The “White Fox” Stunt

Cambridge District Scout Archive

This is the only commentary we have remaining from the period on what Ken North later describes as the ‘troubles’.  The paragraph is from Reveille, a single issue District magazine from 1920.  It largely reviewed the period from 1914 without being a formal historical summary.

The Paragraph in full is:

The “While Fox” Stunt. Yes, the new Red Indian clan is building its wigwams on the war-path. The old Chief Wangle MacMurrish is ably backed by the Nimble Newt of the 26th, together with Gruesome Gussie as Medicine-man. The chief braves include Squelcher Cook and Round Rawlinson of the 14th, Burnt-Cork Howler of the 12th, and Harold Hard-Holder of the Die-hards. The totempole is to bear the features of Fatty Baxter. The Sun-image has the likeness of Halo Hutchie of the 13th. Our correspondent writes: “the inherent predilections of the youth carry the clan-idea into the forefront of modern iconoclasm, far from the sesquipedalian prejudices of our educationists.”

This one paragraph sits between humorous personal observations and a funny interchange between the DC and a Scout.  The DC, Rev C T Woods, is probably the editor and largely the author of the whole magazine but his name is clearly attached to only one other section.

The word ‘While’ is probably a misreading of ‘White’, the piece taken from an electronic transcript of 2002 that covers the whole of the magazine, not the original paper copy.  It may be the original spelling; a deliberate step away from the name of ‘White Fox’.   The transcript is not accompanied by a commentary that would suggest that the reference had been identified and thus robustly checked.

The Troubles

Ken describes ‘the troubles’ in terms of a breakaway movement.

From 70 Years of Scouting      ‘There were later troubles I might mention now. In 1916 a group of leaders, including Ernest Westlake, a Cambridge Natural Scientist, and his son, who had been a scoutmaster while an undergraduate at Trinity, thought scouting “too military” (the same old criticism) and broke away to form the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry; after a somewhat chequered career it split up and still existed a few years ago about 400 members.’  Ken North 1978

A review of Cambridge leaders actively involved in the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry gives only one name outside the students Westlake and Parker, that of Murrish who was very important indeed until he became a soldier in 1916.  Thereafter his involvement was minimal and ended in 1919.  He was an active supporter of the 12th Cambridge for many years after.

            (See Local History/ Order of Woodcraft Chivalry: Cambridge Connections)

            (See People/ Individuals/ Cambridge Scouters/ John Murrish)

This movement (the OWC), is specifically mentioned by Ken but a wider Woodcraft movement was evident in the reports of Scouters writing in the local paper column ‘Our Scouts’.

            (See Local History/ Communication/ Our Scout Column)

White Fox

‘White Fox’ was John Hargreaves, a Boy Scout Commissioner Woodcraft and Camping who epitomized the Woodcraft focus of scouting and went on in 1920 to form the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift and later the Green Shirts Social Credit movements.  At this date he was emblematic of a focus on woodcraft and ritual and if he had made the move to start the Kindred by the date of publication (January 1920) the events alluded to were in 1918 and 1919.

The Stunt

It is not clear what this ‘Stunt’ refers to.  A review of all the entries in Our Scout Column may reveal an equally circumspect allusion to one event, though I cannot recall one.  (This is written in 2021 lockdown and I do not have access to the records.)  A more general movement towards the theatrical ritual of the Woodcraft movement may be all that was happening.  From the comments in Our Scout Column a number of leaders did explore this approach, taking Woodcraft names – not so far, perhaps, from Scout noms de plume but gently indicative of a change of tack.  The Woodcraft element in Our Scout Column was more consciously American than OWC based.

The Paragraph

The people mentioned are not all identified.

Chiefs

Wangle MacMurrish John Murrish12th
Nimble Newt of the 26th?26th
Gruesome Gussie as Medicine-man ?26th?

Braves

Squelcher Cook  ?14th
Round Rawlinson of the 14th ?14th
Burnt-Cork Howler of the 12th?12th
Harold Hard-Holder of the Die-hards ASM Holder 19th
Fatty Baxter   ?
Halo Hutchie of the 13th  A G Hutchinson   13th

The Totempole and Sun Image are both items associated with the rituals of Woodcraft.  The Totempole form was later adopted as a Wolf Cub competition trophy, but lacking, perhaps, the depth of clan affiliation with which ‘Woodcraft’ would wish it to have inspired.

The first and last sentences compound the oddness of the piece. 

            ‘Yes, the new Red Indian clan is building its wigwams on the war-path.’

The first is a straight if whimsical comment, but finishes with ‘war path’ which suggests a determination to overcome.  War path in this context is a soft term for aggression, but still odd so close to the Great War.  This line, along with the gently mocking sobriquet, may be seen to depict the movement as a game within the greater aims of Scouting.

The last sentence deliberately obscures.

            ‘Our correspondent writes: “the inherent predilections of the youth carry the clan-idea into the forefront of modern iconoclasm, far from the sesquipedalian prejudices of our educationists.”’

It adds up to ‘I think young people (young Scout Leaders) like to play games and to challenge established ways.  Experienced teachers (I) do not agree that it is the best way forward.’

The DC C T Wood was a Cleric, a Professor of Classics and had 25 years of experience in several fields of working with young people.  He probably considered the Woodcraft approach as fine where it fitted but not particularly useful for work in the East End. He was involved in the Jesus Lane Sunday school in Cambridge and Mission Houses in London – both catering for deprived areas. The step towards icons and away from organized religion(s) may also concerned him – not, perhaps, in the immediate intent but in the unstructured future.  Later both OWC and Kindred of the Kibbo Kift were to develop far from their original roots.

In Summary

The whole acknowledges the discussions and actions of some of the District leaders, avoids direct conflict but diminishes the worth of the approach in any absolute form.  It remains barely penetrable and does not pull the uninitiated into the argument.

JWR Archivist Jan 2021