People

Published: August 7, 2022 | Updated: August 8, 2022

Lorraine’s ‘lockdown baby’ and how Robert Baden-Powell took over her life for 9 months

Lorraine Gibson, author of ‘Robert Baden-Powell: A Biography’, with his statue on Poole Quay.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Lorraine Gibson jokingly calls it her ‘lockdown baby’.

Extensive research and then 90,000 words on a man who, among his many claims to fame, put Poole Harbour – and specifically Brownsea Island – on the global map.

To this day, Robert Baden-Powell, Founder of the worldwide scouting movement and who lived from 1857 to 1941, remains a controversial historical figure.

Later this month an updated and contemporary biography of ‘B-P’ by Lorraine, providing new revelations and insights, is published by Pen & Sword Books.

It will be a proud moment for the award-winning journalist who first cut her writing teeth on the Daily Echo in Bournemouth and is now a freelance writer.

Living close to Brownsea Island, she became intrigued by its role in the birth of the Scouting movement while writing a feature.

After delving deeper into the world of the Boy Scouts and their famous founder, the extraordinary and eccentric Robert Baden-Powell, Lorraine was hooked.

She said: “When I proposed my book idea to Pen and Sword Books, they really liked it and commissioned it straight away.

“That was November 2020 and my deadline was August 2021.

“For nine months Robert Baden-Powell took over my life.

“I jokingly called the book my lockdown baby.

“I researched and wrote it – 90,000 words – through all sorts of pandemic restrictions, often unable to visit places or chat to people in person.

Lorraine Gibson

“I got there in the end, but there were many 4am starts and weekend shifts.

“It’s been worth it, though.

“Finishing that final manuscript edit, seeing the brilliant cover and now hearing from the publisher that pre-order sales are going well, is so exciting.

“Baden-Powell was an extraordinary character.

“Endlessly contrary, controversial, conflicted and utterly eccentric and I felt that an entire generation – including many of today’s Scouts – only knew him as the guy who invented Scouting.

“My book opens on Poole Quay and the clash between Scouts and protesters calling their founder a racist, an anti-Semite, a homophobe and more and threatening to chuck his statue into the harbour; it aims to tell his whole story, the light and the shade.”

Publisher Pen & Sword Books describes the 256 page hardback – ‘Robert Baden-Powell: A Biography’ – as “like its subject, thought-provoking, contrary and full of ripping yarns”.

They add: “It’s a tale of one man, two lives.

“The first informed by a thirst for warfare, the second by a desire for world peace.

“A timely reassessment of the life and actions of this constantly conflicted and phenomenally influential leader and his impact on the world.

“An engaging and accessible history book for today’s generation – including the world’s 54 million Scouts – about the founder of the largest, non-religious youth movement in existence.

“Not so much a warts-and-all, more a what-caused-the-warts tale that considers the emotions and the influences that motivated its subject.”

The biography includes a foreword by Bear Grylls OBE, Chief Scout, pictured right.

It was on August 1, 1907, that 20 boys pitched their tents on Brownsea Island.

Little did they realise how important and far-reaching their week would be.

In fact, Lord Baden-Powell’s experimental camp, based on scouting skills observed during the Boer War from 1899 to 1902, set the foundation of today’s worldwide Scouting and Guiding movements.

Thousands of Scouts and Guides now come to the island every year to celebrate their scouting heritage and test their outdoor skills, catching a ferry from Poole Quay.

Lorraine, 59, is married to Steve and has two daughters, Molly, 18, and Tilly, 16.

She said: “B-P’s life story is fascinating.

“I relished every minute of it – although my family, who put up with my long working hours and my constant moaning about how tired I was – might beg to differ.

“Seriously, they were beyond supportive and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

  • ‘Robert Baden-Powell: A Biography’ is published on August 30 with a recommended retail price of £25.

It’s already been selling on pre-order through WHSmith, Waterstones and Amazon and will be stocked at local bookshops including Gulliver’s Bookshop in Wimborne and Westbourne Bookshop.