Leslie's Guiding History Site


Trefoil Guild, LINK, SSAGO

Trefoil Guild


By 1917 the early Girl Guides were outgrowing the section, and Senior Guides were started, as a 'finishing school' for the girls who had come through Guides - and as a more suitable starting point for girls who joined Guiding at 16 years or over.  So already, the need was seen for something beyond Guides.  

At that time, the girls of 16 and over fell into two distinct categories - and the split was effectively by class.  

Girls of the upper and middle classes would stay in school until they were 18 or 19 years of age, after which the majority would help out at home, where they would stay until they were married - they would not normally take on any paid work, but might do good works in the community such as supporting charity funds.  Work of this sort could include running Guide or Brownie units - at this time there was a definite emphasis on Guiders being the 'right sort' - in each locality it was a committee formed of such people as the lady mayoress, school mistresses, wives of doctors and of clergy who were tasked with nominating a suitable Captain to headquarters. World War 1 had an impact on this class particularly - in the war the largest number of casualties was among the young army officers, and as such, a lot of the young women in the late 1910s and early 1920s who had assumed that they would be married and raising a family - found that they were either single or widowed.  It was this which allowed Guiding to expand significantly in the 1920s.  But it also meant there were a number of young women who were keen to retain their Guide friendships, and who had the time to continue active support of Guiding.

For girls of working or lower middle class, on the other hand, most would leave school at 14 to start full-time work - at this stage, the professions open to girls were mainly service, factory work, shop work or farm work.  They would tend to marry at an earlier age - usually in their late teens or early twenties - at which point they would leave paid employment in order to stay at home, run the house, and in due course, bring up children.  But that didn't mean they couldn't have the occasional evening out, with their old Guide friends.

So Rangers were created to solve the problem of 16+ girls who did not want to leave Guides, but actually, as you might expect, it didn't really solve the problem at all!  It simply deferred it a little longer - for now it was a case of what to do about those who did not want to leave Rangers, especially since there was no upper age limit for Rangers, such that some members were well into middle age!

Many Guide and Ranger Companies tried to keep in touch with former members whose lives were moving on with careers or husbands and families, particularly where there was a risk of this meaning their former members losing contact with active Guiding - but it was important that this was an extra sideline, and not to the detriment of the current active membership of the Ranger Company - the next generation of active young Rangers who needed to get their turn of being Patrol Leaders and taking charge of  the running of their unit - or the need to have an attractive age-appropriate programme which would encourage new recruits from the Guide Company.  . 

In April 1919, the Lone Guide section was reorganised, into "Branch A" and "Branch B".  Branch A being for Guides between the ages of 11 and 20.  Branch B being for Guides over the age of 20.  The 1921 edition of Organisation, Policy and Rules stated:

"The object of Branch B is:-

a) To enable Guides and Guiders to keep in touch with the Movement when through force of circumstances they have been obliged to give up active work with a Company.

b) To enable those to join the Movement who have found their work, study, ill-health or duties at home too great a handicap to their joining a regular Company.

c) To make it possible for those to join the Movement who are interested in Girl Guiding and anxious to do propaganda work, but who do not wish to take up the practical side of Guiding.

Lone Guides in Branch B are formed into Circles.

Each Circle contains nominally 12 Guides, with a Leader.  A Circle must be registered in the same way as a Company.  The registration fee is 5 s.

The Leader should be a former Guider so that she may be able to give practical assistance on Guiding to the Tenderfoot or those who wish to work for badges.

As those who join this Branch have seldom the time or the opportunities for taking up active Guiding to any great extent, they are not expected to work for badges unless they wish.

Those who are interested in the Movement and who wish to do propaganda work, but who do not wish to take up the practical side of Guiding, may wear the Tenderfoot badge without passing the Tenderfoot test.

The Leader runs her Circle as far as possible to meet the needs of her Guides.

Members of a Circle are kept in touch with each other and with the Movement by means of discussions and the exchange of ideas on interesting Guide subjects, the various papers and letters being circulated round the Circle."

Although "Branch B" is not listed as being part of Trefoil Guild history, it is clear from the age group served, the objects stated and the structure of small local groups - fits closely with what Trefoil Guild is intended to be.

In  July 1925 it was announced that the Society of Ex-Guiders had been formed, run by the Head of Lones - in June 1929 it was announced that it would "be allowed to lapse."

In May 1930, "The Guider" included an article on "The Problem of the Older Ranger".  It posed the problem of girls who had been Rangers for five or more years - and Guides before that, where the Guider felt they had reached the stage where they had done all the badges and awards they were destined to, and learned all the skills - some could become Guiders but "there will be many who have not the time or the inclination or the ability to do so".  And as it stated "we always have younger Rangers growing up, so that unless we can think of some way of dealing with the situation, we are going to be faced with a problem.  Either the old ones will hang on and continue to take the lead from force of habit, even though they may try to efface themselves - in which case the younger half of the company will suffer; or else we can push them gently but firmly out, and thereafter gradually lose touch with them, and perhaps deprive the Guide movement of some very useful members."  The first option the unit tried was a 'senior patrol - "The Oaks".  But this did not work very well as it was apt to make cliques.  Next they tried pairing a senior and junior together so the senior could help the junior - but this didn't work well as it left the seniors in the lead again.  Finally it was decided that the seniors should be Acorns, and the younger Patrols be Oaks, Beeches and Birches.  The Acorns are attached, and can attend meetings occasionally - and they have a quarterly meeting of their own.  They also have a circular letter, to which each adds her news before sending it on.  The one obligation is some kind of service.  

In the summer of 1933, the letters pages of "The Guider" had an extensive discussion on the question of the 'Guider-Ranger' - the adult who was serving as a Brownie or Guide Guider, but still wanted to be a Ranger in order to take part in activities with those of the same age.  Some correspondents were supportive, suggesting that they were helpful to the Ranger Guider, but others suggested that their presence was offputting for other, especially younger, Rangers, with suggestions that a separate group would be better.  

April 1935 brought proposals for a 'fourth branch' for former and current Leaders.  In October 1935 "Guidons" was suggested as a name for it, and in January 1936 it was stated that a leaflet of the new Guidon scheme would be published shortly.  In January 1937 was advertised meeting for Old Guides groups at County, Division, District and Unit level.  In 1937 the first national Old Guides conference was held, at which it was decided that a special tie would be worn, in navy with red and green stripes - but they opted not to have a special Promise badge.  In December 1938 "The Guider" stated 'an Old Guide who has been previously Warranted as Commissioner, Secretary or Guider may wear an Old Guide Cockade in uniform, which is navy blue with a green and a red stripe, like the 'Old Guide' tie.'  It was also stated that 'Old Guide' Recorders will be Warranted and wear the appropriate level Secretary badge.

So, in 1936 there was a group, with a name, and a leaflet.  And by 1938 there was a uniform tie and cockade to wear with adult uniform, and the Recorders (who carried out the job of secretary) received Guiding Warrants, and wore the same Secretary qualification badge as did Secretaries in mainstream Guiding.  And yet all the books and official records state Trefoil Guild wasn't founded until 1943.  Anything which existed before that was likely both local and unofficial.  Really?

In an article in "The Guider" in 1945, it was stated:

Everyone readily agrees to the basic idea of the Trefoil Guild, it has the simple soundness of a fundamentally good thing.  There must e a number of people who, leaving active Guiding for all manner of reasons, yet wish to still live by the rule of the Guide Law, and wish also to feel themselves as still belonging to the Guide Movement.  these are a great potential strength, and might add tremendously to the influence of Guiding.

Between any desirable ideal, and its practical carrying out on a large scale, lies a good deal of planning and organising, and it is often extremely difficult to translate the ideal into practice without changing or losing it.  

In launching the Trefoil Guild, the Imperial Executive committee (largely because of war-time difficulties of central organisation) put the responsibility for its inception on the County authorities.  Each County was to make its own plans and to work it according to its own needs.  I was asked to be a sort of official question answerer for the Executive.  Actually of course the whole Trefoil Guild scheme is so untried that I did not know the answers any more than anyone else, but if answers were to be given it seemed as though the result would be more consistent if one person supplied them.  This appointment of course led to my being asked how to start and how to run Trefoil Guilds.  I could not answer this with any confidence as I had never tried to do it, and had no information from anyone who had done so, the best I could attempt was a rather sketchy outline of what it should do if I had to organise it in a County.

Now, after a year, I have had enough material from County Trefoil Guild Secretaries and the Secretaries of branches, to make it possible to give notes of how it is going in various places, and the answers given to some o fhte questions asked, in case they may be of help to others.  As there is no registration at Headquarters and no warranting of the Trefoil Guild Secretaries, I can only know about the progress of the Guild in places from which I have had letters.  Thank you very much all the poeple who have troubled to write, and please will others write too if they are trying out anything new so that I can pass ideas on to the people who ask for them?

Here are some of the questions:

Why have something new, why not Old Guides?

There were many successful Old Guide groups, but on the whole the idea did not catch on on a large scale, possibly because it had a rather backwards-looking name.  It suggests "the good time we used to have."  The Trefoil Guild looks forward to the good that will be done by its members, and membership should be a privilege and a promotion, not just a wistful getting together because too old for Rangers.  Some Old Guide groups did not like being suddenly changed (without being consulted) into Trefoil Guild.  They felt that the word "Guide" represented a definite idea in the minds of the public, and "Old Guides" meant something and described what they were, but no one would know what "Trefoil Guild" stood for.  To these I suggested that they should at first call themselves the "Trefoil Guild of Guides" until the name became well known.

Can there be any exception to the age limit?

The question of allowing Rangers (under the age of 21) to join the Trefoil Guild was again discussed by the December Executive and it was agreed that those Rangers who cannot continue active Guiding may join the Guild under the age of 21 at the discretion of the County Commissioner and the County Ranger Adviser and that no definite qualifications should be laid down but each individual case should be considered on its merits.

What does a County Trefoil Guild Secretary wear?

She wears the uniform and distinguishing marks of a member of the Trefoil Guild as laid down in the Trefoil Guild leaflet.  As she is not warranted she cannot wear the secretaries' crossed pens.  It is suggested that at Country Conferences, Guiders meetings, etc., she should wear a small label saying that she is the Trefoil Guild Secretary so that she can be recognised.

Does a Ranger automatically join the Trefoil Guild when she is 21?

There is nothing automatic about the joining though she must of course leave the Rangers.  If she wishes to be a member of a Trefoil Guild branch she must be proposed by the Commissioner or Guider to whom she is personally known.

Do Trefoil Guild members leaving the County remain members of the Trefoil Guild in their old county or in the new one?

This can be as they wish.  There are obvious advantages in joining the Trefoil Guild in the place where they are, but many keep in touch with Guiding in their old county through the Guild.  County T.G. Secretaries should put members of County Guilds who are living out of the County in touch with the Branch Secretary where they are, so that they can be invited to Guide events.

Can ex-Guides and Rangers helping in Wolf Cub Packs be members of the Trefoil Guild?

Yes.  Trefoil Guild members undertake to do some service for the community if possible and this is excellent service.  I do see the difficulty if active, Guiders cannot join, and active Cubbers can, but it would seem very grudging to refuse them continued membership of Guiding through the Trefoil Guild because they are doing this service.

How can active Guiders be in touch with Trefoil Guild branches?

Active Guiders cannot be members of the Trefoil Gild because it is clearly right that they should keep their time and energies in Guiding first and for their own Companies and Pakcs; on the other hand Trefoil Guild members and active Guiders will want to meet  Hampshire has found a good solution in the idea of "Associates".  Associates are active Guiders who attend branch meetings of the Trefoil Guild but have no power to vote or to hold office.  In some cases this has led to the return of ex-Guiders to active work in the movement.

Why did Headquarters not organise it centrally?

For two reasons, first because of war-time shortage of staff, and secondly because the success of such a scheme must depend on it being very adaptable to local needs.  That this policy is proving the right one can I think be seen from the different ways in which Counties are tackling the formation of the Trefoil Guild, all seem agreed the thing is worth-while, and that by having freedom to work it out themselves they can best find what is wanted in their own area.

In July 1951, the first Trefoil Guild magazine, "Notes and News" was produced, as a half-yearly bulletin, price 2d.  Within a year it had increased in size, and in price, to 3d!  It was later renamed "The Trefoil", and also available in braille and recorded versions.  In 1953 a new armlet of red fabric was produced, with "Trefoil Guild" embroidered in yellow, which could be worn when helping at Guide activities.  The first Trefoil Guild Conference was held in Swanwick in 1951, and following this, the constitution was ratified in 1954, with a central office at Commonwealth Headquarters being set up in the same year.  It was in 1962 that Trefoil Guild 'Fellowship Day' was established, now marked on 25 October each year.


In 1971 the minimum age for Trefoil Guild was lowered from 21 to 18, and in 1973 a special group, 'Link' was set up for younger members aged 18-30 from both Scouting and Guiding.  the idea had originated with Lady Alport, the then President of Trefoil Guild, to create a group which would link ex-Rangers and ex-Ventures.  Discussions took place between the Girl Guide and Scout Associations with a view to forming a joint support group for the new section, unfortunately due to a difference of opinion this was rejected by the Scouts.  LINK began as part of the Thinking Day celebrations in 1973, with their own special badge.  Lady Alport was invited to be LINK's honorary president in 1977, a position she held until her death in 1983.  LINK held two annual get-togethers each year, in the Easter and August holidays, each hosted by a different LINK group.  The idea was to provide a voluntary club where former members of either Association could take part in adventurous activities and voluntary work.  Each LINK set up it's own programme and the aim of LINK was that it would be a Guide-Association based organisation which would help the Guide Association in a range of active ways, whilst also giving social and outdoor activity opportunities to it's members.

Although the idea of a youth section for Trefoil Guild was welcomed, membership of LINK tended to be confined to a few enthusiastic groups, who often struggled to attract new younger members.  LINK eventually closed down in 2008, with the members being absorbed into the Trefoil Guild.


SSAGO is the Student Scout and Guide Organisation.  It was officially founded in February 1967, but it’s roots go back further than that . . .


Naturally, many of the students going to University, even from comparatively early on in Guiding and Scouting history, had been Scouts or Guides.  The earliest records traced to date are in 1915 for University Scouting clubs.  Among the first were Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester and London.  Each of these was an independent club whose members linked in to the movement locally, and took part in activities alongside local Scouting/Guiding members. 


The first records of inter-club activities can be traced back to the publication in 1919 of a magazine for all “Intervarsity Scout Clubs” run and edited by Oxford.  There were also Intervarsity camps between 1920 and 1927.  Most of the members would have been Rover or Senior Scouts, or Ranger Guides.


The independent clubs at each university carried on through the war years, despite the disruption, and the postwar rush of students into universities brought forth fresh enthusiasm for the clubs.  The Birmingham club resumed the rallies which had stopped some 20 years before, with a camp at Beaudesert in the summer of 1947 which incorporated a conference.  This was followed by events in the following two years, this time organised by Scout headquarters.  In 1950 organisation of the rallies was again taken on by the clubs, who have continued to organise almost every rally. 


At that time the number of Universities in the UK was low (around 20-30) and colleges were not admitted to membership, other than a small number of specialist colleges such as Loughborough.  In 1956 the Federation of Scout and Guide Clubs in Training Colleges was formed, and soon became Intercollegiate.


In 1957 the Scout and Guide Graduate Association started, to cater for former students who had graduated.  It was in 1964 that talks began with a view to starting a single Student Scout and Guide Organisation.  It was prompted by changes to higher education, which was moving to a higher number of Universities, and a lower number of Colleges than before.  Agreement took time to reach, but was achieved, and the new name chosen at the AGM in February 1967.  It was at a key time for Guiding and Scouting in general, with both movements making radical changes to their programmes for all sections in order to bring them more up-to-date.


Although a new group had been formed, it took time for it to establish an identity.  Finances were difficult and a number of events were cancelled, or suffered from low attendance.  Although on paper the membership was high, at some institutions all student union members were automatically deemed to be members of all the clubs, thus high numbers were not a true reflection of the active membership.


In the mid-1980s Scouting for students underwent another review with the publication of “Scouting and Education”, which proposed that SSAGO should be extended to 16-18s, responsibility would pass to Counties, and the central committee closed.  However the project was mothballed and the eventual outcome was minimal change.


In the 1990s SSAGO moved forward, with rallies attracting higher numbers and renewed interest.  Another Scouting Review launched in 1996, which for several years again cast doubt on the future of SSAGO, which was finally resolved in Summer 2001.  Since that time SSAGO has continued as an independent organisation which supports the aims of Scouting and Guiding.  Membership is available to students at a College or University which has a SSAGO club, or students can join as an Independent member.  Rallies are held once a term, each hosted by a separate SSAGO group around the UK.  Numbers are usually around 100-250, and each has a theme chosen by the organisers.