After Baden-Powell’s book “Scouting for Boys” appeared in 1908, Scout Groups started spontaneously throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Some Groups, including 1st Dublin Troop, Boy Scouts (founded in February 1908) included boating in their programmes from the beginning, and B-P soon recognised that this was an excellent variation of the Scout programme. Sea Scouting was officially recognised in 1910, and B-P wrote the first introductory pamphlet “Sea Scouting for Boys”. Later B-P asked his brother Warrington, a well known yachtsman, to write a handbook for the new section, and “Sea Scouting and Seamanship for Boys” was published in 1912.
The first Sea Scout Troops in Ireland were registered in 1912, in Bray and in Ringsend (1st Dublin Troop mentioned above). Other Troops developed in Dublin in the succeeding years. In 1914 the first inter-Troop rowing race for the Wood-Latimer Cup was held. This event was the start of the Annual Sea Scout Regatta, the 90th Anniversary of which was celebrated this year. In 1915 the Dublin Sea Scout Troops were grouped together in the Port of Dublin Sea Scout Local Association, and they were allocated “Port of Dublin” numbers, a custom that still continues. The annual Seamanship Competition for the Fry Cup started in 1918 and also continues to the present time.
The Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland were founded in 1927, and started a Sea Scout Section a year later, basing the organisation and programme on the Boy Scouts of America model. This was a Senior Section, over 14 years of age, and was originally intended for existing Scouts holding the First Class Badge. This condition was unrealistic and was eventually dropped. By the late 30s CBSI had about 10 Ships (Units) in the Dublin area, and Ships in Cork, Galway, Waterford and Wexford, a total of 14. The Port of Galway Ship, under its famous Skipper, Capt. Wooley, seceded from the CBSI after a couple of years and continued as an independent organisation into the 1970s. During the 30s, the Port of Dublin Local Association had five Troops in Dublin. There was also a Troop in Bray and a Patrol in 1st Cork Troop. The late 1940s were disastrous for Sea Scouting in Ireland. By 1948 only two BSI Troops remained – the 1st Port of Dublin (Ringsend) and the 4th Port of Dublin (Dodder), and by 1950, only 2 CBSI Ships remained – 1st Port of Dublin (Ringsend) and 4th Port of Dublin (Dollymount). Within a few years these CBSI units closed. Then the picture in BSI (later SAI) changed, very slowly at first – from two troops in 1948, to four in 1958, twelve in 1968, thirty-eight in 1978. The first of these Troops outside Dublin was 1st Wexford (New Ross). The very rapid growth between 1968 and 1978 was a mixed blessing, and a number of troops did not survive for very long, mainly due to problems of back-up support and of maintaining adequate supply of Leaders. CBSI had an active Sea Scout Troop in Wicklow for some years in the 70s, the age range and programme being similar to that in SAI. This Troop had a number of contacts and activities with SAI Sea Scouts from Dunlaoghaire and New Ross
In the mid 1970s the former lightship, “Albatross”, was acquired as a Sea Training Centre. This was a great boost to training and was an activity centre where troops with little equipment could send Scouts for boating experience. Unfortunately, after about 12 years excellent work, it became too expensive to maintain the vessel to a reasonable standard and she was withdrawn from service and later sold. In 1976, the Irish Sea Scout Standard Boat, the “BP 18” was designed by Kevin McClaverty, and has proved to be an excellent general purpose craft for Sea Scouts. Here we wish to record, with deep regret, that Kevin died on 6th December 2002. In the 1980s CBSI introduced an optional Water Activity programme that could be used within any Scout Troop by a patrol or by interested individuals, but decided not to establish a Sea Scout Section or to operate Sea Scout Troops. CBSI later developed a Water Activities Centre at Killaloe on Lough Derg on the Shannon. In 1985 SAI published a new series of handbooks covering the nautical requirements of the Sea Scout programme (Sea Training Handbooks, Parts 1 & 2), and also a Sea Scout Leaders Handbook.
During the 1990s, SAI instituted a series of revisions of Sectional Programmes, and the turn of Sea Scouting came in 1998. From 1998 to 2002 a very detailed examination of Sea Scouting was undertaken, under the Chairmanship of Tommy Myler, National Commissioner for Sea Scouting. This included a country-wide survey of all Sea Scout Troops, with questionnaires for each Scout and Leader on training schemes and programmes, uniform, activities and competitions. A committee was established to examine the Sea Scout Programme in detail, using the Renewed Approach to Programme (RAP) method recommended by World Scouting. This was a lengthy process involving 9 stages, with masses of paperwork. The new programme was designed, and a new advancement Badge Scheme was devised to implement it. The new Sea Scout Programme was launched in 2002, and includes a completely revised Progress Scheme, balanced between ashore and afloat, with a wide choice of activities.