Thorney Guides celebrates 65 years
Thorney’s girl guide group reaches the grand old age of 65 this year – but the unit is a long way from being pensioned off.
Guides, Brownies and Rainbows in the village are thriving, with each group almost full to capacity and there is an active Rangers group catering for those over 14.
The 2nd Thorney Guides was launched in 1953, with the late Kath Martin as leader. There had been a 1st Thorney Guides in the village for some years before, but no-one is quite sure when that stopped.
The current unit is now led by Denise Burton, only the fourth Guides leader in 65 years. Denise took over from her mother Sheila Bowen, who took over from Margaret Dewing.
A 65th birthday party was held at the old Methodist Chapel on The Causeway in June when past guides, parents and village leaders were invited. There was cake, singing and a raffle, and the occasion was also marked by the presentation of new standards to guides and brownies.
The units have been without standards for a few years after the old ones basically dropped to pieces from age. This has meant that they haven’t been able to take part in parades such as Remembrance Sunday.
The new standards were donated by Dorothy Halfhide, herself a former girl-guide, and given in memory of her father, who died earlier this year.
“It is great the see the groups in such a good state,” said Denise. “We have a really nice atmosphere across Guides, Brownies and Rainbows and, although some are nearly full, we’re still able to offer places to girls who want to join.
“Guiding is a great way to make friends and learn some life skills. We keep re-inventing the movement to keep it relevant to today’s children.
“It is also wonderful to see mums and grandmothers who were in Thorney Guides themselves, now bringing their girls along to meetings.”
Margaret Dewing, second guide leader, has happy memories of girl-guides. She remembers the early camps held in Kath Martin’s garden on Whittlesey Road and, later, the get-togethers at the guide camp on the Fitzwilliam estate. “We were all in big tents back then and the conditions were a bit basic. Some girls were horrified when they saw the bucket latrines!”
Margaret’s one real regret was the change of uniform. “I really liked the old uniform,” she said. “It just looked smarter, more formal, but it did need a bit of ironing.”
Sheila Bowen had a long association with the guides. She got involved back in her native Wales and as well as leading the 2nd Thorney Guides, she has also served as both district and divisional commissioner and badge secretary for the county.
She also remembers life under canvas. “We had to put our own tents up and then the commissioner would come round to inspect them and if one was a few inches out of line, it had to come down and be put back up in the right place.
“There were no hair-dryers or showers in those days.”
Guides still do summer camps and also use the PGL Holidays activity centre.
Photo – Thorney’s last three guide leaders (left to right): Margaret Dewing, Sheila Bowen and Denise Burton.