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John Dick – Gone Home

A - Old P.L. March 2007.jpgIt is with great sadness that we record that, at the age of 81 and after a six month illness, John Dick passed away on the evening of Monday 27th July 2009. John was born on 19th January 1928. Our prayers are with Margaret in her time of sorrow.

John had over 60 years service in Scouting, firstly in the former 45th and 22nd Renfrewshire Scout Troops, and then as an Assistant Commissioner and as a well respected District Commissioner during the 1970’s.

His Funeral Service was held at Greenock Crematorium on Friday 31st July where Adult Leaders and former Scouting friends formed a Guard of Honour. The service was taken by the Rev. Bill Armstong with Scripture Reading given by Kenny Paton. District Commissioner David McCallum paid tribute to John’s involvement in Scouting as follows:-

Rev Armstrong, friends, fellow Scouts. We come here today to say farewell to the Grand Old Man of Greenock & District Scouts, John Dick. We are also here to celebrate his remarkable life

John went home on Monday 27th July 2009, at the age of 81 years

I felt deeply honoured when Margaret asked me on Tuesday to speak here today and share with you all a small snapshot of John’s amazing Scouting life.

John had a great love for the game of Scouting and was the longest serving member of our movement locally, and was a member of the exclusive former District Commissioners Club. He was also one of our Hon Vice President, a Fellowship member, and until recently a member of the District Executive, which he had served on for over 50 years. He would often come home from these meetings in recent years, sometimes frustrated, and say to Margaret ‘things have changed, Margaret, probably for the better mind you, balanced programme, top awards,  Regionalisation and girls, what next’

Although times had changed, John stuck with us and added valuable contribution to all discussions straight up to the age of 80 yrs

John was a great supported of Gang Show, and in fact appeared in the very first production at Lady Alice School in 1942, with his old friend the late Arthur Ferguson. He was involved in one way or another with every Gang Show since, holding a variety of roles including Front of House Manager, a role which suited John, meeting and greeting guests with enthusiasm in his own unique style and in immaculate uniform

John’s name first appears in records of the 45th on 18th October 1945, where there is an entry showing John’s appointment as official record keeper, and at that time he had the job of re-organising the troop, who had 19 boys. Records over the next few months show an increase to almost 30 Scouts.

On Sunday 10November 1946 at the Court of Honour meeting at the Robertson Street hut,, John was noted as the scribe, and his unique style of calligraphy can be easily identified. Others present at that meeting included his great friend and mentor JJ Swan, Douglas Parrish, George Arlow, Colin Orr, Davie Chalmers and Charlie Lambert. He went onto taking out an appointment or a warrant as it was known then in 1947.

On 5th October 1949, it is noted by John in minutes ‘back to no 51, the Swannery for tea, a yarn and planning for a Shannon Cup win’. Sounds all very sinister, but great fun. John was not planning some post war spying on the Russians, but he was planning a great victory for his Scouts at the local camping competition at Everton. Some things never change.

One of the finest accolades anyone in Scouting can ever get is a thanks from the young people in our charge. One Scout wrote about John in the troop journal on 19 December 1950 ‘Tonight was JD’s night, he ran a smashing programme he is simply the best’

I am not at all surprised at these comments. That is the John we all remember, a great leader, who led from the front, always smart in uniform, and who always played by POR, the Scouting rule book. He was firm but at the same time fair. He took no nonsense.

On 7th March 1954, names of others like Alec Buchanan and Jim Bell appear in minutes, along with a note’ troop to tighten up discipline and uniform to be much smarter’

In the Executive minutes of 1954 reference is made to the promotion of John to DSM, and his appointment to the County executive and to the then Grand Council at SHQ. John worked closely in the years that followed, still under the DC ship of JJ, with David Gray, Colin Finnie, Agnes Connie, Isobel McBride, Gavin and Archie Hart to name but a few.

In the late 1950’s the Rev Runciman at Wellpark West approached J J and asked if a group could be started within the church. JJ asked John if he would leave his beloved 45th for a time and start this new Troop. John agreed and was dispatched for 6 month to the 22nd , and 21 years later, was still there. He struck up great friendships there with messrs Strachan and Ewing to name but one or two.

After the death of JJ, in the early 70’s John was appointed DC and held this post for 5 years. He then went on to be ADC Leader Training and Camping for many years.

Everton was a great love of John’s. He would often go straight there in the early days from work in the yards, stay overnight, get a breakfast of ham and eggs and get a bus to work again the following morning. Everton is where John’s ashes will be laid in the early Autumn

John was asked to be County Commissioner in the early 1970’s but declined as he took the view there was much work to be done here in his home town.

John received all of the Scout Association’s commendations and awards, topped 16 years ago with the award of the Silver Wolf for Exceptional Service over many years. The Silver Wolf is the unrestricted gift of the Chief Scout, and is extremely rare.

In the late 1970’s I was interviewed by John as was the procedure then and later he presented me with my Chief Scouts Award within the old hut at 21 Mearns Street, and boy.. did we have to work for it, and what a grilling we got from John. The presentation by John is a lasting memory I have of him. He made myself and the other boys feel so proud of what we had achieved.

This event was made more special when I later found out that John was brought up in the same close as my father in Wellington Street, and my dad went to the 45th and Margaret was his Akela and was part of the Guard of Honour at John & Margaret’s wedding in 1953

In 1986 the position of Camp Skipper became vacant, John as ADC Camping decided trhat I was to get that job. I was not really sure I wanted to do it, however John called me at work, asked me to join him for lunch at the old La Taverna in West Blackhall Street, had lunch, and we went back to work. I was genuinely unsure if I really wanted to do his job, however John talked me into it, such was his power of persuasion. Incidentally, apart from talking on this job, I picked him up from the yard at Kingston, dropped him off again, paid for the lunch and he pinched my telegraph from the car when I dropped him off at the yard. That was how appointments were made then, The John Dick way, no messing, no nonsense just get the job done.

I recall my Wood Badge training at the then Peesweep, I could hear someone whistling at 6,30am.I knew who it was immediately and I awoke to see John in his string vest, he tapped me on the shoulder to tell me to alert the Greenock lads that the showers were hot and to get in before ‘that other Paisley lot’

John’s love of Leader Training is well known in Scottish Scouting. He was Leader Trainer here in Greenock for many years and a member of the old County Training team. He held the coveted 3rd Wood Bead, having qualified as a Leader Trainer. Gaining this 3rd Bead was a hard achievement, which involved many days of study, theory, and practical assessment. John knew the benefit in proper training and was one of the pioneers who re-wrote the training programme for Scotland in the late 1960’s as part of the National training pilot team

Margaret, we here today are John’s family and yours, and we will always have fold memories and the greatest of respect for the grand old man

John, on behalf of all Scouts, I salute you

Below is a photograph of Margaret and John taken in 1959. Click on to it to view a selection of John’s Scouting memories compiled, at the time of his 80th birthday, in January 2008.

E -  1959 - The Dick Couple.jpg


Comment from Jack Hunter
Time September 26, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Hi there, my second try. I knew John well having worked for him as office boy in the Buying Dept at Greenock Dockyard in the early 50’s and I was also in the 45th until the late 50’s when we moved to Alexandria. I then continued in Scouting in the 1st Dumbarton where I eventually became Assistant Scoutmaster. I spent many happy weekends at Everton and well remember Jim Swan, Davie Chalmers, Bertie Morrison, Neil Campbell and many others. They were happy times indeed! The Sunday evening church visits also come back to mind. To Margaret I say that I was sorry to hear of John’s passing and wish you all the very best. I fondly remember you and Agnes Connie! I live in Toronto now but return to Scotland 4 or 5 times a year where I have a flat in Balloch. I will be there from Oct 24th 2009 until early in the new year and would love to hear from any of the old gang. I can be reached at 01389 754 826 or by email. All the very best to you all.

Jack Hunter

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