The History of
7th Banbury Scout Group.

'Memories of my time with the 7th Banbury', written by John "Tiny" Hathaway:

7th Banbury! Such happy memories when I say that name. I cannot recall the names of my lecturers at college but I do remember my scoutmasters, Reg Thomas, Pete Whitehead and Pat Mobbs who coined my nickname, and, of course that dear woman, Eileen Dean although I was never a Wolf Cub.

I was delighted to discover the reminiscences of Mike Richards and Michael Dean on the 7th website, contemporaries of mine, they have helped to revive memories and to give names to places that I had forgotten. Indeed many of my memories and experiences are the same as Mike Richards', I believe he was in the same Senior Scout patrol as me and so I will not try not to repeat what he has already written except to say that with Mike Richards and John Dean I went to Gilwell Park to receive my Queens Scout badge off the Chief Scout Sir Charles Maclean. Also I had the honour of taking part in the Queens Scouts parade in Windsor where we marched past and saluted a member of the royal family. My time with the 7th was a very important time in my life, it gave me confidence and shaped my character.

Up until the age of 15 my experience with the scouts had, I guess, been fairly run of the mill and then along came David Moss, a keen rally driver to take over and develop the Senior Scout troop. He lived in Adderbury and I in Bloxham and so he took me home at the end of each evening. To turn his car around to go home he had the terrifying habit of racing up to the double doors of the warehouse next to the Scout Hut and doing a handbrake turn.

Somehow he had made contact with the student priests at Heythrop College, Enstone, who had formed their own Rover Crew and held camps and activities for local scouts and catholic scouts from the Archdioceses of Birmingham. Our new dynamic Senior Scoutmaster met up with an equally dynamic Jesuit student and rover scout, Chris Dyckhoff. This was to be the beginning of 3 years of adventure that perhaps many scouts of today just dream about, or maybe the fear of litigation prevents.

Heythrop College, a training college for Jesuit student priests which has since moved to London, had once been the country home of a rich family many years ago. Its large mansion was the college and it was set in wooded grounds where there were two quite large artificial lakes. The first lake was formed by damning a river. The damn also served as a road bridge and it was from this bridge that we were taught to abseil down the sheer drop. On the lakes themselves we made rafts from poles and oil drums, a good test of our knots and lashings and then sailed the lakes, on one occasion we also had to light a fire on the raft and cook over it. On another occasion we made a raft and then had to sleep on it over night out on the lake. Another exercise I recall was when we were suddenly told, “ O.K in 30m minutes this area will be flooded to a depth of ten feet. Construct a platform up in a tree where you can sleep safely for the night.” Which we did. The woods were used extensively for training and once we had to make a shelter out of natural materials, and sleep in it overnight.

Night hikes seemed to be a favourite test of these Rovers who had come from interesting backgrounds, one for example had been a Royal Marine. On one night hike we were met at a wood and told to walk through the wood on a compass bearing. But it's pitch black! We worked out that we could do it by sending one of us ahead with a torch and with shouts of left a bit or right a bit , we kept on the bearing. Unfortunately as we then walked straight ahead to the torch we found ourselves stumbling across ditches, or through bramble or nettles. I believe it's called character building!

The Rovers also held competition camps for catholic scouts and we were invited to take part. Perhaps some of the activities I recall now were from those competition camps.

Basic scout skills were developed to a very high level, knotting, lashings, compass and map reading, fire lighting, practised in real situations. How to use a felling axe was taught to us by a student priest , an ex Hungarian lumberjack who had fled Hungary when the communists had invaded.

In the grounds there were two large log cabins. I have happy memories of evenings spent there with other scouts, the singing led by guitar playing Jesuits while hot drinks, toast and sausages barbecued in front of the roaring log fire were passed around.

Christmas parties at the 7th were fun affairs with lashings of food followed by each patrol performing an amusing sketch.

I left the 7th Banbury when I was almost 18 to help run the new catholic scout troop in town, the 5th Banbury. Unfortunately some at the 7th were a bit disgruntled thinking that I had been poached by the 5th. In 1970 I was part of the UK Contingent which took part in a Jamboree in Austria, it was not a World Jamboree. It was an exciting experience meeting different European scouts and scoutmasters and at the end of the Jamboree I was invited to stay with a very generous and kind Austrian family for another week.

For my career I went into teaching, after four years of teaching mathematics I decide to specialise teaching Special Needs children, those with learning difficulties as well as those with Emotional and Behavioural problems.

Thanks to the Scout Movement this shy overweight boy achieved the Queens Scout Award, D of E Gold Award, and English Colleges XV Lock forward. The adventure continues! I currently live in Poland where I teach English and explore Eastern Europe and for my 70th birthday I plan to take a hot air balloon ride over the Tatra Mountains.

John Hathaway

Copyright September 2020

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