Chorley Girl Guides 100 year celebration

We meet the Chorley guides celebrating 100 years of tradition. Amanda Griffiths reports<br/>Photography by Clive Lawrence,

It’s 100 years since a group of tenacious girls gate crashed the first Boy Scout Rally at Crystal Palace. Dressed in scout uniforms the girls soon got the attention of scout leader Lord Baden-Powell and told him they wanted something for girls too. What may or may not be surprising is that the Girl Guides, now known as Girlguiding UK, is as popular as it’s ever been.

In fact, nationwide there’s more than 50,000 girls of all ages waiting for a place.

At 96 years old, Margaret Rigby is the oldest member in the Chorley division and she has been serving the organisation for 83 years.‘I think I might be the oldest member in the country and possiblythe longest serving continuous member,’ says Margaret.

‘I was a founder member of St Mary’s company in November 1927. I was 13. I remember putting on the uniform for the first time. It was such a proud moment. I remember going next door with my sister, who’d also joined, to show off our uniforms.

‘Mrs Percy Birley enrolled us. She later became chief commissioner for England. There can’t be many girls who could say they were enrolled by the chief commissioner!’

In her 80 plus years of service, Mrs Rigby has been patrol leader in the guides, was a member of the older, Rangers, was guide leader at �St Mary’s for 30 years and helped set up the brownies section in 1956. Now she’s a member of the Trefoil Guild, for members who have retired from active service but who like to keep their hand in whenever needed.‘I wouldn’t give up a day of it,’ she says. ‘Of course it’s changed a great deal but it’s the friendships that we made that I feel are the most important.’

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Some of the younger members of the Chorley division echoed her sentiments. Hannah Smith, aged 9, a member of St Joseph’s brownies, joined two years ago, she said:

‘We play games where we all have to work together as a team. At first we didn’t get along very well but we’re all friends now.

‘As part of the celebrations we went to this big theatre in Southport and got to do lots of activities. It was lovely we got to meet and show other brownies and rainbows from all over England how we can all be friends and be part of one big family.

‘Celebrations have been running since September last year,’ says Trudi Cole, Division Commissioner for Girl Guiding, Chorley Division.‘Our big celebration was a centenary camp. We had more than 500 members over the weekend. It was great fun, they started coming on Friday night and all through the weekend.

‘The rainbows came up on Saturday and we had lots of activities, including climbing, abseiling, grass sledging, canoeing and we finished with a big camp fire with three huge birthday cakes made especially for us.’

Trudi says one of the common misconceptions is that leaders are paid, but in truth they work on a voluntary basis and are always looking for people to help out, in any capacity.

‘For me girlguiding is not just about finding something to do in the evenings but also about finding friendships and camaraderie. Becauseof my husband’s job I’ve had to move around the country with his workand wherever I’ve been I’ve found that girlguiding will welcome you with open arms.

‘It’s also a great mood changer. Often you can have a bad day at work and the last thing you feel like doing is going to brownies, but then you get there and the girls are all bright and excited and an hour an a half later you’re back to your normal self!’

Our guide to the guides

The Girl Guides Association was formed in 1910 and led by Agnes Baden-Powell, sister of Lord Robert Baden-Powell who started the scouts.

A junior section for girls under 11 was introduced in 1914, originally called ‘Rosebuds’ it changed its name to ‘Brownies’ in 1915. The Rainbow section for girls between 5 and 7 was formed in 1987.

There are 5 sections today; Rainbows (5-7 years); Brownies (7-10 years); Guides (10-14 years); Senior Section (14-26 years) and the Trefoil Guild (anyone over 18).

The Guide Association was renamed Girlguiding UK in 2002.

HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex became President of Girlguiding UK in 2003. She follows in the shoes of HRH Princess Margaret who became President in 1965.

At 20:10 on 20.10, 2010 girl guides, brownies and rainbows everywhere will be renewing their promise.