17th Harrow

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Established in 1925

The 17th Harrow Scout Group originally met in Wealdstone.

To celebrate our fiftieth anniversary in 1975 we had a commemorative book (high res file is available, but please note it is 77MB) published which detailed much of the group’s history until then.  A further update, bringing the story up to 2005 was produced for our eightieth anniversary, as an article for Endeavour, the Parish magazine.

I have also uploaded some photos courtesy of Lawrence Philpott of some earlier days in the Group. Some of these are colour versions of the photos incorporated into the 50th anniversary book. You may recognise some of the faces.

But did you even wonder how we came to be this ripe old age? 

If you read the potted history below, you will see that it is due to the dedication of those volunteers who have given up their time, not just as leaders and helpers, but in all sorts of “backstage” roles, and the parental support we recently gained when group was on the verge of collapse.


During the Autumn of 1924, the idea was put forward to start a Catholic Scout Group for the Harrow and Wealdstone parishes. Levels of interest were determined and Bernard Brickell (Skip), at that time an Assistant Scoutmaster with the 4th Harrow Group was approached with a view to setting up and leading the new Scout Troop.


Their first meeting was held in May 1925 in the Parish School Annex at Wealdstone by kind permission of the Rector – Father Osmund of the Salvatorian Fathers (who were also our sponsoring authority at that time). Over the years our numbers grew under a variety of leaders, notably Leslie Dorling, “Kim” Laker and Dom Sessions; Bernard Brickell also continuing as Scoutmaster with the 4th Harrow.


Early in 1928, the meeting place at Wealdstone was needed for other things and the Group, with the king permission of Father John Hitchcock, moved its HQ to Harrow (in the “Old School” built as a temporary school in circa 1920 prior to the building of the present St Anselm’s in 1932). 


A Cub Pack was formed, and a number of camps were held at such places as Appleton (near Oxford), Youlbury, Malden in Essex and Arundel whilst in 1934 some members went to Paris as guests of the French Scouts. By 1938 a senior section had been formed and in April 1939 the Group performed its’ first Gang Show in conjunction with the 6th Roxeth Guides, which by all accounts was a great success. Within a year however, the Troop had closed for lack of leaders and also lack of boys (who had been evacuated). Fortunately, the Cub Pack continued ensuring a well of new recruits to re-start the Troop.


In 1942 Bernard Brickell reappeared on the scene and decided to single handedly restart the Troop. This was in addition to his full time job, being a member of the air raid patrol, a fire watcher, cultivating his garden, his allotment and two servicemen’s gardens and allotments! 


The Troop grew rapidly and soon had a membership of 47 Scouts (including a certain Lawrence Philpott), which Skip ran unaided, whilst also helping with the Cubs. During the 40’s and 50’s, numbers and experience grew and the 17th started to become more adventurous, with members attending jamborees in France in 1947 and Luxembourg in 1948. It was during this period that the likes of Lawrence Phipott, Kevin Hourigan, John Hagger and Don Williamson provided more and more assistance in running the group in various capacities.

The Senior Scouts (later Rover and then Venture Scouts) reformed and started a tradition within the Group of regular hill walking, caving and canoeing trips which continued for many years.


In 1960 “Cliff” Clifford arrived and by 1965 had taken over from Skip as Group Scout Master. The Group continued to prosper with camps in Harlech, Lichtenstein, the Lake District and Austria.


By 1973 Lawrence Philpott was Group Scout Leader, The Group continued to grow and celebrated its 50 the Anniversary in style with a celebratory camp at Well End attended by over 300 members, past members and parents; and a two week camp in Luxembourg. Terry (now Father Terry) Phipps was now Scout leader in 1975. 


The Troop reached its peak in numbers in 1978 with around 64 Scouts attending summer camp. With the old HQ being held together quite literally by duck tape and bursting at the seams it became imperative to look for a replacement building. The current HQ erected on the site of the “Old School”, designed by Peter Wilson and erected by Danny Broderick in 1979 is the result (opened in February 1980 by the Mayor of Harrow).


The 1980’s continued to be good years for the Group, the Venture Scout Section grew significantly under the guidance of “Charlie” King and later Keith Stone numbering over 30 at one stage. In 1982 members of the Unit spent two weeks in Iceland. 

A second, all girl, Venture Scout Unit (we believe the only one in the country) was also formed from a Ranger Guide Unit run by Polly Lee and Janet King and ran very successfully for a number of years. Both units ran independently but also carried out a number of joint activities including a very memorable couple of weeks on a pair of boats in the Norfolk Broads. Members of the Unit regularly went sailing with the London Sailing Project, with some being selected for the Tall Ships Races.

Beaver Scouts started in the early 1980’s under Jesse Horn, assisted by Maureen Philpott who had relinquished the Cub Pack, which she had run for fifteen years. Further assistance was provided by Teresa Davis, Polly Lee and Catherine Keal


In the mid 1990’s Geraldine Canavan took over followed by Alison Smith.

Marian Coman took over the Cub Pack from Maureen Philpott. When Marion left, Tony Tancred took over as Cub Leader, assisted by Jackie Hale, Michael Brownsell and Eamonn Desmond (who took over running the Pack after Tony left). 

By the start of the 1990’s, the Scout Troop was being run by Julian Harris, assisted by amongst others Pete Lee, Kevin Hourigan and Mick St Romaine. Tony Burke had taken on the role of Group Scout Leader from Lawrence in 1991. 


Girls were introduced into the Scout Troop in about 1994. 

Janet Smith came into help the Troop at that time with her husband Damian taking on the role of assistant Group Scout Leader. In 1996, following the departure of Julian Harris to Sussex (after 19 years as Scout Leader in the Group), Tony Burke became Scout Leader, handing over the GSL role to Eamonn Desmond.

We enjoyed a very successful 60th Anniversary camp at Well End in 1985 and our 70th Anniversary was celebrated at Phasels Wood. During our camp at Wiveliscombe in Devon in 1994 we had a visit from Mrs Betty Clay who was the Lord Baden Powell’s youngest surviving daughter.


By 2002 the situation was as follows: we had the husband and wife team of Alison and Matthew Smith running Beavers and Cubs respectively, with Ed Sherry assisting Matthew with Cubs. Tony Burke resigned as Scout Leader in September of that year. The plan was that Matthew was to move from Cubs to become the new Scout Leader, Ed would then take over the running of Cubs and Lawrence could breathe a sigh of relief. Unfortunately life doesn’t necessarily follow to plan. Alison was taken ill with leukaemia in the Autumn of that year and sadly died in July 2003.


The Group was close to collapse. There was no main camp in 2003.

A crisis meeting was held, much supported by Fr. Peter Harris, which generated a lot of support from parents and other members of the Parish and we have managed over the two to three years to go from strength to strength.


By 2004, we had a full Beaver Colony, very ably run by Veronica Madden and her team, Mike Brennan, assisted by Mike Murray and Kieran Canney amongst others run the Cub Pack and the Scout Troop is now full and headed up by Ed Sherry, with Vince Kingsley, Pete Lee, Liam and Ben Desmond among the Scout Leaders.


In 2008 there again was another recruitment drive. Veronica Madden, Beaver Scout Leader, gained the assistance of Sue Carter and Carol Baird, followed on in 2009 by Vera. The recruitment drive gave Mike Murray the opportunity to become the Training adviser for the Group and Kevin Foley stepped into the helm as Cub Scout Leader, abily assisted by Owen Mc Fadden, Dominic Rowe and Jenny Lynch. Changes also took place in our Scout troop and Ben Desmond became the Scout Leader. 


Since 2012, CSL Kevin left, and Owen Mc Fadden took on the role. 

In 2012, more changes took place... in the Cubs section, due to her work commitments, Jenny moved on to pastures new, they gained a new Assistant Cub Scout Leader, Neal Lankaster.

We have had two very successful summer camps at Phasels Wood and at Tolmers, along with Family Camps in 2003 and 2004 and many other activities and Group events. Our 80th Anniversary camp was held at Lees Wood in 2005, and with well over a hundred staying overnight. We try to make our Family Camps and annual event.

And our journey continues...

If you’ve read this far you can see that the Group has been dependant on the time and efforts of so many people down the years many of which can’t be mentioned in such a short history, although some names do keep cropping up; 

  • Bernard Brickell who passed away on 3rd June 1998 aged 94 and 
  • Lawrence Philpott, who passed away on the 1st of May 2012
  • Alison Smith, who passed away in July 2003

Without these people this Scout Group would have not survived like so many others groups over the years. It is really quite an achievement to have kept a completely voluntary youth organisation running so successfully for a period of over eighty-five years and everybody who has helped in however way (whether big or small) should give themselves a good clap on the back! A VERY BIG THANK YOU TO YOU ALL.

Looking to the future, we are always looking for more adult support 

You do not need any prior experience and we can give you excellent training if you require it. Your support does not necessarily have to extend to directly helping with the boys and girls in the Group. It may involve helping to provide transport to or from camps, you maybe able to help in the Group’s administration, or running social events, or assist our quartermaster with the Group’s equipment, or help with the building maintenance or as caretaker, booking secretary or maintaining the Group website. Most of these roles are currently carried out by uniformed leaders.

Article originally supplied by Steve Alder, in 2002

Edited in 2005 & 2013.


The leadership team:


Tony Visone


Carol Baird


Scout Leader:

Ben Desmond

Assistant Scout Leaders:



Troop Assistants:



Cub Scout Leader:

Owen Mc Fadden

Assistant Cub Leader:


Section Assistants:





Beaver Scout Leader:

Veronica Madden

Assistant Beaver Scout Leader:



Chair Person:

Fr Guy Sawyer


Eamonn Desmond

Group Secretary:

Angela McCormack
Kirsty Lewis


Kevin Hourigan