Stenhousemuir Scout leader retires after seven decades of service

George McFarlane made a lifetime of memories in his time as a Scout. Picture: Michael Gillen
George McFarlane made a lifetime of memories in his time as a Scout. Picture: Michael Gillen

A lot may have changed in the seven decades George McFarlane spent in the Scouts.

Yet one thing which remained constant throughout that time was the 77-year-old’s passion for the organisation and all it stands for.

That admiration will stay with George even though he has announced he’s retiring after 70 years of service.

Having “put in” for official retirement at the end of the last school term, the assistant leader of the 89th Stenhousemuir Scout Group felt the timing was right to call it a day.

However, that doesn’t mean the man known to many of his fellow Scouts as Old School George is about to turn his back on Scouting completely.

He explained: “I feel at 77 I’m not physically fit enough to be as adventurous with the young Scouts as I would like.

“When you’re climbing up hills with these young bucks they’re away! You don’t want to be holding them back.

“I tried to lead them on the path with good map reading and compass work and camping and survival skills.

“The whole idea of the Scouts movement is to create a good citizen and hopefully that’s what I’ve become. To be quite honest, once a Scout always a Scout. I reckon, if asked, I could maybe be some sort of instructor but to a lesser degree.”

Born and raised in Stenhousemuir, George’s first encounter with the town’s Scouts came through childhood friend Donald Wright who had started taking an interest. George followed suit and, aside from a rain-soaked experience at his first camp in Barrwood in May 1953, things have gone swimmingly ever since.

Among the highlights were being taught how to shoot by Sir Ian Bolton, meeting people from all over the world at the Blair Atholl Scouts Jamborette and becoming chairman of the BP Scout Guild Falkirk branch.

The Larbert resident’s dedication to the Scouts was so great it led to him receiving an Outstanding Service Award in 2016.

Due to the voluntary nature of the organisation, however, George had to spend some of his time earning a living and started off as an apprentice production engineer in the Grange-Camelon Iron Company in 1958.

He then held jobs as a joiner’s labourer in Fort William, an accountant with Harland Engineering Company in Alloa, where he met his wife Margo, and an estimator with Muirhead Timber Engineers in Grangemouth. George also secured employment as a production controller with Kildonan Homes and worked for Buildbase in Carron prior to retiring in 2007.

Yet it is his time in the Scouts which he will remember most fondly.

George said: “All my pals are associated with the Scouts in some way.

“Every Wednesday I go up to Barrwood with a team of volunteers from the Scouts.

“My last camp as a leader was emotional. I was saying, ‘The guy to your left or girl to your right will be your friends all your life’ and I started to choke up!”

George paid tribute to his wife and his mum Greta for their support throughout his Scouting days and wished Emma Kerr, John Dick, Elissa Dick and Rhonda Kat the best of luck as they carry on supporting local Beavers, Cubs and Scouts.