Life, Living, Becoming...
Gerry Coughlan

 The Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland

I must have been 8 years old when it was decided that I needed to do something in the evenings, other than serve in the shop.

Just up the road, there was a huge Dominican monastery where in a room in the basement, the local cub scout troop used to meet. One Friday evening I was taken over to join. I remember playing many wild games of touch rugby, doing drill, learning how to march, learning how to stand still, learning how to use bikes for boys, and wrapping bottles in layers of paper so that when you threw them around they wouldn't break.

This was no normal troop who would help old ladies across the road and sit around practising knots. Maybe because of the area: rough, city centre kids who were kicked out of the house once a week; more than half had no uniform; the rest had pieces of it - passed down from brothers and neighbours.

This was the skinhead era and I remember one night catching the bus home after the meeting with some friends. Across the aisle from us were 2 or 3 older guys (about 11 years old) who had joined up that night. They'd been given a few billy-cans to bring with them for a hike at the weekend. We were mortified when they flung the lids, frisbee-style out of the bus windows. Needless to say, they never had any intention of returning to any of the meetings.

There was one other night when, on waiting for a bus after a scout meeting myself and a smaller guy had an encounter with a butcher's knife ...

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