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19th Galway Athenry Scout Group 29 May 2019

Once upon a time….

In late I985 members of the Project Society (Gerry Farrell, Tommy McNamara, Tommy Quinn and Ned Waldron) initiated the idea of Scouts in Athenry.

They first met with Michael Cunningham who, at that time worked in Athenry Post Office and had been involved with a scout pack in Moycullen. Having received a lot of advice from him they decided to call a public meeting. This meeting was held in the Presentation College and was supported by a huge turnout. At this meeting was Donal Coakley and his wife Frances (Loughnane) who were also involved in Scouting in Renmore and they too were of great assistance. From this meeting Sean Lawless was elected Unit Leader, and Brendan Loughnane, Margaret Flaherty, Ann Pomphrett and Christy Caulfield were elected leaders.

Cub Scouts started in the Community Hall the following week and about thirty children from the town enrolled. After a short while in the Community Hall it was decided to look for Scout Premises of their own. Wisely they realised St. Mary’s church would be an ideal scout hall even though it was in great disrepair. All the community organizations were consulted and asked if they had an interest in St. Mary’s and the reply was no.

Sean Lawless, Christy Caulfield and Ann Pomphrett researched every aspect of acquiring St. Marys. As it is owned by the Church of Ireland they met with Canon Leslie Forestall who was Rector in Galway at the time and he gave it to the Scout leaders with his blessing.

Three Trustees from the town were then appointed. Tommy Quinn, Vincent Shields and Canon Leslie Forestall.

St. Mary’s was in bad repair so members of the project society under the guidance of Sean Lawless together with scout leaders, parents and community members helped to raise funds, begged and borrowed materials needed for the repairs. They were help also by FÁS scheme, which was running in the town at that time. This task took eighteen months to complete. Gerry Holland, Pat Higgins, Paddy Lyons, John Lawless and Hubert Kavanagh supplied skill and labour. The windows and materials were sponsored by The Credit Union, Frank Brody, Frank O’Neill, John and Josie Murphy and John Lawless sponsored the teak windows and Mid-Western Farmers Co-Op sponsored the paint.

St. Mary’s was blessed by Monsignor Mooney and Canon Leslie Forestall. Work could not have been completed without the help of the local community and friends of Athenry living in Galway and surrounding areas.

Scouting started then and thrived for the next ten to fifteen years and is now run by Scout leader Sean Myler.

St. Mary’s Church – Sponsors: Athenry Credit Union, Athenry London Emigrants, Digital (Galway) Ltd., Athenry Co-Op Mart Ltd., Mid -West Farmers Co-Op. Ltd., V.P. Shields & Sons Ltd. Sol, Frank Brody, M.R.C.V.S. Priests Of Parish, Jim & Mary Kelly, John & Josie Murphy, Frank O’Neill. E.S.B., Keane Kitchens Ltd., Flaherty Markets Ltd., John Lawless Builder, Gouldings Ltd., Peadar Monaghan, Irish Cement Ltd., Spar — M.N.C. Ltd., Michael Quinn, Christy and Teresa Archer, Gerry and Claire Nevin, Mc Phersons Ltd., Martin Maloney, Sean Torpey, Paddy Gardner, Jimmy Somers, Corbett & Sons Ltd., Rocca Tiles Ltd., Hynes Ltd., Clareco Paints, H.G.W. Ltd., Berger Paints Ltd., A.l.B Ltd., Ulster Bank Ltd., Crown Paints Ltd., Sean Lawless – Contractor, Connacht Court Group.

Guides Memories: When the Den was officially opened Girl Guides were formed. Athenry Girl guides were founded in September l988. The Guide leaders were Susan Nally, Janice Laffey, Francis Laffey and Martina Farragher. They held a fundraising Santa in Hanberry’s Hotel which was a great success, During winter months the guides leamed skills such as First aid, Fitness and health, knots, home skills, outdoor cooking, safety and lots more to equip them for their first camp the following summer. They took part in the St. Patrick’s Day parade and won first prize for their float.

Athenry guides along with Guides and Brownies from all over county Galway took part in the “People in Need” fund-raising by joining hands from Shop Street and around Eyre Square. On the way to this venture the guides met with film star Daniel de Lewis of ”My Left foot” fame.

The long awaited first camp took place in June 1989 grounds of St. Marys. The venue was ideal as it was safe and compact and perfect for guides on their First camping experience. It was a wonderful setting for our songs and ghost stories told around the campfire in the dark of night.

The parents were invited along the next morning for a visit. After confidence gained, and friendships made at their first camp they went camping to Corrandulla for a weekend. There they learned the basics of canoeing. Next outing was a week spent in the outdoor adventure centre in Clonbur where they took part in canoeing, assailing, hiking, orienteering and potholing. Now the guides and leaders had got adventurous and were ready for Melleray 1991, an international camp was held in the grounds of beautiful Melleray Abbey to celebrate 80 years of guiding in Ireland.

The Athenry Guides mixed with guides from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chernobyl, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Greece Japan, New Zealand, Netherlands, Scotland, Wales and U.S.A. where once again they took part in lots more exciting adventures including an overnight survival hike, archery, back-woods cooking and adventure trails.

Now there was no stopping them and they joined with guides from Corrandula Barna, Mervue and Riverside and headed for the Isle of Man where the guides spent a wonderful week exploring and learning about the lovely island. They learned the skills of raft building using their knowledge of knots and set sail a short distance out to sea.

The Athenry girl guide leaders were Sue Nally and Janice Laffey.

Brownies: Athenry Brownies were founded in May 1985 and they too spent many happy years in St. Marys. Leaders were: Eileen O’Donohue, Margaret Shanahan, Mary Gallagher, Ann Murphy Newcastle, Ann Farrell- Keane Newcastle and Olive Coffey (Brown Owl).

The Brownies numbered about thirty and they also had a packed programme such as The Festival of Light – a project on India and camped in Portumna meeting other brownies from Co. Galway. Craft and skills were also part of the programme. Brownies ran for a number of years in Athenry.

Girl Guides folded due to lack of leaders and girls being accepted as Beaver and Cub scouts.

Scouting Diary: Scouting started with great gusto. Sean Lawless was unit leader and also Scout leader assisted by Pat Hogan and John Small. Other leaders down the years were Caroline Mitchell, Padraic Judge, Eilish Morrissey, Tony Breheny, Stephen O’Sullivan, Ciara Fitzpatrick and Brian Quinn.

Scouts are at presented on a sabbatical but will restart again hopefully.

Christy Caulfield was Cub Scout leader with Ann Pomphrett. Later on, Frank Laffey, Pat Holland, Mary Quinn, Stephanie O’Regan, Catherine Reilly, Sean Meyler and Linda Meyler, Rose Barrett, Padraic Ward and Julie Carr.

There were on average thirty-six cubs including boys and girls (Sarah O’Regan was the first girl cub scout in Athenry).

Beaver Leader was Joe Coffey, Maria Mc Namara, Ann Fahy, Peggy Healy, Carmel Mitchell ,Teresa Ryan, Kathleen Briggs, Linda Meyler, Rose Barrett, Catherine Mc Manus and Martina Bane.

There were over thirty-three beavers in the lodge for the last ten years.

In the ten years hundreds of children past through scouts, cubs and beavers which is a very enjoyable and awarding organization for youth. The scout, cub and beaver programme was packed and varied. Scouts went hiking, camping, canoeing, abseiling, they made rafts, kitchens, laundries, went orienteering, got lost, got wet, had great fun, took part in the World camp in Portumna, went to Larch Hill (Ireland’s scout headquarters), won medals, won competitions, lost competitions, went night hiking and became better people.

Cubs and beavers also had a packed and varied programme. Co. Galway quiz competitions were won on a few occasions by the Cubs and beavers and they also won individual unit fun competitions at the Galway regional camps.

Paul Ring, the Chief Scout of lreland, visited the den in 1993 and planted an ash tree in honour of the occasion. The scout, cub and beaver float won in the St. Patricks day parade in 1985. Children have learned skills such tying knots, tent erecting, cooking outdoors and indoors, first aid, safe cross code, hiking, country code etc plus eighty more experiences in the scout manual.

We left our home in St. Marys some time in 1997 and needed to record our history after moving to our new home in the Community Hall, Clarke St..

Good luck to the Heritage Company who now occupy St. Marys.

If you have any photographs, roll books, programmes or anything relating to scouts cubs and beavers as this is only the bare bone of scouting history in Athenry we would appreciate them as we hope to record as much as possible in a booklet in 2001.

This information was gathered together over a period and thanks to Gerry Ahern, Christy Caulfield, Olive Coffey, Janice Laffey, Sean Lawless, Marie McNamara, Eileen O’Donohue, Ann Pomphrett, Tommy Quinn and Ned Waldron and many more. The information may not be fully accurate but it is as I remember it.

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Written by Stephanie O'Regan

Published here 11 May 2023 and originally published Christmas 2000

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