8th LONDONDERRY (STRAND) SCOUT GROUP
In 1942 the Rev. W.A. Montgomery consulted with the Rev. H.A. McKegney, the then District Commissioner for Scouts in Londonderry, and with the help of other active Scout Units in the City, the 8th Londonderry (Strand) Troop was formed with Mr. Kane as scoutmaster. A Wolf Cub Pack was formed very soon afterwards under Miss J. Mccurdy, and both sections flourished.
All too soon Mr. Kane was transferred on promotion away from Londonderry and the Scout Troop was left for a time without a permanent leader. Luckily Mr. Ronnie McBride willingly took over as scoutmaster and for some years the Troop ran smoothly. It was under his leadership that the Scouts went to camp for the first time as a unit. Once again the Troop suffered the loss of a good leader when Mr. McBride left the city to work in Bangor, Co. Down.
Mr. G.P. Turner became scoutmaster of the Strand Troop and brought to the meetings a great wealth of Scouting experience. Numbers increased rapidly to six patrols and the boys spent much time out of doors, patrol camping, bridge buiding, practising pioneering and hiking. The Church Hall was hardly up to holding 40 scouts, but nevertheless the Troop prospered and a very high standard of Scouting was maintained. At that time the Strand Troop had the only King's Scout in the city and this achievement reflected the standard of Scouting expected from each and every member. The Troop had made amazing strides forward in the space of 8 years.
The Wolf Cub Pack had continued to operate most satisfactorily and, when Miss McCurdy left to marry, Mr. Derek Birnie was on hand to take over and commenced a very long association with 8th Londonderry Pack. Indeed, Mr. Birnie was Cubmaster until 1956 and gave tremendous service to the Strand Scout Group.
By 1950 Mr. Turner resigned as Scoutmaster and the Troop was led by Mr. Alex. Miller, who had served for some time as an assistant to Mr. Turner. Within 2 years the old trouble struck again and Mr. Miller left to take up an appointment in Magherafelt. No leader was to be found and sadly the Troop Meetings ended and Scouting was kept alive by the Wolf Cub Pack, which was led by Mr. Birnie, a most loyal Cubmaster. As the Pack was very much alive and active, the Group was still acknowledged by Scout Headquarters and remained an official record still under its original registration number.
The Scout Troop was reformed in January, 1953 with Mr. R.A. McGuire as Scoutmaster and the Troop began to increase in numbers and soon was in a position with new tents and equipment to commence camping once again.
Generous help and encouragement from the Rev. W.A. Montgomery enabled the Scouts to enjoy Scouting to the full. After 5 years the scoutmaster and the boys welcomed Mr. C.G. Whiteside as an Assistant Scoutmaster to 8th. This help was indeed welcome as the Troop at that time numbered some 30 Scouts. Two years later the Strand Troop lost Mr. Whiteside when he left to take over the 1st Londonderry (St. Augustine's) Troop. Mr. McGuire continued without assistance until in due time Mr. George Weir and Mr. Robert Moody graduated from the Troop to Assistant Scoutmaster status. This was a period of much success for the Troop and the boys camped across the Channel and in many parts of Ireland.
The Wolf Cub Pack had been under the leadership of Mr. D.E. Maxwell since 1956. The membership of Strand Pack was extremely high and remained so for a long period. Time and time again the Strand Cubs took the honours in District Competitions and repeatedly won the Campfire Sing-Song Trophy at the Londonderry Feis. Over this period Mr. J.C. Gault was Assistant C.S.L until he left to live in Portstewart where he continued to make a valuable contribution to scouting.
In 1964 Mr. Will Hamilton and Mr. Uel Hamilton joined Robert Moody as Assistant Leaders and the Troop, some 26 strong, operated very successfully. Many Scouts gained 1st Class awards and the high standard of Scouting of the Strand Troop was recognised with the presentation of Camping Standard Certificates. Mr. A. McClure had come to the Troop as an Assistant Scoutmaster when Mr. Moody retired.
A strong, well-equiped Troop camped at Mourne Park, Co. Down during the summer of 1969. Thirty-one Scouts were steadily becoming more proficient in new activities introduced some time before. Canoes had been bought and built, rock-climbing equipment and a complete archery outfit purchased. Rev. Dr. W.A. Montgomery became the Senior Minister of Strand and Rev. Maurice Bolton came to us as our Minister. Mr. McGuire became Group Scout Leader, Mr. Uel Hamilton took over as Scout Leader and he was assisted by Mr. A. McClure and Mr. S. Gardiner. The Cub Scouts were still strong and Mr. Maxwell was assisted by Mr. George Stewart and Mr. Jack Mitchell in running an excellent Pack.
The changes in the structure of the Scout Movement demanded that boys must leave the ScoutTroop on becoming 16 years old and join a Venture Unit. Strand formed a Venture Scout Unit under the leadership of Mr. Tony Robinson and Mr. Thompson Campbell. The Troop obviously dropped in numbers as the senior boys moved into the Venture Unit. For 4 years the Venture Unit prospered and within the Unit there developed a Mountaineering Service Team. This Service Team from Strand has been of great help in the training of boys in the skills of rock-climbing and mountaineering both within Strand Scouts and from other Troops and organisations. As many of the Venture Scouts moved on to College or University the numbers dimished and the Service Team was left to carry on with Venture Scouting in Strand.
In the meantime Uel Hamilton, who had served fer 7 years as an Assistant Leader, ran the Troop. In 1972 Uel handed over the Troop to Alastair McClure as he wished to concentrate on developing mountaineering within the Venture Unit. Alastair remained as Scout Leader until 1976 when he in turn passed the leadership of the Troop over to Samuel Gardiner.
When R.A. McGuire resigned as Group Scout Leader of 8th Londonderry in August, 1979, Uel Hamilton was appointed Group Scout Leader and he had a loyal and experienced team of leaders to continue running the Group successfully. The Cub Scouts still under the guidance of D. E. Maxwell, assisted by John Reid continued to supply the Troop with keen and well-trained recruits.
Over the years the Scouts in Strand have had the unfailing support of the parents, of our Ministers and our Congregation. In the beginning Mr. George Blair presented the first Troop Colours. In February, 1976 Mr. J.A. Crockett and the late Mrs. Crockett presented the beautiful Queen's Colour to the Group in memory of their son William.
In 1984 the staff of Belmont School present new colours to 8th Londonderry in memory of the late Mr. Norman Duddy.
Perhaps we all must be thankful that in spite of all the civil unrest, trouble and danger in our city since 1969 the Cubs and Scouts of Strand survived. Although not so strong in numbers the Group preserved its identity and still maintained a high standard of Scouting.
Pressure of school work forced Mr. Maxwell to resign as C.S.L. and Mr. Alastair Hetherington took over control of the Cubs.
Mr. S. Gardiner also found it necessary to relinquish the post of S.L. so Mr. A. McClure resumed responsibility with Mr. Uel Hamilton giving support. In 1981 Mr. John Reid was appointed C.S.L. and Miss Jean Stewart as Assistant. Soon Mr. Reid was moved to become Scout Leader assisted by Mr. Leslie Millar. The Cub Pack was under the leadership of Mr. Alwyn Buchanan and Miss Jean Stewart.
With diminishing numbers in both cubs and scounts the time came when we were forced to a decision to close. The only section remaining in operation is the Strand Mountaineering Team under the leadership of Mr. Uel Hamilton. This group helps in the Londonderry District Scout Council with Rock Climbing Courses and District Hikes. Help is also given to Scout Troups, Youth Clubs and other organisations.
There is a new Scout Group in the Westside of the City, with all four churches combined together to make 17th West Bank Group, (Claremont, Christ Church, St. Columb's Cathedral and Strand), under the leadership of Mr. Gordon Whiteside, (Group Scout Leader) and Mr. Leslie Wells as Scout Leader. Both were Strand members one time.
Mr. R.A. McGuire
Bob McGuire's whole character, his integrity and his leadership, had a profound influence on all members of pack and troop, boys and leaders alike. He will long be remembered by 8th Londonderry and by the wider family of scouting in Londonderry and beyond.
11th September, 1992