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Snow, Charles Smethurst (1882–1953)

by Ralph Fones

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Charles Smethurst Snow (1882-1953), Boy Scout commissioner, was born on 20 September 1882 in Brisbane, eldest of four children of English-born parents Charles William Snow, jeweller, and his wife Lucy Emily, née Garn. Educated at Brisbane Normal and Brisbane Grammar schools, young Charles was apprenticed to his father, and worked as a watchmaker and jeweller in the family business. While serving as organist and choirmaster at St Mary's Church of England, Kangaroo Point, he formed a scout patrol from the lads of the choir and boys' club in 1908. In the following year he helped to establish a controlling body, the Queensland Section of the Australian League of Boy Scouts, and was elected chief scoutmaster. During a visit to Queensland in 1912, Sir Robert (Lord) Baden-Powell presented him with the medal of merit. In 1917 Snow was awarded scouting's highest honour, the Silver Wolf. Scouts competed in campfire and campcraft activities for two trophies named after him, the Snow Cup (1913) and Snow Casket (1918).

Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 17 July 1917, Snow reached England in February 1918. He served as a mechanic with the Australian Flying Corps and was posted to No.1 School of Navigation and Bomb-dropping before being discharged from the army on 13 July 1919 in Brisbane. Resuming his scouting interests, he was made commissioner in September. He was also to hold the offices of commissioner of sea scouts (1921-23), commissioner for adult leader-training (from 1923) and chief commissioner (from 1925). Wearing his scout uniform, he married 22-year-old Una Catherine Gibson on 19 January 1924 at St Andrew's Church of England, Ormiston.

In 1925, at Canungra, he organized the Queensland scouts' first 'corroboree'. Having run classes for scout leaders from 1913, Snow encouraged the Boy Scouts' Association to acquire (1928) Eprapah, a 99-acre (40 ha) bushland property by a creek at Victoria Point, as a training ground for the State's scouts and their leaders. He had a long and practical association with Eprapah, where he showed that he could 'turn his hand to anything'. Although he had limited formal education, he was a 'natural teacher'. In 1930 he was master-in-charge of the Church of England Grammar School's preparatory school, East Brisbane.

Tradition was broken in 1931 when Snow's position of chief commissioner became salaried and full time. He had the vitality, magnetism and autocratic manner to command attention, and was an 'exceptional communicator', able to 'work his audience' as well as involve them. To scouts and scoutmasters, he seemed a local Baden-Powell. In 1933 he led the Australian contingent to the world jamboree at Gödöllö, Hungary. In 1943, after the State governor and chief scout, Sir Leslie Wilson, took exception to having a paid chief commissioner, Snow relinquished the position. He continued as commissioner for training until ill health forced him to retire in 1952.

Survived by his wife, and their son and daughter, Snow died of tonsillar neoplasm on 7 June 1953 at his Hendra home and was cremated. Eprapah was renamed the Charles S. Snow Scout Environmental Activities Centre in 1978; a training centre at Samford for scout leaders was also named (1979) after him.

Select Bibliography

  • L. E. Slaughter, Baden Powell (Brisb, 1957)
  • R. Fones, In the Light of all the Years (Brisb, 1992)
  • R. Fones (ed), Vic Waddell as the Old Timer (Brisb, 1996)
  • Boy Scouts' Association (Queensland) minutes, 1909-43 (Brisbane)
  • T. Roberts, Peter Snow and Anne Stone (taped interviews, 1995, Queensland Scout Centre, Auchenflower, Brisbane)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Ralph Fones, 'Snow, Charles Smethurst (1882–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/snow-charles-smethurst-11733/text20977, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 25 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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