8th Finchley

The census return for 1921 lists the 8th Finchley but states that ‘no return’ was made. This was a similar case in 1922 but in 1923 and 1924 the Group was not even listed. It is not known where the Group met or when it was first formed, although we do know that it would have been before 1914.

The next references to the 8th Finchley are in 1926 and 1927 when firstly, the census return listed 3 leaders, 8 Rovers and 18 Scouts, and secondly the approval of 3 warrants for G D MacMillan, W B Stebbing and A H Booth, although a few months later Mr MacMillan resigns. The Group is listed as being connected to St John’s Church in Whetstone, but there is nothing to confirm that they were previously the old 8th Finchley.

During 1928, 1929 and 1930 all was again quiet, with no records being found and no appearance on the census returns.

In 1931 the Group started up again and lasted for another few years. There is a note in the minute book that confirms the registration of the Group and at the time of the census there were 15 Cubs and 5 Scouts with 2 leaders (L J Pickard and Miss K Pearce). All appeared to be going well although there were leadership changes in 1933 with CW Harris becoming the Scoutmaster and Miss K M Connelly assisting with the Cubs. However, by the end of 1934, and despite numbers growing slightly, the District leaders were concerned about the state of the Group and arranged to meet the sponsoring authority to discuss the perceived problems.

It is not entirely clear as to what happened over the following two years. In 1935 Mr Harris resigned as the Scoutmaster and there is a report that the troop had closed, but it is known that in 1936 some Scouts from the 8th joined the 5th Finchley and 18th Finchley at a summer camp in the New Forest, with Mr Booth being the leader of the 8th. Nevertheless, and despite the Cub Pack having continued, it was agreed in November 1936 to close the Group until suitable leaders could be found.

During 1938 the Rev. S E Alford became the new vicar at St John’s and having previously been involved in Scouting wanted to get the 8th going again. He became the Scoutmaster and by the end of the year was looking after 14 Scouts. By 1943 there were 14 Cubs, 19 Scouts and 4 leaders, with 2 of them on active service.

Unfortunately the war then resulted in the Group being dormant until 1946. When it got going again, towards the end of that year there was a new set of Scouters with a new Vicar, the Rev Stewart Elmslie. He became the Group Scoutmaster (GSM) and the census of 1947 confirms the Group’s presence with 16 Cubs, 9 Scouts, 3 Senior Scouts and 3 Scouters. Joseph King was the Cub Master but the name of the other Scouter is not known.

During 1948 Joseph King leaves and George O’Connell takes over as the Cub Master. It is not known if George was already helping with the 8th but it is known that he was an experienced Scouter who had been involved with a Group in the Tottenham area since before the war. At the same time a friend of George, Horace (Harry) Sharpe became the Scoutmaster.

1949 started with a new-year party, held jointly at Finchley Lodge with the 3rd Finchley Sea Scouts. It was followed in March by a show ‘Bubble & Squeak’ that was performed by the Cubs and Scouts in the church hall. When the Rev. Stewart Elmslie left for the USA later that year George took over as the GSM, while still continuing to run the Cub Pack. The Group continued to grow and at the time of the census that year the number of Cubs had risen to 33 and the Scouts to 15.

During 1950 Pamela May and Jack Rogers became Assistant Cub Masters and in September George took on an additional role as Assistant District Commissioner with responsibility for Cubs. However, the additional workload was too much and he resigned that position in October the following year.

It is known that George took both the Cubs and Scouts to camp, although there is no formal confirmation of this until the press provided a report in August of 1951. Ten Cubs from the 8th and 3 leaders (George, Pamela and Jack) along with 3 Cubs from the 3rd Finchley Sea Scouts went to Well End, at Borehamwood. One of their highlights was watching the filming of ‘Ivanhoe’ at the nearby MGM-British Studios. The Scouts went to Gilwell, which coincided with the International Patrol Camp. They formed two composite Patrols and took it in turns to cook.

Harry Sharpe resigned as the Scoutmaster and his position was taken by the Rev A. Reid.

The Cubs won the District Sports in 1952 and another successful camp (their 4th) was held during the summer. On that occasion they went to Goring-by-Sea, Sussex and were joined by 3 from the 1st/3rd Finchley, 2 from the 186th North London and one from the 21st Finchley. George, in addition to being assisted by Pamela and Jack, was aided by Andrew Stewart a Patrol Leader (who wanted to be a Scouter), and his wife who was there with their 2 young children. It should be noted that the visiting Commissioner who inspected the camp commented favourably on the health and happiness of each camper.

1953 was a busy year for the Group and especially George, as the membership numbers continued to climb. In June George was selected as one of 9 Scouters from the District, along with 50 Scouts, including 2 from the 8th, to sell programmes along the procession route during the Queen’s coronation. They covered the area along the north side of Oxford Street

That year also saw the addition of two more leaders; the Rev Alan Scarsbrook as an Assistant SM and Eileen Warwick as an Assistant CM.

In August George took the Scouts camping in Belgium. They crossed the Channel from Dover and upon arrival in Ostend they were met by a friend of George, one of many he had made in Belgium during the war. They were given a meal before setting off in a coach to their camp site in Merkenveld, nine kilometres from Bruges. A substantial report of the camp later appeared in the press. 

After George returned with the Scouts he then set off for a camp with the Cubs. They again went to Worthing and on that occasion there were 16 Cubs that included 13 from the 8th, 2 from the 17th Finchley and 1 from the 15th Finchley. George was assisted by his new assistant Eileen Warwick along with a number of other leaders including Miss Earl, the ADC Cubs for Tottenham.

In November, a visiting commissioner from Turkey toured various Groups in the District and the press reported that the Rev. A. Reid presented a very active programme.

There were some arrivals and departures of leaders during 1954 and during 1955 a fire destroyed the church hall. It is not known where the Group met while this was being rebuilt.

The following year both the Rev. Alan Scarsbrook and the Rev. A. Reid left the Group and Andrew Stewart, the aforementioned Scout who had returned from having completed his National Service, finally fulfilled his desire to become a Scouter. Ian Roach joined as the SM and Winifred Blott as an ACM. During that year George was awarded the Long Service Decoration for having completed more than 15 years loyal service.

It is thought that the new vicar at the church was perhaps not as supportive of the Group as previous incumbents and within a couple of years a number of leaders departed, including George, and the Group closed down.

In February 1959 the District announced the sad news that George had died. They gave details of the funeral arrangements and sent condolences to the family.

The District had hoped that the Group would open again and the District Commissioner visited the vicar. In 1960 it was reregistered with just a Cub Pack that comprised 1 leader and 9 boys. In August they held a joint camp in Angmering, West Sussex, with the 99th North London, a Group from Hornsey.

Apart from the census records for 1961 and 1962 nothing else has been found, but, in 1963 there is a note stating that that John Moore had become the GSM and the Scout Troop had opened again.

There is again a lack of information about the Group and their activities until 1967 when the census return simply states ‘Closed’. 

 

Gallery

To view associated photographs and press cuttings click here.

 

Memories

Our father George had been in Scouting since before the Second World War. There is a letter dated 11th December 1940 written to his friend Horace (Harry) Sharpe in which he says ‘What a great deal I owe to Scouting. My best friends are in the ‘Game’ amongst whom you are included.’ The occasion for the letter was to catch up with Harry after a long gap, mainly caused by their both being in the armed forces. 

George describes the bombing out of his mother’s home in Tottenham in October 1940, from which she and his sister went to family in Scotland, leaving George living on his own in his older brother’s house. He commutes daily to his army unit in Mayfair, and ‘camps out’ in the house using his old ‘Gilwell’ and sleeping in his sleeping bag on a mattress under the stairs at night. He speaks of going to a Scout and Cubs’ Own at a local church on Sundays, after which there are Scouting and Cubbing activities. He is having a Scout round to the house to pass his cook’s badge on the coming Sunday. He was 25 at the time of writing.

He had come into Scouting as a young man, presumably in Tottenham but we do not know which Troop. He had had a very basic, though sound, education and started work around 13 or 14. Scouting expanded his knowledge and horizons. We do not know whether he went abroad with the Scouts at that time – we rather doubt he could have afforded it – but he must have met Dutch and Belgian Scouts visiting this country. At all events, he decided to go to night school to learn Dutch, for which he turned out to have a natural aptitude. He had also in the course of time learned to type, and turned both these accomplishments to good use when running his own Troop after the war.

Our parents met in 1944 in a chance meeting, and found they had Scouting in common. Our mother had helped with the cubs at Totteridge Church in the Thirties. They both achieved their Wood Badges, which we still have, along with their woggles. Unfortunately though our mother destroyed many old Scouting photos after George died.

I did not know about George’s long service decoration, or that he had been a programme seller at the Coronation. I watched the ceremony at a friend’s house, not with my family, so I did not notice his absence. Maybe in fact he sold them in advance anyway. He and my mother married in August 1944, and he was demobbed in 1945, so it is quite possible that he took over the Group in 1946. This was the year I was born, and they were living in Ridgeview Road, in the parish of St John’s Whetstone, the base for the 8th Finchley.

Michael O’Connell & Kate Weale

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From quite a small child I can remember seeing my father George getting changed, after tea on Fridays, into his Scout uniform. I assume the Cubs met first, with the Scouts afterwards. I also remember church parades on the first or second Sunday of the month at St John’s. They gathered on the forecourt outside The Swan With Two Necks on the High Road, and paraded with Cub and Scout flags along to church, where the flags were presented and leant against the sanctuary wall during the service.

The camp in 1952 was the first Cub Camp that my mother and brother and I went on. I was six that May and Michael was three that June. I remember that there were some Cubs from other Packs; one had blue jerseys rather than green and I recall references to the ‘186’ – one-eight-six – as a neighbouring pack.

My mother and we children did not sleep under canvas, but in the house belonging to the farmer on whose land we camped. But we were both kitted out with enamel dinner and pudding plates, and a mug each, which seemed very exciting. They were the standard cream with a green rim, and we had our names on in waterproof Elastoplast and indelible pencil. 

I well remember going down to Goring from Victoria by train with the Cubs. It was a corridor train, steam hauled, and we had sandwiches to keep us going. One boy had a bottle of Tizer. I can remember the camp site, an ordinary field in which the tents had already been pitched. There were ridge tents, and an Icelandic, and a bell tent, and a marquee – the latter for shelter in wet weather. My father had his own tent, tall enough to stand up in, and he had a camp bed rather than sleeping on a groundsheet. As well as the Cubs, there were some Scouts to help out, including a Sea Scout called Neil Hankin, whom I much admired. He demonstrated centrifugal force by filling a pail two-thirds full of water and describing a cartwheel with it without spilling any.

Other recreations included playing cricket, which I was big enough to join in and, of course, going to the beach, which was shingle. I remember bathing, but not the pier or the motorboat. We walked from the camp to the beach carrying all the gear in a trek cart. I clearly remember the outing to Cissbury Ring. The weather was perfect and it remains a ‘golden memory’ for me to this day.

I remember the fact that my parents’ anniversary occurred while we were there, and that table mats were presented. They had a hunting scene on them and we used them for many years.

I also remember mealtimes, sitting on benches with the Cubs and queuing for our food. I still think the taste of fried bread cooked on an open fire is one of the finest of all. We knew most of the Cubs as they mainly went to St John’s Church; some were also in the school, where George taught at that time, and some also in the church choir.

George was a confident singer, and played a mandolin which he brought with him to accompany the singing. He also had a camp fire blanket – a full-length garment of blanket material with no sleeves or collar or fastenings. This he used to wear at camp, and my mother had sewn on to it all the badges he had acquired over his many years’ Scouting, from Troops all over the country and abroad.

I remember the camps in the next two years, which we also went on as a family. In 1953 we went to Goring again, and in 1954 to West Runton near Cromer in Norfolk. I can remember some differences about the Runton site, notably that water had to be fetched in containers in the trek cart, which was not so in Goring. There were a number of other Packs camping in the vicinity, with whom we combined for camp fire singing. The great advantage of Cromer was the huge sandy beach.

My understanding as I grew older was that my father was extremely good at the organisation of a camp. I remember seeing lists of the provisions of bread, milk, etc. that had to be ordered in advance from local suppliers. Naturally I was not aware of the administration at the time, but I do recall that one year the weather forecast for a Scout Camp was bad, and my father went with an advance party to dig trenches round the tents. He was proud, given the heavy rain that ensued, that not one groundsheet got wet.

I referred to his ability to type, and to speak Dutch. He had his own typewriter, which he used for Scout communications, including a monthly Bulletin. For this he used to type a stencil and then reproduce it sheet by sheet using a special tray. This involved thick ink from a large tube, the stencil itself, mesh in a frame, and a roller. This was primitive even by the standards of the day – schools had Banda machines – but he did it and it worked.

After the war he took Scouts to camp in Holland and Belgium on a number of occasions, but we were too young to go. One year he met a Scout Master in Holland called Hubert van Eynden, who later visited us in Whetstone with his two older boys, who were Rovers. Later, after my father died, I went to stay with the family, and went to a camp fire around St George’s Day at which he was commemorated with great affection.

Sadly, after George gave up the 8th Finchley Cubs and Scouts, the group did not long survive. A new priest came to St John’s in 1956 and was not, I think, very supportive.

 

Kate Weale (nee O’Connell)

Look up your local Scout Group, because you’ve got a safe, practical community who will encourage and support you.'
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls