40 years and counting for Skegby youth leader Ernie Sollis

Sutton Ernest Sollis who has been a volunteer with local youth organisations for 40 years
Sutton Ernest Sollis who has been a volunteer with local youth organisations for 40 years

A COMMUNITY-MINDED Skegby man who has dedicated a lifetime’s spare time to helping youngsters has notched up 40 years of volunteering as a youth leader.

Ernie Sollis (62) was a young man when he first started helping out with the 1st Kirkby (St Wilfrid’s) Cub Scout Pack back in 1971.

A retired control room manager at Nottinghamshire Police, his passion for working with young people has also seen him volunteering with the 2nd Sutton (St Mary’s) Cubs and at the 5th Sutton (Open) Scout group, before he moved to the Air Cadet organisation in 1988.

After starting with the 1300 squadron in Sutton, he took the job of Warrant Officer at the 1803 squadron in Hucknall in 1991 - and retains this position to this day.

Ernie, of Welford Close, Skegby, said volunteering has been very enjoyable and that working with all of the hundreds of young people he has known has ‘without exception’ made his life better.

“I think it’s the fact that all those people over 40 years have enriched my life,” he said.

“They are cheerful, they are there because they want to be there and they enjoy learning and a lot of them have gone on to good careers.”

Ernie got into helping out at Cubs through friends at St Wilfrid’s Church in Kirkby.

A former Cub himself, he said he was ‘persuaded it was time to give something back, which I have been doing since!’

After moving up to Scouts as a scout leader, Ernie took the boys on several camps, including one on a working pair of narrow boats on the Grand Union Canal and a camp in Kent during which he decided to take the Scouts on a spontaneous day trip across the Channel to Boulogne on rough seas.

He moved to the Air Training Corps on a recommendation from a friend and when his working hours changed, though he had no prior personal experience of the RAF.

Among his duties at the Hucknall, squadron are teaching ‘Principles of Flight’ and ‘Air Navigation’ to the cadets.

“I am responsible for Drill and Discipline technically, but what I enjoy the most is the teaching - imparting knowledge on the young people,” said Ernie, whose son Andrew (35) was an air cadet himself.

“I try and make learning fun.”

Ernie attends two meets a week and does some weekend activities too, with parades also taking place a few times a year, such as on Remembrance Sunday.

He has been on camps in Germany and Cyprus with the cadets and has even been winched out of a helicopter.

And Ernie, whose wife Hazel has also been a youth leader with Brownies and Cubs, said that he would recommend others give it a go.

He said: “I would say give it a go and try to give it at least a year.

“I personally feel that you will enjoy it and get a lot out of it.

“It’s a commitment but it’s a worthwhile commitment.”