Fiona Purnell: A guiding light still relevant today...


Something in the news really surprised me - don’t really know why, it probably shouldn’t have, but it did.

According to the latest figures, the Girlguiding movement is gaining in popularity with over 8000 new members joining in the UK during the last 12 months . That equates to one girl or young women joining every hour. There are now more than half a million members.

I was actively involved in the organisation In my younger days.

At the age of five I was one of the first ever Rainbows to enrol in a unit set up in my home town and from there I went on to become a Brownie and then a Guide.

I left the Guides some time in the late 1990s and although I enjoyed my time, when I was a Guide I remember there was a bit of an ‘uncool’ stigma surrounding it.

This is possibly part of the reason the news numbers are on the up surprised me.

Positive memories

I would have thought given all the changes in society over the years there would now be too many other distractions and things going on to keep children and young people interested in such an organisation.

I would have expected the numbers to be dropping - clearly my thought process on this is wrong.

But it’s great numbers are on the up and all involved in the organisation should be congratulated for keeping it up to date, moving with the times and making it something young people still want to be involved in.

I loved my time in Rainbows, Brownies and Guides.

It was a good, valuable experience to be part of all three.

Over the years, I met many people and made new friends; it helped me boost my confidence; let me experience things I may never otherwise have had the chance to do and helped me gain new skills.

But, possibly the most important thing for me, is the memories of the good and happy times girlguiding has left me with.

There are many and they range from the little things like remembering the crafts we used to do; outings with the Brownies including seeing a stage version of Maisie - the cat from Aileen Paterson’s books and not the little white mouse; organising and helping run a coffee morning to earn one of my first Brownie badges - the hostess badge; and the nerves of being the flag bearer for my unit on two occasions for the Thinking Day parade (thoughts of ‘I must not trip, I must not trip...’)

Camping trips

But I guess the best memories probably stem from the Guide camps I attended.There were a few different camp sites we would go to - one near Ayr and another near Aberdeen.

I still remember my very first camp as it was the first time I’d been away from home sleeping under canvas.

It was always a great week, packed full of activities ranging from problem solving and treasure hunts to visits to local sights and attractions.

We’d take it in turns to go into the woods to collect firewood and help the leaders with the cooking.

Everyone’s favourite part of the week - although it mean it was almost time to return home - was the large camp fire we’d have on the last night.

As you’d expect there were many songs to be sung and marshmallows to toast on the end of the stick we would have chosen wisely over the week.

They were good times.

It’s funny to think the guiding concept began more than 100 years ago and is still going strong.

Do you think Lady Baden Powell expected it to be such a success?

Let’s hope it continues to be around for many more years to come.

*Fiona Purnell writes for the Fife Free Press, Kirkcaldy