Scouting in Ashgrove






Presented to the Ashgrove Historical Society


Date:  3 September 2005.     


Presented by:   Cliff Farmer




This year, the St John’s Scout group celebrated its 60th anniversary.  It was this event that prompted Dick Paten, an old school friend, to ask me to prepare a short address on the history of scouting in the area at large.  I must say I found that a fairly difficult request.  As you set about something like that you realise how difficult a job it is to adequately deal with the history over a long period of time.  In particular how easy it is to ignore some really significant contributions made by various people over time.  What I have tried to do, is for each of the scout groups that are involved in the area, I’ve tried to focus on the early days of each of them and how they were formed.  Fortunately, there are a few references available.  Leonard Lovejoy who started scouting in Ashgrove was a great diary keeper and although in the early 1940’s he destroyed his diaries, some of the material out of them became available.  Some of that became incorporated into a little booklet which was published in 1957 to celebrate 50 years of scouting in the world and the 100th birthday of Lord Baden Powell.  Then, more recently in the 1990’s a fellow called Ralph Fones, who is the Queensland branch historian, wrote a book called “In the Light of all the Years”, which gives us some background material.  The Queensland branch has a heritage committee and they have been working on heritage and historical issues and have been getting material together for 20 or 30 years.  When it comes to oral history, peoples memories of the same event are really quite different. 




Let’s started with the Ashgrove group.  In Queensland, there were 4 scout groups that started quite independently in 1908.  Baden Powell had his experimental camp in about August 1907 and within 12 months, quite independently through contacts in England, some young men who were involved in youth work, started scouting.  One of those men was Leonard Lovejoy who was running a type of Gordon club, a type of church club.  Then Lovejoy ran a Gordon club in the Ashgrove Methodist Church in Ashgrove Avenue (or Three Mile Scrub Rd).  He had a relative in England who was a scout and sent him over some photos.  He wrote to Gamages who were publishers in London for copies of “Scouting for Boys”, which was originally produces in fortnightly parts.  Having got this material together, he put it to a group of chaps to see whether or not they would like to become scouts.  There were 12 of them, and 10 decided they would, and they formed what was then called the Ithaca Patrol.  According to the data, they met on August 3 1908 and the first meeting was held on the verandah of a Mrs Scrine.    The patrol met twice weekly in Musgrave Road in Ashgrove, near Enoggera Ck.  The name was changed to the Ashgrove Troupe early in its life.  To quote Slaughters book:  “Apparently,  a large house was afire one afternoon and the patrol leader helped the bucket brigade get the water from the creek.  The scouts also helped to move the contents of the building.  All that remained undamaged was the detached kitchen.  This was away from the main building.  A few weeks later, the owner of the building gave to the scouts the use of the building as a club room.”  The official record shows the Ashgrove group as going out of existence in 1911 and being reformed in 1933.  It seems, as far as I can gather, that it lacked a meeting place and actually relocated to the Paddington Methodist hall and adopted the name of the Ashgrove/Paddington group.  It was highly successful in the pre-war and post-war periods and it produced a number of Queen scouts.  This indicated that there had been a long period through all the sections of good leadership.  The group closed on 31 October 1991 due to a lack of leaders.  The den, which was located, and still exists, in Gilbert Park in Fulcher Road, was sold to the Creative Garden Guild of Qld who still use the building.   Leonard Lovejoy was still alive when I was young and I can recall him being a verger at St Paul’s Church.  He was still running scouts and cubs at Ashgrove at that time.  That is really a brief little bit about Ashgrove. 




The second group to be formed in the area was St Johns Wood which was in 1945, the official records showing the group commencing on 9 March.  The scout section commenced later, the leader was appointed in May, the first meeting held in August.  Mr WR Johnstone was the cub master of the cub pack at its commencement.  At the time he was 72 years old and was referred to affectionately as Pop Johnstone.  He used to operate an honorary ambulance centre in Piddington Street St Johns Wood and the Society published an article on the hospital in the July-August 2004  issue of Tramstops.  In December 1948 he was appointed chief scout master but unfortunately died in June due to ill health.  In his comments to his application, he wrote that he had no previous scouting experience, that his hobbies and recreation were the protection of fauna, prevention of cruelty and helping other people.  His first-aid qualification was a certification of medical aid and he was in charge of the ambulance station in St Johns Wood.  The reasons he gave for taking up scouting were “I have the time and the experience to help the education of the growing boy.  I have trained many boys on stations and I am fond of children”.  That is probably the best qualifications that I have seen.  He persuaded Mr E Hawkins who owned Granite House in St Johns Wood to allow the hall adjacent to the house to be used for meetings.  The hall is now a residence.  The group, after a few years, were given sole us of underneath the building and converted it into a special purpose den and remained at that location for close to 20 years.  He also obtained a small igloo from the army, which was one of several on Royal Pde during the war and arranged for it to be left and that became the cub den.  Later on they put electricity to it and it was used as the senior scout den.  It served as a meeting place for a fairly long period of time.  The cubs in particular, were an immediate success.  When I joined in March 1946, just 12 months after it started, I was given the number 51.  Ron Maxwell said the cub pack had a membership of 86.  Barry Seale was appointed the cub instructor of St Johns Wood.  Other cub instructors included Mrs Dorothy O’Mara who was appointed assistant cub master in  October 1945.  The scout section was much slower getting under way.  James Garland was appointed scout master in May 1945 and he was a bank manager with the Union Bank and started scouts wherever he lived around the state.  He had previously been the scout master with the Penola troup in South Australia.  There were boys who joined in that first year who had transferred across from Ashgrove (including Richard Speechley).  Unfortunately, stable leadership took a little time to achieve.  A number of enthusiastically leaders kept it going through 1946 &  47.  The club went through a lot of leaders and it really lacked stability.  In 1948, Ron Maxwell, who was known as Badger, transferred to St Johns Wood from The Valley group.  He really was an outstanding scout master and developed extra leadership until about 1954 when he transferred interstate.  The group grew very rapidly to 44 boys during that period and it was extremely strong and kept strong from then on.  Camps were held regularly, at least every 6 weeks.  Scouts were very visible in those days.  We would pack our gear, walk to the tram at the Ashgrove West terminus, go to Roma Street railway station, get on the rail motor and chug out through Ferny Grove to Closeburn of somewhere like that.  Since the mid 60’s, it has met in dens located on the creek bank, just before entering St Johns Wood via the Gresham St bridge.   In 1974 floods washed away one of the buildings and severely damaged the others.  The group has plans underway to build some new buildings.  The group is still operating so it has been going for 60 years. 




The next group that was started was Oakleigh and was formed on 20 June 1950.  I use as reference a paper called “a Nostalgic Look at the Early History of the Oakleigh Scout Den, 1950 to 1962” (Noel Lynch, Bob McMahon, Judith Thompson).  The first group scout master was a Mr H Illich and his daughter was appointed cub master of the same day, 20 June 1950.  It is believed the group met out in the bird sanctuary, off Banks Street, Newmarket.  Again it had leadership problems and he resigned in October ’52 and his daughter in 1953.  In about 1953, the group started meeting in St Johns Church of England in Wardell street.  A new group scout master was not appointed until 1957 when Bob McMahon, from the parent’s committee, took up the position.  In 1957, the group acquired its present site in High Street, through the generosity of Mr Frank Finlayson, the local builder.  They also obtained the surplus school room from the Enoggera State School which shifted onto the site to become its scout den.  Hugh Thompson was the scout master from ’53 to ’57 while Judith Eaves was the cub master from ’58 to ’62.  During this period was when Oakleigh scout group really started to take off.  It expanded rapidly during the ‘60’s.  They took a keen interest in Jamboree on the air, a radio-type activity.  They became licensed and took out an amateur radio license and provided that form of training to boys who were interested in electronics.  They were the first and possible the only troupe to do so.  A lot of their camping and hiking activities took place in the Samford and Pine Rivers valleys and the older boys go to know the foothill of Mt Glorious and Mt Nebo fairly well.  That group is still operating today. 




The next group to be formed was Dorrington and it was formed on 25 September 1953, and  again it followed the great expansion of the primary schools and the period after the war when people came back and went to live in that area. The group scout master was Ted Mulberg and later became the district commissioner of the north west district, which is now called Taylor Range.  The cub master was JM Hayes  and the scout master was RL Hayes, who lived in Moola Rd.  The den was established in Dorrington Park off Frasers Road, and the had 7 scouts in April 1954 and in 1955, there were 12 scouts and 9 new cubs.  During the 60’s, the group attracted a number of fairly experienced scout leaders, including Ron Maxwell, Richard Speechley, Fred Nicholson.  Again it was highly successful during the 1960’s when it had stable leadership and had a number of boys who became Queens scouts.  The group was very physically close to the Oakleigh group and they would have been drawing on the same population for the leaders and young people.  They closed in the early 1970’s and the den was purchased from the scouts by the Girl Guides on 21 June 1973.  All the groups were highly successful at different times.  The measure of it was the number of young people who stayed through to their early 20’s and it reflected really high quality, stable leadership in all the sections of the groups during those times.  Over that time, well in excess of a couple of hundred people acted as leaders, which is an amazing contribution for the community to make.  They made their contributions of welfare and development to youth in the district and they would have been supported by parents and committees in even greater numbers.  One can look at the great variety of ways that it was dedicated to making sure that its young people were nurtured and developed, going back a long time, and most people feel grateful to having grown up in an area like Ashgrove.