The Den

Our Den is situated in a residential area, at 42a Ben Edair Road, Oxmantown, Dublin 7, about 3km from O'Connell Bridge in the city centre. A rather plain exterior gives the visitor no clue what to expect on the inside (although occasionally you might see the odd Scout absailing, facing the ground, down the 18 foot front wall, much to the consternation of the neighbours, who long ago wrote us off as lunatics in uniform).

Inside is a different story. Here you will see evidence of Scouting in Action. The walls are adorned (defaced, our Den Chief might say) with Cub and Scout 'gadgets', ranging in quality and durability from "Our Hike to Larchill" reports written (in marker) on the back of cornflake boxes, to perfectly crafted knotting boards, made with great care, in order to gain that vital Merit Badge. There's also a fair smattering of photos, which we must run past the censor's eye some day, before we're all committed to the asylum. Still, of mad moments are magic memories made, they say.

The first "Den", used by the Unit in its early days was the premises of The Catholic Young Men's Society (CYMS) in nearby Aughrim Street. Tables had to be out on each occasion and Patrol gadgets had to be taken down from the walls after each meeting. With all its inconvenience though, it was here that the foundations of a solid Unit were begun.

The next move was the renting of a temporary Den at the rear of 2 North Circular Road, near the Phoenix Park Gates, at the exorbitant rent of ten shillings (50p) per week!

By the late 1940's, however, the Unit Council had decided to embark on the building of its own Den. With the enthusiastic support of Fr. Fergus O'Higgins, the Unit Chaplain, a site at Ben Edair Road was procured from the Dublin Artisans Dwelling Company, with a twenty-one year lease. Phil Doyle, a member of the Knight Errand Clan who was studying architecture at the time, designed the timber-framed building.

The Den, when finished, was 30ft. by 15ft. with walls of corrugated iron nailed to a wooden frame. The roof was asbestos and the floor was cemented. Heating was supplied from an iron boiler which could burn any type of fuel. Most of the fuel burned was turf and sticks which were provided by the boys themselves. The "old" Scout Den was finally opened in June 1951.

A triangular Clan (Leaders') Room extension was added in 1958 - the money being raised from Saturday night "Record Hops" with a 1s. (5p) entrance fee.

Leaders, at the time, held all their social events in the Den - Stag Parties, 21st. Birthdays etc. Everyone got the same birthday present - a Bergal framed rucksack! The soundbox for the pick-up (record player) was provided by a wireless radio. "Easi-Glide" or Lux Powder was scattered on the floor to make dancing easier. On many a Saturday night before the hop commenced many Clan members got tutored in the Fox-trot, Waltz or Quickstep. Membership Cards were required and the dance might be followed by a game of Solo or Pontoon.

By the late sixties it was increasingly in the minds of the Scout Leaders that in several years time the lease would be up on the site. Accordingly, the Finance Committee opened negotiations with the Artisans Dwelling Co. and in 1971 the Unit managed to secure the whole site. Work was soon started, and the foundations were poured on the 10th. May 1972.

When the walls reached a height of 17ft. a steel erector was employed to install the steel roof beams. Up to this time Scouting still continued in the old Den as the new walls were some distance from the old corrugated premises. However for a while, with the permission of the Parish Priest, Scouting continued in St. Gabriels National Schools, Cowper Street.

Now the slogging really started, pouring a concrete floor, laying drains, cutting and fitting timber roof joists and laying on roof slabs. The next major job was laying the asphalt roof which was sub-let to a firm of experts. Central heating was installed, and the wiring and installation of lights was undertaken by a former member of the Unit. Then the maple floor was put down and the Cubs and Scouts moved back from St. Gabriels to continue Scouting once more from its Ben Edair Road Headquarters. The completion of the work of painting, carpentry etc. took over another year but at last it was time to plan the official opening. This took place on Sunday, 4th. April 1976 and was performed by Cearbhail O Dalaigh, Uachtaran na hEireann.

A number of small alterations were made to the Den over the following years. The Grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes was added later in 1979. The Unit acquired its second Den in 1985 when the Venturer Den was opened - much of the work being done by the Venturers themselves, while the loftstore inside the Den was added later that year. The Back Store was added in 1987.

In the early 1990's the "new" Den began to show its age with signs of wear and tear becoming obvious. Some parts of the Den had become unsafe and some structural alterations were required. An Foras Aoiseanna Saothar (FAS), the state employment and training agency, came to the rescue with a six-month Community Youth Training Programme Scheme. The outside of the building was fully plastered and the front completely painted. Numerous alterations in the kitchen and toilets brought the health and safety aspects of the Den up to scratch while the painting of a magnificent mural of Scout activities brought the refurbishment to a fitting finale. The refurbished building was re-opened on the 19th December 1991 by Mr. Bertie Ahern, Minister for Finance.

Maintenance work on the Den never ends. Since the FAS refurbishment, all of the window frames have been replaced with maintenance free PVC frames and an alarm was installed. A new gate was installed as well as a wheelchair ramp was installed in 2005. The den interior and exterior was painted and the clan room fitted with a new trophy cabinet and a unit flag from the 50's mounted for Paddy's Day 2007. The Venture den has been refitted as a stores, while the old stores are now an office and a meeting room. None of the above works could have taken place without the generous support and assistance of the City of Dublin VEC's Youth Committee - Comhairle Le Leas Oige - to whom we are indebted.