Thousands of local youngsters have become well-rounded, confident adults thanks to the dedication and commitment of the boy who worked his way up to lead the Scouts
We’ve all been there. Told in no uncertain terms by our mums to do something that we’d really rather not. In Nigel Speakman’s case, back in 1962, it was the no-nonsense order: “You’re going to the Cubs tonight.” The very reluctant seven-year-old went along to his local group, got ‘knocked about a bit’ – and has been part of the scouting fraternity ever since! Such was Nigel’s enjoyment of all things scouting he’s devoted his life to the organisation, working his way to district commissioner in Sutton Coldfield. Working away behind the scenes, he has seen thousands of children successfully pass through the system and into adulthood. Nigel became a full leader aged 21 and describes it as a ‘wild ride’. He’s travelled extensively with the organisation, helping groups such as those in Gambia obtain uniforms and instruments for their scout bands for instance. He credits scouting and particularly achieving his gold Duke of Edinburgh award with getting him noticed at work too.
Employed in telecoms at the Post Office, the award was an added string to his bow that showed great character and commitment. He retired from his job as a convergence specialist in 2011. Describing the appeal of scouting Nigel says: “It encourages you to think for yourself, develops confidence, fosters teamwork and teaches you to deal with other people particularly when you’re at camp in a small space!” As district commissioner Nigel oversees 14 groups across the region and in today’s climate of anxious parents and inactive children scouting has never seemed more relevant or appealing. With TV action man and national chief scout Bear Grylls flying the flag and, thanks to Nigel and an improved online presence, they’re beginning to crack falling numbers in Sutton with a 15 per cent increase last year. There is a problem though. Leaders are in shorter supply than ever. Nigel explains: “With the advent of universal university education we lose our 18-year-olds that might once have stayed in scouting, so you spend 12 years growing potential leaders and they’re gone.” Post-graduation when the responsibilities of life hit home few come back to scouting. A health scare in 2014 forced Nigel to take a short step back after contracted asbestos-related lung cancer. He only managed four months away from scouting before he was back at the helm. That’s devotion for you.