Step into the extraordinary history of the 17th Holborn Scout and Guide Group, where adventure and resilience intertwine
It all began in the vibrant mid-1950s when two young patients, David Mitchell and Billy Harwood, sparked a remarkable idea at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Despite their hospitalisation, their Scouting spirit burned bright, and they yearned to continue their Scouting journey. Enter Alf Porter, a passionate local Scouter with a heart for expanding Scouting to include those with disabilities.
Alf, accompanied by a spirited team of Scouters, embarked on weekly escapades to the hospital. Their mission? To guide David and Billy through Scouting tests and badges, infusing their hospital stay with excitement and achievement. While Billy tragically passed away, his Scouting experience had left an indelible mark on the hospital community. Alf, fuelled by the belief in the transformative power of Scouting, rallied the authorities at Great Ormond Street and Scout Headquarters, igniting the birth of a permanent Scout group. And so, with Alf as the Group Scout Leader, the 17th Holborn Scout Group sprang to life.
Tuesday evenings in the hospital playcentre buzzed with energy as Leaders ventured into the wards, extending a special invitation to boys aged eight and above. It didn’t matter if they were seasoned Scouts or newcomers; all were welcomed into this vibrant Troop. These gatherings became epicentres of adventure, where long-stay patients found solace, camaraderie, and a chance to unleash their inner Scouts. With a perfect blend of structured badge work and spirited games, the meetings sparked a fire in the hearts of young Scouts, leading to countless investitures during their hospital stays.
In 1965, the baton of leadership passed from Alf Porter to the dedicated Hugh Bedford, who fearlessly carried the Scout Group’s torch for over 15 years. Hugh’s unwavering commitment ensured that the group continued to thrive, leaving an indelible mark on the hospital’s history.
The year 1966 marked a new chapter as the group recognised the need to cater to the girls in the hospital. Guide/Brownie meetings were born, aiming to provide young girls with the same sense of adventure and belonging. While these meetings faced challenges and eventually faded away, a beacon of hope emerged in the mid-1980s. Three siblings, including a Cub Scout, a Scout, and a Guide, found themselves admitted to the hospital simultaneously, battling a rare genetic disorder. Their Ward Sister understood the healing power of Scouting and Guiding, urging them to join the group’s activities. And so, the group paved the way for inclusion, seeking special permission from Scout Headquarters to welcome girls into the fold. A groundbreaking decision that set a new standard, allowing both boys and girls to embark on thrilling adventures together.
On that momentous day, 23rd September 1987, the 17th Holborn Scout and Guide Group was born. Guiders were recruited, and the Guide Company proudly bore the same name as its Scout counterpart. The group united under a shared purpose, solidifying their commitment to bring the joy and resilience of Scouting and Guiding to young patients within the hospital’s walls.
Fast forward to 1994, a moment of recognition and celebration. The Scout and Guide Group stepped into the spotlight, featured in an episode of Sunday Morning with Secombe. The remarkable leaders, Debbie and Andrew Rush, stole the show, showcasing their dedication and selfless service that spanned over three decades. Their unwavering passion left an indelible imprint on the group’s history, forever woven into its vibrant tapestry.
Today, the spirit of adventure and camaraderie thrives within the 17th Holborn Scout and Guide Group. As young patients embark on their unique Scouting and Guiding journeys, they discover a world of possibilities within the hospital’s embrace. With each passing year, the group honours its founders and the remarkable leaders who shaped its path, forging ahead to create a sanctuary of resilience, joy, and inspiration. Within these hallowed halls, young individuals find strength, lasting friendships, and transformative experiences that defy the boundaries of their circumstances. The legacy of the 17th Holborn Scout and Guide Group lives on, igniting hearts and nurturing spirits in the face of adversity.