The History of
7th Banbury Scout Group.

'Scouting in Banbury in the 1960's', written by Mike Richards:

I joined the 7th Banbury troop in about 1960 as a cub and then a little later as a scout, it was around the time that the new scout hut was built off Southam Road. Skip Thomas was (definitely) the leader and everyone respected him. I was firstly a member of Peewit Patrol. The Dean family were very much involved with the troop. Mike Dean was about my age and his brothers Richard and John a little younger, both of their parents were very active within scouting. They were also extremely supportive and well respected. 

The new scout hut had a small kitchen and a separate toilet which initially was not plumbed into mains sewage but was of the chemical type which had to be emptied on a regular basis. I recall playing "British Bulldog" to let off steam and often went home with the odd bruise or minor cut, these little mishaps often occurred and there was never a thought of the litigation culture that you hear so much of these days.

There were many camps... at Heythrop Park, Boar Hill, even Gilwell Park... and the summer camps were great fun. Heythrop was one of my favourite locations, there was a proper campfire arena which had been built by the theological students/scouts/scouters and even a hut where we would occasionally have meals. I recall being shown how to pluck, skin and gut a pigeon which I then cooked. We would also put a little water in an old Marvel (powdered milk) tin and hide it in the bonfire before it was lit, when the bonfire was ignited the tin would heat up, the water would turn to steam and the top would be blown off. This was a great source of amusement as it came as a surprise to most of those gathered around the camp fire.

My most memorable summer camp was at Mudeford near Christchurch in Dorset, this would have been in the mid 1960's. The whole troop piled into the back of an open backed lorry which had a tarpaulin thay could be raised up if it rained... and off we went. When we arrived the first thing that had to be done was to dig the latrine (no portaloos) and set up camp. Each patrol had it's own tent, the food was plentiful and wholesome. I remember that the Dean boys had 'snowman' sleeping bags with arms and legs! When we had some spare time one day we hired boats and went on the river. One evening we had an adventure competition and there was great high jinks and much fun had by all. I remember we were tring to drench each other by throwing water at each other using our mugs, they weren't plastic then but made of enamel, my mug got kicked at by one of the scouters to stop him getting soaked and the mug accidentally hit me in the eye (Ouch!) There was lots of blood, a couple of stitches and a real shiner to go home with (about 3 days later), when we got off the lorry back at HQ one of the leaders explained everything to my parents, they parted with hand shaking and "thank you's"... no problem. I was actually quite proud of my black eye and asked my Dad to take a photograph of it (unfortunately I can't find the photograph).

My 'first class hike' was also quite memorable (I was 15 or 16), we did the hike in pairs and we camped overnight in the grounds of quite a grand old house which unbeknown to us was then a school for problematic youngsters. We found an old rowing boat and took it for a spin on the lake in the grounds of the house. Some of the resident youngsters saw us and started throwing anything they could find at us, no serious harm was caused to anyone but when I submitted my log with all the details in it the District Commissioner (Mr Hobbs?) made a note that he wondered whether we had been told to camp overnight in 'the right place'!

I became a 'Senior Scout' and eventually a Queens Scout being given my badge by the Chief Scout Sir Charles Maclean at Gilwell Park in 1966. I still have my scout uniform and was still able to squeeze into it a few years ago for a fancy dress party when my sister celebrated her 40th wedding anniversary.

I was a pupil at Banbury Grammar School and lived in St Annes Road, Easington, one of the scouters (Skip Mobbs?) lived just around the corner and I went to his house one day to learn how to change a washer and an electric plug in order to qualify for one of my badges. At school I was more interested in sport (and girls) than study and although I played rugby and cricket for the school teams I didn't progress to the 6th form, moving to Plymouth in Devon to join the police. They continued to educate me and I had an interesting career spanning 35 years in Devon and Cornwall retiring as a Detective Chief Inspector, I like to think that scouting equipped me well for the practical challenges of life. "Be Prepared" was always a phrase that was apt when policing. I am now retired and I'm a voluntary 'Redcoat tour Guide' in Exeter where I live.

Those are my thoughts on Scouting in Banbury in the 1960's; they were days which I recall with great affection.

Mike Richards

Copyright November 2015

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