Bob a Job

Cambridge District Scout Archive

The Bob a Job scheme was inaugurated in 1949, a time of rising prices.  In addition IHQ was incurring costs sending teams to help scouting abroad; an example of which was in 1956 when an Organising Commissioner for Mauritius was being advertised; a three year paid post at £75/ month. 

The intent was that Bob a Job earnt money for the Movement at Group, District, County and primarily Imperial Head Quarters levels.  Every Scout, Scouter and Commissioner was asked to participate.  It was initially planned that £20,000 a year for ten years went to IHQ.

Plans for the return of money raised above the required amount were not finalised in the first year.    The 12th Cambridge held a second Bob a Job week in 1950 for their funds.

Bob a Job was initially used in 1944 as a target for the Scout War Relief Abroad Fund.  ‘The Shilling a head target for the Scout War Relief Abroad Fund was easily smashed, the amount raised being  £12.’ (5th)

The following information largely comes from a collection of files retained from the anniversary year 1957.  Full accounts exist for Cambridge District Bob a Job in 1956 and 1957.

Money In

  • 1949                ₤165/11/9       (1949 AGM)    A ‘Paying –  In’ event was arranged
  • 1950                ₤280/1/3        
  • 1951                ₤340/10/-                      Mrs Mallett received the money
  • 1952                ₤444/7/-
  • 1953                ₤615/13/8
  • 1954                ₤757/6/10
  • 1955                ₤831/15/4
  • 1956                ₤889/12/10
  • 1957                ₤1117/11/0     (note: BP Memorial Fund also in 1957 raised £170)
  • 1962                £1215
  • 1964                New ways of collecting funds make comparisons difficult.  IHQ request 5/- a head in lieu of the 2/- .

‘The paying in time for the first years was made a special occasion and took various forms’ Ken North 70 years.                        A specific time and place was set in 1949 but no other details were recorded in the District Minutes.  By 1962 a special Pay In ceremony was deemed to ‘have run its course’.

A ‘special effort’ was requested in Scouts 50th year.  However, the very rapid growth of the enterprise must reflect the growing public awareness of the scheme as well as public willingness to show their support for the idea, the Scouts and to get a job done.

Money Out

The original expectation was that a ‘bob a head’ went to Imperial Head Quarters.  In 1952 the Chief Scout asked for a ‘second bob’.  The distribution thereafter was decided locally. In 1957 the distribution was

  • IHQ                              ₤155/14/-                  @ 2/- per head   
  • County                         ₤77/17/-                    @ 1/- per head
  • District                        ₤77/17/-                    @ 1/- per head
  • Expenses etc.              ₤20/13/2
  • Returned to Groups   ₤763/17/4

In Cambridge in 1957 there were1557 Scouts in 31 Groups

1557 shillings / 20 = 77 pounds and 17 shillings        ₤77/17/-

Twenty shilling to the pound, twelve pence to the shilling

The money returned to groups was the remnant of what they had earned as a group. The 59 members of the 54th Cambridge earned ₤29/18/8 of which ₤5/18, ₤2/19 and ₤2/19 went to IHQ, County and District, 17/3 (seventeen shillings and three pence) to expenses and ₤17/5/5 was returned to the Group.

The average for 1957 was 14/1 (14 shillings and one pence).  The 54th averaged 10/2, the 42nd and 26th over a ₤1 per head, the 52nd did not quite cover the 4/- contribution to District, County and IHQ and received nothing back.

In 1951 the District waived its portion.

In 1956 the ‘DC of Cambridge Scout Group’ earned 18/-; that is even the District Commissioner did his bit.

Jobs Done

Lists of Jobs done locally have not been retained.  A 1950’s leaflet advises that ‘boys should only undertake jobs they know they can do well’ and gives a list of tasks by role ’within the scope of all’; a sample of which are

  • Cubs and Boy Scouts: Carrying coal, cleaning brass, gathering eggs, walking dogs, chopping wood, taking small children to school, cleaning harnesses, polishing perambulators
  • Senior Scouts:              Plucking poultry, lime washing a cellar, cleaning and painting farm implements, sawing logs
  • Lady Scoutmasters:     Baby sitting, patching sails, wool winding, floor scrubbing, darning
  • Rovers and Scouters:  Washing cars, cleaning stables, repairing kettles and buckets, removing unwanted bushes, repairing and painting deck chairs, tree felling

The Grafton Street Gazette stressed no street trading eg shoe shinning and no employment for business purposes such as distributing advertising circulars.

My personal recollections from 1966 onwards are of those jobs that outfaced me, aerating a lawn, waxing a car and cleaning oil from a concrete garage floor.   Those I could do readily have been forgotten.  I recall being told that the sixpence kept by the door for Cubs was taken, the implication being that no job had been required; and how the expectation and the uniform helped a shy child knock at strangers doors.  The area I covered was not rigidly demarked and grew as I did. Overlapping areas, if annoying, were nowhere near as bad as others ‘starting early’!  There was also a collective pride in seeing the Job Done stickers in the windows.

Internal problems

Difficulties arose from within the District.  The 54th complaining that the 12th had encroached on their allotted streets.  Areas for each Group had been agreed, full records of which have not been retained.  The correspondence reveals the lengths to which some leaders allocated streets to each Scout with some leaders manning check points to reallocate as required or if the job offered was too big for a cub. 

1963    54th Cambridge reported a general decrease in enthusiasm for Bob a Job across all groups.

1963    ‘annual complaint of boys starting bob a job early.’             Cub Leaders Minutes

External problems

The Movement was concerned about causing a nuisance to the public.  Some householders were annoyed seemingly in having to answer their door; or that it was the Front Door.  One retired naval Captain wrote to the Chief Constable, who passed it on to the County Commissioner (Brigadier Duchesne) with the observation that the Captain was ‘apt to complain about almost anything’.  Brigadier Duchesne called on the Captain and found he ‘suffered from thrombosis and cannot go for a good dig in the garden like you and I do when feeling livery’.  ‘A second factor was that the bell was rung when he was in the lavatory alongside the front door and he admitted that he did not like to be disturbed in those circumstances.’ ‘I think we can regard the incident as closed’. 

A post script adds ‘During my conversation with him I said that I would be happy to afford him the opportunity of being a member of the Local Association and he replied ʺGood God don’t do thatʺ.’  A donation of ₤1 was later received from the Captain.

The local group were asked to send around a diplomatic set of Scouts the following year.

Job Week

The perceived limit of a ‘Bob a job’ was changed to Job Week as inflation diminished the purchasing power of a shilling. It was referred to as Bob a Job in 1969.

1970    Job Week

1981    Job Week mentioned – opt in for Groups?

Job Done

Bob a Job and later Job Week continued until the 1990’s in various guises, modified in attempts to re invigorate a tired initiative and with an increasingly wary eye on child safety.  The memory of Bob a Job is still invoked, but the tasks are collective and planned by leaders.

Good Turn Week

This initiative ran alongside Bob A Job possibly as a reminder of the spirit of ‘Helping Others’.   It was a Group based act that required Groups to inform District of what they had planned.  The tasks were designed for a number of Scouts, not individuals.  Good Turn Weeks predated Bob a Job.

1914                                       First National Good Turn – Scouts Day of Work for the blind

1957 June                            National ‘Collective Good Turn Week’

1957    Good Turn Week         One of the suggested good turns that a Group could offer was controlling rats.  Poison was not to be used.

JWR Archivist Jan 2019