by PAULA DAVIES
CARDINAL IIEENAN to morrow will conduct a thanksgiving service in Westminster Cathedral in honour of the Girl Guides diamond jubilee. To anyone who has never been a Brownie. let alone a Guide, this might seem a trifle excessive. but to the Guides. particularly the Catholics. it is an honour they feel they deserve, however smaU a part it may be of the entire Guide celebration..
From the beginning of this month until September 30, the Girl Guides' Association has arranged what amounts to almost an orgy of celebrations. A huge diamond jubilee spectacle to be held at the Empire Pool, Wembley, from September 2 to 5, involving 1,000 performers from the Guide movement, will be the culmination of a series of events taking place all over the country.
Princess Margaret, President of the Association, is attending a thanksgiving service tomorrow at Westminster Abbey, where she will watch her new standard being blessed and carried by Guides from Wales.
The Queen, aecompanied by the Princess. is attending a
reception at a London banqueting hall next Tuesday. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Anne are visiting Guide members at various gatherings during the celebration period and 500 members of the Guide movement have been invited to one of the Queen's garden parties in June.
As if these occasions were not enough there are also going to be services of thanks
giving in hundreds of smaller places around the country, pageants, carnivals, international camps and service projects of all kinds like the one started by Guides in Berkshire to collect £2,000 for a mobile eye clinic to be sent to Pakistan.
In my ignorance I have seldom been able to envisage the Brownies and Guides as anything but a sort of "nature ramble" association preferably led by someone calling herself Brown Owl. The Girl Guides' Association has always seemed to me to be a worthy but rather anachronistic organisation which girls joined if they hadn't any friends. Quite a number of people seem to have ideas along the same lines.
The fact that the Association is just about the opposite of what a lot of us imagine it to be is only driven home at times like this when the Guides go in for a little trumpet-blowing of their own. It is difficult to believe that the Guides are the biggest youth movement in this country with nearly 750,000 members. And membership is not static. for 75,000 girls have joined in the last three years alone.
It obviously has plenty more to offer the young than lighting fires in damp woods. "This is the funny image we still have in some quarters." said Mrs. Derek Parker Bowles, the Chief Commissioner.
She quoted the recent remark of an acquaintance as evidence of this. "What on earth do you do in the afternoons?" came the query. "You can't be lighting fires all the time."
Mrs. Parker Bowles is convinced that the image will change eventually and that nothing helps to change it more
than celebrations like those arranged for this summer.
Olave, Lady Baden-Powell, who at over 80, is still a remarkably lively and able World Chief Guide and the best advertisement for Guiding that any association could have, is not bothered by the rest of the world's picture of Guiding.
She is too busy travelling, meeting and encouraging Guide movements all over the world. While she was in South Africa recently she received a superb diamond from the Girl Guides there to mark the dia mond jubilee.
In typical style, she has decided to auction the diamond through Christie's and use the proceeds to expand the work of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
The Guides have come a long way since those early days when a group of girls insisted on an association to match that of the Boy Scouts.
From this country, where the first ever Guide rally took place at the Crystal Palace in 1909, the movement has spread throughout the world and 86 other countries now belong to the World Guiding Association. It is not an unenviable achievement for an organisation associated with Brown Owl.