Four Girlguiding leaders have recently been honoured for their many years of volunteering. Val Craven and Rosemary Hocking, both from Barrow, can each look back to 50 years in the movement, whilst Molly Inglis from Grange and Margaret Shannon from Ulverston each accumulated 40 years, achievements which were celebrated at Girlguiding Cumbria South’s annual Awards Evening, attended by many civil dignitaries and local as well as regional Guiding leaders.
Reminiscing about being first Brownies and Guides themselves, and later leaders, both Val and Rosemary emphasise the importance of the “strong moral code which is second to none. The promise, the law, and being faithful to your promise underpins everything that we do and always will. Forming firm friendships and having fun were always important and still are” said Val, with Rosemary adding that “Guiding is a way of life”.
Val recalls camping trips where practically everything was hand-made, including the sleeping bags, and where cess-pits had to be dug. “For crafting, we had to scrounge around for scissors and we used the back of corn-flakes packets for cardboard. But it has always been great fun, including very basic things, like waking up in a camp and smelling the grass.” Rosemary, too, was a keen camper who tended to take her units to the countryside in the Furness area. “One night we had an horrendous downpour, we were up until the early hours keeping the girls dry, even down to digging trenches around all the tents to try and drain all of it away. We fell into our sleeping bags to be woken to bright sunshine and a voice calling “is there anybody there” – our local priest had come, by arrangement, to celebrate Mass for us and we looked a motley crew that day, covered in mud, but it was great.”
Apart from the sheer joy of getting girls into the outdoors, one of Rosemary’s favourite memories is coming out of the church on her wedding day with her new husband, a Scout leader, to a guard of honour by both Guides and Scouts. And for Val: “The most memorable things are the simple ones: Walking into town and somebody who I’ve known for years calls across “Hello, captain” and that makes you feel 10 feet tall.”
To Val, Guiding means “having wonderful experiences and gaining skills. Making friendships for life, as on international camps and still being friends with people who I met there.” Has Guiding changed a lot over the last 50 years? Both women have seen a lot of changes but feel that the essence of being a Girl Guide is still the same: Having fun, forming firm and long-lasting friendships, following a strong moral code and for leaders empowering the girls in their care. Lots of women in Barrow who know them as their former leaders will surely agree.
Molly Inglis now lives in Grange but joined Girlguiding as a Guide in Scotland. Aged 16 she became a young leader with a Brownie pack, work she continued when moving to Essex and later to Grange. Her two daughters have followed in her footsteps and are now also Girlguiding leaders.
Margaret Shannon, from Ulverston, joined the Brownies “because of all the fun stuff that Brownies did”. She never left and now has a variety of roles in Girlguiding Cumbria South. Her favourite memories are all about meeting like-minded women and girls on international visits, “including one to the Sangam World Centre in India, where we had a monkey in the room, plus we visited local families and enjoyed a tour of India”.
Molly has fond memories of many camping trips, some of which were more challenging, such as “breaking the ice on the water buckets at camp at Netherurd House, in Scotland, was unforgettable and if I hadn’t been a leader I might have cried to get home.” Her husband proposed “on the way home from one Brownie Pack holiday and we always joked that I was too tired to argue.”
Both women have seen many changes in their years as Girlguiding leaders, including to the uniform “from the bobble hat onwards” but also emphasise that many aspects of their experiences are timeless. “What will never change will be the amount of fun we can give the girls and they can give us. There will always be respect for others in Guiding and the qualities of loyalty, care for others, and love of adventure will I am sure always be the essence of the movement” says Margaret, and Molly agrees that “the girl only space, the friendship and the fun” will always be essential.
And many of the girls who looked up to both women as their leaders will agree with Molly’s statement that “Guiding for me is knowing that I am part of a world family where there is always a welcome and where you can find that confidence to meet the many challenges life has to offer.”