemy until he, himself, fell. A truly heroic soldier and scout.
The first thing that Skipper did when he arrived home in Paisley was to come unannounced to a 33rd Gleniffer Parents’ night. This bronzed handsome figure in his bush hat walked into the hall to the astonishment even of his Mum and Dad. The next day this handsome fellow invited me to the Golf Club Welcome Home Ball. The rest is History.
We married, had a daughter Helen who joined the Guides, two sons, Gordon and Douglas who kept on the tradition and became scouts in the 33rd Gleniffer.
If Skipper had been alive today he would have been so proud to find that the 33rd Gleniffer Troop which he had founded 75 years ago was still alive, thriving and marching on to the future.