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Morecambe’s Sea Scouts

Traditionally, for numbering purposes, newly formed Scout Groups in towns and cities took the next available digit. This was applied in the Lancaster Association, even incorporating a number of Salford Groups whose members were evacuated to the city during the Second World War. However, in Morecambe (and Heysham) prior to 1930 when the Association there was constituted there was a degree of fluidity where numbers moved around the area as Groups opened and closed. The location of Sea Scout sections similarly moved about.

Sea Scouts were first formed nationally in 1909. The first reference that the writer has found to Sea Scouts in Morecambe and Heysham appears in a Leeds Mercury newspaper article dated 10 September 1929. The Association census, reported in the Morecambe Guardian 16 November 1929, shows a Group of Sea Scouts at 2nd Morecambe with 2 ‘Officers’ and 22 Scouts.

This Group would have been based at West End Methodist Church; an article from the Lancashire Evening Post of 24 January 1942 states “Sea Scout Killed – Morecambe’s first Sea Scout, Ordinary Gunner Dennis Judge (27), son of Mrs. and the late Mr. Michael Judge, of 64, Granville Road, Morecambe, has been killed in action. He joined the Navy last March.  When in Morecambe he was prominently connected with the St. John Ambulance Brigade.  Surviving him at his home at Barrow are his wife and two children.

(Irish Wrecks On-Line – M.V. Karanan: Built in 1939 by De Haan & Oerlemans Scheeps-Bwf, Heusden, Netherlands she grossed 395 Tons and measured 53.82 x 8.43 x 2.33 metres.  Powered by an 8 cylinder oil engine generating 94 h.p.  Bound Liverpool for Belfast with general cargo of foodstuffs, batteries, copper piping and anti-aircraft gun parts.  Collided with steam tanker ‘British Engineer’.   Suffered extensive damage to starboard side and sank very quickly.  Two crew were lost.  The propeller, ships bell and steering gear have been recovered.)  

When the Morecambe, Heysham and District Association was formed on 7 October 1930 the newspaper report lists the groups then existing in the district, which include:-  Morecambe sea scouts (20 Scouts), S.M. Mr. S. Gaunt, A.S.M. Mr. Harold Robinson and Mr. J. Taverner. This Group was still going in 1939 as a photo in the Morecambe Guardian lists “Mr. Shirley (Scoutmaster, 2nd Morecambe)”. (John Herbert Shirley born 4 May 1907 Keighley – living at 9 Smithy Lane, Heysham in 1939).

By 1933 a Sea Scout Group had also been formed at 5th Morecambe as that Group is listed as attending the St. George’s Day service. A report from June 1934 on the wedding of Mr. Norman Todd and Miss Edith Mather at Southport states that the bridegroom is Scoutmaster of the 5th Morecambe Sea Scouts. 

The “Story of Scouting” Museum at Waddecar has had donated by his nephew a sea scout jumper & other Jamboree memorabilia that belonged to Robert Brookes (1921- 2003) of the 5th Morecambe Sea Scout Troop who was one of the Morecambe contingent at the 1937 jamboree party.

Looking at newspaper reports in 1948 it appears that by then the Troop had ceased to be a Sea Scout unit.

District records show that a Group, no. 11810, was registered on Aug 19 1931 as 4th Morecambe & Heysham (Bare) having been formerly 4th Morecambe & Heysham (East), with S. Makin as Group Scout Master in charge. It is not clear whether this was originally a Sea Scout Troop, although in 1946 when new quarters in the crypt of Bare Methodist Church were opened the Group was then described as Sea Scouts. A newspaper feature  from 1949 sheds a lot more light on the situation suggesting that the Troop had always been a Sea Scout unit but it also mentions a “land section”.  The Group was re-registered Aug 14th 1973 as 4th Morecambe & Heysham Sea Scout, formerly 4th Morecambe & Heysham (Bare) with Fred Driver as Group Scout Master in charge. 

By 1938 a further Sea Scout Troop was in existence at 8th Morecambe as they are listed as taking part in National Scout Week that year. This Group is featured prominently in a Morecambe Guardian article dated  21 May 1949. By 1951 the Group was suffering a perennial problem – “The 8th Morecambe Sea Scouts are in a dilemma. They have a fine club room, boats, and a good group of boys, but lack the main essential, a Scouter to take charge.”

Forty Years of Scouting were celebrated in 1948 and the Morecambe Visitor reporting on events says “The 4th and 8th Sea Scouts illustrated the founding of their branch of Scouting in 1909. Their display included signalling, and an impressive breeches-buoy rescue. A Morse message flashed by lamp to the spectators was : ” The Boy Scouts’ Association wishes you all, the best.”

When the 50th anniversary of Scouting was celebrated in 1957 there was then only one Sea Scout Troop listed amongst the participants the 4th Morecambe & Heysham Sea Scouts, suggesting that the 2nd and 8th Troops had closed by that date. 

Sea Scouting in Morecambe ceased in the 1990’s when the 4th Morecambe Group closed. It seems inconceivable that a seaside town nestling on the shores of Morecambe Bay no longer boasts any Sea Scouts but there you are . . .