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Gilcape Memories - Eerste River 1952 to 1985


That was Gilcape     

These are the times we shall dream about, And we'll call them The Good Old Days,

When the years have rolled away, we shall dream of the times we've had, and the songs we used to sing,

But while we're together let us laugh at the weather, and whatever the gods may bring,

When all our youth is but a memory, and we come to the parting of the ways

These are the times we shall dream about,

and we'll call them The Good old Days.


Ralph Reader wrote that song years ago for the Scout Gang Show. I thought of it when I saw the cover of last month's Cape Western Scouter Magazine (with the aerial pictures of Lake Bennington), and realised with sadness that Gilcape is now nothing but a memory.


We all have memories of Gilcape, whether they are happy, sad, funny or just special in some or other way. Don't you feel that we owe it to Gilcape not to let it merely drift off the scene into the realms of 'what once was' without so much as a closing salute?


When I started in Scouting 25 years ago the buildings at Gilcape were already there. But before they were erected, or purchased as part of an extension, participants on Courses had their lectures in a bug marquee tent; they ate in a tent and slept in tents, and the ablution block was pretty far away near the Warden's Cottage.  (Abandon all the groans, you who train today; you have comparative luxury at Gilray). Those were the days when the late Carl (Serpent) Rayner and his wife, known as Gilkela, comprised Cape West's entire Training Team. The original Gilcape had been the grounds of their house in Diep River, and from what I hear training then was a much tougher affair than it is now.


Lord Rowallan who was at the time Chief Scout of the UK and Dependant Territories, laid Gilcape's foundation stone in 1952. 'Skipper' Johnson was the first Warden and he did a tremendous amount of work to improve the grounds - chopping, clearing, constructing tables and benches for the Training camp-sites and very many other things.


He was followed by the Linsley's, who were there when I started; Helen with her great memory for names and faces running the tuck-shop and sometimes doing our Course catering, and Edwin the Warden keeping a strict finger on the pulse of Gilcape. I well remember my first Cub camp soon after I got my Camping Licence.


A too-bright full moon had lured the Cubs out of their tents at around 2am and I was just in time to stop them hanging out their sleeping bags to air "because its morning, Akela".  No ways were they concerned about getting back to bed so in desperation we organised a game of French Cricket.  Everyone was having a great time when, just as I was bending to pick up the ball, a stern voice from behind me demanded "AKELA!  WHY AREN'T THESE CUBS IN BED?"  That took a bit of explaining, but he was a dear man and we were forgiven.  Luckily there were no other Packs in camp at the time!


Will we ever find anybody who will give of himself as much as Bunny Bennington did?  One almost feels tempted to quote Christopher Wren's epitaph in St Paul's Cathedral, "If you seek his monument look around you".  Had circumstances been different Bunny's 'monument' would have stood for many years to come.  He was the power behind Lake Bennington, Cliff Harris, the ablution blocks and the barn as well as many other buildings and improvements.  He was for many years Chairman of the Gilcape Committee. 

In recent years Denzil Roberts (the only existing member of that Committee) has been holding the position of Manager and going out to Gilcape every week to pay the staff and attend to other matters.  So many people worked hard to make Gilcape what it eventually became, including many of you Scouters with your Packs and Troops, that it would be risky to mention some names and in all innocence omit others.  Every bit of work was a great contribution.


Gilcape had a charm of its own and even attracted campers from other Areas.  No five-star Hotel facilities, we all know that, but it provided what is was meant to provide .. a background for Boy Training where Scouts could rough it, with a swimming pool for relaxation; camping sites for Cubs, and the basic wherewithal for Adult Training.


On the Training side there are so many memories.  Like the sight of Stan Thomas in a ladies long maroon nightie acting as mother in the Team's camp-fire item, or Rikki Hawes in a pink ballet tutu singing "If I was not upon the stage".  And the way those horrors, today's A D C 's (Cubs) and official team caterers, used to apple-pie our beds.  On the other hand there was the charisma of early morning Scouts Owns in the Chapel, with the footprints of Wood Badge holders lining the path.  One can almost look back with affection on these pesky moles who caused many a downfall.  I wonder how the new owners are dealing with them? I hope it's humane. 

Then there were all the competitions, camps, cross-country runs, OpenDays, Fun Days (do you remember the Diamond Jubilee Cub Fun Day run so ably by Chris Grouwstra?)  local and National Training Courses and the annual Gilcape Day.  So many memories!


We have come to the end of an era.  If we were to drink a toast to Gilcape I wonder what yours would be?  Mine would  simply be "Thanks for the wonderful times, Gilcape. Long live Hawequas".  And there would definitely be tears in my eyes.



Source: Cape Western Scouter

Author: Olive La Cock

Date: July 1985