It’s funny how coincidences come along to provoke thought. While searching for the Smoke Tribe camp record, I found a published article I had kept from 2015 which told of the newly installed statues honouring the Salter family of Bermondsey. Alfred and Ada Salter campaigned for free healthcare and for better living conditions. Alfred was a GP in practice with Aubrey Westlake, and it was Aubrey’s experience of living and working in Bermondsey in the 1920s which fuelled him to take his young OWC members out of the city to the New Forest as frequently as possible. The statues are near Cherry Gardens Pier in Bermondsey.
I remain proud of the OWC and what it stands for—perhaps this is because, unlike standing still like a statue and expecting to be revered— it has changed, by the decisions of its members mindfully and constantly updating its traditions, by acting on its values, which were—and still are—humane. I do not overlook the associations of what we or others may now view as cultural appropriation or an extension of colonialism. There is an interesting article published on the Seton Institute website about ‘playing Indians’ for example.
My belief is that past members firmly rejected the path of other youth movements’ pursuit of militarism and social engineering, recognising that the future is about choices as well as circumstances. In many ways, the founders and members broke away from the accepted cultural norms of the day, in pursuit of something better, for people to experience life in all its glory, and to learn from one another, the pursuit of shared wisdom and fellowship over personal gain.
There is more to learn and understand I am sure. And is there more that we can do, together or apart?
The text is a personal opinion of the author and may not reflect the views of the members of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry.