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Vicar and Scoutmaster at Variance

Morecambe Guardian 20 August 1949:-


Scouts break from church – camp dispute

The Bishop of Blackburn, Dr. W. M. Asquith, has been asked to examine the circumstances of a dispute which has led to the breakaway from St. Laurence church of the 1st Morecambe Boy Scouts and the resignation, at the request of the Vicar, the Rev. S. M. Davies, of Mr. K. Harmsworth Group Scoutmaster, from the positions of chorister and server, which he has occupied for 15 years at the church. The Bishop has said that unless there exist circumstances of which he is not aware, he cannot find fault with the action of the Vicar in asking for the resignation.

Without consulting the Vicar, who was on holiday, Mr. Harmsworth, with the approval of the Parents Committee of St. Laurence’s Scouts, invited Torrisholme Church of Ascension Scouts to join St. Laurence’s Scouts during the annual camp in August because the Torrisholme Scouts had no equipment of their own.

The Vicar, who said he had secured use of a farm site at Arrad Foot as a special favour through a friend of his, objected, and at a meeting of the Parents Committee on July 11th Mr. Harmsworth resigned and left the meeting, later informing the Vicar, that he would stay on until the end of the camp and then act as he thought necessary.

Mr. Harmsworth wrote to the Vicar that he could see nothing wrong in the offer to Torrisholme Scouts since they were of the same denomination as St. Laurence’s and their Group Scoutmaster was a fellow priest of the vicar. He was doing a scout’s good turn.

The Vicar replied that he had placed the matter before the County Commissioner for Scouts and pointed out that it was customary for a neighbouring clergyman to speak to the parish priest before borrowing anything or even visiting the parish. Though perhaps not appreciated by laymen this was a golden rule and one he had always observed, in common with most of the other priests with whom he had come into contact.

Wrote Bishop

In his letter to the Bishop Mr. Harmsworth wrote: “The Vicar has today asked for me to resign all offices held in the church, including the choir, as he does not want me as a server and does not wish to see me in the church again. I was asked to convey this information to my wife who has been connected with the church longer than I have, as the same is applicable to her.”

The Bishop replied that before he could comment he must obtain  the Vicar’s account of what had occurred, Later writing: “I have had a report from the Vicar of St. Laurence’s. It gives, of course, a very different picture of the situation. As I shall be away now until the end of the month there is nothing I can do until I am able to see you and I will write again later on. 

“Meanwhile, I can only say that it appears to me that I cannot find fault with the action Mr. Davies has taken unless there are other circumstances of which I am not yet aware.

I will however look into the whole matter further after my return.”

Asked for a statement by the “Morecambe Guardian”, Mr. Davies said that he preferred not to say anything.

Mr. S. J. W. Catterall, Assistant District Scout Commissioner, refused to comment on the dispute except to say that he deplored the publicity and that anything of this nature was bad from the point of view of scout authorities.