Bob-a-Job Week remembered

30 April 2012

The making of you or slave labour? Former Scouts look back to when the nation got its money’s worth out of Bob-a-Job week – about to hit our streets again in a new guise. James Delingpole speaks to four famous ex-scouts

Gyles Brandreth

Author, TV presenter, 64

For Bob-a-Job I’d do everything, from polishing silver to cleaning windows, which is a more difficult task than you’d think when you’re a grubby-fingered ten-year-old: with all that smearing you do, the window often ends up looking worse at the end than when you started...

John Nichol

Author, former RAF pilot, 48

I was a prisoner of war in the darkest depths of Baghdad, during the last weeks of the Gulf War in 1991. Lying in a filthy cell at the headquarters of the Mukhabarat secret police, my thoughts turned back to my Scouting days and I thought: ‘I’ve slept in fields and trenches before. I can get through this...’

Jeffrey Archer

Author, former politician, 72

My troop was the Weston-super-Mare YMCA troop and during Bob-a-Job week I broke the then fundraising record for my area – £3.12s – which got me a lovely letter from the Chief Scout, Lord Rowallan. I did this by setting up a shoe-cleaning stall in the high street outside the Midland Bank...

Denis Norden

Writer, TV presenter, 90

All that fuss about the young unemployed having to work for free in supermarkets is nothing new: in my day, the name for that form of slave labour was Bob-a-Job. Yes, I know we got paid for it, but it wasn’t nearly enough. My hands were soft, my brain devoted to more important things such as books and girls. So the idea of performing manual work, all those grimy, back-breaking physical tasks we were expected to do during Bob-a-Job week, struck me as a tremendous imposition...

These snippets are extracted from We Weren't Prepared, available in the May 2012 issue of Saga Magazine. For more amusing, informative and thought-provoking articles like this, subscribe today

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