From Malcolm “Neddy” Long
When you are 50-something, you have the perspective to look back on your life and recognise those whose influence has moulded you. Your parents and siblings of course…and then the significant others.
For me, Randal was a very significant other. My first contact with him was when he was the scoutmaster of St Aidans and I was just a child aspiring to be a cub. He had the status of something higher than God.
And then I became a scout in his troop, and while he maintained the status of God, it was a deity with humanity and humour, authority and awe.
Scouting has changed, so I feel that I must describe what it was to be scout in his troop in the 1960’s. It was a time when uniform was worn with pride…and you expected to be inspected, and you were…every troop night, including the contents of your pockets which needed to include a handkerchief, paper, pencil.
It was a time when knowledge and learning was given a high priority, so every troop night was a mixture of games which taught a multitude of skills, direct instruction on pioneering skills, knotting, first aid, map and compass or whatever of that ilk, and competitions between patrols in which we competed in these skills.
It was a time when there was ceremony undertaken with solemnity. It was a time when many weekends were given over to some degree to scouting…I remember learning to whip and splice ropes in the front room of 80 Benson Road on a Saturday afternoon, Randal’s mum providing the afternoon tea…and the haze of smoke. I remember the day he taught me that the best firewood was still in the trees, not on the ground.
If there were holidays that did not include a standing camp, I do not remember them…but I do remember the camps: Easter Camps at Warwick Russell’s farm, summer camps at Coromandel and Manurewa when it used to mostly open country. I remember the flying foxes, the obstacle courses and the wide games.
Camp was never just a tent pitched somewhere, and play. Camp meant camping – the full deal. Tents perfectly pitched with trenches dug to catch and funnel the water away. A kitchen with shelves and benches and tables, not brought in prefabricated, but made from manuka and lashed together on-site. Camp meant camping in patrols, competing to be the winning patrol, cooking the best food, having it ready to serve at precisely the time you said it would be at which time, Randal or Jim would appear, ready to dine at the table with the patrol. Camp meant cleanliness and hygiene – it meant the evening visit by Randal to apply the “Randalian finger-test” to every pot, and having to get out of bed to improve them if they failed the test.
Camp also meant instruction and fun and campfires. I cannot remember anything about being a scout that was not fun…and that fun came from the personal commitment of Randal and Jim to us, the boys in their troop. Perhaps it was the fact that we had the great good fortune to have two single men as Scoutmasters who not only knew their stuff, but who were dedicated to pass that knowledge and practice on to others.
At times Randal could be a tough taskmaster, there is no doubt…he had standards he refused to budge from. When I reflect on that, I realise and thank him for passing that on, too. In the current world in which standards are at best grey soggy things, I know that Randal and his scout troop showed me what could be achieved with effort and commitment and consistency.
Randal’s influence stayed with me throughout my days in scouting…and with all who had been through his hands. It was no co-incidence that the St Aidan’s venturers were so strong in the 1970s and 1980s…the majority of them had been through the Randal school of scouting.
It must have been hard for Randal to see Scouting change so much over the last thirty years – so much of what it gave away were things that he could never really give away – the standards, the expectations and the skills. But is indeed a tribute to him that he remain so loyal to the movement even as it changed about him. Scouting has lost a most loyal servant.
When we look back on our life, it is natural to ask, “What have I achieved”? In a message to Randal before he passed away, I said to him that he should know that there are many people, and I count myself as one, who would say that what Randal gifted them in the form of attitudes and skills was immeasurably worthy and influential.
Thank you, Randal. As I age, I treasure all that you gave me with increasing savour!