Belfast Telegraph

Billy Sholdis joined cubs at age of eight... and 73 years on he's still leading Northern Ireland scout troop

Billy Sholdis was awarded the Silver Wolf
Billy Sholdis was awarded the Silver Wolf
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

When it comes to dedication, there is no greater example than Belfast man William (Billy) Sholdis.

At 81 years of age Billy is still leading the Scouts in north and west Belfast - something he has been doing for many decades.

Billy, who has lived all his life in the Shankill area, joined the Scouts as a Cub when he was just eight and, in his own words: "I never really left."

Now, 73 years later, the long serving and distinguished leader is still helping the organisation on a daily basis.

Every morning he walks the short distance from his home to their hall on Bray Street off the Woodvale Road in his role as "unofficial caretaker".

Although short in stature, Billy is fondly regarded as a Scouting colossus for his many years of outstanding service to his beloved 20th Scout Group (Woodvale) and Scouting across North West Belfast District.

He grew up on Seventh Street, one of the Belfast's now demolished old 'number' streets, and was led into the organisation by his mother, a Beaver leader herself.

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"All of my family with the exception of my father, who worked away, were in the Scouts at one time or another," Billy told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I have been around various different Scouting groups but most of the time I was with the 20th.

"I went through the ranks, starting as a Cub at eight, and when I finished I began to lead the Cubs.

A young Billy in uniform
A young Billy in uniform

"We're over 100 years of age and I've been involved for most of that time, so I've certainly seen some changes down the years."

When he left school at 14 Billy first worked as a cobbler with Rogan Bros on the Shankill Road.

After 20 years in that job he moved to Belfast Corporation, his role involving being on the go every morning from 7am to polish the floors of the city's libraries.

His green fingers led him to his final job before retirement as a gardener in Woodvale Park.

Billy, who never married, says his life would have been very different were it not for his life-long love of the Scouts.

Even when he had to officially retire at 65 he still helped out and, following a rule change, Billy renewed his commitment with his current position as assistant scout leader.

His role takes up three nights a week - Mondays for Scouts; Cubs on Tuesdays, and Wednesdays with the Beavers and Squirrels.

"We have a good bunch of leaders and you cannot do anything without them," Billy added.

"They can be hard to get as I don't think some people like the idea of a uniformed organisation.

"But most of ours have risen through the ranks down the years."

Billy has been richly rewarded for his long years of service to the Scouting movement and young people in north and west Belfast, as he will travel to London in January to receive an MBE.

While "very honoured" by the accolade, humble Billy says his real reward is organising activities for the young people in his district.

"I was sworn to secrecy for a while but when the news got out the Scouts were over the Moon and the phone didn't stop ringing.

"People also kept stopping to congratulate me on my morning walk to the hall."

Billy says the Scouts is a great organisation for young people to get involved in and keeps them out of trouble.

"They've the chance to meet other people, learn new skills and travel on international camping trips," he added.

"I would never have had a holiday if it weren't for the Scouts, my mother always made sure we went to camp, even during the war years.

"I have had a good life and the greatest fun because of it and it has helped to keep me young at heart.

"The only way I'll give it up is when I'm carried out in a box."

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