There’s always been Guiding in Cornwall, starting from a pack of just six girls who met as part of Scouts in 1910 before joining the new and exciting Guide Movement launched later that year.
Over the years, Girlguiding has changed and expanded massively, and here in Cornwall we’ve always held on to our wish to embrace our beautiful countryside, beaches and weather to give girls the chance to explore, to learn and to grow.
We’re lucky enough to have firsthand knowledge of how it all began, thanks to the writings of former member Mrs D Croxford of Par who documented her experience especially for us.
“Guiding was started in Cornwall in early 1910 by the Reverend Walker, Mission to Seamen Chaplain for Falmouth and Miss Williams, a philanthropic old lady. They raised the interest of others and formed a Committee which organised and subsidised the start of the 1st Cornwall Scout Troop.
Florence Walker, Mr Walker’s younger daughter, found six other keen girls and we met in their house and worked for our Tenderfoot Badges. Miss Walker (the elder daughter) agreed to act as temporary captain until a captain was found and was in charge of us but was never enrolled.
On June 10th, we were enrolled in Kimberley Park by the Scoutmaster. Florence was enrolled first and made Patrol Leader and then the rest of us. Miss Williams had presented us with a Union Jack. Later she gave us a bugle! We took it in turns to be the ‘bugler’ but I regret to say that no-one got beyond the ‘Dying Cow’ stage. But — the bugle was kept very bright and shining and the current ‘bugler’ was a very proud girl. Miss Walker had red hair with the usual delicate complexion and, to our disgust, always used a sunshade when out marching! At first we attracted a good deal of attention from jeering small boys, but they soon got used to our appearance.
We were, of course, Scouts and used the Scout Handbook and came under the Scout Headquarters. Our uniform was exactly as the Scouts, except for navy-blue school skirts, black woollen stockings and black lace-up shoes. We had khaki shirts and hats, brown gauntlet gloves, triangular-bandage ties of different colours for each patrol, brown leather belts with a swivel on each side and straps at the back for a rolled-up mackintosh. We carried about our person, a haversack, a water bottle, a billycan, a whistle and a knife on brown lanyards, and a coil of rope. We also carried Scout staves.
The Patrols were named after flowers and the Patrol Leader had a Patrol flag which was white and triangular with the emblem embroidered on it, on her staff. Each girl had a first-aid kit, several triangular bandages and stretcher straps, plus string, paper and a pencil etc in her haversack. The stretcher straps were strips of wide brown webbing with a deep hem, forming a loop at each end and stretchers were made by slinging the Scout poles through these loops.
It was not long before we had a regular warranted Captain — Miss Porter and two Lieutenants, Miss Clatworthy and Miss Badger and our numbers increased rapidly to a full Troop of three Patrols. We now rented a hall for our Meetings which were on Saturdays from approximately 2 to 8pm. Whenever possible, though, we went out for the whole day, doing stalking etc and camp-fires. We also had special lecture trainings on other evenings. We were very keen about our ‘good deeds’, marching and smartness. Not long after we started, a Troop was formed in Truro, with Miss Earthy as Captain and the two Troops met for an all-day picnic at Perranwell.
When Miss Agnes Baden-Powell took charge of the girls section, the Guide Movement was formed and we became Girl Guides with the new blue uniform, and our own Headquarters. In 1911, one Guide went to London to the first Guide Rally and March-past in Hyde Park. At the end of what seemed hours of marching, she enquired what it was they were doing to ‘march-past’, only to be told that it ‘was all over and they had done it’.
One Christmas, a National competition was organised for the best and most originally dressed doll. It was won by a Falmouth Guide, who dressed her doll as a mermaid. The best dolls were sold and the money raised used to buy tops for boys – and then both toys and unsold dolls were given to poor children in London.
By this time, we were registered as the 1st Falmouth Company. When Heather Baden-Powell was born, there was a National Patrol Competition and the winning patrol was to be called ‘Heather Patrol’. It was won by a Welsh Company, but Falmouth came second. Our first camp was organised and then cancelled at the last minute, because it was raining when we were due to leave!