Preserving Our Past

At the weekend I went and did a bit of research on our Scout Group at the County Records Office and in the Scout Divisional and County archive.

At the County Records Office, you are not allowed to take bags in the reading area, you can only use pencil to make notes, books etc. are put on cushions to protect spines and everything is carefully preserved. In fact, you're not even allowed to photocopy items!

It was quite interesting looking through all the Church minute books. Especially when in the 1940's, names I recognised start to appear. Also in the late 1950's the writing gets much easier to read as it was written by my Grandpa! Again in the late 1960's reading becomes a lot less trouble as my Dad wrote it! I can tell when he's getting tired from the writing getting worse. Also, there seems to be a lot of scrap paper related to British Rail…..

Contrast with the Scout Divisional / County archive. It's all kept in random cupboards and boxes in a very damp, cold and dark room. Some of the minute books even had mildew on them – yuk! It was rather depressing to see albums full of newspaper cuttings from the last 60 – 80 years, specially recorded 78 rpm records of Gang Shows, audio tape, cine film and various minute books and photographs  let literally lying around and not cared for.

These are the records of what our predecessors got up to and in a couple of cases record the start of Scouting in North Staffordshire.

I've spoken to a Divisional high up about this and I think something may happen to get the archive organised and safe. We'll have to wait and see.

On the plus side, I found some old Burslem District minute books, some interesting newspaper clipping and a book listing all the Troop in existence in 1908, names of the Scout Masters and even the names of the boys in the Patrols! Existence in 1908 proved!!!! We are officially 100 this year!!!


100 Years of Scouting in Porthill

About 18 months ago with the build up to the 2007 Scouting Centenary celebrations looming, I thought I’d look into my own Group’s history. We’d (the Scout Group) always known that there had been Scouts in Porthill since 1908, but could I actually prove it?

That’s where life started to get interesting! I got in touch with the Scout Association and they told me of a leader who was registered as holding a warrant in December 1908 as a Leader, but, and of course there is a but, there are no details about which Troop!

The problem is that Scouting started started rather quickly with no real ‘organisation’ as such until BP retired from the Army in 1908. Boys just set up their own patrols and followed what was written in ‘Scouting for Boys’.

There is documentation from 1915 from our District, of which I have a copy, but no where does anything say a thing about 1908.

Looking at the War Memorial for the members of the Troop killed in the Great War and checking their details on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s web site it was noticeable that most of them would have been between the ages of ten and twelve in 1908. However, this is not absolute proof.

A few people in administrative positions within the District have said we started in 1908 and in fact wrote so in an article in the local newspaper written in 1983 when we restarted our Scout Troop (we’d only had Cubs for about 20 years).

So it was time to dig deeper. It seems that none of the Church’s (who sponsor us and let us use the Hall for free) records before 1920 have survived. Although having said that, I’m going to our county record office to look at them this weekend.

I was getting a bit stuck at this point! I decided to take a look at some of the old local newspapers from 1908. These are available at our local library on microfilm.

Looking through the Staffordshire Sentinel football edition of Saturday 5th December 1908, I saw this in the Stop Press –

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And there it is – Porthill Scouts 4 : May Bank Boys 1.

The bit about Mr. Lloyd George and the Suffragettes gives it quite a nice ‘timely’ feel.

In the same paper the following week, Saturday 12th December 1908 is this –

Porthill Football match 05-12-1908_Page_2_Image_0001

So there we are. I think it highly unlikely there were to groups of young people called Porthill Scouts!

It might be an interesting idea to hold a football match on 5th December this year to commemorate this. Perhaps our friends from Basford Scouts could fill in for May Bank Boys? It would be nice to think that we would win 😉

15 Years!

Last night at the District’s Executive Committee meeting, I was awarded my 15 years long service award!

Fifteen years as a Scout Leader, well Assistant Beaver Leader, Assistant Scout Leader, Scout Leader and finally Group Scout Leader!

Where did that go???

New Badges Announced

Seems that the Scout Association are having another publicity blitz with the launching of the new proficiency badges. From what I’ve read in the media and on various web sites (see the BBC’s coverage here), the coverage is still positive. Of course there are those that always make the snide remarks, but we have to put up with such ill informed journalists.

Looks like they’re trying to cover a whole range of activities and yet keep all the traditional stuff. That’s what keeps the kids interested folks!

Interestingly enough, I was showing our Scouts how to use hurricane lamps the other day and they sat there thoroughly interested. Now I’d like to say that I was really engaging and interesting, but it may have had something to do with setting light to things!!!

I Need to Learn to Read!

Oh dear. Last night I was getting ready to go to a Group Scout Leader's training weekend, which was to run today and tomorrow. Carol asked to see a copy of the programme, so I printed it out and showed it to her.

She then pointed out to me that it was actually arranged for next weekend. Did I feel silly? I would have felt a right fool if I had turned up today!

I think I need a lie down……… 

BETT & St. Pancras

Yesterday I managed to go to see the BETT show at Olympia in London. BETT is one of the largest educational IT shows in the world. We could have spent our IT budget very quickly there! In fact there is so much to see it is slightly overwhelming!

On the way back to Euston, we stopped off to see St. Pancras station.

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The photo is poor as it was taken against glass with my phone! The station is fantastic and is really worth a look!

We Need a Quartermaster

On Friday I went with some of our Leaders to tidy up our Gear Store. This in part preparation for some new storage lockers and cupboards we are going to have built later in the year. 

Anyway, we managed to find the floor(!) and discover a load of kit that hadn’t been seen for years! We also found what was good, what was bad and what needed repairing. Actually, the only repairs needed are to four Tilley type paraffin lamps which need new glass globes. We threw our a load of junk and some old tents that were long past it. It was interesting to check over three patrol (ridge) tents we bought in 1984 & 1986. These are a little worn and have been repaired a few times, but, and this is the main thing, they are still useable! I would like to see some of our modern dome type tents last that long. That’s the thing with using ‘proper’ canvas, it’s heavy duty and easily repairable. I guess using these tent again and again is a sign of good Scouting – ‘Careful of Possessions and Property’ (Scout Law).

Once we’ve got our new cupboards etc. we will need to appoint a proper quartermaster to ensure we don’t get in a mess again!

Longport Station Is Improved

Happy New Year – better late than never!

Between Christmas and New Year, I went to Llandudno for the day. Carol was working late so I thought a day out to North Wales would be nice as I haven't been for a while, especially on the train. When I got to Longport, I noticed that arrival and departure boards had been installed, along with a PA and CCTV.

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These were the improvements that were paid for by Stoke City Council and not Central Trains who operated the station at the time. Still it is nice to see some investment in the station.

As to Llandudno, well it was nice to be there, but it was absolutely chucking it down with rain and I got soaked!!!