The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson: Dewsbury’s Scouting groups

IF all goes to plan our children will be back at school next month and life for them at least will be returning to some form of normality.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 7:54 am
Cubs group: These young cubs couldn’t wait until they were old enough to join the Scouts. They were all members of St Philip’s Cubs in 1941 when this picture was taken. The church was demolished during slum clearance in the 1950s.
Cubs group: These young cubs couldn’t wait until they were old enough to join the Scouts. They were all members of St Philip’s Cubs in 1941 when this picture was taken. The church was demolished during slum clearance in the 1950s.

Although they have missed out on a great deal of education, at least they will have seen more of their parents than they normally would have.

When I was a child, a lot of my education didn’t come from computers, but from what was happening in my home surroundings.

Sometimes just listening to my parents discuss what was happening in the world around us, taught me a lot.

Margaret Watson.

Winston Churchill was mentioned a lot, so were people like Lord Baden-Powell, who founded the Scouting Movement, and General William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army.

Many of my young friends joined the Salvation Army and marched proudly behind their brass bands every Sunday.

Their message: “Come and Join Us”, was heeded by all the kids up our street who joined their marches because their music and message inspired them.

My eldest sister Joan got so caught up by the sound of their tambourines, she joined the parade one Sunday and forgot she was a Catholic and shouldn’t have.

How the nuns found out about her momentary lapse of judgement that sunny Sunday afternoon, we never knew, but they did.

And our lovely sister, the gentlest of souls and a loyal member of the church’s “Children of Mary” and “Holy Angels”, got a good caning for it.

Many boys I knew grew up with favouring groups which taught them to look after themselves on earth and joined instead the Cubs and Scouts.

Here they were taught how to survive in the backwoods with just a penknife and a piece of string, as well as teaching them to be good citizens as well.

Nearly every church in Dewsbury had its own Scout troop and, like most of our neighbouring towns, had a proud Scouting tradition.

Many major Scouting events were held in Dewsbury, the most important being the ones attended by their founder, Lord Baden Powell.

His first visit in 1906 was the year before he founded the Scouts, and he came as Major General Baden-Powell, hero of the South African War and the Defender of Mafeking.

He later said that it was his experiences in the Boer War in the late 1890s which had led him to found a movement which became world-wide.

Baden-Powell came to Dewsbury that day to unveil a war memorial in Crow Nest Park to commemorate the local volunteers who had fought and died in that war.

It became known as “The Statue of the Unknown Warrior”, and it still stands today, and a wreath is laid there every year on Remembrance Sunday.

When Baden Powell unveiled it, many thousands lined the streets of Dewsbury as well as those who crowded into the park.

The town had never seen such a spectacle, and the scene en route from the railway station, was a remarkable one, the like of which had never been seen.

Every available inch of space was occupied, and windows, balconies, pavement, and most of the roadway, teemed with humanity.

There was scarcely a shop or house that did not display the country’s colours, and one commentator said: “If the King himself had honoured Dewsbury with his presence he could not have met with a warmer reception.”

There were also animated scenes in the park and loud cheering when the Mayor, Councillor Chaley Fox, presented him with an inscribed silver cigar box from the people of Dewsbury.

The thronging crowds and the remarkable welcome overwhelmed Baden-Powell, who told the crowd their kindness had made him feel he was a brother of Dewsbury.

He said they had treated him with the greatest of kindness, much more than he had ever expected, and he would always look upon the citizens of Dewsbury as his friends.

Later Baden-Powell was to visit Dewsbury again in 1921 but this time in his capacity as Chief Scout.

He was given a civic reception, and thousands turned up to greet him, this time among the crowds were hundreds of young Cubs eager to see their famous Chief Scout.

Lord Baden-Powell was Chief Scout from 1908 to 1941 and earned the unique distinction of becoming Chief Scout of the World – the only scout ever to hold such a title.

The picture above was taken in 1941 but I have chosen to use it this week because it is one of is one of my favourites.

It shows a group of youngsters who were all members of St Philip’s Church cubs in Dewsbury, many of whom later joined the Scouts.

The church, which was situated at the top of Battye Street, was demolished in the 1950s during slum clearance, and the site is now a playing field.

This picture tells a story of changes which have taken place in Dewsbury over the years.

It tells of church closures on a huge scale and the demise of many organisations which once abounded in the town.

But I believe, and hope the Scouting movement still continues in this district, although I would think not in not in such great numbers as it once did.

I don’t think we have as many heroes in our midst as we once did – just celebrities.

Send your memories of bygone days in Dewsbury to [email protected]