This webpage contains information on the history of 5th Port Dollymount Sea Scouts. You may return to the main page by clicking here.
The history of scouting on the Bull island goes right back to 1912, when a group of scouts known as 9th Dublin (2nd Port of Dublin) occupied the site where 5th Port are today. Records from this time are sparse, and as the first troop log states "The beginnings of our troop seem to be shrouded by a veil of mystery, which is not always easy to pierce." -Court of Honour 1953.-
We do know that in September of 1949 the 2nd Port split in two, one half staying on the island with SL Capt. Barton, and the other half nominating Mr Perrin as SL from ASL. This troop now called themselves 5th Port of Dollymount (12th Dublin).
It was in November 1949 when the 5th Port changed from black neckerchief to our familiar red. At this time they were meeting in Mr Perrin's basement. It was at this time that Eoghan Lavelle joined the troop, and he remains a great friend to the 5th Port and is still active in scouting.
By March of 1950 the old 2nd Port had ceased to be. Then the breakaway group moved back to the island and retained their new name. 5th Port has been there ever since.
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In 1950 the troop gained both their first boat, the Mayqueen, and a new Skipper, Eddy Devoy. It was under his leadership that the nissen hut was built in 1952 on the site of the old hut, which was in a state of disrepair.
In 1953 another new skipper called W. McHugh took the reins of the 5th Port. A good record of the troop during this time is maintained in the Troop Log Vol. II. The troop was healthy and active. For some reason the record ends with Log Vol. II in 1956.
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It is not until 1962 with the arrival of Dick Vekins as Skipper that the sometimes unsteady troop found a hard as iron foundation. "The Skipper" completely reorganised the troop and forged it into one of the most successful sea scout troops in the country. A metal worker by trade his stamp is to be found on every aspect of the 5th Port. The achievements of the troop are too many to detail from this point onward but the salient points are outlined below. If you wish to learn more about Skipper Dick Vekins, link to a page devoted to his memory by clicking here.
24th February 1963 - The parents committee was formed when a group of parents met at a troop investiture. The first president being William Byrne.
February 1963 - The first reference is made in the log to Skipper Morton of 1st Dublin Scouts, also prominent member of the St. Johns Ambulance. Skipper Sammy Morton became one of 5th Ports greatest supporters over many years, and became an honorary member in 1992, shortly before he passed away in 1993.
9th February - 14 July 1963 - The troop builds and launches 6 P.B.K. 15-foot canvas canoes.
In 1963/64 the troop built seven measles, four of which were sold in order to finance the project and three of which were kept by the troop. Only one measle survives, The Virgo, which is still sailed by the younger members of the troop. Each measle cost exactly £23.00 to build.
Both of these projects received a lot of attention from local newspapers; at this time in Dublin the children of ordinary working families had a very limited choice of recreational activities, which in some way explains the publicity that the launching ceremonies received.
October 1963 - Work began on constructing the new hut. The old nissen hut had fallen into disrepair. The previous June the troop travelled to Belfast to disassemble and bring back an old pre-fab. hut which had been promised to the troop. It is around this core that today's Crows Nest is built.
March 1964 - The Rover (Venture) unit begin surveying Malahide Estuary, to update the most recent survey of 1909. Assisted by their leader Eoghan Lavelle and a Mr. D. Watson, the Rovers performed a very professional survey of the estuary, particularly at the entrance. On the 22nd of December the British Admiralty announced that they intended to revise their charts of the area due to the accuracy of the survey and the new information uncovered.
May 1965 - Work began on the new "Canoe Drome".
July 1966 - Karl Conlon is appointed as 2nd Mate. Karl had spent many years as an instructor and helper out in the troop before his appointment as 2nd Mate. His untimely death in September of 1967 due to an illness was felt deeply by the 5th Port, and was a great loss to Irish scouting as a whole.
1968 - Work begins on yet another extension to the den.
March 1969 - The following entry appears in the 5th Port log vol. V in Skipper Vekins hand...
September 1969 - A shipping company called Palgrave Murphy held an outdoor activity competition for sea scout troops. The 5th Port entry was an activity that is still spoken of with awe and respect.
Six scouts (aged 14-15) built a raft and sailed her to Bellingham harbour near Sutton Yacht Club, with two scouts swimming alongside at any one time (taking 20-min. shifts). They camped the night at Bellingham and in the morning surveyed the harbour and afterwards built a scale model from their measurements. On their return journey to the Crows Nest a gale force 7 blew up (in an unfavourable direction) and the boys were forced to beach their craft on Dollymount Strand near the North Bull Wall.
Despite their not completing their objective, the trip was a brave and adventurous undertaking, it won the Palgrave Murphy competition and brought more media attention to the 5th Port which was already developing a reputation for excellence.
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June 1970 - The troop was building again. This time two Sea Sprite one man kayaks, half fibreglass half marine plywood.
During this month the troop was involved in the rescue of two canoeists who, being ill prepared for the weather conditions, came into difficulty in Dublin Bay. Two of the troops canoeists and one of the troops rowing teams, cox'd by the skipper, came to the aid of the two men, and no doubt saved their lives. The troop and particularly the individuals involved received a letter of commendation from the SAI. The rescue took the scouts into dangerous waters, and was a difficult rescue in a gale force wind, and all involved showed considerable bravery.
July 1972 - The Sea Scout Diamond Jubilee. The troop attended the celebrations at Ringsend and was inspected by Taoiseach Jack Lynch. The troop also put on a demonstration of canoeing for the Taoiseach and other honoured guests. Three skiffs were presented to various troops by Irish Shipping and Sisk Ltd. We received one of the Irish Shipping Skiffs and called her "Taurus II". She has been of tremendous value to the troop, going on countless camps and winning numerous races. She is still regularly rowed and SAILED by the troop, though she does now show some signs of wear and tear.
March 1973 - The first edition of the troops newsletter "Full & Bye" is released 'Hot Off The Presses'!
May 1973 - 5th Port is the first Sea Scout troop to win the coveted Smyth Cup, a camp based competition for under 13's.
June 1973 - The troop was again involved in a dramatic rescue in Dublin Bay. Skipper Vekins report on the incident can be read below.
REPORT ON RESCUE IN DUBLIN BAY
Date: Sunday June 3rd 1973
Time: (approx.) 15.00-17.00 hours
wind: N.W. Force 6 Gusting
Tide: Ebbing fast.
The Troop and Venture Unit had left our Headquarters on the Bull Island on the rising tide early on Sunday morning and proceeded across the Bay in skiffs, canoes and sailing craft to Bellingham Harbour on the Howth Peninsula.
In the afternoon during sailing instruction one of our boats noticed a Fireball class dingy in difiicu1ties and approached her. The crew of the sailing craft signalled us to bring out the skiff. This we did thinking it was just a matter of towing the Fireball to safety. However, on arriving at the craft the occupant told us his mate had been washed overboard just off the Poolbeg Light, while trying to steer the boat with a jury rig. By this time he had been in the water for about 45 minutes - no life-jacket, but he had on a wet suit. Immediately on receiving this information a quick estimate of the tidal drift was made and also allowances for the strong N.W. wind, which was now blowing in intermittent gusts, and the skiff was rowed as never before to the spot where we decided to start our zig-zag search. This we continued for about 40 minutes and on our third leg - with the help of our sailing craft - much to our delight we located the survivor. The sea was quite choppy at this time, and it was with great difficulty that we got him into the boat, as he was completely exhausted and suffering from exposure. He was treated in the skiff at once and we rowed back to Bellingham Harbour landed the survivor and continued with the treatment. He was very distressed and it took about one hour to restore him to normal.
Meanwhile one of our other boats had towed in the Fireball with its occupier, who understandably was suffering a little from shock, and looked after him well. When both had recovered sufficiently we put them aboard the skiff, took their Fireball in tow and returned them to the Sutton Yacht Club, where they are members. The name of the man rescued from the Bay was Mr. R. Scott.
The actual rescue took about 2 hours to carry out and during the time the boat crews behaved admirably - kept perfectly calm and carried their orders promptly and efficiently. The approximate recovery shown in sketch demonstrates the rate of flow and there is no doubt in my mind, that if we had not reached Mr. Scott when we did he surely must have been carried out further and, in his exhausted state, would have drowned.
The shore crew had the presence of mind to have a fire going and hot drinks ready for all on return.
The whole incident was a practical demonstration to our younger members of the benefits of proper training, calmness and, above all, the effects of immersion in cold water for a long time - and the necessity of always wearing a life-jacket.
Those taking part in the rescue were:
D. Vekins (Cox) S/L
P. Wigglesworth (Stroke) V/S
B. Flynn (2nd stroke) A.S/L
I. Hoey (2nd bow) V/S
A. Kelly (Bow) A.S/L
For their actions in the rescue, the skiff crew received Chief Scouts Commendations and the troop as a whole received the Gilt Cross from the S.A.I.
August 1973 - Annual Camp - Mr. Joseph Higgins makes his first dramatic appearance in the log. Affectionately known as "Mr. H." he provided years of service as an instructor and helper to the 5th Port before he passed away in August of 1997.
January 1975 - Faithful skiff The "Taurus I" is resigned to Valhalla after being irreparably damaged.
February 24th 1975 (Founders Day) - Skipper Vekins is presented with the "Silver Shamrock", one of scoutings' highest awards.
January 1977 - The 5th Port Beaver section comes into being, with Beaver Leader Miriam Cleary.
June 1979 - The first models of the new BP18 class boat, unique to the SAI are made, the second of which was built for the 5th Port. The boat was named Vega II and she is still sailed and rowed regularly by the troop.
July 1979 - The Skipper won the "Viking Trophy" in The I.C.U. (Jameson) Liffey Decent, beating young men ½ (¼?) his age! The trophy was for the fastest Sea Scout.
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June 1980 - Work begins on the new roof, one which would encompass the whole of the Crows Nest.
August 1982 - 5th Port take part in all aspects of the international camp in Lough Dan celebrating 70 years of Sea Scouting (A movement started in Ringsend in 1912 by Captain Fortune.), gaining much acclaim and winning an inter-troop competition. It was on the Lough Dan camp that Skipper Vekins received The Silver Elk from the S.A.I. in appreciation of his long support and dedication.
March 1983 - The troop built a slipway at the back of the den. This first slipway was added to over many years and slowly developed into our own "Harbour" (of sorts!).
September 1983 - Due to the exhaustive work of the Parents committee and aided by a Dublin Corporation grant, work begins on the toilet and shower facilities in the den, yet another new extension.
August 1985 - Portumna International Camp. Portumna was the first Irish scout camp involving all three Irish scouting organisations. 5th Port were well represented at the camp with Skipper Vekins organising all water based activities. The troop were also responsible for preparing the water activities area and building the extensive canoe ramp. Portumna '85 was an enjoyable and memorable camp for all involved and was one that saw new friendships being forged which last to this day.
April 1987 - Still one of the troops favourite boats, the "LITTLE FOZE" was bought from former Irish Rugby International Harry Harbison for the princely sum of £500 and re-named "Orion".
1988 - Dublin Celebrated its Millennium and its rich history, particularly its Viking history which saw 5th Port playing a part in the many festivities and events.
The Dyflin - As part of the Millennium festival work commenced on a replica of the "Gokstad Ship" a 23.3m long Viking ship excavated in Norway in 1882. She was built in the traditional manner and largely by volunteers, including, from an early stage, 5th Port members. There were also 5th Port members among her crew for her international voyages to the UK and Scandinavia, including Mr. Higgins at the salty age of 67 years young. The name "Dyflin" is the old Norse word for Dublin.
Monster Canoe Raft-up - July 1988 - 5th Port hosted a record breaking event organised by the S.A.I. The event was organised to raise money for the R.N.L.I. and £584 was raised. There were a total of 322 canoes in the raft, breaking the previous record of 285 set in England earlier in the year. Unfortunately the record did not stand for very long as it was bettered in Japan later on that year. However it was an exciting time for the 5th Port.
Viking sword - As part of the Millennium celebrations a meeting was held on the Liffey of the mayors of many Viking cities across Europe. The Mayor of presented Alderman Ben Briscoe with a hand crafted Norse sword for the people of Dublin. Alderman Briscoe asked the 5th Port to take care of the sword on behalf of the people of Dublin, a task which we readily accepted. This magnificent sword was prominently mounted on a bulkhead in the Crows Nest but unfortunately was stolen in 1999.
Spring 1989 - The year began with an auspicious start when in January the entire den was re-floored, replacing the patchwork of crates and scrap-wood which was built piecemeal over many years. In February the deeds of the lifeboat hut next to the Crows Nest and the freehold of the den itself were bought from the Port and Docks Board for the reasonable sum of £200, a mere 20 years after first applying.
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1992 - The troop celebrated 80 years of scouting on the Bull Island. This was to be another year of feverish activity.
May 1992 - The local Boys Brigade group, 12th Dublin Company, celebrated their centenary by trooping the colour, a formal march around the streets of Clontarf and other solemn and ancient ceremonies. 5th Port were glad to accept the invitation to take part in this dignified ceremony with the 12th Dublin Company and the other guest organisations.
September 1992 - The Crows Nest was placed in peril when the sea wall at the lagoon was breached during storms. The den was flooded and unfortunately some of the logbooks were damaged.
November 1992 - Rounding off our octogenarian year the troop held an "Old Boys Reunion". The occasion drew many an Old Boy, the eldest were members in 1935 and 1936. Honoured guests were Lord Mayor Gay Mitchel and the Chief Scout of Ireland. Presentations were made by the troop, to Eoghan Lavelle a set of hand made boat fenders to mark his stepping down as National Commissioner after 8 years, and to Skipper Vekins a Roches Stores plastic shopping bag, a private joke from the Old Boys of 1970's vintage. Skipper Sammy Morton was made an honorary member of the troop. It was a memorable day for all involved.
June 1993 - The ramp down to the Crows Nest is "upgraded" completing our roadway project to improve access to the den. The majority of the work was done by Old Boy Paddy Wigglesworth and his construction company, with ample help from troop members and some funding from the Port and Docks board.
November 1993 - Work began on the building of a new boat, the first boat building project for the troop since the early 60's. The Orion was used as a template for her lines and the main consultants for the job were the Skipper, Mr. Barry O'Carroll - a friend to both the Skipper and the troop - and rigging expert Mr. Higgins. The whole troop worked hard on the project accumulating a total of 1818 man hours. She was launched in October 1994 and named "Aries".
January 1994 - Work began on the latest and to date the final extension to the Crows Nest - The CANOE DROME. For a long time an aim of Skipper Vekins the Canoe Drome was made possible by a sponsored row by the Old Boys and the great work of Old Boys Dominic Carrol and Paddy Wigglesworth.
September 1995 - The Master Mariners Association of Ireland began a seamanship competition for sea scouts, The Master Mariner Challenge, in its first year it was won by Brian McKenna of 5th Port.
23rd August 1997 - After innumerable years of service to the troop as instructor, transport engineer, general helper and friend Mr. Higgins passed away in Beaumont Hospital. His unique character and input will be sorely missed by the troop for a long time.
November 1997 - A long standing aim of the Skippers was realised with the opening of the galley. Space created in the den by the construction of the new Canoe Drome was aptly used and remaining funds raised by the Old Boys stretched to fitting this kitchen in the Crows Nest.
17th January 1998 - Skipper Vekins passed away in Beaumont Hospital. For nearly 36 years Dick Vekins was the corner stone and the driving force of the 5th Port. He was an active scout until his last days as the picture below shows, and as a leader earned the respect of everyone who knew him. A fuller appreciation of Skipper can be read by clicking here.
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5th Port in the new millennium - The last few years have been changing times for the 5th Port, years which have seen new leadership, some re-organisation within the group and increasing levels of competition from sports and youth clubs. However we feel that by maintaining our longstanding traditions and those of the scouting movement generally and by taking onboard new ideas we can continue to help young boys and girls develop into mature and responsible young adults in a fun and safe way.
July 2000 - The 5th Port Sponsored Row - The Troop and Ventures rowed across the Irish Sea to Holyhead to raise funds for bone marrow treatment.
A memorial to Skipper Vekins was unveiled on the 7th of January 2001 in the garden of the Crow's Nest. It is in the shape of a compass, with 5 seating areas each representing a Watch (Patrol) arranged as if the memorial were a ship with its bow facing north, like so:
The seating areas are part of one continuous strip of concrete that is supposed to represent the continuity & community of the 5th port over the years. At the centre are Dick Vekin's initials under a ships anchor with one fluke that represents DV as the man who made the troop what it is, held it together and sadly is now missing.
January 2002 - This month the Group Council came to the historic decision to integrate girls into all strata of the group. Heretofore girls have participated in the 5th Port as part of the Sea Rangers crew under the umbrella of the Irish Girl Guides but from now on Beaver Scouts and Cub Scouts shall be mixed and a parallel female troop shall be set up and shall meet on a separate night to the boys. However both male and female troops shall contribute to the maintenance of the den and all other group facilities during Saturday Work Parade and shall share some weekend activities.
November 2002 - During this years investiture ceremony the first girls and two women leaders were invested into the troop.
By reading the history of our group on this website it is obvious that our den, The Crows Nest, was built in a piecemeal fashion over many years, as and when funds became available. Although everyone in the group takes great pride in The Crows Nest and it's great scouting atmosphere, because of the way it was built it is ill suited to accommodate large numbers of girls and therefore some major renovations will be required. To meet the demands imposed by this new era of the 5th Port we have drawn up plans to extensively renovate and modernise our den. For news and more information about our re-development plans stay tuned to this website.
In spring of 2004 Taoiseach Bertie Ahern visited The Crows Nest to unveil the plans for the new den. The Taoiseach was guided through a full tour of our existing facilities and saw many of our activities being demonstrated.
2005 saw the completion of the fund raising efforts for the new Crows Nest. It also saw the dismantling of the old Crows Nest we all loved so dearly. It was a sad fact that our troop had outgrown the den that was built at great effort over generations.
By the end of 2005 construction of the new Crows Nest was well under way, as the following photograph of the new boat deck attests. We hope to move into our new quarters early in 2006 and complete the fitting out and decoration ourselves, as was done by so many scouts who went before us in the old Crows Nest.
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