In 1916 the world was at war and in Malta various emergency hospitals were treating the thousand of British and Anzac casualties of the Anglo-French forces which had been defeated on the Gallipoli peninsula. The sight of the convalescent soldiers in the streets, the many funerals and the many hospital-ships in Grand Harbour and Marsamxett, together with many survivors of various merchant-ships sunk by German and Austrian submarines in the proximity of Malta, had brought home the realities of war. There was some opposition when the rector, Father Vincent Sammut, told parents that a Scout Troop was being formed in the college. At that time there was also antagonism against the Scout Movement from the clergy who thought membership of this English organisation would influence the boys in favour of Protestantism, a view which the Archbishop Mgr. Dom Maurus Caruana did not support. So it was with a certain amount of courage that the College Jesuits embraced the Movement, the first religious body in Malta to do so, and in a private school where the children of the island’s prominent personalities were either boarders or day-boarders.
At the annual prize-giving ceremony, shortly before the investiture of the first Scouts, the Prefect of Studies, Fr. J. Grech, in his speech told the audience of parents and students and the Governor, Lord Methuen and Lady Methuen:
A notable innovation was introduced this year in our programme. Many parents and friends suggested the idea of having a Boy Scout Troop in our college. We agreed to that idea under the condition that the Scout training should not interfere with the studies of our boys. This having been settled, on October 9, Mr. Fisher, Assistant Scout Commissioner, had an interview with the Superiors in order to arrange the various details concerning the matter. On October 22 Lieutenant J. St. Leger Bunnett helped our scoutmaster, Mr. A.E. Green, in examining those boys who had obtained permission from their parents to join the troop; and on November 5 the first enrolment of 32 boys took place. On November 19 in the presence of Mr. Fisher and other gentlemen the boys appeared in their smart uniform and made the threefold promise: “to be loyal to God and to the King, to help others and to obey the Scout law”.
Before the conclusion of the ceremony Mr. Fisher said a few words about the scope of this institution which were intended especially to remove the false and prevailing idea that Scouting has something to do with soldiering. This subject was thoroughly explained in a letter from the same gentleman, which was published in the last number of our magazine.
Another enrolment of 22 boys took place on November 19 under the presidency of His Honour, Mr. E.Bonavia, Acting Lieutenant Governor and Chief Secretary to the Government, Addressing the boys he said that he was quite pleased with their sound condition of health, with their pluck and gait, and that he felt flattered at being asked to perform for the first time the function of Scout Commissioner in our college. Recently he presented our boys with a beautiful bugle, the arrival of which excited no little commotion in the playground. For this favour we tender to him our hearty thanks; and we must also thank Colonel A. Briffa for having presented two flag poles with the fleur-de-lis, and allowing the Militia Band to play this afternoon.
On November 25 our troop attended a rally in Valletta, which was inspected by General Hunter Blair. We heard that our troop was highly complimented by many on its marching and discipline after so short a period of training. This, of course, is very gratifying and reflects great credit upon the untiring energies of Mr. Green.
Our boys feel very proud to-day in seeing amongst them the Chief Scout of the island, His Excellency the Governor, who by his noble example encourages them in the formation of their character, in addition to their literary education within the school. Let us hope that by teaching our boys chivalry, thrift, patriotism and the rules of health they will prepare themselves for their contact with the world, for, as was well said by Lord Armstrong “A man’s success in life depends incomparably more upon his capacity for useful action, than upon his acquirements in knowledge, and the education of the young should therefor be directed to the development of faculties and valuable qualities rather than to the mere acquisition of knowledge”
His Excellency replying, expressed the pleasure it gave himself and Lady Methuen to be present on that occasion, and his satisfaction at seeing the innovation of the Commercial Class and of the Boy Scouts. He welcomed the former because it was of such paramount importance in these days of competition. With regard to the latter, he said, the Movement had his hearty and active support, and he was anxious to see before he left the island, many hundreds of Maltese boys in the ranks.
His Excellency afterwards inspected the College Scouts in the Recreation Ground and handed to the Troop the silk Union Jack of the Troop Flag, He addressed a few words to the boys, complimenting them on their smart appearance and encouraged them to do their duty as members of the great brotherhood of Boy Scouts. The boys afterwards marched past to the strains of a march played by the band of the 2nd Bn. K.O.M.R.M by kind permission of Colonel A. Briffa and the officers.
This was the start of nine decades of progress and endeavour which has made the College Scout Group one of the leading youth bodies on the island, numbering among its former members many hundreds who owe to their Scouting a great debt for their successes in many fields, and numbering leaders in al walks of life, including two Presidents of Malta.
** The brass fleur-de-lys and the flags are today on display in the College refectory.