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Margaret Barbour - a Life in Guiding

Bruce Barbour - November 2019

Margaret Barbour, my mother, was a member of the Girl Guide Association for about 78 years, most of her life. Girl Guides was important to Margaret and impacted on her life in many ways. I will provide a brief history of her life in guiding and some of her achievements within that organisation.

When Margaret was 15, in 1941, Maidie Williams, a keen Guide leader and a friend of Vera Paice, Margaret’s mother, spoke to Vera to convince her to allow Margaret to join the Girl Guides. Vera agreed and so began a life time involvement with the organisation. At around that time Maidie gave Margaret her Girl Guiding book from 1926. I have included a scan of the front page of this book immediately below. The writing in blue is from Margaret. Maidie's writing above.

1926 Guide Book Cover

The book contains the Guide Law and Promise, which Margaret agreed to when she was accepted as a Guide with the 1st Ascot Vale Guide company. I have included scans of the pages containing the Guide Promise and the Laws from that time below. Please note the current Guide Promise and Law has changed,  which is to be expected after 90+ years.

1926 Guide Promise
1926 Guide Law

To Margaret the Guide Law and Promise were not just empty words. Ever since she joined she took them to heart and endeavoured to live by them. They guided many of her ideas and actions in life. This manifested in her commitment to service to the Girl Guide movement and to the wider community.

I will briefly go over Margaret's life in guiding and some of her achievements. I start with some words written by Margaret herself about her early life in Guiding. The exact date that this was written is not known – possibly circa 2002.

"After moving to Moonee Ponds from South West Brunswick in December 1940 I joined the Ascot Vale Guides – who met in the old Presbyterian Sunday School hall – where “Corandirk Hostel” is now.

I was enrolled as a Girl Guide on 21st of April 1941 – at the age of 15 years – this meant that I fully enjoyed two years as a Guide, because the Guiding finishing age was 16 up to 17 years.

My Guide Captain and Lieutenant were Miss Joan McNab and Miss Aden Beaumont, and I really did enjoy the fun and friendship of Guiding.

I learnt a lot and passed my “Second Class Test” and became a patrol leader of Holly Patrol. Our uniform was a dark blue dress with long black stockings and a broad brim hat, and we had a light green scarf, specially folded, being three fingers width up from our belt, and tied with a reef knot under the collar of our dress, and the golden Guide badge shone brightly in the centre of our scarf.

With the Company I took part in hikes and outings, learning to cook our meals outdoors -- there were District sports days - - learning campfire songs and enjoying singing - - learning to do First Aid - - and rescue work as practice for St Johns First Aid Group or similar - - and we went to an indoor camp and all enjoyed our weekend away.

A new experience to us all!

At 17 years, I went onto the Essendon Rangers group, - our leaders were Marj and Edna Beaumont, and what fun we enjoyed through Rangers.

Out uniform was a navy blue dress, with a maroon scarf, trimmed with a maroon and blue braid, with a woggle at the neck, and a red badge to wear after we had made our Ranger Promise - "to take the our Law and Promise out into the wider world". Navy blue jumpers with ribs were introduced for rangers to wear in winter, and we all knitted our jumpers.

Rangers was a lot of fun and friendship too! And I enjoyed Rangers for two to three years, making my Ranger Promise in 1943. We had weekend camps away, learning camp fire songs, and joining in lots of activities.

Essendon District extended to cover guiding groups in Ascot Vale - 1st and 2nd Guides - - 1st Moonee Ponds - - 1st and 3rd Essendon - - 1st and 2nd Aberfeldie.

In 1944, I was asked to go in as Lieutenant to 1st Ascot Vale Guides, and I learnt how to do Guiding from a different aspect, but still enjoying the fun and friendship of Guiding.

In 1945, I was asked if I would like to be a "Leader" with 1st Aberfeldie Guides - who met in a tiny hall in Washington Street, Essendon. Mainly games were played outside in the Street - not many motor cars going though - with quieter activities in the hall.

Wilma Torney was a keen Guiding leader, - she had been a Guide at 1st Aberfeldie and was keen to be a Leader - but she was not old enough for the full responsibility of a company, so Margaret and Wilma joined together to take 1st Aberfeldie Guides.

In 1947, I became Captain of the 1st Aberfeldie Guides, and gained my Leader's Warrant in August 1947 - holding my warrant until about 1956. We had a big company of 30 guides, and we enjoyed many hikes and outings, and lots of games and fun.

We moved from the tiny hall in Washington Street, up to St Johns Presbyterian Church Hall, in Mt Alexander Road - in the old Church Hall. We had more room for activities both inside and outside the hall.

Margaret With
                          Lady Baden Powell
Margaret with Lady Baden Powell - 1949

2nd Essendon Scouts met at this hall - and eventually the Guides were known as 1st Aberfedie - 2nd Essendon Guides - now (editor's note - date not known) known as 2nd Essendon Guides.

There were lots of outdoor activities - district outings - Scout socials - inviting Scouts back to a Guide social - taking part in "Scouting around" which was later broadcast on the wireless in this section - hikes and campfires at Miss Graves' property in Niddrie - sports days with other Guide companies competing for the cup - a Rally at the showgrounds - a field day at Lilydale to meet Lady B.P (Baden Powell) along with many many other Guides - visiting and enjoying a day out with other leaders to a State Camp - a weekend away with District leaders to Somerville and the fun - and lots of other memories....

And in later years, meeting Guiding friends and someone saying "Hello Cap" - and trying to remember names and where and when ...  Lots and lots of fun and friendship from Guiding days with 1st Aberfeldie Guides.

Margaret Barbour - - was Margaret Paice - - "Cap"

* * *

Margaret became a Guide in 1941 and after two years moved onto Rangers in 1943. In 1945 Margaret became a lieutenant with 1st Ascot Vale Guides.

Wedding with Guide
                          Guard of Honour
Wedding with 1st Aberfeldie Guide Guard of Honour

In 1947 Margaret became the “Captain” with 1st Aberfeldie Guides, a position she held until 1955. The 1st Aberfeldie Guides provided the bridal party with a "Guard of Honour" at her wedding to Robert Edward (Bert) Barbour on 10 December 1949, incidentally the day the Liberal - Country Party coalition was elected, with Bob Menzies as the Prime Minister for the second time - the Prime Ministership which would last 16 years.

Between 1956 and 1960 Margaret lists her involvement with Guides as being a member of the "Strathmore Local Association" of the Guides. In that period she would have had her hands full with family, having three children between 1953 and 1958, which would have kept her busy enough by itself.

The Strathmore Community Association, which Margaret's husband Bert was a member and office holder, had constructed a community hall in Loeman Street across the road from the house where Margaret and her family lived. The hall offered Margaret an opportunity: to establish a Girl Guide group in the hall and she became leader of 2nd Strathmore Girl Guides. Margaret ran the group for 18 years from 1961 to 1979, running weekly meetings on a Wednesday evening.

Margaret on Girl
                        Guide Camp - 1965
Girl Guide Camp - 1965

In 1964 Margaret gained permits from Guiding HQ for running indoor camps and later in 1969 for running outdoor camps. Margaret regularly took the Guides away on weekend camps to the Rowallan camp, near Riddells Creek, and on occasions to other camp sites, having both indoor and outdoor (under canvas) camps.

While still the leader of 2nd Strathmore, in 1970 Margaret became a Guide trainer, a member of Region's Training Team. This involved gaining and maintaining a qualification from Headquarters. Margaret provided 1st Stage Training – "Introduction to new leaders”, training for new Guide leaders. Margaret said that she found this "challenging and I enjoyed helping new Leaders." Margaret continued to provide training for nine years until 1979.

In 1980 Margaret was appointed as the Strathmore Girl Guide District Commissioner, the position which she held until 1985. Around the early 1980s Margaret also joined Trefoil Guild, the organisation for “adult” Guides.

Matildas Mate
                        Certificate of Appreciation
Matildas Mate Certificate of Appreciation
Girl Guide Long Service Certificate
Girl Guide Long Service Certificate - 50 years

After finishing as District Commissioner Margaret still wanted to maintain an association with Guides so she did two things. She maintained her membership of the Trefoil Guild. Margaret’s involvement in Trefoil Guild continued until 2018. Also from 1986 Margaret edited, printed and distributed a bi-monthly Guiding newsletter for the North West Region of Guides called Matilda’s Mate. This continued until about 2004.

(Incidentally it was called Matilda's Mate because the Girl Guide Association also published a newsletter / magazine for wider distribution. That magazine was called "Matilda" so it was fitting that the North West Region's newsletter was called "Matilda's Mate".)

In 2018 Margaret was unable to attend the Trefoil Guild meetings so she joined Girl Guides Victoria as a direct member.

Margaret had many other positions and involvements in Guiding over time, some of which I will list here:

  • Treasurer with Strathmore District Leaders Group and later Secretary for meetings and sometimes "stand-in" for the District Commissioner. when needed.
  • Appointed as a member of Guide Section Committee – 1971 to 1976 approx. – when Dorothy Halligan was Victorian Guide Adviser. Guide Section Committee set up many State camps for guides to attend and to meet other guides – as well as planning `a Train Trek’ on two or three occasions – when guides visited many places in Victoria by train.
  • Member of the "Planning Committee" for 1st Kanyanya Pioneering Day held – when Scouts demonstrated their pioneering, and the Guides prepared `International lunches’ for everyone to enjoy.
  • Appointed to the "Planning Committee" for "Minda Killara" – the first Guide building for indoor camps at the Rowallan Guide Camp, near Riddells Creek. Margaret attended/organised lots of working bees held to clear site for the building. Minda Killara was opened in 1963. (Unfortunately the first "Minda Killara" was totally burnt down in a bush fire in 1983. It was quickly rebuilt, reopening in 1984.)

Margaret clearly enjoyed all aspects of her involvement in Guiding throughout her life. However not only did she enjoy the involvement through her service in Guiding Margaret has made a positive contribution to the lives of many young girls.

History of Essendon and Strathmore Girl Guides. - compiled and written by Margaret Barbour.

Girl Guide Logo Victoria

Oversite Contents Page.




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