8th Darlington Scouts
Celebrate Centenary

Words by Liam Pape · Pictures by Matthew Hill

Years of planning, preparation and nervous anticipation all came down to one bright but windy day. Saturday April 11th was the date of the 176th annual Grand National at Aintree and it was an unforgettable race! Many Clouds won the race with odds of 25–1 and, in the last race of his career, AP McCoy finished 5th riding ShutTheFrontDoor.

Meanwhile, more importantly, 734 furlongs away in Cockerton Green, the celebrations for the 8th Darlington Scout group’s 100 year anniversary were in full swing.

Planning for the centenary started several years ago when it was decided that to get people engaged more with the group, four teddy bears were to be made and named after four significant members from the group. (Lishman: Founding Leader of the Group. Brigham: One of the first Cub leaders in 1917. Beadle: the longest serving Scout leader. And Pawson: One of the first Scouts in the group.) Between the four of them, they have travelled to all four quarters of the globe, took part in a diverse variety of sports from skiing to rugby, been pictured next to an infinite amount of beverages and sweets, met celebrities, cross-dressed, and even been kidnapped. It has been a busy yet fun year for the bears — as it has been for the Group also.
Since the start of 2015, in preparation for the open day, Seniors, Rovers, Leaders and Committee members have worked together to clean up, redecorate — and in some cases — rebuild parts of the Den to make the grade 1 listed building presentable. The group’s efforts and enthusiasm were unsurpassable. Neil, Group Archivist, summarised it best: “Everyone did a fantastic amount of work and had fun at the same time.”

The Group plant a Cypress Oak in Cockerton

One day before the open day, 8th members were out in force building gadgets for the mock camp kitchen, setting up seats for the screening of ‘The Camp 2014’, and filling notice boards full of information and pictures about the different sections. A Cypress Oak tree was also dropped off by Darlington Borough Council which was planted outside the Den next to Cockerton Green. “Hopefully this will last another 100 years” remarked the council employee who dropped it off. Despite initial worries about the roots of the Oak growing too close to a underground drainpipe, the Group is now proud to associate the tree with them.

It was an early start for members on April 11th. Bacon sandwiches were served as final preparations for the day were made — now members just needed to hope that people turned up. In his latest newsletter before the open day Alec, leader-in-charge, said “I don’t know if 2, 200 or 2000 people will turn up.”

At 11am-ish ex-members and locals started to trickle in. In the entrance way stood a trek cart that Scouts used to fill with their equipment before heaving it to camp in the good old days. It had been repainted and refurbished this year by Tom Milner and Tom Dodd.

Poppy and Maddie stand next to the trek kart. The Beaver’s display board.

However, it was the brand new museum room which was the highlight of the day for many people. The room, a result of Neil’s hard work over the past two years, contains a wide variety of artefacts, records, pictures and documents which are significant to the Group. Also, in the committee room, dozens of historic log books and photographs were brought out of storage so ex-members could look back and reminisce.

Upstairs, the 25 minute film documenting life at summer camp 2014 was being shown every 45 minutes. The film, which was shot, edited and directed completely by the Seniors, was well received and impressed most viewers. Others were apparently so emotionally touched by it that they had to leave before the end… Or something like that.

In the Main Hall, stalls displaying what different sections of the group do were bring manned by the Leaders. At the Beaver’s stall, guests had the opportunity to decorate their own cupcake. The Scout stall was very scouty as it encouraged people to learn five knots and then be timed doing to ‘Five Knot Challenge’. And, the Cub stall had a dead frog. It is estimated that several hundred people turned up in the end.

Outside, the Seniors had built a mock camp kitchen, complete with a green box, gadgets and a fire. The previous weekend, at Easter camp, they had practised backwoods cooking (which is cooking on an open fire without using utensils) and they had successfully made tasty twists, garlic bread, eggs in oranges, and pigs in blankets. They attempted to replicate that accomplishment at the open day. James, Rover Squire, admitted though that the consistency of the mixture for the twists was wrong so they gave up on them. However, the garlic bread was a huge success.

Top left (rotating clockwise): Guests enjoy a screening of ‘The Camp 2014’, a Cub talks to the Mayor and Mayoress of Darlington in the new museum room, the trophy cabinet at the Scout HQ, and the main hall during the open day where hundreds of people passed through.

The Mayor and Mayoress of Darlington arrived at 1pm to officially open the museum. Poppy, a Senior who met the Mayor, described shaking his hand as ‘fabulous’. The Mayor and Mayoress toured around the Den before finishing in the main hall for Alec’s speech and the cutting of the dark blue, birthday cake shaped like an 8.

Alec, leader-in-charge of the 8th, stands with the Mayor and Mayoress of Darlington as they cut the eight-shaped cake

Alec talked about the evolution of the group, decade by decade: the characters over the years, the building’s incredible story in the 1960s, and the group’s struggles with scouting associations before finally becoming independent.

He explained why he thinks the group is special and why it has lasted 100 years. “A key part to me is our style of camping. And what makes us special is the people. I always think of the group as an extended family.” This was reflected in the atmosphere throughout the open day: Viv and Neil’s continuous organisation, the infinite energy of the Cubs who darted around the Den carrying messages, the Committee and Seniors singing to each other via the radios, and everyone’s perseverance to knock Erika off the top spot in the Five Knot Challenge. It’s undeniable that it is people who make the group great. Yes, they have their differences at times and Scouts make mistakes but Alec spoke for everyone in the concluding line of his speech: “I feel so proud to be a part of this family.”

If you enjoyed the 100 year celebrations, clear your calendar for the 150th birthday celebrations! The current Scouts and Seniors promise teleport trips to Hunger Hill (despite it still probably being boggy), holographic Lishman bear, iSisal, and ‘The Camp 2065’ (in 4D and 80K-HD)streamed straight into your brain. Also: guided tours by the RoboNewton — the Robot that replaced John.

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