6th Friern Barnet
The Group was originally established on 7th May 1930 as the 195th North London and were sponsored by All Saints’ Church, Whetstone. Meetings were held in the Church Hall.
Unfortunately we have not found any archived records that cover the early years but we have managed to piece together some relevant facts. The earliest piece of information relates to Ron Freeman who became a Rover c1934/35 aged 16, and a couple of years later he became an Assistant Scout Master.
We also know that before the war the Scoutmaster was Roy Steed, who had also been a Rover with the Group. Sadly though he was killed in 1943, while serving with the RAF. There is a plaque to his memory in All Saints’.
After the war the Group decided to join Barnet and Potters Bar District, part of Hertfordshire County. The result of this is that they became the 6th East Barnet Scout Group. It is not known why the Group made this change but as their numbers also included Sea Scouts the move may have allowed them access to a number of extra facilities.
By 1947 Ron Freeman was the Rover Leader but there are no other clear records as to the names of the other leaders at that time.
Things become a little clearer during the 50s and it is known that early in the decade the Group Scoutmaster (GSM) was Mr H (Bert) Barton, the Akela was Vera Green and Ron Freeman was still in charge of the Rovers, although he was also undertaking the role of Assistant District Commissioner for Rovers. Skipper of the Sea Scouts was Roger Flint; he was assisted by Wally Larkin who had taken over from Gerry Cooper. The Group had been lucky that all three had been in the Navy during the war, so were familiar with the sea and boats.
In the early 1950s parents and friends, with permission from the Rev. Cameron, build the Scout Hut which was then used as an extra meeting place with a room to store their camping gear. It opened in 1953 on a Sunday after a church parade, and was attended by J Dudley Pank, the District Commissioner for Barnet and Potters Bar.
There are a couple of old (not very clear) photos, which show some boys putting on a show during 1954 and at their Summer Camp in Caversham, near Reading. The Caversham site was at Riverside, the headquarters of the 1st Reading Sea Scouts and became a frequent location for Sea Scout camps.
Around this time Harry Cooper had also joined as a Sea Scout leader and when he married in 1956 the Scouts provided a Guard of Honour. Ron Freeman became the Assistant County Commissioner for Rovers and left the Group to concentrate on his new role. His position was filled by Mike Skudder.
1957 was the 50th anniversary of Scouting and to celebrate the occasion the District held a Rally over Whitsuntide (8th, 9th & 10th June) at King George’s Field in Monken Hadley. There is no evidence to support the fact but it could be assumed that the 6th joined all the other Groups in the District for the long weekend.
Later in the year Ron Freeman was selected as the deputy leader of the UK Contingent to the Moot, in Sutton Coldfield.
During August of 1958 a National Rover Moot took place at Auchengillan, Stirlingshire and 8 members of the 6th were in attendance, namely Mike Skudder, Mike Evans, Mike Bloomfield, Graham Swann, Robert McKay, John Howson, Nicky Heath and John Perry.
By the end of the 50s Ian Fisher, who had been a member of the group since 1953 when he joined the Sea Scouts at the age of 11, became an Assistant to Harry Cooper.
When Rev. Cameron retired and the Rev. Stewart Elmslie took over in 1961 there were several changes with many of the old helpers leaving over a period of months, including the GSM Bert Barton, and Wally Larkin.
The Group continued to thrive with the Sea Scouts making regular visits to the Hertfordshire Young Mariners Base at Cheshunt Lake, where they kept their boats. In March 1962 they had a training camp at Well End and their summer camp was again held at Riverside, at the invitation of the 1st Reading Sea Scouts.
The Rev. Elmslie persuaded Walter Gear to be GSM and Nick Heath to look after the Sea Scouts. Later Nick took over as the GSM and Ian Fisher ran the Sea Scouts. David Hicks also joined the Group to lead the Scouts, having been a leader in Cockfosters.
There is a report from March 1964 that relates to a hike that was undertaken as part of the Venturer Badge. It appears to have been undertaken by Bryan Popkin and Tim Bertram and details the 25 miles that they covered. According to the instructions it was done without a tent or any cooking equipment, but the report does not detail how they coped with these challenges.
Over Whitsun there was a County camp at Gorhambury, St Albans. It is not known how many of the 6th attended but reports show that Ron Freeman was the camp chief and more than 3,000 Scouts took the opportunity to ‘meet the Chief Scout’.
During the summer the Sea Scouts went again to Caversham.
Between the 21st August and 7th September 5 Senior Scouts (Ray Ellis, Bryan Popkin, Tony Woolfson, Tim Bertram and Paul Richardson), accompanied by David Hicks, the Assistant Senior Scout Leader and John Clenshaw, a climbing instructor, undertook an expedition to the Cairngorms. They travelled by train to Aviemore and stayed in an ex-Norwegian Commando Hut at Glenmore, close to Loch Morlich. Several challenging climbs and hikes were undertaken with some details being recorded in the log book.
Partly as a result of the boundary changes that took place the previous year, on the 1st April 1965 the 6th East Barnet joined Finchley and Friern Barnet District. They took the next available number which was, by coincidence 6, so they became the 6th Friern Barnet. The following was recorded in the District directory – a/GSM Nick Heath, ACMs A Brown and B Moran, ASMs Ian Fisher and Tom Passmore and ASSLs David Hicks and Bryan Popkin.
Although Ian Fisher was listed he had not been well for some time and had recently been moved to University College Hospital. He was continually in the Group’s thoughts and prayers.
There was an Easter camp somewhere on the North Downs and a rock climbing weekend near Capel Curig in North Wales over Whitsun. Plans were in hand for the Scouts to go camping on the Isle of Wight during the summer and for the Senior Scouts to go abroad to Switzerland, where they would stay in the International Scout Chalet at Kandersteg and from where they would mix Scouting activities with sightseeing trips.
Nick Heath left the Group and in September Rev. Elmslie announced himself as the new GSM. He had the experience, having previously been a GSM at the 8th Finchley, when he was the incumbent at St John’s. Tom Passmore was the Senior Scout leader, assisted by Bryan Popkin. Ian Fisher was in charge of the Sea Scouts, David Hicks the Scouts with assistance from Tim Bertram and John Wade, and the new Akela was Mrs Mundy with her assistants being Mrs Sydenham and Alan Brown.
Towards the end of September the Group learnt the sad news that Ian Fisher had died. Despite knowing that he was gravely ill this still came as a shock to everyone.
According to the District Bulletin the Senior Scouts of the District held a trek cart race on the 24th October. There are no details of the route or distance but the record shows that 5 teams entered and the event was won by the 6th Friern Barnet.
In May of the following year it was announced that the Senior Scouts had won another competition – the Jubilee Trophy for a venture displaying qualities of initiative, endurance and unusual interest. This is thought to be in respect of their expedition to Switzerland. Although a photo appeared in the local press no details or log of the trip have been found.
Regular camps continued to take place during 1966. Over Easter the Scouts went to Llanberis, North Wales and climbed Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in Welsh) in preparation for their trip to Norway, and over Whitsun they camped at Bayford Wood. In June the Sea Scouts had a sailing weekend in Portsmouth with the 1st Portsmouth Sea Scouts. Shortly after this though the Sea Scout section of the Group closed, although fortunately the boys did not leave the Group.
In August the Scouts held their summer camp at the Clifford Estate at Ugbrooke Park, Newton Abbot in Devon. Once again there are no reports that cover this event although it is known that later in the year, during an open day they showed slides to other Groups. As a consequence the 25th Finchley decided to hold their 1967 Summer Camp there.
The Senior Scouts, having got a taste for foreign travel, went to Norway. They travelled by boat from Newcastle to Bergen and the train and coach north to the mountains near Fortun. The idea was that they would camp in various places and climb a variety of peaks.
The colour of the Group scarf was Green but following the Advance Party Report the Local Authority suggested the Group might like to change the colour so it did not clash with the Scouts’ new green shirts. Scarlet was chosen but it was decided not to make the change until the following year to save the Seniors from having to buy a scarf that was not going to be needed.
Alistair Crannis gained his Queen’s Scout Badge, and in doing so became the first member of the 6th Friern Barnet to achieve this.
By the end of the year Mrs Mundy had resigned as the Akela and her place was taken by Marion James. Additionally the number of Seniors had reduced significantly and they started to meet jointly with the 1st Finchley and 5th Finchley at Downway, off Summers Lane.
At the start of 1967 the following received camping pennants for having spent 20 nights under canvas during 1966: M Hill, J Ralph, R Brown, P Bignall, K Richardson and N Scott.
From the 5th – 7th May the Senior Scouts were again in North Wales rock climbing and on this occasion they invited all other Senior Scouts from the District. It is not known though if anyone accepted their offer.
Later that month it was announced that the 6th had again won the Jubilee Trophy, this time for their very informative record of their Norway expedition. Again though, no details or log book of the trip have been found.
During the summer the Scouts camped at St Martin on Guernsey while the Senior Scouts (still meeting jointly with the 1st and 5th) were joined by the 15th Finchley on an expedition to Austria.
In October David Hicks resigned as the Scout Leader.
By 1968 Vi Matthews, a Deaconess with the church, had taken over as Akela and Mary Rush joined to become an assistant with Peter Allen.
The only records found that cover the next 2 years are the census figures. They show the Group as being well established, and although there is no Venture Scout Unit there are over 30 Cubs, and Scouts increasing to 14.
The Scouts entered the District Cross Country event in 1970 and although they did not feature as a team, John Popkin was the winner of the Venture Scout race.
Shortly after that the Group learnt that Ron Freeman had been awarded the Silver Wolf in recognition of more than 34 years’ service.
In 1970 when Vi moved to a church in Wood Green Mary Rush took over. She took a small group of Cubs to ‘Target 70’ in the August but she was finding it difficult to run the Pack while working and ‘living-in’ at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, and had to cease working with the 6th at the end of the year.
During 1971 and 1972 the Group had no trouble in attracting boys with an average of 28 Cubs and 17 Scouts. The trouble was leaders with mainly Peter Allen and John Popkin holding the Group together. In June 1972 the Cubs won Sports Day and in the following February they won the Handcraft Competition. However, during 1973 they lost their Group Scout Leader and John Popkin moved away from the area. Despite pleas in the press for help, the Scout Troop was forced to close down temporarily.
Fortunately Peter Allen managed to recruit some help with the Cubs and they valiantly continued. In January of 1975 Bruce McDonald won the District Chess Competition for Cubs and in October the Pack won the District Swimming Gala.
In 1976 a new Scout Leader was finally found – Chris Brunning, and new GSL – Paddy Riley, enabling the Troop to reopen in the September. At the same time however, Peter Allen decided to leave and moved to the 3rd Friern Barnet. Fortunately Mary Rush had returned and she resumed the role of Akela. She received help from Elaine Radford, Eileen Down and Ray Hart, while Chris recruited help from Simon Connah, Reg Dickens, Derrick Goddard and Stephen Down.
At the start of 1977 Paddy Riley left, leaving them without a GSL. By chance it was the turn of the 6th to lead the St George’s Day Parade and Andrew Rush had the honour of carrying the Union Flag.
The Scouts’ summer camp at Cefn, Denbigh, North Wales that year was held jointly with the 2nd Friern Barnet.
In March 1978 Mary married Peter Cox, who at the time was a District Cub Scout Leader, but later agreed to take over as the GSL The service was at All Saints’ and the Cubs provided a Guard of Honour.
More to follow – covering the period from 1978 until the 2nd and 6th Friern Barnet merged in 2005.
In 2006 the Group drew up plans to extend the Scout Hut by adding another floor. Members
of the Group appeared on a TV show called ‘Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway’ and were
awarded £70,000. At the same time there were talks about the actual ownership of the Hut as the 21 year lease had expired and no action had been taken. After meetings with the Church, School and Diocese and even obtaining planning permission, the Vicar ensured that the proposals did not proceed and also claimed the Hut for church use.
As the Troop had already started meeting at Manor Drive Methodist Church because they had too many Scouts to be safe in the Hut they discussed the possibility of moving the whole Group there on a permanent basis. This happened and with Manor Drive also providing storage space for all their gear, they were able to sever all links with All Saints’ Church.
The Group has continued to benefit from this move and now has around 100 members.
Click here to view 6th Friern Barnet photographs
I was a Cub and Sea Scout member of the 6th Friern Barnet Scout Group from 1947 to 1955. The Scout Hut was built by the Scouters and others. The Sea Scouts would help on Saturdays and we all received a Handyman proficiency badge when it was completed. The opening day was on a Sunday after morning service. I was in the Church choir and not in Sea Scout uniform.
Peter Geary (written May 2014)
When I first joined as a Sea Scout, probably about 1952, we met in the small church hall. The
Group was run by a lot of the old pre-war leaders and Rovers including a man called Ron Freeman. The Group Scout Master (GSM) was an old boy called Herbert (Bert) Barton. There were a lot of parents and friends who helped out, and they constructed the kayak for us.
Then, with the permission of the Rev Cameron, they set about building the Scout Hut behind the Church Hall where there had previously been a glorified wooden hut. I reckon this took about 2 years and I seem to remember they had formed a self-building home association and used the work on the Scout Hut to acquire the skills they would need for house building.
We went away quite a lot, weekends at Well End for training. We used to trek all the way pulling the hand cart with handle and ropes with all our gear including tents. For summer camp, I remember going to the grounds of a manor house in Abingdon one year and another year to a site on the riverside near Marlow which is now part of the National Sports Centre called Bisham Abbey. We also went to the Reading Sea Scouts camp site at Caversham.
I can only remember a few of the other boys names: John Perry, John Gully, John Molton, Martin
Robinson and Bob McKay who was my particular mate.
I became a Senior Scout around 1955/6. I don’t remember doing anything with them except a long weekend trip to Scotland for an International Jamboree and helping out with the Sea Scouts. We also helped Wally Larkin with the Sea Scouts when the Leader Roger Flint left. I eventually became the Sea Scout leader and remember that along with Ian Fisher.
We set up an arrangement with the Young Mariners’ Base in Cheshunt for the use of their facilities and where we kept our dinghy.
By the early 60s I was the GSM having taken over from Wally Gear and was also leader of the Scouts. In addition I was running the youth club at the church and the secretary for the Hertfordshire County Rovers. But, in 1965 I changed my job and had to work 6 evenings a week which meant I had to give up all my Scouting commitments.
After Cubs I joined the Sea Scouts. The leader was Harry Cooper with Ian Fisher as the assistant who lived above the shops by Oakleigh Park Station and drove a grey minivan.
The section had one sailing dinghy (Heron Class) which was built by the parents including my dad, and two 2-man kayaks – these were all kept at a Sailing Club on the old gravel workings by Cheshunt Station.
When Harry moved away lan became the leader. The weekend camps were spent over at Cheshunt sailing and canoeing etc, and to get there we had to cross the railway via a level crossing when open, or by the cattle/sheep underpass. lan’s grey minivan would just go through this if it was well loaded with camping gear or lots of Scouts.
Summer camps were at Caversham just outside Reading on the first Reading campsite alongside the Thames. Activities included day long rowing trips up the Thames in the whaler, canoeing, swimming and the high light of the week was crewing the host Chinese dragon boat with its big drum, which used to impress the locals!
I can just remember one summer when both Troops went to the Norfolk Broads – the Group used to hire a large lorry for these summer trips and we all travelled in the back with the camping gear – there was no Health and Safety in those days.
In 1964 I joined the Senior Scouts. It was also about the time David Hicks became the Scout Leader having previously been with a Group in Cockfosters.
In 1965 when the County boundaries changed we became the 6th Friern Barnet. Sadly Ian Fisher died in the September and due to his sad loss and the older boys becoming Seniors the Sea Scouts folded. The remaining boys joined the Scout Section.
The Group started to prosper in numbers and finance. It was the era of giant autumn fairs and firework parties, which were held in the old vicarage garden and our very successful Jumble Sales. The Cubs plus parents used to leaflet the houses and the Scouts, with handcart plus parents and cars, would collect the jumble, which was then sorted in the scout hut by members of parents’ committee. Notable sorters were Audrey Angell, Jenny Cornes and Eileen Down. On the day of the sale the queue went out the car park and round the church with both church halls being used.
There are two Summer camps worth mentioning for noteworthy reasons: one was to Exford on Exmoor, Devon where Mathew Bury was struck by lightning and survived. The other was to Grassington where the Land Rover we used to transport our gear broke down and we had to go back up to Yorkshire a week later to bring it back following a repair at a local garage.
Camps at Buckmore in Kent were also great as the amenities included a heated indoor swimming pool, rifle range, roller skating ring and commando course.
Unfortunately I left the area in the mid 70s and the Troop had to close for a short while.
“Good byes were said, with a farewell blessing from the vicar, and the party left Oakleigh Park on the 9.33pm for Kings Cross… Our train (the 11.20pm Edinburgh sleeper train, stopping only at Newcastle) left on time, Ned, Tony and Bryan played cards until 2 o’clock when we all tried to get some sleep… At 6.45am we arrived in Edinburgh only 5 minutes late after a 400 mile journey – wonders will never cease.
…We left our packs and ventured into Edinburgh to find somewhere for breakfast… We caught the first train to Aviemore… The journey was really uneventful and we arrived half an hour late at 1pm… After a drink Dave and Bryan invaded the local store and commenced to buy them out. The result was two large boxes of food, a 5% discount and 7 free Haddock fillets… As the van up to Glenmore could only hold 3 blokes and the kit, 4 of us had to walk. By the time they arrived (2 hours later) camp had been established.”
“We crossed the river Allt Mor by the bridge and started walking along the road up to the summit of Cairn Gorm… As we continued over the plateau the other side the wind was blowing hail very hard into our faces and through our anoraks as it melted. We dropped 400ft down into Lairig Ghru, across the stream and climbed 500ft up the other side to the bothy built by students from Edinburgh University… We were running short of time. We then came down the Lairig Ghru to Rothiemurchus Lodge and along the road from this to the Loch Morlich road. It had now stopped raining. We walked along the road and had a cup of tea in the tea room.”
“Rain fell nearly all day. We stayed in the hut and dried our clothes for most of the day, only going out for a walk down to Loch Morlich… In the evening we celebrated Ray’s birthday which had been on Sunday. We had a large meal and after sat around the table in the hut, illumination being provided by one candle in a fruit cake and two others.”
“We travelled along the road round the Loch, as far as the bridge at the end, and after leaving our route in the Mountain Rescue box, we crossed the bridge and walked the 7 and a half miles up the road to Rothiemurchus ski hut used by the army. We ate our lunch sitting on the steps of this and then continued. The journey from here to the Sinclair Memorial Bothy is not difficult, but it is tiring, as one has to climb all the time along a rock strewn path. We passed the bothy and continued up the Lairig Ghru up to its summit (2,733ft)… It was beginning to get dark so we decided to pitch camp by the burn rather than try and find the narrow path between the crags down to the shelter stone. Having pitched camp we had supper in the pouring rain and then went to bed.”
“When we awoke the next morning to our horror we found the mountain tent had leaked around the edge of the groundsheet, and so consequently Tony and myself (Tim) were soaked through to the skin, and Dave who slept in the middle was just plain wet.”
“Saturday morning after having a light breakfast and early lunch we caught the regular three times a week bus into Aviemore. Bryan went rather reluctantly as he had to go home. After spending a little time in a nearby tea shop we split into groups of two and hitch hiked back to camp.”
“With our group reduced to 6 members we set out on Sunday morning after breakfast along the road to Loch Morlich. We were carrying minimal overnight kit and our object was to climb Braeriach and Cairn Toul from a bothy in the Lairig Ghru… We arrived at Angus Sinclair Memorial Bothy at about 4pm and decided to stay here for the night as it was 8 miles to the next bothy and we were expecting a hard day on Monday.”
“The sun was very hot, there was a heat haze and no wind at all, the surface of the Loch was like a mirror, and the water looked very inviting, so some members of the Troop changed into their swimming trunks and went towards the water. When we were ankle deep, the water seemed very cold, and we had second thoughts about swimming, but as we are all hardy types, we decided to go in all the same.”
“All Troop gear was sorted out and arranged into equal piles for us to pack next morning. We ate supper and washed up, sat around the table for some time discussing arrangements for the morning and then went down to the tea room for coffee. We went to bed quite early, after sorting out any kit that we had not done before.
Snippets from the Log Book – Cairngorms Expedition 1964
I joined the 6th Friern Barnet Cubs at the age of 7 and hated the scratchy woollen jumper. Peter Allen was my Akela; he smoked a pipe and had a rather fine beard. He would sit behind a desk at the end of the hall with around 30 of us in two lines up each side of the hall.
I remember being in the White Six and having to visit special examiners to do proficiency badges. On one occasion I went to the library in Church End (Finchley Central) to do the Bookreader badge.
I cannot remember there being a Scout Troop while I was a Scout and when I reached the appropriate age Steven Dunin and I went to meetings with the 5th East Barnet in Osidge Lane. His dad met us after the meetings and we went home on the 125 bus.
When Chris Brunning restarted the 6th Friern Barnet Scouts I moved back to All Saints’. I was the PL of the Ravens and the Hawks were led by (I think) Colin Stewart.
I remember going on a recce weekend to Cefn in Wales in February, for our Summer Camp. We camped in Good Companions and the dew froze on the outside of the tent. The doors to Chris’ Hillman Hunter got ‘accidentally’ locked and he had to open them with a coat hanger.
After Scouts I became a Venture Scout. We organised a Summer Camp in Salzburg in 1985 that involved spending time on the phone to British Rail in Victoria arranging international travel to Salzburg via Munich. In addition to writing letters I phoned the Austrian Scouts and spoke to a Scout (Martin Kaltenbacher) who spoke English, as his leader did not.
The Austrian Scouts kindly let us use their camping equipment so that we didn’t have to take anything and they even pitched the tents before our arrival. The site was just by the halfway station of the funicular railway up to the castle (Festung Hohensalzburg) and we visited Hellbrunn Palace and the Eagle’s Nest (The Kehlsteinhaus) in Berchtesgaden.
We bought Austrian maps in advance in Stanfords in Covent Garden which were not a patch on OS maps!
Scouting has changed a lot over the years but for me (aged 60+) it is still a fantastic movement and a great way to keep young at heart!
Camping in particular has a timeless fascination for young people and at 6th Friern Barnet we get away as much as we can. Last year our Scouts had 12 or 13 “Nights Away” experiences including Summer Camp on a farm near St Albans (Covid meant that we had to stay close to home).
We’ve also been to the Isle of Wight and in 2023 we are booked to attend the Haarlem Jamborette near Amsterdam in the Netherlands.