Leslie's Guiding History Site


Lone Guides

Lone Guiding

From the earliest days of Guiding, the movement sought to cater for as many girls as possible, to really fulfil the claim that 'Guiding is open to any girl who is able to make the Promise'.  The first units, after all, were Patrols which had established themselves independently, then sought an adult to take charge of them when the rulebook finally insisted they must.  In urban areas, the gathering of Patrols into larger units was a natural result, but in some areas where the girls were more isolated, it was not feasible.


The first problem lay with girls who lived in rural areas.  In those days especially, many more people lived in the countryside, in small villages or hamlets, or in isolated farms and cottages with few links to the outside world, than is found nowadays.  In an era when public transport was limited, cars an impossible luxury, and mass communication even rarer, there were many individual girls who did not live within feasible reach of a unit, and some villages which would always struggle to muster enough girls of the right age or near enough to it, to ever form the two Patrols necessary to start a unit.  In many cases, their only contact with the nearest larger village or town was the school bus or train, the timing of which ruled out any participation in after-school activities outwith the home village or hamlet.


Another group were some of those girls who attended boarding schools.  Where a boarding school had a Headmistress sympathetic to the movement, and Mistresses willing to take on the role of Guide Officers in their limited free time, then units could flourish at boarding schools, and many did - but in schools where there wasn't a Guide Company established, and the school did not choose to begin one, school timetables and bounds rules could make it impossible for a girl to join any nearby Guide Company while at school, at least during term time.

A further group who were catered for by Lone Guiding were Extension Guides, as they were then known.  In those early days education for the disabled was often patchy or non-existent.  The lucky few were able to attend special boarding schools for certain disabilities, otherwise children who were unable to physically attend the local school were stuck at home, often with limited contact with other children and no educational provision or training in skills, in some cases rarely leaving the room in which they lived.  Letters of activities from the Lone Guider could both give them a connection with the outside world, and a chance to do some of the activities other Guiding members around the country were doing too - a rare chance to be 'the same'.

So Lone Guides were established to serve these various needs.  They had a special Promise Badge, in the same style as the Guide one, but with a large 'L' in blue enamel, like the one shown on the left.  They received special 'Company Letters' with activity ideas which they could carry out for themselves, and suggestions of ways to plan and carry out the activities they needed to complete their badges and awards - and each also included a note from their Patrol Leader with Patrol news and activities to tackle too.  Many of the letters would contain pictures and illustrations, and although most of the pages were typed, if the unit contained blind Guides then there might be some pages typed in braille.  Each Guide carried out the activities in the letter, added her results to the envelope which was attached, and was on her honour to send it on to the next member of the Patrol without delay - once the last Guide had finished she sent it back to the Guider who could then update their progress records and prepare to circulate the next letter.  Where possible the Lone Guides were each also linked to a local unit, and the Guiders from that unit could hold enrolments, assess them for badge clauses and present badges, and in some cases invite them to join the unit for camps, rallies or special outings.  Where this was not possible a parent or other adult could verify.  Where there was a small group of girls, they could form a Lone Patrol, linked to a local unit, but usually working independently of the unit, only joining up with them for special events.  Each Lone unit also tried to gather together occasionally - certainly as many members as possible would try to attend their annual camp, but they also tried to gather at rallies and other multi-unit events in the locality.
But it wasn't just Lone Guides - yes, they really did have Lone Rangers!  Their Promise badge was similar to the badge for Lone Guides, but their badge had a large red 'L' in enamel.  The Ranger programme, especially in the early years of the section, was ideally suited to Lone work, based as it was on the girl extending her Guide skills into the community where she lived and choosing a particular area of community service in which to specialise.  Lone Rangers had scope for developing skills and hobbies, and had real advantages when it came to finding or developing community projects to work on.  As with Lone Guides, details of their activities were submitted to the Lone Guider for assessment, and special 'Lones' camps were held, both for individual Lone units, and also for all the Lones in a much larger area to gather, and swap experiences and ideas.
And by 1921, Lone Guiding had been split into two sections, one catering for the girls who could not attend regular unit meetings due to reasons of geography or health (referred to as 'Section A') and also a section catering for older Guides and adults who could not attend meetings due to working hours or other commitments, known as 'Section B', which was a forerunner of Trefoil Guild.
Lone Guiding also carried on during the war, a time when it became even more vital.  Although those in rural areas fared better - the influx of evacuees meant that many villages which had only ever had a Village Patrol or group of Lones - now had enough girls of age to open up a unit, and the arrival of Land Girls and 'Lumberjills' helped swell rural village Ranger units with keen transfers.  On the other hand, some urban units were decimated by the number of girls who had been evacuated to 'somewhere in the country', and those left behind in the city had the problem of trying to keep in touch with their members 'in exile', as well as fitting Guiding in around their war work duties.  At the same time postal costs rose - in Edinburgh, at one time it became cheaper to send the Lone letters across the city by tram, than by post!

Technology has brought advances for Lone Guiding, with email and the internet making it much easier for the Guiders to keep in touch with members in remote locations, and scope for more regular communications, for challenges to be sent and replies received more quickly, including the creation of an internet Guide unit.  Alongside those who can't attend meetings because of geography, are a new band of Lones - those who cannot attend units because of their other commitments.  With so many out-of-school clubs on offer to girls nowadays, plus the pressure of schoolwork, sometimes it's hard to find a unit meeting within range on a night which doesn't clash with the other hobbies - so even in urban areas where standard units are available quite nearby, girls are finding that 'Lones' offers them accessible Guiding, which can be fitted into their schedule - so Lone Guiding is currently undergoing a massive expansion, with more units needed to meet demand than for a long time . . .