17th Holborn Scout and Guide Group was started in the mid 1950’s, when two long term patients, David Mitchell and Billy Harwood, wished to continue their Scouting whilst being in hospital. Their Group Scout Leader contacted a local Scouter, Alf Porter, who was both a leader in St Pancras and had an interest in furthering Scouting for the disabled.
Alf and a small team of fellow Scouters made weekly visits to the hospital, helping both boys pass various Scouting tests and proficiency badges. Sadly, Billy died whilst in hospital, but Scouting had made a huge difference to his stay in hospital. So much so, Alf liaised with the various authorities at Great Ormond Street and the Scout Headquarters and a permanent Scout group was started, with Alf as the Group Scout Leader.
Billy was posthumously awarded the Cornwell Badge, a very special badge awarded for ‘high character and devotion to duty, together with great courage and endurance’. It was presented to his parents in their home town of Benington, in 1958, by Felix Bedford (District Commissioner for Holborn) accompanied by Alf Porter and the Ward Sister, Sister Barnsworth, another leader of the 17th Holborn Scout Troop.
Meetings were held in very much the same was as we do today, every Tuesday evening in the hospital activity centre. Leaders would visit the wards, but in the beginning, would invite only boys of eight years and upwards to go to Scouts. Forty years ago, patients stayed in hospital for much longer than they do today, therefore boys often came for many weeks or months.
The meetings were run, as far as possible, like a normal Troop, with time being set aside each week for Scout badge work as well as games. This led to several boys being invested (becoming a member) as Scouts during their stay in hospital.
In 1965, Alf Porter’s job took him to Crawley, and he unfortunately had to relinquish his job of Group Scout Leader. This role was taken over by Hugh Bedford (son of Felix Bedford, District Commissioner for Holborn) who continued in this post for over 15 years.
In 1966, Guide/Brownie meetings were started to cater for the girls in the hospital. However, meetings unfortunately floundered and the Company was shut. In the mid 1980’s, three siblings, a Cub Scout, a Scout and a Guide, were admitted simultaneously, all suffering from a rare genetic disorder. Their Ward Sister felt that their recovery would be aided if they could all attend meetings and have some time away from the ward environment.
Naturally the two boys quickly joined the hospital’s all-age Scout group, leaving one rather unhappy Guide back on the ward. The Group applied for special dispensation from the Scout Headquarters, enabling them to accept girls, as something had to be done for the Guides and Brownies who wished to carry on with their Guiding activities. This was the first group in the country to allow both boys and girls to attend the same meeting.
On 23th September 1987, having recruited some Guiders, a Guide Company was also registered and our group officially gained its current title of the 17th Holborn Scout and Guide Group.
Today we continue the legacy that was put down in 1957, with new young people attending every week!