A scouter recalls the early years of the Boy Scout Movement and of the man and woman who founded the first Troop in the District
All organisations derive great benefit and incentive when they have a figurehead to look to or to look back upon.
The boy scout movement has the great and everlasting memory of the grand founder of the movement, Lord Baden Powell. He is always remembered with honour and gratitude.
Without the very deep roots which he, the first scout, planted, and without his memory, boy scouts all over the world would be without an anchor, and indeed the ship would never have been built for the anchor to hold.
I wonder if the troops in Rye and district ever think of, or even know of, the man who laid the keel, and started to build another ship in the fleet to be launched here in Rye.
That man was Captain Edward John Cory, D.S.O. He it was who with the help and encouragement of his wife, founded the first boy scout troop in Rye and district in 1909.
It was unfortunately but two short years after that, in 1911, when Captain Cory died, but because of his untiring work during that time, and the enthusiasm he had instilled into the boys in his troop, scouting continued in Rye and grew.
This was assured by Mrs. Cory, who, after her husband’s death, herself became scoutmaster, and I think I would be right in saying she was the first lady scoutmaster. Neither have I heard of one since. Mrs. Cory devoted the remaining thirty-two years of her life to the movement.
Captain Cory served in the 69th Sussex Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa during the Boer War, and it was on account of an illness contracted during that service that he died.
He is buried in Playden Church Yard, and when I was a boy in the choir of that church I remember how proud I felt to be a scout in the 1st Rye C.C.O. (Captain Cory’s Own), and there was the memorial to Captain Cory himself.
It was indeed a fine memorial and one likely to cause a small boy to pause and think, even if that boy did not, as I did, feel a strong personal link with the man for whom it was erected.
The fine white cross stood about four feet high, and upon it was draped a sword in its scabbard complete with belts, as if the wearer had just taken it off and placed it there.
During a visit to Playden Church a few weeks ago I saw that the earth on the grave had subsided, causing the cross to lean at an angle. The inscriptions could not be read until I had wiped the stone with some dry leaves and grass. The square of the grave, surrounded by stone curbs, was overrun by weeds.
And yet even with all this decay, there seemed still to be the message that the spirits of these two good people, the man and his wife, live on. As so they surely do.
I only knew Mrs. Cory, for he died a few years before I was born, but through her we felt that he was still in the background, and to we scouts and cubs it seemed as if not only was Mrs. Cory our leader, but a combination of them both.
They were dedicated to do good, especially for the young, and it was with this happy purpose always before her that the scoutmaster, a woman of strong character and wisdom, but also of such gentleness and kindness, continued for so many years to be an everlasting example and inspiration to so many scores of the boys of Rye.
Capt. Cory in command of the Rye Troop, Sussex Imperial Yeomanry— heading 1902 Coronation Procession. Picture by courtesy of Rye Museum
We always addressed her as “Sir”, and spoke of her as Mrs. Captain Cory. This was in accordance with her wish, and to us it was simply the right and proper and natural thing to do. Ladylike, refined and gentle as she was, no man could have commanded more discipline, respect or affection.
In the summer of 1926 the 1st Rye C.C.O. went for a fortnight’s camp at Shepreth in Cambridge-shire. To travel the distance of 130 miles we hired a five ton lorry. Upon this lorry, which was an old five ton Thorneycroft with solid rear tyres, we loaded all our camping equipment—tents, cooking utensils, kit-bags, everything that we should need.
I forget how many of us went, it must have been at least 25 or 30, but after the lorry was loaded we all climbed on the top and settled ourselves as best we could. Mrs. Cory did the same, except that for her we cleared just sufficient space in the centre to place a chair.
I have never enjoyed a journey so much.
About that camp, and of those in succeeding years I could fill this magazine and another, but I will only add that wherever we went we were received with the utmost kindness and courtesy, owing to the high regard in which our scoutmaster was held by all who met her.
From the October 1967 Issue of “Rye’s Own”
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