A milestone in the history of scouting in Dundalk was marked with a 50th anniversary and celebration Mass for St. Patrick’s Scout Group 1st, 2nd and 5th Louth in St. Nicholas Church on Thursday last.It was a wonderful evening for all concerned, but the it was a curious beginning for scouting in Dundalk.
A milestone in the history of scouting in Dundalk was marked with a 50th anniversary and celebration Mass for St. Patrick’s Scout Group 1st, 2nd and 5th Louth in St. Nicholas Church on Thursday last.
It was a wonderful evening for all concerned, but the it was a curious beginning for scouting in Dundalk.
The birth of the present scout unit in 1954 was conceived during the women’s mission in Saint Nicholas Church. The men who acted as ushers and collectors in the church weren’t allowed to stay in the sacristy, and were down chatting in the cellar.
The idea came up of forming a new scout unit. A unit that has been in existence for two years foundered as a result of a fire in the town hall where it’s equipment was stored.
By the second week of the mission the group agreed to go ahead with forming the unit. Ironically Peter Dixon, who was to give such sterling service to the unit and scouting on a national level, was the “most reluctant to get involved” of the group, he recalls.
Other founder members were Gerry O’Neill, who was to serve as secretary, before he moved out of town, former Councillor Teddy Grimes and Paddy Mooney, retired church sacristan, a post that he also filled in Saint Patrick’s.
Guidance was sought from scouting headquarters in Dublin, and Father Desmond Campbell, who was long time parish administrator before transferring as PP to Haggardstown, gave his blessing.
Sean Casey who was to the forefront of the town’s Maytime Festival for years afterwards was another of the founder members, and Garda Superintendent T. S. McDonough also agreed to become involved, along with Paddy McGahon, well known local chemist, who was treasurer of the previous scout unit and Billy Curtis.
The officers included chairman, Superintendent McDonagh, vice-chairman, Peter Dixon, secretary, Gerry O’Neill, and others who joined the committee were Shane Kennedy SM, Paul Sally and Harry Cooney.
Harry along with Brendan O’Dowd still remained active as sea scouts after the collapse of the former scout unit, with the group having a couple of boats at the town docks. The unit based at the rink beside the Athletic Ground on the Ramparts.
The new unit was first based in the Gaelic Hall in Seatown Place. It then was afforded the use of the Lace School in Mill Street.
From there it moved to it’s present headquarters, acquiring the former clubrooms of Clan na Gael, and this has remained it’s headquarters since 1973.
The only survivors of the original committee are Peter, Gerry O’Neill and Billy Curtis, with Peter the last active link with the unit until he resigned in June this year after 51 years service.
Peter was the one constant in the Saint Patrick’s unit for all bar the last few months. Peter devoted a major part of his life to scouting in town and at a national level he was to the forefront as well, underlined by the fact that he served as Chief Scout of the Catholic Boys Scouts for six years between 1998 and 2004.
In the past two years the two scouting organisations in the country joined together to form one single organisation known as Scouting Ireland to run scouting in the country, and Peter played a leading part in the amalgamation.
Locally scouting started out catering for boys in the 10 1/2 to 15 1/2 age group, Peter told. The movement also has cub and venture sections, with the former catering for a younger age group, roughly 8 to 10, and the latter for the 15 year-old upwards.
Each has different nights, and activities are run most nights of the week at the Castletown headquarters.
There is also a guide group that caters for girls. They are a separate organisation who had the use of the headquarters when the local scout troop moved to Castletown Road.
Sister Brigid of the Convent Of Mercy initiated the formation of the guides. The then Catholic Boys Scouts movement became a mixed organisation and admitted girls but the local unit, while it had female leaders, decided not to take girls.
Peter explained that the reason was “we didn’t want to be seen to be poaching members of the guides.”
He described “there was exciting times during the 51 years. We had our ups and down and many experiences, I could write a book if I took the time,” quipped Peter.
The annual camps that brought the boys to different parts of the country and abroad were obvious highlights. However, “one of the big things” that Peter picked out was the opportunity the members of the troop had of being present for the visit of the Pope to Drogheda in 1979.
He concluded “ my one wish is that it (unit) will continue to go from strength to strength.”