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Last Updated: Monday, 19 July, 2004, 08:21 GMT 09:21 UK
Scouts honour for Blue Peter man
Peter Duncan with a cub scout
The ex-Blue Peter presenter was declared a "cool" Chief Scout
TV action man and former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan has become the leader of the UK's 500,000 scouts.

Peter Duncan, 50, also known from his 1980s Duncan Dares TV show and round-the-world adventures, will hold the Chief Scout post for five years.

He follows eight others who have held the position since Baden-Powell became the first in 1921.

The ex-wolf cub said the post gave him "the chance to contribute to the development of tomorrow's adults".

"Scouting is alive and well in 21st century Britain", he added.

'Action man'

"I can think of no better organisation to provide a creative and challenging framework for the positive development of young men and women."

The Chief Scout has traditionally come from a military or civil service background as well as having experience as a scout or scout leader.

Scout Association spokesman Chris Foster said Mr Duncan was "breaking the mould".

We want to prove that the scouts are a trendy, modern organisation
Scout Association
He told BBC News Online: "Peter Duncan is the first celebrity to head the organisation in a move to modernise and to bring a fresh image.

"We want to prove that the scouts are a trendy, modern organisation."

BBC correspondent Torin Douglas said: "In the 21st century celebrity age, a familiar face and TV skills are the most important thing."

Cub scout Sally Milner, nine, said she had met Mr Duncan and he was "cool".

"He really knows how to talk to children", she said.

"It's great we have a real action man as our new Chief Scout."

Centenary celebrations

Duncan, who recently backpacked around China with his family, said he was looking forward to the UK Scout Association hosting EuroJam in 2005 and the World Scout Jamboree in 2007.

Each event will bring tens of thousands of scouts from around the world to the UK to celebrate scouting's centenary.

Blue Peter team in 1983
Duncan worked on Blue Peter with Simon Groom and Janet Ellis

Founding father Lieutenant General Baden-Powell wrote Scouting for Boys in 1908 after returning from the Boer War.

The book was a teenage version of his military training manual Aids to Scouting, and is now said to be fourth in the all-time best-sellers list after the Bible, the Koran and Mao-Tse-Tung's Little Red Book.

The following year the Scout Association opened its first offices in London.

In 1910 Baden-Powell retired from the Army to devote himself to the movement full-time.

It now has around 25 million members worldwide, not counting guides, brownies and girl scouts.

TV appearances

Since Baden-Powell died in Kenya in 1941, seven other Chief Scouts have reigned.

They were Lord Somers, Lord Rowallan, Lord Maclean, Sir William Gladstone, Major-General Michael Walsh, Garth Morrison and George Purdy.

Duncan, who is married with four children, left school at 15 to become a professional actor.

After a string of appearances in television dramas and series he was first offered the role of Blue Peter presenter in 1978. He accepted second time around in 1980.

He was soon known for exploits such as cleaning the face of Big Ben and running the first London Marathon in just over three hours.

After leaving Blue Peter in 1984 he filmed his own BBC children's series Duncan Dares, then returned to Blue Peter for a second stint before finally leaving in 1986 to return to acting.

The BBC's Jon Kay
"A little too old for a cap and woggle, but determined to get stuck in"

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