In the summer of 1919 a local man, Mr Laurence, came to the conclusion that the only thing St Margarets needed to turn it into an earthly paradise- all the other necessary attributes being in place – was a Scout Troop, so on November 24th he started one. He cunningly called it the “1st St Margarets” and himself, being the leader, “Skipper”. The story has it that the first meetings were held under a gaslight on a street corner. True or not the fledgling troop soon found themselves settled in a room over Shipman’s Garage behind St Margarets Hotel.
In 1920 a mood of what the “Richmond and Twickenham Times” described as “Scoutitis” was sweeping over the district, sparked by the arrival of 5000 Scouts from all over the world who were camping on the Old Deer Park as part of the 1st World Scout Jamboree. The reporters were euphoric.
“A great camp – a remarkable demonstration of what is possible in the way of training boys in civics”.
The paper even carried an advertisement for “Scoutees” boots – designed for scouting and schoolwear. Like the Scouts themselves they were ‘solid, serviceable and all-weather’.
Encouraged by “Scoutitis” Skipper Laurence started a Wolf Cub Pack for younger lads. It was an instant success with droves of snotty nosed boys queuing up to learn the mysterious “dyb, dyb, dyb – dob, dob, dob” chant that opened Pack meeting in those days.1
In 1936 Shipman’s Garage was sold and the 1st St Margarets moved to Ballards Removals in Crown Road with their new leader Monty Garrett who was later to become Mayor of Twickenham.
During the war the Scouts held their meetings in Twickenham Film Studios. By then the group had grown to include Wolf Cubs, Scouts, Senior Scouts and Rovers. Sadly during the war two Scout Leaders from the group, “Polly” Parrott and Ted Chance, were killed in action. They are still remembered today with a commemorative plaque on the shaft of the Troop Flag.
After the war the 1st St Margarets met up in a number of different locations. In 1957/58 the Senior Scout Section met in the White House in Marble Hill Park. The fact that their leader, Ken Freeman, was the son of Bill Freeman, the head keeper at Marble Hill may have had something to do with that nice arrangement. Other sections of the group made do with the garden of the Rising Sun pub in East Twickenham, the Orleans Secondary Modern School and more recently in the old Mission Hall at St Stephens School where the group is based today.
Lifestyles have changed radically since Baden Powell started the Scout movement in 1907. Most young people are better off, better educated, healthier and with more leisure time than they ever had 100 years ago but for all this the Scout Movement’s main purpose – to promote self discipline, respect for others and a love of the outdoors – and have fun doing it – still retains its irresistible appeal. With every passing year the 1st St Margarets Group, which now includes girls as well as boys, grows in number and the waiting list to join grows too. The only thing holding them back is the same problem that Baden Powell faced 100 years ago and the same problem that “Skipper” Laurence faced in St Margarets 90 years ago – not a shortage of gaslights or street corners, but a shortage of leaders. It was something the 1920 “Richmond and Twickenham Times”, was aware off…
“It is not recruits who are wanted so much – although any number would be welcome – as officers and scoutmasters. Here is an opportunity for men who lack an aim in life or wish to use their time to the best advantage. Let them help to create citizens…”
The 1st St Margarets have found one way around the problem. Once they find leaders they really hang onto them! Doris Stephens became Wolf Cub leader in 1937 and held this position for 40 years until 1977. Another Cub Leader, Janet King, held the post for 37 years, from 1970 – 2007. The legendary “Ossie” Stanley joined the Group as a Wolf Cub in 1949…and after years serving as Beaver Leader and Scout Master was dragged kicking and screaming into retirement 58 years later – and he is still around today offering advice and support to those who have taken his place.
90 years on the 1st St Margarets thrive, doing what they have always done – camping, learning new life skills, earning badges, looking for leaders and having fun doing it.
So if you happen to see a 1st St Margarets Beaver, Cub or Scout in the street, take a moment and wish them a very “Happy Birthday”. They may not know it yet, but this year they’re 90 years old!
— from Martyn Day
1 “Dyb, dyb, dyb” was an instruction to “Do Your Best!”. The Cubs replied with “Dob, dob, dob” which means “We’ll Do Our Best!”