Memories from Alf Gilham

My first foray round to the Hut was with Arthur & Joyce Stevens (Kim & Baloo). They were both Assistant Cub Leaders at the 27th Woolwich and our neighbours in Albatross St. I was around five and a half years old at that time. They introduced me to Miss Daniels (Danny) the Akela of the pack who informed me that I would have to wait until I was a little older before I could become a full member of the Cubs. There was no Beavers back in those days. It was an awful night weather wise, thunder & lightening all around and I thought it would be lucky if the Hut was still standing when I reached Cub age – how wrong can you be!! I did join the Cubs when I was seven or seven and half and the rest as the saying goes is history. It was, unknown to me then, the start of a lifetime of friendships that endure up to this day.

I progressed through the Cubs, ‘leaping’ up into Scouts and wondering what I had let myself in for. Suddenly there were all these older ‘hairy’ Scouts bent on welcoming the newcomers into the Troop via games of Bulldog and High Jimmy Knacker – where was Health and Safety when you really needed it?? I can remember three successive Saturdays being walked down to St. Nicholas Hospital with black eyes and a swollen and bloodied ‘hooter’ (nose) after a ‘quiet night’ at Scouts!! I always thought that the Tenderfoot badge was completely misnamed!  I well remember the early camps at Downe Scout Camp washing in cold water under wooden shelters, in metal bowls, no showers, flushing loos or hot water then. Well it was boys only then! Brian Watling, the Senior Scout Leader along with Graham Hogger, our Scout Leader, arranged a summer camp up at Great Towers campsite on the edge of Lake Windermere. Well if I thought Downe’s facilities where a tad sparten that was nothing compared to what we found in the Lake District, for that is exactly what we found, nothing. No loos, until we had got busy with a shovel; no taps, it was water from the stream that very handily meandered through our allotted site. Great stuff, water being at a premium it couldn’t be wasted on trivial things like washing – anyway I thought my Mum would be well pleased that I had taken great care of the soap. Brian however had other ideas, so we didn’t come home looking like complete rag-a-muffins, we did wash and what a camp it was. Some of us even met the Chief Scout of that time, Sir Charles Maclean, heady days indeed.

I stayed on in Scouting through to Senior Scouts when it was virtually taboo to miss a Friday night at Scouts – that’s how much it meant to all of us. I then went on to become a Cub Leader, Assistant Scout Leader and hopefully put something back into Scouting that it had given me. The older leaders, ‘Skip’ Hogger (Harry), Henry Stock, Les Hogger, Stan Hopgood along with Frank Bryan (Chip) and many more laid  a very special foundation when they set about bringing Scouting to Wesley Hall. How many children have passed through its doors over the years can only be guessed at, many hundreds at least, and lots of them will have memories of ‘their’ time at the youth organisations associated with the Church. I have a lifetime of memories to keep me going. There are things that I have glossed over because other people have mentioned them in their posts on here and I would need to write a book to include everything about my time at Wesley Hall. The important thing is that the Church, despite numerous setbacks over the years, is still going strong, and the Hut is going through yet another restoration in which I have played a small part. I am still able to wield a hammer or paint brush so would be willing to be called upon again soon to help.

I would like to conclude by saying a very big Thank You to all Leaders past and present who have played an enormous part in my life, the friendships made were made for life and that means a heck of a lot to me. Sadly many have passed on now but still live in my memories, you will never be forgotten. To the group of us that still meet up from time to time and our children, most of whom went through the various youth organisations at the church, you still are a huge part of my life, long may that continue. And the people we don’t see that regularly, when we do meet up we pick straight back up from where we left off. Only special friends can do that, so thanks a million ( as Danny often said ).

Alf Gilham

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