Around Ireland in a Dormobile: When South Shields scouts toured Emerald Isle in Italian Job style

The 16th Simonside Senior Scout Troop trip members in 1962.
The 16th Simonside Senior Scout Troop trip members in 1962.

Having decided to use the proceeds of their hugely-successful dances to help fund a holiday for senior members of the 16th Simonside Scout Troop, those taking part packed their bags and took to the road.

Stan Lodge recalls those early expeditions.

Members of the 16th Simonside Senior Scout Troop on tour in 1963.

Members of the 16th Simonside Senior Scout Troop on tour in 1963.

“We decided on a tour of Ireland,” explains Stan.

“So in August, 1961, the senior scout leader Harry Leach and myself, who was an assistant scout leader, drove the lads in Harry’s 12- seater Bedford Dormobile, with all the camping gear on the roof rack, up to Stranraer and crossed the Irish sea to Larne.

“We drove around the north coast to the Giants Causeway, along to Donegal and all around the west coast (now known as the Wild Atlantic Way).

“We travelled along the south coast and up to Dublin.

“From there we went on to Belfast and back to Larne.”

Stan said on the west coast, they stopped at a remote pub/farm and asked the landlord (they found out later that he was called Patrick Murphy) where they could camp?

“Patrick said ‘just put the tents up in the field behind the pub.’

“He took all of us into the back of the pub/farmhouse to show us where he made coffins, as he was also the local undertaker.

“The following year we became very ambitious, and we decided to do a Continental tour.

“And so, in August, we set off in the Dormobile and drove to Dover, went over the ferry to France into Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland and drove back to Calais, Dover and home. “The customs official on that return journey was extremely officious and checked everything.”

The whole trip, for two weeks cost £10 each for food, fuel etc.

“The scouts had a great time.”

For the third tour, in July 1963, they drove down to Dover, over the ferry to Calais, then continued across France to Switzerland where they put the Dormobile onto a train and went through the Simplon Pass – the car railway tunnel – into Italy before driving to Rome, Pisa, Florence, Rimini and then onto

Geneva.

“At the bottom of one of the passes, when I was driving, the brakes burned out, but luckily and amazingly we came to a stop outside a Vauxhall/Bedford garage. “The garage was closed so we banged on the door until the owner opened it.

“He very kindly fixed our brakes but only took pay for the parts he fitted, nothing for his labour – and then we were on our way again.

“At Geneva airport, we drove the Dormobile onto a British United Air Ferries Plane which was a modified four- engined Douglas DC4 which took five vehicles and 24 passengers, and flew back to Southend.

“The captain of the plane allowed all the scouts to go on to the flight deck, two at a time, to explain how the pilot was flying the plane.

“This 16-day trip cost £11 each and included all food, fuel, ferry, train and plane expenses.

“These tours were all done before package holidays were invented, and at a time when few people could afford to travel abroad.

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