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1st Carrickfergus Scout Group

The first Scout Troop in South East Antrim was 1st Carrickfergus and for many years the Scout region was known as 1st Carrickfergus and District. Scouts were operating on the castle green during the ‘Great War’ however it was not until 1923 that the Troop was registered at Imperial HQ. The man who registered the Troop was the Rev Calder and although a Congregational minister and the scouts initially used the Independent Hall, he registered the Group as an ‘Open Group’ i.e. not connected to or sponsored by a church, school or business etc.

After using the Independent Hall for a number of years a Scout Hut was built on land along the North Road. This hut was used up to the late 1950’s, some time around 1958 / 59. The approximate location of the hut is where the tennis courts are at Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, right up against the Church of Ireland cemetery wall, near the ‘broken pillar’ the grave of a Mr. Taylor. (Have a look next time you’re round that way) Remember this was long before the Leisure Centre or road was built and a couple of fields in from the North Road therefore no street lighting, so can you imagine the effect the dark nights had on young scouts.

Although being active for over 80 years the Troop has had relatively few Scout Masters / Scout Leaders – This would be a fairly accurate list: Rev Calder, Jack Holmes, Douglas Boyd, Reggie Patton, Desmond Ferguson, Alex McCready, Chris Halliday, William Erdis, Charles Moore.

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In its early days the Troop adopted a scarf badge but after some time the practice stopped. The designer of the badge is unknown but the design is obviously based on the crest of the town. However a past scout – Bertie McCartney – showed one of them to the then Scout Master, Alex McCready and he along with the assistance of Miss McBride (of the Scout Shop) revived the badge for use by the scouts of the Troop. Older readers may remember Bertie; he had the hardware shop at the top of West Street nearly opposite the Methodist Church Hall.
Over the years the Group was involved in all the usual Scout activities and competitions. The Pack won the Cubest Cub Pack in the District (and no, I dont know the criteria used by the judges). The Troop won the District Flag twice, 5-a-side football twice and the Handball competition twice. Scout Master Alex McCready was a representative at the World Leaders Indaba in Holland where he was given the nickname of two metres, if you know Alex youll know why. Scouts from the troop represented N.I. at events such as World Jamborees, Explorer Belt Expeditions and Gang Shows. The first scout from S.E. Antrim to go on an Explorer Belt Expedition came from the Troop. At the official opening ceremony of B.P. House in London the Troop was selected to supply the N.I. Scout representative. While not winning any trophies the Rover Crew did take part in the N.I. Rover Challenges. Perhaps some Jordanstown Rovers may differ but it may be that they were the only Rover Scouts from S.E. Antrim to take part in these Challenges. The Group was proud of having all four sections of the movement operating at the same time i.e. Beavers, Cubs, Scouts (including Senior Scouts) and Rover / Ventures. N.I. of course was the birthplace of Beavers where they successfully supported the Movement but were not recognised as part of it by HQ in England. 1st Carrickfergus was fortunate in having pioneering Beaver Leaders like Stanley Patterson, Louise Windsor and Helen Charters. Many Scout Groups are fortunate to have a family who seem to support the Group over many years if not generations. The McCready / Holmes family filled this role for 1st Carrickfergus supplying two Scout Masters, one Cub Master, thousands of cups of tea and buns, badge instructors / assessors / examiners and presented the Group with Troop and Pack Colours and the Union Flag. At one time S.E. Antrim and the then Larne districts managed a Scout camp site at Carnfunnock, Ballygally. The Cubs, Scouts and Ventures of 1st Carrickfergus over a few years in the 1970 s planted over 100 trees, a mixture of Oak, Beech, Ash, Horse Chestnut, Sycamore, Willow and French Plane with a few Lawson Cypress. Unfortunately the districts were unable to keep up with the expense of running the camp site but the trees are still there. The photograph shows a line of the trees in October this year. They are around 20 / 30 feet tall
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Another first for the Group was that it started the first Venture Unit in the District. Kenneth Gillespie from the Troop arranged for all the boys of Venture age from the different Scout groups in the town to combine as a town Unit. The unit displayed a remarkable commitment to the ethos of Scouting and Service. While assisting at a Patrol Leaders training weekend in Carnlough they responded to a request from one of the local Church Ministers and formed a Scout Troop in Carnlough and ran it for three years. That Troop continued to operate for 25 years. An outstanding feat for a group of Venture Scouts. So - 1st Carrickfergus - a group with a long and proud history looks forward to the next 100 years, I wonder who will write the history then. 1st Carrickfergus Centenary Celebrations Over the weekend 28th, 29th and 30th July 2007 former members met and marked the centenary of the Movement in their own personal way, and then on the morning of 1st August renewed their Promise. The former members decided that the things Scouts are noted for are: the outdoor natural world, cooking over open wood fires, camping and being an International Movement. So they set out to recreate these 'Scouty things. On Saturday 28th July they planted trees at one of their former weekend camp sites (Thornfield) and therefore supported the outdoor natural world.

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From left: Derick Rush (Ex Cub Leader, Chris Halliday Ex Scout Master / Leader, Kenneth Gillespie Ex ASL, Robert Williamson Ex Troop Leader, Alex McCready Ex Scout Master, Charles Moore Ex Scout Leader, Don Gilliland Ex ASL) On the evening of the tree planting to symbolise the Scout activity of cooking on open wood fires the former members and wives had a BBQ for some reason the wives would not agree to a meal for them to be cooked on an open wood fire !!!!!
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Ex Scouts supporting the principle of cooking outdoors on open fires.. One of, if not the, favourite summer camping sites for the Troop was Powerscourt in Co. Wicklow. The troop had camped there many times from the 1950s to the 1970s. This then provided the solution to the last two Scouting things; camping and an International dimension. On Sunday 29th and Monday 30th a few former members visited Powerscourt to view the different sites in the estate they camped on. Now while everyone had enjoyed camping in their younger days, for this occasion a hotel bed held certain attractions. Charles, Chris, Derick and Don back at their former camping grounds Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow

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The Sunrise Ceremony and renewing our Promise was the final event attended. It seemed an appropriate thing to do as it was the initial making of the Promise that made us Scouts and started the friendship that made us want to make a personal mark for the Centenary of the Movement.

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