A Newtownabbey Scout leader has been honoured for his outstanding contribution and leadership of the 6th Belfast Scout Troop.
The troop celebrated its centenary reunion at the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast attended by over 40 former scouts, including some who travelled from the mainland and overseas from Canada and New Zealand.
As well as providing an evening full of nostalgia and camaraderie, it also was the perfect opportunity to pay tribute to Derek Neill, who has been involved with the troop for 70 of its 100 years.
Derek, of Greenhill Park, Carnmoney, is held in the highest esteem in the wider scouting fraternity.
He joined the movement in 1941 and in the 1950s was an enthusiastic participant in the Gang Shows productions at the Grand Opera House.
Former scout Nevin McGhee presented Derek with a magnificent oil painting created by a former member of the ‘sixth’, Ronnie McClune, depicting a patrol returning after a day on Cavehill just as it would have been in Derek’s boyhood.
The painting is “to say thanks for his friendship, his time, his enthusiasm and drive, all of which has help to shape our lives in so many different ways; if wasn’t for Derek we would not be here tonight, and the sixth would no longer exist,” said Mr McGhee.
Commenting on the evening’s event, Derek said: “This makes me feel quite humble when they call me indispensable and if I hadn’t been there something might have happened; it’s quite sobering”.
The 6th Belfast Scout Troop is one of the oldest functioning troops in Northern Ireland, which began in a loft in Ashley Gardens, Belfast in 1911. The troop was officially registered at Imperial Headquarters in London on October 12, 1912.
Ken Thompson, who travelled from Christchurch, New Zealand for the occasion, said: “As you get older you appreciate what Derek Neill did for you and I am one of those people.”
Joe Flaherty, who flew over from Toronto, said: “I was always proud to tell friends and people in Canada that our troop was a non-denominational Boy Scout troop. We were cross-community and we were well before its time”.
Organiser Clifford Gilmer added: “We were delighted at the turnout for the centenary celebration, particularly as we were able to link formal recognition of Derek Neill’s life-long dedication to the 6th troop with the reunion”.
The troop is now looking forward to the invitation received to celebrate its centenary at Belfast City Hall in November.