Tenth Camps

Troop summer camps during the first years took place mainly along the coast of north Down, at Rockport, Ballyferris, Orlock, and Portavo.    In the days of empty roads a seven mile journey with a trek cart was a great adventure.  When the Troop first pitched bell tents in 1910 at Rockport, even the officers were first-time campers.  But a style was established then that would become the Tenth’s hallmark.  George McFall, the Tenth’s first historian, explains:

The entire work from start to finish was done by the Scouts, which means that not only were tents pitched and a suitable fireplace made, but all the food was cooked by the boys under the direction of the Camp Officer…. many of [these boys], who afterwards served with the army in France and elsewhere, were able to put into practice the valuable lessons learned in this and subsequent Troop Camps.

 Summer camp 1914 at Orlock, near Groomsport.  The boy on the right is holding the Troop’s rifle, which was brought to every camp for the Patrol Leaders to shoot rabbits for making stew

From 1915 to 1923 the Troop had the use of a small glen on a farm near Dundonald.  Smyth’s farm, off the Stoney Road, was the site of many an Easter camp and Patrol camp, most memorably when it snowed at Easter 1916.  Bell tents would again provide a home for many former Scouts when they joined the Army during World War 1.

Under canvas in the snow at Easter camp, 1916

The greatest of all camps are the World Jamborees, and there have been 10th Scouts at most of them.   Graham McKee, a 10th Scouter and lead singer with the band ‘Bel’s Boys’, performed at the opening concert of the centenary World Jamboree in 2008.

ASL Graham McKee on stage in front of 40,000 Scouts at the opening of the centenary World Jamboree, 2008

Ian Diamond led the Northern Ireland contingent to the World Jamboree in Australia in 1988.  Most of the Troop, and two of the Cubs, were present at the very first Jamboree at Olympia in London in 1920.  The Tenth’s Scoutmaster, H.E. Keown, also led the Belfast contingent, some two hundred strong.  The boys received a subsidy of £1,000 from the Rotary Club which reduced the camp fee from £8 to £3.  The flag that headed the contingent was carried throughout by PL Alec Gregg of the Tenth.

The Belfast contingent at the first World Jamboree camp site in the Old Deer Park at Richmond, London, 1920.  The Scouts put on daily exhibitions for the public at Olympia

The 1920s and 1930s witnessed many summer camps along the west coast of Scotland, with the Scouts travelling steerage on the ferry to keep costs down.  Transport on land could be just as basic.

Troop transport at summer camp 1927, Killantringan

Scoutmaster Harry Howe encountered an unusual transport problem on the journey to summer camp 1939, as Larry Walker, a Scout at the time, recalled:

Harry had arranged the transport from the boat to the railway where we were to get the train for Wemyss Bay.  This consisted of one small Glaswegian man with a handcart…. With the strain of the mountain of tents, kitbags, and Patrol boxes, a wheel came off the cart.  Repairs were effected and the trek proceeded satisfactorily, but when we came to paying the man he made all kinds of demands for compensation because of his unfortunate mechanical breakdown.  But Harry would have none of this, and insisted on sticking to the original bargain.

That camp was the last before World War 2 broke out, and the following summer’s camp had to be cancelled because of the black-out.  Summer camps resumed in 1941, but gas masks had to be brought.  During this period the Troop camped twice at Ballinamallard, in an orchard belonging to Mr H. A. Burke, the local Scout Commissioner.  The apple trees supplied firewood, while the nearby railway supplied dead rabbits to supplement the rations.  Fermanagh had the same black-out conditions as elsewhere during the war, but there was one advantage.  Just across the border, in neutral Eire, chocolate was not rationed.  Smuggling it back on the train, however, concealed beneath uniforms on a hot summer’s day, was a messy business.

 The Troop at summer camp at Sion Mills, 1945.  Wartime malnutrition is evident

The 1950s saw high standards of camping under Scouters Maurice Barr and John Cairns.  The Tenth’s golden anniversary year, 1959, saw a break from life under canvas, however, as  the Troop departed on its first continental camp.  A Scout hut in the middle of the Grand Prix track at Zaanvoort was the first night’s accommodation, followed by a youth hostel in Amsterdam.  Maurice Barr had allowed many of the older boys to extend for a year in the Troop so they could make the trip and, as anticipated, it was a ‘magnificent holiday’.  Everything went according to plan (except on the return journey, when half the Troop had to sail from Stranraer instead of Heysham).  The success of this first continental camp ensured it would not be the last.

The Troop in Holland, 1959

A prototype of the ‘survival weekend’ – a rite of passage at the Tenth from the 1970s – was Ronnie Browne’s hike up Slieve Donard with the older boys on New Year’s Eve 1966 to set off fireworks at midnight.  Dutifully reporting to the police station in Newcastle beforehand, in case the display was interpreted as a distress signal, Ronnie was initially treated with disbelief, and then informed that nobody would have gone up to check until the morning anyway.

 Camping on the snowy summit of Slieve Donard, New Year’s Eve, 1966

Castlewellan Forest Park has been the destination for many an Easter camp from the 1970s through to the present day.  Beyond the daily routine of preparing for kit inspection, keeping the fires lit, and preparing meals, these camps have always largely depended on the Troop making its own fun.  But it could be a tough experience for the younger boys, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.

Curlew Patrol at Easter camp, Castlewellan, 1977

The Cubs too have had their share of Pack holidays under canvas, at least as far back as 1931 when they camped at Ballywalter.  Those were the days before sleeping bags and airbeds.  The first night was spent learning how to sleep on a straw palliasse, without rolling over on to someone else’s bed.  From the 1980s a popular location has been Slievenaman Schoolhouse in the Mournes, which allows tents to be pitched in the grounds.

The Sixers pitching camp before the rest of the Pack arrives for summer camp at Slievenaman, 1986

Much of what the first Scouts experienced at camp remains attractive to the youngsters of the 21st century – singing round a fire in the hills as night closes in, a rope swing over a river, a sense of independence and adventure.  It remains central to what the Tenth has to offer.

Dinner in the Patrol kitchen, Easter camp, Castlewellan, 2003

Locations of Troop Easter and summer camps:

Year Easter Camp Summer Camp
1910 No Easter camp Rockport, Co. Down
1911 Comber Unknown
1912 Unknown Unknown
1913 Whitespots, Newtownards Ballyferris, Co. Down
1914 Tollymore Park, Bryansford Orlock Point, Co. Down
1915 Smyth’s farm, Dundonald Orlock Point, Co. Down
1916 Smyth’s farm, Dundonald Portavo, Co. Down
1917 Smyth’s farm, Dundonald Cross Island, Co. Down
1918 Smyth’s farm, Dundonald Portavo, Co. Down
1919 Smyth’s farm, Dundonald Portavo, Co. Down
1920 Smyth’s farm, Dundonald Richmond, Surrey *
1921 Smyth’s farm, Dundonald Portavo, Co. Down
1922 Smyth’s farm, Dundonald Portavo, Co. Down
1923 Smyth’s farm, Dundonald Larbrax Bay, Wigtownshire
1924 Portavo, Donaghadee Wembley, Middlesex *
1925 Clandeboye, Bangor Langford Lodge, Co. Antrim
1926 Montalto, Ballynahinch Killantringan, Wigtownshire
1927 Portavo, Donaghadee Killantringan, Wigtownshire
1928 Portavo, Donaghadee Killantringan, Wigtownshire
1929 Portavo, Donaghadee Birkenhead, Cheshire
1930 Portavo, Donaghadee Killantringan, Wigtownshire
1931 Montalto, Ballynahinch Langbank, Renfrewshire
1932 Finnebrogue, Downpatrick Langbank, Renfrewshire
1933 Rademon, Crossgar Langbank, Renfrewshire
1934 Rademon, Crossgar Dundas Castle, Linlithgowshire
1935 Rademon, Crossgar Ely Lodge, Co. Fermanagh
1936 Mount Stewart, Newtownards Ely Lodge, Co. Fermanagh
1937 Trek to Montalto, Ballynahinch Brynbach, Denbighshire
1938 Trek to Montalto, Ballynahinch Brynbach, Denbighshire
1939 Montalto, Ballynahinch Skelmorlie, Ayrshire
1940 Saintfield House, Saintfield No camp: wartime regulations
1941 Lakeview farm, Magheragall, Lisburn Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh
1942 Montalto, Ballynahinch Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh
1943 Mount Stewart, Newtownards Mourne Park, Co. Down
1944 Inch Abbey, Downpatrick Carnlough, Co. Antrim
1945 Castle Ward, Strangford Sion Mills, Co. Tyrone
1946 Rademon, Crossgar St Angelo, Co. Fermanagh
1947 Rademon, Crossgar Ely Lodge, Co. Fermanagh
1948 Montalto, Ballynahinch Ely Lodge, Co. Fermanagh
1949 Montalto, Ballynahinch Haltwhistle, Northumberland
1950 Montalto, Ballynahinch Stranraer, Wigtownshire
1951 Shane’s Castle, Randalstown Belle Isle, Co. Fermanagh
1952 Mount Stewart, Newtownards Blair Atholl, Perthshire
1953 Castle Ward, Strangford Luss, Dunbartonshire
1954 Cleggan Lodge, Broughshane Hexham, Northumberland
1955 Shane’s Castle, Randalstown The Barony, Maughold, Isle of Man
1956 Shane’s Castle, Randalstown Chalfont Heights, Buckinghamshire
1957 Mount Stewart, Newtownards Buckmore Park, Kent
1958 Cleggan Lodge, Broughshane Downhill, Co. Londonderry
1959 Mahee Island, Strangford Lough Amsterdam, Holland
1960 Lakeview farm, Magheragall, Lisburn The Barony, Maughold, Isle of Man
1961 Castlewellan Park Tour of Ireland
1962 Lakeview farm, Magheragall, Lisburn Auchengillan, Stirlingshire
1963 Castle Ward, Strangford St Asaph, Flintshire
1964 Shane’s Castle, Randalstown Mourne Park, Co. Down
1965 Mount Stewart, Newtownards Castlewellan Park, Co. Down
1966 Saintfield House, Saintfield Powerscourt Demesne, Co. Wicklow
1967 Nugent Estate, Portaferry Auchengillan, Stirlingshire
1968 Tipperary Wood, Newcastle Marble Arch, Co. Fermanagh
1969 Crawfordsburn Scout Centre Interlaken, Switzerland
1970 Mount Stewart, Newtownards Downhill, Co. Londonderry
1971 McConnell’s farm, Mountnorris Ely Lodge, Co. Fermanagh
1972 Crawfordsburn Scout Centre Amsterdam, Holland
1973 Gosford Forest Park, Markethill Mourne Park, Co. Down
1974 Castlewellan Forest Park Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh
1975 Castlewellan Forest Park Gilwell Park, Essex
1976 Castlewellan Forest Park Buckmore Park, Kent
1977 Castlewellan Forest Park Mount Melleray, Ireland *
1978 Castlewellan Forest Park Buckmore Park, Kent
1979 Castlewellan Forest Park Delft, Holland
1980 Castlewellan Forest Park Gilwell Park, Essex
1981 Castlewellan Forest Park Buckmore Park, Kent
1982 Saintfield House, Saintfield Castle Archdale, Co. Fermanagh *
1983 Castlewellan Forest Park Hawkhirst, Northumberland
1984 Crawfordsburn Scout Centre Larch Hill, Co. Dublin
1985 Castlewellan Forest Park Delft, Holland
1986 Seaforde Estate Auchengillan, Stirlingshire
1987 Crawfordsburn Scout Centre Larch Hill, Co. Dublin
1988 Castlewellan Forest Park Zedelgem, Belgium
1989 Hike in Mourne Mountains Gosford Forest Park, Co. Armagh *
1990 Castlewellan Forest Park Belle Isle, Co. Fermanagh
1991 Crawfordsburn Scout Centre No camp
1992 Castlewellan Forest Park Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow
1993 Slievenaman Schoolhouse, Mournes Ballyfin, Co. Laois *
1994 Castlewellan Forest Park Gilwell Park, Essex
1995 Crawfordsburn Scout Centre No camp
1996 Castlewellan Forest Park Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow
1997 No camp Crawfordsburn, Co. Down
1998 Castlewellan Forest Park Larch Hill, Co. Dublin
1999 Castlewellan Forest Park Rotterdam, Holland (Group camp)
2000 Castlewellan Forest Park Gilwell Park, Essex
2001 Crawfordsburn Scout Centre Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh
2002 Hike in Mourne Mountains No camp
2003 Castlewellan Forest Park Walesby Forest, Nottinghamshire *
2004 Castlewellan Forest Park Larch Hill, Co. Dublin
2005 Crawfordsburn Scout Centre Hesley Wood, South Yorkshire
2006 Crawfordsburn Scout Centre No camp
2007 Crawfordsburn Scout Centre Walesby Forest, Nottinghamshire
2008 Crawfordsburn Scout Centre Crawfordsburn, Co. Down