3rd Tynemouth

(Ritsons Own) Scout Group

Billy Mill Lane, North Shields, NE29 8LP

Michael Dale

Michael was a Cub in the 1970's and then a Scout in the 1980's. He's now the Scout Leader.

I have spent so long asking other people to write down the stories they can remember I thought it was about time I wrote a few of mine down.

I joined Cubs in the late 70’s and can’t remember a huge amount about the pack, it has made me realise just how much I am asking of people to think back 40 or 50 years in some cases and how impressive it is when they can remember so much with clarity.

I can remember Mike Pearson being Akela and my being on the Pack football team for a while and my dad getting white t-shirts with a green logo on from the Northern Rock where he worked for us all to wear as strips.

Scouts was quite different to how it is now, mainly due to numbers. There were six patrols at the time, about 40 Scouts I think. Barney Carr was the Scout Leader with Dudley and Paul Rogers and Keith Hill helping.

Each week we used to play some games in the hall, poison, cat and mouse, 5 peg pick up all spring to mind and then split into groups to do badgework. Each leader would take a group of scouts and run some sort of training towards the scout standard or advanced scout standard. I seem to remember the patrol leaders may have helped to teach some of the skills as well.

One skill I remember was when Nick Jobson had joined the Marine Reserves and we were out at the back of the hut doing some fire lighting. Nick decided he was going to show us some of the survival skills he’d being learning and before we knew it there were some worm omelettes on the go.

Powburn

I can’t remember specific dates or times at Powburn but I can remember some events up there quite clearly.

In those days we all slept in the main hall on mattresses which were stored on racks at one end, the only separate bunk room was for the leaders to sleep in. As with today’s Scouts we never went to sleep when we were supposed to and I can remember many a scout being zipped up tight in their sleeping bag so they couldn’t get out quickly and then being dragged out into the middle of the hall on their mattress. Of course when the leaders came in to see what the noise was about we would all be asleep apart from someone out of their bag trying to pull everything back into their place next to the wall.

I should also say (before any of today’s scouts get any ideas) I can also clearly remember all of us being punished for doing this. In those days there were no fences around the side of the building and I have lost count of the number of times we were all got out of our sleeping bags and made to run a couple of laps around the hut in the dark and the rain, bare footed on the sharp gravel and conker cases.

Those mattresses also made a great source of entertainment during the day in our free time. I can remember getting all the mattresses out, piling them on the floor and then taking turns each to jump off the storage racks onto them.

We used to go on hikes at Powburn but in those days we used to take ropes with us and do abseiling off some of the rocks up there when we were half way round the route. I have clear memories of Keith Hill and Marty Jameson helping us abseil down a rock with a canvas band round us to make a sitting harness.

Another time I can remember Mick Barber and me building a bivouac against the side of the hall and sleeping out there. We had taken a tin of rice pudding each with us and that was our supplies for the night – cold rice pudding, it was great.

The other main memory I have of Powburn is playing searchlight in the back at night. I remember putting my army clothes on and a balaclava and crawling from the swamp up past the leaders without being seen or heard.

Gosforth Park

Gosforth park was a great camp site. Lots of small areas so you could camp up there with other troops on the same site and you wouldn’t even know they were there.

We must have held District camps there because I can remember going to the campfire circle in the evening which had raked seating around it and Barney running a campfire for what seemed like hundreds of people. Campfires stick in my mind quite vividly because I really didn’t like them and hated the songs with the actions where I might have had to stand up in front of people and join in. I now believe campfires are an important part of Scout tradition and would always hold one, but I can completely relate to the Scouts who don’t want to sing along or join in with the actions.

Another thing we did at Gosforth park was move around the various buildings and activities like the climbing wall and air rifles at our own pace and I can remember queuing in one of the buildings to make a leather woggle which we branded with the Scout badge from an old beret. There was also a huge cargo net on the main approach road which we used to climb in. We’d go up to the highest point where it was attached to one of the trees and lie talking for a while before doing dive forward rolls into the middle of it.

As the park was a permanent site Scouts could go and camp on their own as long as you had your leaders permission and wore your neckerchief while you were up there and I can remember Mick Barber and me going up there quite a few times. We would often not bother with tents and instead we would find a good clump of the rhododendron bushes and make a bivvy right in the middle. We would spend the weekend cooking on open fires and going on the activities that were running that weekend.

I remember waking up in our bivvy one morning to find that we had been visited in the night. One of the pockets on the bag I was using as a pillow had been left slightly open and the bar of chocolate that was in it now had a corner that was well and truly nibbled, wrapper and all.

I can also remember being part of a team going to Gosforth park for a cooking competition. We took a table cloth which was spread over a tree stump and had wine glasses full of coke or something similar and then went on to serve a three course meal for the judges all cooked over an open fire. The judges must have been brave in those days.

Summer Camps

We used to go on a week long camp in the first week of the summer holidays every year. Most of the place names meant nothing to me as we would get in a car or a lorry and get out at a camp site, but I can remember some great times of building dams in rivers and then swimming and canoeing in the pools we had made.

Each patrol had it’s own stormhaven tent and kitchen shelter and were responsible for most of it’s own food through the week. Each patrol had to dig it’s own fire pit to cook in and a pit covered with nettles which was used to get rid of any dirty water or left overs. Each day we had to burn the old nettles and replace them and it was checked during the daily inspection.

I can remember angel delight featuring on our menus but seem to have blanked out some of the things I have since found in the old menus such as liver and onions.

Another feature of the summer camps was making slippery slopes out of the rubber ground sheets from our tents. I can remember spending hours sliding down those sheets with the leaders pouring bucket after bucket of soapy river water down them.

Three particular things at the various camps stand out in my mind. One of them was Mick Barber and me inventing a timber wolf and scaring the living daylights out of Paul King. We had been doing some plaster casting and decided to get a pointy stick which we then used to make a claw type foot print in the ground and then take a cast of it. We showed this to Paul and then added to the story over the next few days by getting some sheep’s wool off a fence and putting strawberry jam or tomato sauce on it, as well as having someone wolf howling outside the tent at night.

The second thing was one of the camps we went to being flooded out. We had set the tents up around the outside of a horse shoe shaped bend in a river and made a bridge across it where a farmer’s tractor had been left.

Early one morning the rain had hit us really hard, the river rose by a few feet and we were completely washed out. Bags were literally floating away and we had to wake everyone up and pack the site up fast. One of the other patrol leaders, Philip Rossiter, was woken up who didn’t believe us until the water came into his patrol’s tent and started lapping around his feet, he got up quite quickly after that.

The other thing I remember was my mam and dad bringing a birthday cake up to camp for me. My mam had made it and it was in the shape of a bath with a woman sitting in it! That kept everyone talking for some time.

Outside of camps I can remember taking part in Excalibur a few times, every time I hear Tears for Fears song “Everybody wants to rule the world” I’m taken straight back to walking up a particular stretch of road with Cameron Dunn and Kevin Harvey as I had a walkman on and that was the tape I had in.

I can remember having the key to our HQ as a patrol leader because I lived round the corner in Cornhill Crescent and used to put bins out on the way to school once a week.

We used to have work weekends in the hut to get the place cleaned and any minor repairs made. I can remember as a scout a group of us being on the roof painting some kind of black waterproofing substance on it and at another time lying on the roof and leaning over the side to repaint the facia boards. I still bear the scar on one hand from a work weekend where I had been cleaning a window and it sticking when I went to close it so I slammed it shut, smashing the glass and a piece about the size of a sheet of A4 hitting my hand.

I also remember Barney having a badge tin which used to be produced for competition winners or people that had done some extra work and so on. The tin was full of old scout badges as well as other Districts badges from all around the country and the lucky recipients used to get to dip in the tin and choose a badge to put on their camp blanket.

Barney used to run the programme sellers at Gang Show’s and as there was no way I was getting on stage I helped sell programmes along with some of the other Scouts for a number of shows.

As a Scout part of the badge work at the time was to help out in another section. I went and helped at Cubs for a while and can remember helping Philip Rose run a few activities. I helped at Cubs for quite a while and then was asked if I would help at a new section that was being started called Beavers.

The early meetings seemed to revolve around Ruth Mather running some activities and then the Beavers chasing myself and Robin Gilchrist, another Scout, around the hall until they caught us and jumped on top of us.

Ruth mentioned in the Beaver history about the open day I helped organise before joining the army. I recall bringing a lot of the army gear I used to collect round and setting it out in the hall as well as building the obstacles outside on the field.

I also remember Gordon Harrison bringing his sister Nicola round who was going to help us by making drinks and so on. I can remember this first time I met my future wife even if she can’t!

This was the first open day of that type I helped organise. I can remember after I had joined the army driving home on leave with some borrowed radio equipment which I set up on the field. I had arranged with a local TA centre for one or two of them to come round with a couple of guns that could be chained to a table for people to have a hold of, only to be told when I rang them from home that no one was able to help but just to come round to the centre and they would let me sign a few guns out and some chain and I could do it myself!

My scouting carried on while I was in the army, I helped at a Cub pack in Minden, Germany and then when I moved to Osnabruck in Germany I took over as the Scout Leader. Both Groups were part of British Scouts Western Europe and was mainly run for the children of service men and women, but that is another story. I still carried on with Ritson’s coming round almost every time I was home on leave. We still have some of the things from ration packs I brought for a survival camp at Gosforth park in the store now.

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