Luton Scout Leader and architect ‘goes home’

Date: 27th Oct 2017 Author: Peter Sutherst
Leigh Mayes, who has died aged of 84, never lost his enthusiasm for Scouting. From the age of eight in 1941 when he became a Cub Scout, he shared Baden-Powell’s passion for the great outdoors. He later used his skills as an architect to support numerous Scout building projects benefitting half a million Scouts all over the country.

Leigh enjoyed every minute of his Scout camps, first with the Bury Park Scout Group and later with St Matthew’s Scout Group in High Town. It was a passion that stayed with him all his life.

At the age of 13 he went to Luton Technical School in Park Square and met his wife Pat there. Later, his architectural skills were discovered almost by accident at St Albans Art College. His first job after college was to handle the restoration of historic buildings and churches for a firm of architects in Harpenden.

After national service as a radar operator with the RAF in Germany, Leigh returned to civilian life as a trainee architect for Michael Meacher and Partners in St Albans. While there he worked on the rebuilding of Abbey Theatre in Holywell Hill and met the Queen Mother when she opened the building in 1968.

He said at the time, “Constructing buildings in St Albans is a nightmare. Many of the sewers which still serve the town were built by the Romans and no one really knows where they are!”

In 1970 Leigh set up an architectural practice from his home in Alexandra Avenue and became architect in residence for the Scout Association in London. It was his greatest triumph to combine his love of Scouting and his work-a-day skills in one package.

Soon Leigh was touring the country designing and building Scout Shops in most major towns to allow the Association’s half million members to purchase their uniforms locally. Luton Scout Shop Manager Mrs Cynth Sutherst remembers visiting the Peterborough shop when it opened and finding architect Leigh on the doorstep. She said, “We had a quick cuddle before explaining to manager Sally that we were just good Scouting friends.”

Leigh was also on the team that helped to refurbish Baden-Powell House in London in a modernisation programme costing £2 million. It was one of the first major conference centres to have a computer suite where visitors could access the World Wide Web invented eight years earlier. Leigh said, “It was an unforgettable experience to work on such a famous building which is an international Scouting Hub in the centre of the Capital.” Leigh was there when the Duke of Kent opened the building in June, 1997.

Locally, Leigh designed St Matthew’s Scout HQ at Uplands in Hart Lane now a small housing estate. He was also responsible for the District Scout HQ and the HQ of the Ross Park Scout Group in Applecroft Road.

Always one for the outdoors, Leigh and his friends spent their weekends renovating an old lifeboat berthed at Tempsford and sailed it on the River Ouse across the Norfolk Broads. He later helped sail an ocean-going yacht along the south coast and as far as France.

A great organiser, Leigh formed the Someries District Service Team to handle big events for the District and County Commissioners. Aside from annual camps at Kings Walden throughout the seventies he masterminded a county camp at Walton Firs in April,1995 when Chief Scout Garth Morrison arrived for the weekend. Leigh and his 12-man team spent the morning preparing a meal for the Chief when he entertained over 200 Scout Patrol Leaders and Cub Scout Sixers.

In 1996, just before Leigh retired, the Chief Scout awarded him the Silver Wolf, the Scouts highest honour, in recognition of services to Scouting of an exceptional character over many years. It was an honour he shared with his wife Pat who was quietly proud of all his achievements.

Leigh and his wife, who was a Guider, never had children but they both enjoyed the company of their nieces and nephews as well as many who knew them through the Scout and Guide Movements.

Pat died a few years ago and since that time Leigh bravely continued his own life in an outgoing and quiet way. He will be warmly remembered by all his Scouting friends around the country who knew him as a jolly and kind man with a great sense of humour.

He is survived by his brother Phil and numerous relatives.

Put your phone down and what are you left with? Just teamwork, courage and the skills to succeed.’
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls