CatholicScout Reviews: Rovering to Success by Lord Baden Powell

Cover of the book, Rovering to Success by Lord Baden Powell

Lord Baden Powell’s little known follow-on book

Chapter 1: How to be happy though rich – or poor
Chapter 2: Rock number one: Horses
Chapter 3: Rock number two: Wine
Chapter 4: Rock number three: Women
Chapter 5: Rock number four: Cuckoos and Humbugs
Chapter 6: Rock number five: Irreligion
Chapter 7: Rovering, The Aim of the Rover Brotherhood

Contents page from Lord Baden Powell’s book
Rovering to Success

Like any good old book, within the first few pages the author stated his intention in writing the book.


The whole thing-the early voyage through the easy running stream, and then coming out on to the broad lake, the arising of difficulties, the succession of waves and rocks only avoided by careful piloting, the triumph of overcoming the dangers, the successful sliding into a sheltered landing-place, the happy camp-fire and the sleep of tired men at night – is just what a man goes through in life; but too often he gets swamped among the difficulties or temptations on the rough waters, mainly because he has not been warned what to expect and how to deal with them.

I have quoted a few of Stewart White’s practical hints from his experiences in paddling through sea-ways: I want in the following pages to offer you similar piloting hints from my own experiences of dealing with the different snags and waves that you are likely to meet with in paddling through your life-ways.

Among these rocks and breakers are those that can be labelled in the terms of the old toast, “Horses, Wine and Women,” with the addition of Cuckoos and Cant. You are bound to come across most of them in your time. In the following chapters I propose to show you there are good as well as dangerous points about these rocks, and also how by “rovering” you may not only get round them, but also derive advantage and make your way to success.

Rovering to Success was written by Lord Baden Powell in response to young men who were either too old to join Scouts, or who had been through Scouting and wanting some further direction.

Bear in mind that the book was written in 1922, and also that Lord Baden Powell was not a Catholic.

That being said, the book is a gem, it will have you laughing, it will have you crying out “why didn’t I have this book sooner!!!”, but most of all you will learn something that may inspire you, may indeed, change your life.

In some ways the book is prophetic, Lord Baden Powell was a realist, with a wealth of life experience, that many of us could only dream of. He was able to see, if one did X, then the result will be Y. His life experience and his approach to life (senses open to take in the objective truth of the surroundings) meant that he was able to provide incredible advice for avoiding obstacles, “rocks” as he calls them.

And don’t think he is saying that Females are obstacles to be avoided. Read the book, I would be very surprised to find out if you disagree with what he says.

Some areas have been proven different by scientific discovery after Baden Powell’s time, but his knowledge, logic and deduction are outstanding if one considers the context of his time.

Obviously some of the things in the book I disagree with, but that’s mainly down to two things; I believe in the Truth of the Catholic Faith (there is no other way to God), and I also believe very strongly (if you hadn’t guessed already), that Christ was very serious when He commanded us to love friends and enemies, that violence is an abomination and completely forbidden to the follower of Christ.

My strong conviction to Gospel non-violence (which I always need to add, is not doing nothing in the face of evil, rather actively confronting evil with the Power of Good – (non-violently!)), jars in the face of some aspects of Baden Powell’s Scouting. But that aside, it is an immensely enjoyable book.

Of course, like Scouting for Boys, Rovering is designed for the male audience. Baden Powell came from a time, where people understood, the fundamental difference of gender. That it was God-given and for a Divinely-mandated Purpose (cf Matthew 19). Baden Powell, extrapolated the male role (with his philosophical and theological understanding) out into the world, to the service of the state.

It’s a ripping read, and really hard to get hold of. I managed to get my hands on a copy many moons ago, and you still can if you search for a second-hand copy of Rovering to Success through book stores on line. That or look up the scanned copy of Rovering to Success by Baden Powell available on line.


Catholic Scouting – But why? III
Catholic Scouting – but why? Part II
Catholic Scouting – but why?
Quo Vadis? Catholic Scouts 101 – Part III
Quo Vadis? Catholic Scouts 101 – part II
Quo Vadis? Catholic Scouts 101
A Scout Serves II
A Scout Serves
Catholic Scouts and vain-glory
A Scout seeks Truth
Chivalry and scouting morals II
Chivalry and scouting morals

Catholic Scouting – but why? Part II

Catholic Scouting – but why? We have secular scouting, why do we need anything separate? I will endeavour to answer these questions in this post.

Baden-Powell had great insight, he suspected something would work, he had the courage to try it, and thus he discovered that it did work. Boy Scouts worked.

Baden-Powell discovered that people who have a common goal, are more likely to achieve it. Basically unity brings about victory. If there is a common purpose, the effort of the whole, working as a single body, is more effective than just an individual.

What he discovered at Mafeking, was that young people are very dedicated when they have a common purpose. Now, Mafeking is not something a follower of Christ can sing about, because the boys were essentially employed in warfare as messengers etc. But Baden-Powell did learn some important lessons from it.

What Baden-Powell then went on to develop was Boy Scouting. Which was more of a ethical work. Boy Scouting was about developing a virtuous person. Why did Baden Powell want Boy Scouting to be about developing a virtuous person? Baden Powell perceived that a virtuous person was of greater service and credit to a nation than an unvirtuous person. An easy example is: the honest person is of greater service and credit to a nation than a dishonest person.

Baden-Powell lived in a time where the cultural perception of the populace was: that to be virtuous was a good and self-promoting thing. While the social ladder was sadly not absolutely governed by virtue, it certainly aided being a virtuous soul. This is not so much the case today.

Baden-Powell correctly identified that if one gathered a group of people with that same basic understanding -for instance, that virtue is good for the country – then that group would grow in virtue more efficiently than an isolated individual. Why, does a group tend achieve it’s goal more efficiently than an individual? A group tends to be more efficient because of psychological and fraternal factors, such as (but not limited to), fear of letting others down, peer-pressure/encouragement and the desired identity/association in the group.

Now Baden-Powell did not perceive the effects of World War II, of the rampant secularisation and the development of anti-nationalistic scepticism that has grown since then. For the Christian, nations mean nothing. The nation state is not the object of salvation, human beings are. Nations are geographical human constructs, they pass. The Lord taught and the Church has dutifully passed on “Render unto Caesar what is Caesars”. But it is very important that the Christian remembers that nations are not our primary identification.

The truth is that Baden-Powell did not perceive the destination of the Philosophy that had been festering and growing for a long time; relativism  Relativism has stripped the modern equivalent of the Scouts of it’s former primary purpose: to develop virtuous people for the benefit of the country.

Thankfully, this woeful situation does not have to affect Catholic Scouting. The purpose of Catholic Scouting should be to develop virtuous people (holy or saintly people) for the benefit of the Church. The Church should occupy the first place of nationalistic pride in our hearts, not our geographical human constructs, which by the very nature of their work of human hands, are fallen and temporal. I will write a post on the evils of national patriotism another time.

The final question of this post is: Why would a body of Catholic Scouts the most efficient means of promoting virtue in it’s members? A body of Catholic Scouts would be an efficient means of promoting virtue in it’s members because it benefits from the observations of Lord Baden-Powell, namely that youth become very dedicated to a common cause (especially one that also have practical active application and an aspect of adventure involved) and that a collective is more efficient than an individual.

I think it would be presumptuous to say that it would be the most efficient, but a body of Catholic Scouts separate from the secular scouting organisation, has distinctive advantages. The mix of adventure and practical skills is more attractive and has a greater holding power than a purely spiritual guild/association.

Let me know your thoughts, leave a comment.

A long silence is broken

Every time I log on, it takes me a good ten minutes to come to terms with the great privilege to have a blog named Catholic Scout. I go on and read over my last article, and I cannot help but sit back and wonder at it. Then I get stuck, what can I say? Well the silence is broken.

For me Catholicism and the principles Lord Baden Powell set down in his book Scouting for boys go hand in hand. Yes, his imperialism is antiquated by modern-day standards, but I cannot but help having a certain admiration for it.

Baden-Powell had a sense of service to a greater good, of legitimate and organised authority, that every man has a unique place to occupy in the world. It reminds me much of Monsignor Gilby’s book We Believe, such a faithful and accurate expoundation of Catholic teaching.

The Catholic Social teaching as Monsignor Gilby explains in his book We Believe is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever read. I had no idea. In a world where if one can get something, even to the detriment of another, then so often one does. The scouts mentality is very different; “how can I serve” as opposed to the “what can I get” attitude and that is so close to the ideal of Catholic social teaching.

How precious are these books, where a mans mind is preserved for generations, generation where these ideals and indeed the ever-so-important living examples are no longer found. Thank you Monsignor Gilby, Michael Davies and Lord Baden-Powell for being guides amid the encircling gloom.