How 2nd Durrington Sea Scouts finally found their own home

It was thanks to an imaginative headmaster in Worthing that one of the town’s largest Scout groups was formed and now it has celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 12:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th October 2021, 12:04 pm

The first section of 2nd Durrington Sea Scout Group was formed in 1961, in response to an appeal from Mr John Cable-Robbie, headmaster at Durrington CP School.

The existing group, 1st Durrington, was attached to the parish church, so Mrs D. Macdonald started a Cub pack as a section of an open group, to cater for boys of all denominations.

Meetings were held in the school canteen and in the first week, there were eight boys, with numbers increasing rapidly until there was a full pack of 24 and a waiting list.

Preparing the 2nd Durrington Sea Scout Group headquarters for the official opening in 1968

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By 1964, it had become imperative that a Scout group be formed, to ensure the Cubs who were by now 11 could continue their training. District commissioner Ken Suckling persuaded Keith Burrows from 8th Worthing Sea Scout Group to start a Scout section at 2nd Durrington in February that year.

Neither of the two Durrington Scout troops had their own headquarters, so a joint committee was formed to raise money to build something they could both use.

Mr Burrows resigned in 1965 due to commitments at home and his assistant, Andy Hewitt, took over as acting Scoutmaster. At the same time, 1st Durrington ran into staffing difficulties, which proved insoluble, so that group was transferred to 2nd Durrington.

A new group committee was formed, to include members from 1st Durrington, and simultaneously, negotiations with Worthing Corporation bore fruit. A plot of land in Pond Lane was made available as a site for a headquarters and the news proved an inspiration to the group.

All manner of money raising was enthusiastically put in hand, though the group was still desperately short of leaders in both sections. The Cub pack was full, with a long waiting list, and Mrs Macdonald was on her own except for part-time assistance from Mrs Butcher, Mr Heeley and two senior Scouts.

One of these Scouts, Peter Allchin, was also helping Mr Hewitt with the Scout troop, along with another senior Scout, Ian Wright, and a parent, Lionel Cole.

Mrs Macdonald, in fact, had three appointments, assistant district commissioner for Cubs, acting group Scoutmaster and Cub Scoutmaster.

It became obvious at district level that Mrs Macdonald’s health could suffer if this continued and it was feared an irreplaceable Scouter would be lost.

Mr John Potter, Scoutmaster at 4th Worthing, was asked by the local association if he would take over as group Scoutmaster at 2nd Durrington, as he had previous experience of both the role and Sea Scouts, and he took up the position in May 1966.

A period of reorganisation followed. Mrs Macdonald was able to recruit additional help with the Cubs and in the autumn of that year, a second Cub pack was formed. Mr Hewitt was confirmed as Scoutmaster and he, too, was able to recruit extra help.

The group had grown to 16 adult leaders and 90 boys, making it one of the largest in the district. At this time, the term Scoutmaster was changed to Scout leader, in accordance with the Chief Scout’s Advance Party Report.

The increase in numbers made the accommodation problem acute but in February 1967, the group was offered the old Sunday School in Greenland Road for £50, providing the Scouts took it down and cleared it from the site.

Parents answered an appeal for help and just a few days later, the building was taken down and carted away to storage.

Luckily for the group, Mr Dean and Mr Martin of A.J. Dean Ltd were parents and supporters. They had immediately offered their services personally and the assistance of the firm in providing skilled labour to instruct amateur volunteers on how and where to use tools.

Mrs McDonald, of Pond Lane, gave use of her garden for storage of the building and during weekends, a small group of parents and officers set to work on necessary repairs.

Mr Frankum, the group treasurer, was an architect and he prepared a design for the headquarters, submitting it to Worthing Corporation for approval.

Mr Jarvis from the local plant hire firm loaned an earth-moving machine so the site could be cleared and the base excavated. By the end of September 1967, the foundations had been prepared and the concrete base laid, all by a small gang of parents and officers under the leadership of Mr Ron Polwin, chairman of the parents committee.

An appeal for extra help was made and in one weekend, the hut was moved from Mrs McDonald’s garden and put together again on the new base.

The original intention had been to make use of the building as a temporary headquarters for about two years, while more money was raised to build something more substantial and permanent.

Discussions took place with experts and it appeared a further £500 could be raised, to add to the £500 the group had already. With this money, the hut as it was could be modified sufficiently to provide a building which would last ten years or more, and which could be extended eventually to provide the accommodation ultimately required.

Although there was a large number of boys, owing to the age ranges, they were too young to enable the group to qualify for major grants. The District Scout Council arranged a loan of £200 and Mr Dean offered to back the group for the remainder required as an interest-free loan, as well as supplying materials at cost price.

With this incentive, a small gang of parents and officers began the arduous task of completing the job, working in the evenings by the light of Tilley lamps and at weekends.

The tasks now were dreary and monotonous, and the weather was cold, but the small band of volunteers, rarely more than six or seven strong, struggled on, Mr Dean and Mr Martin working alongside, directing operations.

By the end of February 1968, the building was complete, apart from a few minor jobs, and ready for launching. There was still a lot of work required to fit it out but 2nd Durrington was home and the headquarters was in use.