Group history

Group history

Back at headquarters

Back at headquarters

Camps & hikes

Camps & hikes

Scoutcar races

Scoutcar races

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Time for a chat

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Chapter: Group history

A brief early history of the 49th

Article by jan mac, 8th Oct 2014

jan mac's Scout CV:

Mac's wife.


These memories were written by Janet McLanaghan and Kath Key

The Early Years

In 1959 John McLanaghan (Mac) left the 12th St. Margaret's Scout Group and went on to start the 49th Coventry Scouts. The newly formed 49th started its life renting a hall at Stoke Briton Road School, which was great for the boys; but unfortunately there was nowhere to store any of the equipment. So, all of the equipment; tents, pots & pans, etc. was stored at Mac's family home in Wainbody Ave, Styvechale, "giving our house a strange smell of wood-smoke" according to his wife, Janet McLanaghan! In the early years from about 1963 the 49th had countless scout camps; many were local, at places such as Bubbenhall Woods, where they had to cut down ferns before they could put the tents up! They often also went camping to Rough Close, where a few years later the committee joined a working party there, helping to lay hard core to build the entrance road with all of the other district groups volunteers. After a while the group assembled a really good parents committee, with Ted Key being one of the central members. The committee soon set about trying to acquire some land so that the group could build their own headquarters. Ted had knowledge of a piece of land at the rear of Roman Road which was owned by Mr Bratby, a local builder. When approached he said that the group could have use of the land and that he didn't want any ground rent, and because he was a busy man, nobody was to "bother him". However he was rewarded every Christmas with a card signed by everyone associated with the scouts, and a bottle of whiskey, which was immediately opened and a drink offered to Mac! With a site now secured the first task was to fence off the newly acquired land to make it private and with a lot of enquiries made by the marvellous parents committee; the 49th finally had the offer of a huge double classroom from Coventry City Council. It had been in use at John Gulson School, but they would have to take it down, and rebuild it on the land themselves! That was no easy task, however with the help of the likes of Ted Key, Wally Gould, Des Cheeseman and Ron Faries and many others they were able to do the building construction including; the carpentry, electrics and painting. They also managed to build a kitchen plus an office and even put together the sewers for the toilets! Eventually the 49th Coventry Scout's new headquarters were opened in1966; it had taken a long time but what a team! Every year the 49th "Scout of the Year" was presented with a large silver cup which had been donated by Mr. & Mrs. Weir, in memory of their son John, a former scout who sadly had died. He had been awarded "The Cornwall Scout Badge" for his bravery and the cup was usually handed to the winner by Mrs. Weir. The trophy had all of the previous years winners engraved on it and it made fascinating reading for the latest winner! The trophy was named the "John Weir Cup" and one of the first winners in 1966 was Peter Boon who had won the trophy as a 14-year-old after being judged the top scout in the 49th for that year. Peter is still involved in scouting and is now the scout leader of the 48th Coventry Sea Scouts, based in Browning Road, Coventry. In 2007 Peter was awarded the Medal of Merit, presented to him by District Commissioner Steve Smith, in recognition of almost 50 years in scouting. Around 1967 the 49th scouts, parents committee and friends went on a coach day trip to London's Heathrow Airport and then on to Windsor! In those days, you could go right on top of the terminal building roof, and watch all the planes coming & going. However on the way to London the coach broke down, but fortunately Pete Boon's dad was a passenger on board and he owned a repair garage, so they were soon back on the road again! To help raise funds, the 49th held a gala day in 1967. It was a great success and was opened by Mr. Haggard, who was the youth officer for Coventry. They also held regular jumble sales and they usually did pretty well with them too, but one night Elsie Cheeseman's own coat was also sold in error! By this stage the parents committee had grown to include; Pat & Janet Solman, Doreen Solman & their Mum Mrs. Richards, Mel & Joyce Bushon and Don & Jean Hill. The 49th were lucky to have such loyal and hard working helpers! There was a very well liked District Scout Leader called Bill Beatty, who had died, and the district wanted to do something in his memory. Mac came up with the idea of a Christmas raffle to be held every year. The main prize consisted of a Christmas Hamper, including everything needed for a family Christmas dinner, even down to after-eight mints! The raffle ran successfully for many years and all the groups in the district sold raffle tickets. The idea was that 50% of the proceeds stayed with their own group, and the other 50% went to the district, into the "Bill Beatty Fund", which was set up to help lads to go on training camps etc. One of the things that the 49th also did to help the local community was hold Whist Drives for the Stoke residents, and supply them with refreshments. Another day trip that the 49th organised was to visit London, to see Buckingham Palace, and the changing of the guard. The cubs and scouts piled into Mac's trusted van in their uniforms and took packed lunches. Mac took a camping primus stove and some water to make a cuppa. They pulled up in the van right outside the Palace as there weren't any security or parking restrictions in those days! Mac said "okay out you get" but one of the boys knocked over the water, and spilled it all. So Mac went over to one of the household guards at the palace and explained what had happened. The guard said he would fetch them some of the Queen's water, however the scout had to take his place on guard! You had never seen such a proud lad.

The 1970s

The parents committee also enjoyed their regular social get together and from around 1970 rented the Coventry Police Ballroom a few times. They also ran dances at the headquarters and provided all the refreshments, but not the beer though! Kath Key remembers her daughter Margaret with her friends dancing in a circle around their handbags to the Who, those were the days! Over the years the 49th had many well respected cub and scout leaders and helpers including; Joyce & Keith Hammond, Graham Shelton, John Bottrill, Fred Wood, Lucy & Ivor Barnes, Keith Sherwood, Pete Boon, George Lindsay, Maureen McLanaghan and her best friend Sue Adlington to name just a few; apologies if we have failed to mention any others! Unfortunately Sue Adlington was sadly to spend many years in a wheelchair following a terrible car accident. At that time Lord Snowdon had designed a special electric wheelchair that cost a lot of money. The 49th decided to raise a sum of money with raffles and events etc. They pretty soon succeeded in buying one for Sue. Image 1974 was the first time that the 49th decided to build a pedal car, under the skilful supervision of Des Cheeseman and Ted Key, which was to be entered into the National Scoutcar Races. They were held every year, and the group entered for a number of years, going to places such as Blackpool, Brighton Scarborough and Plymouth. Scout groups from all over Britain took part and the 49th cubs and scouts used to do very well in the annual races and the events were also a great weekend away for everyone involved. One year when the 49th were going to Blackpool for the Scoutcar races they were invited to go to the BBC's Pebble Mill Television Studios in Birmingham on route. The BBC wanted the scouts to show them the pedal car, and talk about the races. Mac had to wear ear phones and explain all about the event to the interviewer. Meanwhile the scouts were offered orange squash, but they drank so much, I think the BBC was glad to wave them goodbye! The 49th also took part in the Coventry Scouts Football Competition, and one year finished runner-up to the Keresley scouts' team. The finalists were presented with their trophies by Bill Glazier, complete with a pipe in his mouth, and who at that time was the Coventry City Football Club goalkeeper. Dave McLanaghan was one of the team, and played the final with his wrist in plaster, after a recent fall when roller skating. You can find a video clip of the event on the 49th Scouts DVD and YouTube. Sometime around 1977/78 it was decided that the group should have their own marquee for scout camps, instead of hiring one. So Mac & Janet, together with Pat & Jan Solman drove down to London in Mac's van to an army surplus store to collect it. The purchase proved to be a great success, and it must have paid for itself over and over again by being rented out to other organisations for their own events. One regular hirer was the Church at Ainsley for their annual "flower festival." At the end of the 49th's life, the Church eventually bought the marquee off the group. A favourite place for annual group camps was a farm at Dolgellau in north Wales, where the scouts could have great fun playing football and in the river. The 49th also went to Bournemouth, Cornwall, and even Ireland over the years. One camp that was very special was the family camp at Oxwich Bay, on the South Wales Gower coast. Ted Key, Wal Gould, and Pete Boon went before hand to have a rekkie, and found a farm for the group to camp on, it was right by the sea, and a wonderful time was had by all! The marquee had a banner on it reading "TURKEY AND ALL THE LITTLE GOBLETS". You can guess who that was in honour of? - Ted Key and all of the scouts! This event is also on the DVD and on YouTube. To test their outdoor and camping skills the 49th scouts took part in many County Camping Competitions at Rough Close during the 1970s, which also included a separate cookery competition. The 49th once managed a second place for the camping and even won the cooking prize on one occasion! The 49th scouts had many great people, great times, & lots of great memories and we would welcome all feedback or anecdotes from any past members about this fabulous group, THE 49th COVENTRY SCOUTS. The founding Group Scout Leader John McLanaghan passed away on 29th April 2014.

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