One hundred years needs celebrations and that was exactly what the Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association did at Kandy Bogambara Stadium, Kandy with the Chair - World Board, World Association of Girl Guides Nicola Grinstead.
The Guides Association in Sri Lanka decided to celebrate their Centenary year in Kandy, since Guiding was born in Kandy and that at a prestigious school - Girls’ High School Kandy, founded by a British woman.
This short note is not to speak so much of Guiding as a whole and does not want to tread on another’s toe. But, since the celebration’s were in Kandy with political backing, it would be appropriate to know how Guiding came into the country and then to commence youth building in that region.
Sifting through various papers the writer had , since Girls’ High school was a sister school of Kingswood and being a King’s Scout with the National Service Award, there were papers connected with the formation of the first Guide group at this prestigious school in the Hills.
Credit should go to a woman who came from England - Miss Jane Calverley in February 1917.
She had a thorough knowledge of Guiding and became a source of strength to the Principal at that time Miss F.R. Samson. As an educationist, she was building up the school and the presence of Calverley was a boom to go ahead to form the first Guide Company in the country, commencing from Girls’ High school on 21st of March 1917.
Jane Calverley (Later to become Jane Green) became so popular that she was nick named “Sunshine Jane”.
She saw the difficulties of the normal school girl in the country visited their homes and came to know the difficulties. She best came out when she put her foot forward during the outbreak of plague in 1920. The infected area was Brownrigg Street, which today is Yatinuwara Veediya and the school been in Brownrigg street church premises. The school had to be shifted, a part of it went to YMCA, and the other went to the Trinity College.
Calverley took the initiative and did her best.
At that time she was in addition the Acting Principal of the school. She went on furlough, and then was posted to Matara Wesley School. So, she left behind a trail, for the future of Sri Lanka.
That seed, she planted in 1917, was celebrated as the Centenary of Guiding in Sri Lanka.
The first Committee established for the purpose of Guiding had as its President Lady Stubbs - the wife of the Governor and Mrs. Dyson – the wife of the Government Agent as the District Commissioner. - the wife of the Government Agent.
The Principal, Miss F.R. Samson was elected as the Secretary and Miss L. Janz the Honorary Treasurer.
"When talking about Scouting and Girl Guides, the founder of the movement - Robert Baden Powell and also Jenny Calverley Greene at Girls’ High School who established the first Girl Guide Company in Sri Lanka in1917 should be remembered with respect Honour and warm sincere gratitude"
Mrs. Stubbs whenever she was in Kandy used to invite the Guides for tea at King’s Pavilion.
Still some of those who are living recall the time spent on the lawn of King’s pavilion where tea was served.
By July the Guides were ready to be tested for their ‘ tenderfoot’ badges by the Scout Master of the King’s Troop Mr. F.H. de Saram - that was first Kandy (Dharmaraja). Dharmaraja came to be known as King’s Troop, since they won the King’s Flag thrice in the competition World over
With the receipt of the “Captain’s Warrant “as the first Ceylonese Guide Captain Miss. Gladys Vanderstraaten, the first enrolment ceremony was held in December 1917. Unfortunately, Lady Stubbs who should have been present did not arrive as planned due to another engagement.
In the meantime, the Chief Guide Madam Baden Powell arrived in the country in 1921 and visited Kandy, when the newly formed Guide company impressed her. Before her departure, Lady Baden Powell wrote of her impressions from ‘Temple Trees’ “where she was the guest of the Governor, to Miss Calverley.
"The 1st Committee for guiding had as its President Lady Stubbs - wife of the Governor and Mrs. Dyson – wife of the Government Agent as the District Commissioner. "
Another first in the country was the Brownie movement for the youngest in the school, which was established an year after the Guide Company and Miss D. Woutersz was the first ‘ Owl’.
This short note would not be complete, if the Chief Minister is not quoted.
He said at this Centenary event, that he was happy to be at the celebrations as the Chief Minister and also as a member and President of the Kandy District Scout movement. He said that where the Guide movement is considered, it is one of the key curriculum activities absorbed in to the country’s education system.
He said that the President Maithripala Sirisena was to grace the occasion, not as the President, but as the Chief Scout of Sri Lanka since 2015. But due some urgent assignments he was unable to be present on this occasion, but his blessings have been extended for the event. He also welcomed the Chair, World Board World Association of Girl Guides Madam Nicola Grinstead.
Speaking further, the Chief Minister Sarath Ekanayake said:
“When talking about Scouting and Girl Guides, the founder of the movement - Robert Baden Powell and also Jenny Calverley Greene at Girls’ High School who established the first Girl Guide Company in Sri Lanka in1917 should be remembered with respect Honour and warm sincere gratitude.”
He also said that this event would add a new page to the history of the Girl Guides Association.