Aidan Smith

Theirishscouter first met Aidan Smith when the former was a cub scout in the old St Brigids Region of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland. Aidan made an instant first impression; gruff, but with a smile and always a twinkle in his eye, he was an affable and kindly scouter who was able to quickly form a connection with younger people.

During three years as a cub scout, I have firm memories of bumping into Aidan at various Regional events. A swimming gala in Ballymun swimming pool springs to mind, but most notably an annual sponsored walk around the region. The walk took participants from the northern extremities of 130th Priorswood in the airport’s hinterland, to the tree-lined avenues of of 1st Fairview and the verdant gentrification of 92nd Clontarf’s neighbourhood. To the spotless and modern scout den of the 66th Clontarf and the pristine uniforms of its members, via the 140th Beaumont with their vivid green and orange neckerchief (of which I was always quietly envious).

Along the way, the 100th Kilmore – a den in which I vividly recall seeing Aidan on one occasion. Another time I met him in 142nd Darndale (if I remember the number correctly), where he was helping out, as was his tendency, whenever a group needed extra support.

I say ‘bumped into’, but we were hardly on first name terms. I was merely another cub scout and he the busy scouter, but its funny that few others from that time stick in my mind as Aidan did.

Early in my scouter career, he and I reconnected at a national council, having not seen each other in years. He invited me to join him at the official opening of 130th Priorswood’s new scout den – the group where I had been a beaver scout, a cub scout and for a time, a scout. I met some former leaders of mine, including the legendary Barney Baitson, sadly very ill at the time, but well enough to roll his eyes at me for becoming a leader in faraway Ballinteer, rather than braving the two cross-city buses needed to return to my alma mater…

Later still, Aidan became a Field Commissioner in the last days of CBSI (by then known as Scouting Ireland CSI), a sort of Provincial Commissioner role. He spoke his mind and I saw a sharp political operator and a passionate advocate for the regular scouter – another layer to this man and something I had not noticed as a cub scout.

Aidan spent time on the National Management Committee, where his pragmatism cut through the waffle and his sharp tongue frequently ruffled feathers. But in latter years, he returned to his first love – local scouting, where he could roll up his sleeves and do practical things.

Aidan was very much an old-school scouter. He had a traditional outlook, which he and I debated regularly in good-natured fashion. He was gently dismissive of some of my viewpoints in the way a man who has seen it all before could be, or perhaps in the way a couple of friends could disagree without rancour. I recall a late evening visit to his home in Ballymun one night to tease out some strategic matter prior to a meeting. I remember another afternoon coffee opposite the Botanic Gardens, where he offered me election advice.

In recent years, we had largely fallen out of regular contact, as happens with old friends, when different paths get taken. I was saddened to hear of his passing. Aidan Smith was a fixture of the Scouting community for so long and in a quiet, understated way did a lot to help countless younger people.

In the den of the now long defunct 100th Kilmore many years back, when I arrived with my cub scout colleagues, hot and thirsty in the middle of a long sponsored walk, he was a friendly and welcoming face, pouring out orange squash and uttering encouraging words in that husky Dublin accent I can hear ringing in my ears as I write. Unassuming, hands on, kind-hearted and youth-focused. In many ways, the best of scouters.

Rest in peace Aidan. I think you have earned it.

The Power of feelings


What was that saying? “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”*


We all navigate our way through life using feelings to guide us. Something ‘feels’ right, or it doesn’t. An event is eagerly anticipated because we recall how we felt last time it took place. We bank fond memories and whilst the intricate details may fade over time, the feeling sits in the repository of our mind and triggers positivity.

Theirishscouter returned to Ireland in July, after several years abroad most recently at the other end of the world. The return, whilst unscheduled has afforded an opportunity to become more active in local scouting, the lifeblood of and indeed the only real reason for scouting’s existence.

That return to active scouting has triggered lots of feelings. Thursday evening a couple of weeks ago, sitting in Kilmashogue forest, perched above Dublin City’s lights, opened the door to memories of countless earlier night time visits to the same place – the opening scene of many an evening’s hiking across the Dublin mountains.

My companions for the hike on this occasion a mix of colleagues – old friends, together with young people, some of whom were starting out on their first scouting experience in these strange times we all find ourselves in.

Last weekend I was in larch hill, my six year old son one of a gaggle of excited Beaver Scouts, drinking in the freedom of this magical place whilst I soaked up the feelings I get whenever I venture here – the venue for a hundred or more experiences, the scene of adventures and seminal moments stretching back to when I was that six year old, beside myself with excitement. 

The scout den is sitting idle this year. We are lucky to have one. Inside it remains largely the same as when I left it seven years ago. It too is full of memories and the feelings of many, baked into the walls like a house that has seen generations of loving families live there, each leaving behind some positive thoughts for the protagonists in the next chapter.

It is comforting to see that, in a year that has turned the world upside down and in a period of time that has seen the Scout movement in Ireland weather storms that may yet prove too much for this one hundred and thirteen year old, the Scouting that takes place in local communities is the pilot light in the stove that flickers on in the midst of chill winds.

Beaver Scouts run through the Dolmen field, their laughter chiming with the ghostly echoes of thousands of other youngsters who ran through before them. The fire above the Haggard field warms their hands on a December day as it has warmed other hands and has likely been doing so since before anyone reading this article was born.

The trails that criss-cross Kilmashogue and Tibradden mountain are the same trails walked by scouts ten, twenty, fifty years ago. The spirit of those who get up and make things happen on their own time and without any pay, for young people in their community – other people’s children – helps create such deeply held and immensely positive feelings in the hearts and minds of so many children and teenagers all over the country. It is an immeasurable act of kindness and generosity. 

Some do it for their own kids. Some were once a beaver scout (or a Cub Scout, Scout, Venturer Scout, Rover Scout) and can see the magic of Scouting and what it has the power to do. Some are simply paying forward what they themselves benefited from as a child. For most of us, its possibly a mix of all these things.

Wherever you sit on the matters afflicting Scouting in Ireland at present, it has been an exhausting time. It has been deeply demoralising for many. The chasm between ideas seems to almost mirror the depth of the political divide in the United States.

Theirishscouter back in Ireland in the summer despite plans to be elsewhere was  confronted by an unexpected question. Does one put one’s own children into an entity where the differences between us are so seemingly irreconcilable? Why place your own offspring on a path you have already taken, when you know it ultimately leads to a quagmire? Is there a long term future?

I travelled North and consulted with a former Scouter who travelled a large part of that trail with me. She told me I had no right to deprive my children of the overwhelmingly positive experiences I had gained from being in the Scout movement. Offices and other trappings may become moribund, but Scouting in the community will remain strong and will continue to do great things for Ireland’s young people. 

Of course, she was right. I probably knew that all along. Sometimes however, seeking a different perspective to your own can help. Perhaps over Christmas we should all try doing that.

Theirishscouter sat one afternoon back in 2012 with five people from Scouting. At first glance we had little if anything in common, barring our membership of the same entity. An hour later, having taken some time to listen, we all realised just how many values we shared and how similar our feeling were towards a whole host of things.

Social media is often wonderful. Like wearing a mask however, it can often filter out some of the nuance of communication, making statements balder. Try taking your mask off over the Christmas break – metaphorically of course. Reach out to a scouter with a completely different perspective to yours. Don’t just hear their views, LISTEN to them. Do it via zoom, or meet for a walk or a socially distant coffee. 

If we all did this just once in the coming weeks, would it line Scouting up for a better 2021? It will hardly make things worse.

It’s no longer about us. It never really was. That was obvious to me in Larch hill last weekend. We all have more important things to be doing. 

In twenty, thirty years-time when those excited six year olds gaze across the fields in Larch hill they once ran through. When those eleven year old scouts look through the trees of Kilmashogue, down into Dublin City a quarter of a century from now with their own group of scouts in toe. Will they have positive feelings of their time as Scouts? What will their verdict be on the scouters of 2020?

Yes, we provided the programme, but did we provide the leadership? Did we truly lead by example? We should all ask ourselves that question – over a mince pie.

Theirishscouter wishes you and yours the most magical of Christmas’s and a safe and positive 2021.


*Maya Angelou is the person quoted at the top of the article.