THE centre of York turned into a spectacle of colour, waving flags, marching children – and the sound of marching bands.

Up to 2,000 children took part in this afternoon’s annual scouts’ and guides’ St George’s Day Parade.

They assembled at the Eye of York at 1pm, before marching off to the Minster at 1.20pm for a service.

At the cathedral, they met younger children involved with the scouting and guiding movement – cubs, beavers, squirrels and rainbows – who had been waiting for them.

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, joined the celebration at the Minster – which was led by young scouts and guides.

There, he told the young people about how scouting became a big part of his upbringing – and how it indirectly led him to the church.

“I was a cub scout and a sea scout myself,” he said. “In my early teenage years, many a weekend was spent on scouting activities, and, of course, the annual scout camp."

His sister, who was a girl guide, started going to monthly church services with some of her friends. 

“This was the catalyst for my becoming part of the church myself," the Archbishop said. "Though I'm not quite sure this was all down to scouting, since I did rather fancy one of my sister’s friends, and since joining the Girl Guides to get to know her wasn't an option I took myself off to church!” 

After the service, the parade left the Minster to return to the Eye of York at 3.30pm.

York Press: Scouts and guides assembled at the Eye of York before the marchScouts and guides assembled at the Eye of York before the march (Image: Stephen Lewis)

Today was the 80th anniversary of the first York parade, held every year in honour of the patron saint of scouting, St George.

No fewer than three bands accompanied the parade – with the marching band of the Yorkshire Volunteers, in their bright red uniforms, leading from the front.

Head marshall Simon Errington said the march brought together two units of York scouts – the Ebor and Minster Scouts – as well as the North Yorkshire South girl guides.

John Ives, the assistant county commissioner for scouts, said other guests at the Minster had included Helen Collin, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, and the Lord Mayor of York Cllr David Carr.

Alison Cunningham, the county commission for North Yorkshire South girl guides, said the younger children were told the story of St George, while the older children looked at what the next 80 years of scouting and guiding might bring.

“Whatever that is, we are certain it will be fun-filled and awe-inspiring,” she said.

York Press: The marching band of the Yorkshire Volunteers at the Eye of YorkThe marching band of the Yorkshire Volunteers at the Eye of York (Image: Stephen Lewis)

The first recorded scouts’ and guides' St George’s Day Parade in York was in 1943.

It was held on a football field near the Minster. “The Boy Scouts demonstrated rifle shooting and the girl guides showed off their dancing and served tea and cake,” a spokesperson for today’s parade said. “How times have changed!”

The girl guides movement brings together 300,000 girls aged from 4-18 across the country to ‘laugh, learn, explore and have adventures’.

The scouts, meanwhile, bring together young people aged from 4-25 in various groups, all with the same aim – to provide them with ‘skills for life’.

St George is both the patron saint of England and the patron saint of scouting.

According to legend, he was a Roman cavalry officer who converted to Christianity and pleaded with thr Emperor Diocletian to stop the persecution of Christians.

The emperor had him executed instead, the leegend says. April 23 is St George’s Day because that is the day on which he is said to have died, in 303 AD.