The History of Scouting

Lord Robert Baden-Powell And The Origins Of Scouting
The Scout movement was founded by Robert Baden-Powell in 1908. Baden-Powell, popularly known by Scouts as “BP”, was born in London on 22nd February 1857. His birthday is remembered as Founder’s Day. He had a distinguished military career in the British army, becoming the youngest ever Major-General before his retirement in 1910. Much of his service was with the cavalry regiments in India and South Africa, but he was stationed in Ireland for short periods in barracks at Ballincollig (Cork), the Curragh, Dundalk, Belfast and Dublin.

BP himself excelled at “scouting” – the skill of military reconnaissance in enemy territory – using his stalking, camouflage, disguise, mapping and survival skills. He published several training manuals, including Aids to Scouting, based on his techniques. These involved more scope for individual initiative, work in small teams and recognition badges to reward achievement.

BP was best known for the defence of Mafeking in a siege during the Boer War 1899/1900. He formed the boys of the town into a Cadet Corps to act as messengers and orderlies and saw how young people, given training and responsibility, rose to the occasion and worked well in small teams. This experience led him to adapt his ideas on army Scout training for use by existing youth organisations as part of their programme.

BP held an experimental camp for 20 boys on Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour on the English south coast in August 1907. He tested his ideas with a programme of Scouting activities – camping skills, observation, woodcraft, life-saving and games – and this was an outstanding success.

As a result BP prepared a handbook called Scouting for Boys, first published as six fortnightly part-works in January 1908. Boys snapped these up from newsagents all over Britain and Ireland and formed Scout Patrols wherever they could find a meeting place.

In response to requests from girls to join, BP established a sister organisation, the Girl Guides, in 1910. Scout Troops were open to boys aged 11-17, but demand led to the addition of Wolf Cubs (8–11) in 1916, and Rover Scouts for over 17s in 1919.

BP was well ahead of his time in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras when young people were “seen and not heard”. Many of his novel methods for informal education have since been taken up by mainstream schooling, but the spirit, fun and friendship of Scouting still gives it a distinctive place in the development of young people. BP was later created Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell.

The Cub Scouting movement
This was founded by Robert Baden-Powell in 1916, nine years after the foundation of the Scouts, in order to cater to the many younger boys who had not yet reached the age limit for the Boy Scouts but who wanted to take part in Scouting. During these first ten years many troops had either allowed younger boys to join or had set up unofficial Junior or Cadet Scout Troops. These Cadet Troops taught a much simpler form of Scouting, including just the basic knotting techniques, basic first aid and tracking. In 1914, there were articles in the Headquarters’ Gazette (a then regular newsletter to leaders) outlining an official scheme, however this was not what Baden-Powell wanted. Rather he sought something quite different — a movement in its own right, with its own identity and program.

Important Dates in Scouting
1857 Birth of “BP”
1907 Camp at Brownsea Island
1908 First Scouts in Ireland
1912 First Sea Scouts
1916 First Cub Scouts
1918 First Rover Scouts
1929 Foundation of CBSI
1948 Boys Scouts of Ireland formed
1976 First Girls join SAI
2002 New Sea Scout programme launched

History Of Scouting In Ireland
Ireland, then still part of the United Kingdom, was one of the first countries to have Boy Scouts. The first recorded meeting took place at the home of Mr.Richard P.Fortune, 3 Dame Street, Dublin on 15th February 1908 where four boys were enrolled in the Wolf Patrol of the 1st Dublin Troop. A plaque marks the location of the house, now demolished, on the plaza next to Dublin’s City Hall. The 2nd Dublin formed the following week at 5 Upper Camden Street.

Details of the formation of early Scout Patrols and Troops are sketchy, as initially there was no administration to keep such records, but other Scout Troops formed in Dublin, and in Bray, Greystones, Dundalk and Belfast in the early months of 1908. The Greystones and Dundalk troops have been in continuous existence ever since.

In 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty created the Irish Free State, within the British Commonwealth. The Irish Free State (later Eire) Scout Council was created for Scouts in the 26-Counties, still linked to the UK Boy Scout Association. Membership was open to all religious faiths. Members of this association were popularly known as ‘B-P Scouts’.

BP visited Ireland to review his Scouts in 1910, 1911, 1915 and 1928.

Boy Scouts of Ireland/Scout Association of Ireland
When the Republic of Ireland was declared in 1949, a new independent national Association, the Boy Scouts of Ireland was formed from the Éire Scout Council.

An International Patrol Camp ‘Loc Rinn 1960’ was held at Lough Rynn, Mohill, Co. Leitrim. The BSI celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Scouting with an International Jamboree Westport 1968 and completed a major review of structure and programme. The removal of references to the word “boy” from the title and rules opened the way for the admission of girls to the new senior Venture Scout section, and later co-education for all age ranges. The new Scout Association of Ireland replaced the BSI in November 1968.

A new junior section Beaver Scouts was added in 1976, based on similar developments in Northern Ireland and Canada. SAI marked Scouting’s 70th Anniversary with a Jamboree Woodstock ’78  at Inistioge, Co.Kilkenny.

Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland
During the 1920’s some of those with aspirations for the new Ireland felt uncomfortable with the focus of the existing Scout Association, which tended to have a pro-British and Protestant image. Fr. Tom Farrell and his brother Fr. Ernest Farrell considered the possibility of establishing an Association with a Catholic ethos. Some ad-hoc Catholic Troops were already operating. In 1925 Fr. Ernest wrote a series of articles in Our Boys magazine, under the nom-de-plume “Sagart”, advocating the formation of an Irish Catholic Scout association.

A Constitution was drawn up and approved by the Catholic Hierarchy in November 1926 and Fr. Tom founded the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland in 1927. The first Troops included Fr. Ernest’s own experimental group in Greystones, 1st Dublin (“Archbishop’s Own”, Fairview), “Headquarters Troop” at the University Church, St. Stephen’s Green and 2nd Dublin (St. Teresa’s, Clarendon Street).

CBSI played a significant role in services to the 1932 Eucharistic Congress with a large camp at Terenure College. The First Aid Corps later evolved into the Headquarters Division of the Irish Red Cross when established in 1939.
In 1934 a major Holy Year Pilgrimage to Rome was organised, chartering the cruise liner ‘Lancastria’. On the voyage Sir Martin Melvin, the proprietor of the English Catholic paper ‘The Universe’, presented a silver trophy, later named in his honour, which became the premier award for the CBSI’s National Scout Campcraft Competition held each August.
Larch Hill camp site in Tibradden on the slopes of the Dublin Mountains was purchased in 1938, using surplus funds generated by this Pilgrimage, and is today the National Office and Campsite of Scouting Ireland.
The CBSI expanded quickly to become the largest Scout Association in Ireland, with Troops in many Catholic parishes throughout the Country.