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Brownies from all over Maidstone marked their anniversary with a weekend of activities and memories

By Angela Cole

They may not look 100, but fresh-faced Brownies all across Kent are busy celebrating their 100th birthday this year.

Thousands of former and current imps, gnomes, and pixies, elves and leprechauns are celebrating 100 years of promising to do their best to mark the centenary of their movement at Big Brownie Birthday.

As memories of making carnival floats and royal visits flooded back to those of yesteryear, more than 120 current ones got together for one of many birthday parties.

Brownies from the Boughton Vale Division celebrate 100 years of Brownies with a nail painting session
Brownies from the Boughton Vale Division celebrate 100 years of Brownies with a nail painting session

Members of the Boughton Vale Division, from in and around Maidstone, certainly got into the spirit this month.

The girls, aged seven to 10, met at Tovil Scout Hut and enjoyed modern fun through to wartime pastimes. They “travelled” through time, completing mini quests to win stars and complete their star quest badge.

Their cosmic adventure kicked off with activities which their grandmothers might have enjoyed, such as maypole dancing, napkin folding, and croquet and hopscotch, before moving on to more up-to-date pursuits like completing their promise in sign language, painting their nails and firing rockets.

Nine-year-old Mary practices hopscotch
Nine-year-old Mary practices hopscotch

There was also, of course, a large campfire showing how traditional Guiding meets modern day.

Vikki Goodridge, chair of the organising committee said: “It’s a once in a lifetime chance to celebrate 100 years of being a Brownie.”

Eight-year-old Anezka, from Coxheath Brownies, said: “The Guide string trail was epic; I was scared that I might bump into trees on the way round but I loved it.”

Lucy Hegarty from the division, added: “For the Brownies of today, 1914 would be unimaginable."

2nd Shepway Brownies in 1986
2nd Shepway Brownies in 1986

The landmark has brought back fond memories for KM readers who once donned the brown and yellow uniform.

Lisa Spain told the KM: “I was a Brownie ... at the village hall in Ringlestone and we all had to stand on the old Chatham Road and salute the Queen as she drove past on her way back to London when she visited Maidstone.”

Helen Martin, once an imp with Yalding Brownies, said: “I really loved it back in 1985. I remember going to Aylesford priory one year with Brownies from all over for a celebration.”

And Debbie Wright, a former sprite, who went to the Salvation Army Hall in Union Street, Maidstone, said: “I remember taking part in the carnivals in maidstone as a Brownie in about 1973/4. Our Brown Owl was a teacher at Brunswick House school when it was on the corner of Buckland Hill, so we decorated the lorry with paper flowers in the school playground.”

Loose Brownies with leader Mary Beard
Loose Brownies with leader Mary Beard

The Brownie movement’s roots were set out in 1907 when Robert Baden-Powell held a camp for boys at Brownsea Island in Dorset and Scouting was born.

In 1909 girls gatecrashed the first Boy Scout rally at Crystal Palace, asking Baden Powell to offer something for them too, then in 1910 the Girl Guides Association was formed by his sister, Agnes, and in 1914 a junior section for under 11s, called Rosebuds – renamed Brownies the following year – was launched.

Originally, Brownie patrols were named after British trees, but in 1917 patrols became Sixes, that were given the fairy folk titles, such as gnomes, elves and imps.

Today they can also choose the title of leaders, so many Brown Owls have taken names such as Diamond, Unicorn, Lion, Otter.

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