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.