8th Donegal Scouts Carndonagh
Ailish Tully's enthusiasm for scouting is obvious as soon as she starts chatting, especially about 8th Donegal Scouts Carndonagh, and its big plans for the future.
The group was formed in the market town in 1976 by Ailish's father, Michael McCarron, and supported by a joint parents and friends committee for Scouts and Guides, which were two different organisations back in the day.
Ailish recalled the first investiture, which took place on St Patrick's Day 1977, and looked forward to the group developing its newly-purchased base, the former GAA / youth club premises and a piece of adjoining land behind the iconic Colgan Hall.
“This is a really exciting development. We have been working on this for a couple of years. Lockdown halted it, temporarily. We were just about to purchase when lockdown happened.
“Our scout centre has always been in the grounds of the Colgan Hall. There is a big building there with a sports-hall, an office, meeting rooms, stores, outdoor equipment stores, toilet and shower facilities and a chill-out room.
“We have great plans too for the land outside, with planting, pioneering / orienteering, camping, bees, bat boxes, bird feeders, a wild-flower meadow; and river access. This is now our permanent home.
“It is going to be good because it means we are not up and down with stuff and or having to meet in other venues. The space will also be available to the community to use. It will be a community facility, which will hopefully bring more people to Carndonagh, other scout groups and other youth groups.
“ We have big plans. We are hopeful phase 1 will be completed by September, to allow use of building.
“We purchased the building with the proceeds from 35 years of the Carndonagh Newsletter publication, which also subsidised national registration fees for every child annually.
“Our dedicated Den sub-committee has also applied for LEADER and Sports Capital funding and we are just waiting on responses from both of those. We are banking on them,” said Ailish.
If successful, Ailish said, 8th Donegal Scouts Carndonagh would be looking to the community to support them raising match funding.
She added: “We are using the tag: 'Giving Back to the Future'. The scouts have given a lot to Carndonagh in the past. Most families in Carndonagh, that have children, have at least one scout, so we are hopeful people will give back to the future generations because this is the biggest project we have ever undertaken.”
According to Ailish, most people get involved in Scouting for their children and end up staying for themselves.
There are currently 75 young people and 20 adults involved in scouting in Carndonagh.
“It varies greatly,” said Ailish. “It could be up to 150, depending on number of leaders (scooters) available. There were 85 in the scout section alone (11 to 15 years of age) at one point in past.”
Smiling she said: “Parents want their children to have the opportunity to join Scouts but they stay long after their children have gone through because they love the fun and activities themselves, as well as the training, leadership opportunities, new friendships and community service.
“Scouting has given me and everyone involved some of our best memories, from trips abroad to England, France and the Isle of Man to Jamborees and national and regional camps, not to mention the National Scout Show and our performances with the Scout Samba Band. We also visit places all over Ireland, staying in hostels, campsites, scout dens
“Everyone involved in 8th Donegal Scouts Carndonagh loves the local camps, as well as being out and about. Then there are the annual events like the outdoor cooking competitions, the whole group quiz, climbing Sliabh Sneacht on Easter Monday and emergency nights. Looking back, even some of the 'disasters' are memorable.
“Down the years, we have been involved in many civic events including, St Patrick's Day parades, Easter parades and Hallowe'en shows with the Inishowen Carnival Group.
“We have been to carnivals and festivals with the Scout Samba Band and have got involved with our local Tidy Towns and Community Hospital. For our 40th anniversary in 2016, we held a major event in the town, which involved at least 1,000 participants.”
Ailish, who is the principal of St Patrick's Girls' School in Carndonagh revealed local celebrities, actor Keith McErlean, of Bachelors Walk fame and Pearse Doherty of Sawdoctors fame, were members of 8th Donegal Scouts Carndonagh in their younger days.
As she said herself: “Who else is famous from Carn because chances were they were in the scouts!”
“If I was encouraging a young person to join the scouts, I would tell them about the fun we have, the wide variety of activities and experiences they would enjoy, and the opportunities to develop friendships with all kinds of people. Scouting also offers young people leadership and self-esteem development opportunities.
“As regards the adults, I would also tell them about the sheer fun involved; the chances to develop a wide variety of skills; job satisfaction; and the opportunity to give something back to their local community.”
Like every other club and organisation, 8th Donegal Scouts Carndonagh shut down immediately in March 2020 as a result of the pandemic. However, it resumed outdoor activities in September.
Although the group did meet online during that time, Ailish said they kept hoping for outdoor activities to resume.
And looking to the future, 8th Donegal Scouts Carndonagh is well back.
Outlining the activities planned for this year, Ailish said: “We have Bike Week with Donegal Sports Partnership; the Drover’s Trail family hike; orienteering; birds of prey with Martin Maloney; rock-climbing with Far & Wild; archery; backwoods cooking; Wild Arctic; horse-riding; biwying, lantern making; and sand art.
“We are also looking forward to Scout Quest, the town family treasure hunt to find answers to questions about Scouting and, in term two, we will have: Investiture; and Emergency Services event; Manu Sand Art; and scout craft.
“The outlook for 8th Donegal Scouts is good. We have 15 new, enthusiastic leaders, including some former scouts and a very supportive and involved parent body.”
Anyone who is interested in joining 8th Donegal Scouts Carndonagh or volunteering as a leader, can contact Ailish Tully at: 086 7958891 or email: email@example.com.
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