Earlier this year, I was pleased to meet Lyn Darbyshire MBE, former Scouting District Commissioner. Her insights into her involvement with The Gang Show led to my researching further into the show’s general history and Ralph Reader, the man behind the Gang Show.
Lyn also kindly shared her thoughts with me about the St. George’s Day Parade in Chandler’s Ford, which she was directly involved with for many years.
This post looks further at this and at the legend of St. George. And, thanks again, Lyn, for sharing many of the pictures for this post.
A little bit of background
St. George is not just our patron saint but also belongs to Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal and Russia, as mentioned in St. George Visited Eastleigh – Who is St. George? by Chippy Minton.
Not only is that an impressive list but St. George is also the patron saint of specific cities. These range from Amersfoort, Beirut and Caceres to Lod, Moscow, Pomorie and Qormi amongst others! St. George gets around…
St. George was not always England’s patron saint. Edward III proclaimed him our patron saint though St. George’s official saint’s day of 23rd April was set up earlier than that by the Council of Oxford in 1222. The 23rd April became a national feast day in 1415 but in 1778 this holiday reverted to just being a devotional day for English Catholics.
St. George’s banner of the red cross on a white background is a symbol of a martyr. Medieval kings used the banner on campaigns against France (Edward III – 1345-1349) and Richard II,when invading Scotland in 1385, ordered his men to wear a sign of the arms of St. George.
Edward III also adopted St. George to be the main patron of his newly established Order of the Garter in 1348. The Order has a badge of gold showing an enamelled picture of St. George killing the dragon as its insignia (this is known the The George. There is a “Lesser George” which is worn attached to the Sash worn by knights of the Garter).
St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, is the official seat of the Order which consists of the monarch, the Prince of Wales, 24 others and 26 Knights or Ladies Companion.
William IV reorganised the Order so it had three classes: Knight Grand Cross (GCMG), Knight Commander (KCMG) and Companion (CMG).
The wonderful TV series, Yes Minister, once defined these initials in the episode Doing the Honours.
The following is a direct quote:
Woolley: In the service, CMG stands for “Call Me God”. And KCMG for “Kindly Call Me God”.
Hacker: What does GCMG stand for?
Woolley: “God Calls Me God”.
Women admitted to the Order are given the title of Dame.
St. George has other references in literature too. He is in Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen (1590 and 1596) and upholds the Anglican church and Queen Elizabeth I. John Bunyan (1628-1688) was inspired by the story of St. George and the Dragon for the portrayal of his fight between Christian and Apollyon in Pilgrim’s Progress.
St. George also has a long list of causes for which he is patron saint. To name only a few, these include scouts and soldiers to farmers and riders though there are others.
St. George came from a noble Christian family from Cappadocia (now in Turkey). He was a soldier but refused to take part in the Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians so in 303 AD he was tortured and killed in Palestine.
The dragon slaying story dates from medieval times. I’m always amused when stories like this are dismissed as “probably a legend”. Note the “probably”! The possibility of dragons existing at all is not dismissed altogether then..
What is so wrong with legends anyway? They’re often cracking stories. St. George and the dragon is a good example and, as with many legends, it is the symbolism that’s important. Here it’s good triumphing over evil. It’s also a marvellous tale for re-enacting.
Dragons have never had a good image (despite the best efforts of Sir Terry Pratchett when making his creation, Lady Sybil Ramkin (also Vimes) run the Sunshine Home for Sick Dragons. Even on the Discworld, there is little sympathy for this cause amongst most of the populace).
But St. George and the dragon makes a great tale of derring do, which is its obvious appeal, and the story has been retold across countries and generations and will, doubtless, continue to do so.
Chandler’s Ford, St. George, and the dragon
Here in Chandler’s Ford, as throughout the country, the dedicated parade recalls the story. And now over to Lyn:
Allison: Lyn, you were involved for many years with the St. George’s Day Parade here in Chandler’s Ford. I was in the Girls’ Brigade for many years and we had lots of parade practice. I always enjoyed parades (they were usually held around Southampton’s Civic Centre).
The parades gave a great feeling of comradeship. I’d be very surprised if the St. George’s Day Parade didn’t generate that same comradeship.
The Chandler’s Ford St. George’s Parade is from Merdon Junior School through Fryern to the Methodist Church where a special service is held. Lyn, there must have been a lot of work behind the scenes. Did you enjoy that?
Lyn: I always enjoyed organising the parade. I like to take pride in whatever I do. So I always liked to know the parade would run smoothly.
The Methodist Church were always very helpful. Vanessa Finlay, church secretary, was the contact point and always gave her support. The church was always booked to host the parade.
Lyn: I also had to liaise with Merdon Junior School as everyone marshalled there. I also liaised with other Scout groups in the District.
Allison: The Parade culminated in a church service, of course, but what was special about this?
Lyn: There was always someone special at the Parade service such as the Scouts who were going to the Jamboree or the Swiss Venture.
Allison: I understand the Jamboree is a World Gathering of Scouts and tens of thousands usually attend. The Swiss Venture gives Scouts the chance to enjoy a wide range of activities such as hiking the Swiss glaciers and white water rafting with fellow Scouts.
Sense of pride
Lyn: Talks in the service were to show what these Scouts were doing/taking for these events.
One example and my highlight I think was when three Scout leaders who topped Everest to commemorate 100 Years of Scouting gave a special talk at our Parade Service.
For another year, there was a skit on George and the Dragon which I wrote.
Allison: What else did you think came out of the Parade?
Lyn: I was always conscious of having a sense of pride. I think that was the biggest thing I felt about the Parade. Also I felt so privileged in being allowed to lead the District which was made up of over 700 people.
It was wonderful to be able to show that sense of pride to the Mayor, the County Commissioner (my husband used to be the representative there!) and the parents of our Scouts. The parents have always been wonderful in supporting the parades.
Allison: Do you think the young people themselves shared that sense of pride? I remember feeling honoured whenever I was asked to carry my Girl’s Brigade Company colours or to read at a special service the GB attended.
Lyn: Yes, I think the young people did share that sense of pride. Of course the flags are always out at the Parades and these are so very colourful. There were over 500 people in the parade. And with the Scouts too there was the pride of the young people in carrying their flags. Saint George’s flag always went in first.
Allison: What would you say was the nicest responsibility you had in organising the Parade?
Lyn: One of my nicest responsibilities was in choosing three Explorer Scouts in every St. George’s Day Parade to carry St. George’s flag. There was always practice during the Thursday before the Sunday when the parade would be held.
Caring for others and doing your best
Allison: What were the most important things to come out of the Parade for you?
Lyn: I always loved the fact the sense of pride, consideration, caring for others and doing your best always shone through in Scouting generally and on the St. George’s Day Parade specifically.
Allison: I think those qualities are generally not appreciated enough. Let’s pass on thanks to all, past and present, who work hard to make the St. George’s Day Parade a success. Many thanks also, Lyn, for sharing your thoughts and pictures about the Parade.
Share your Scouting memories
Are there any special memories of the St. George’s Day Parade you would like to share? If you were called upon to carry the colours how did that make you feel? (I remember feeling proud when I was asked to carry the Girl’s Brigade company flag and then terror I would drop the thing! I never did but it didn’t stop me worrying about it!).
Note: Don’t miss Allison’s next post on Friday 24th July 2015.
Visit Allison Symes’ website: Fairytales with Bite
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.