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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada

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No. 9 February 1998




Jean Kyte


Mrs. Ruby Stewart, founder of the Guide movement in Louisbourg, reminisced at the 1992 High School Reunion with a group of former Guides she had led over her 18 years in Louisbourg.

"How did you get involved in Guiding initially - and when you came here to Louisbourg, how did you become involved?"

"I was 19 and at that age you, one begins to feel adult and useless in this world. A friend asked me to help in Guiding as her Lieutenant in St. George’s Church in Sydney, so I decided to ‘try it.’ I was in the movement for 46 years. I loved and believed in the programme.

I came to Louisbourg because my husband was transferred here to the Royal Bank, and in a matter of months the Divisional Commissioner (Mrs. Dorothy Sutherland) asked me if I would start a Guide Company."

The First Louisbourg Company was formed November 7,1940, with Marion Nicholson as Captain and Mrs. Earl (Dorothy) Lewis as Lieutenant. The Brownie Pack was formed with Mrs. Stewart as Brown Owl and Miss Georgina MacIntyre as Tawny Owl.

The first Guides - 24 and three recruits - were enrolled on March 7, 1941, and there were 17 Brownies and one recruit. They plunged into Guides and Brownies with enthusiasm - the annual report of the First Louisbourg Company showed they had a cookie day in May, church parade on Empire Day (May 24), participated in a "Torch Parade" in Sydney (World War II was on), and twelve Guides went to camp at Hillside. They held thirty-four meetings with an average attendance of 90% and were awarded two second class badges and twenty-three service stars. First patrol leaders were Ruth Cathcart, Etta Dickson and Elinor Kyte.

The Brownie Pack held 32 meetings with an attendance of 80%. In May they helped the Guides with Cookie Day and attended church parade. In June they presented a play - "Lost: a Brownie Smile", and were awarded eleven service stars and three second class badges.

The Guides quickly established their yearly Guide programs: "Thinking Day" in February, church services, Cookie Day, parade on Empire Day, camping (first at Hillside, Mira, later at other camps or at the camp at Hay Cove), where Swimmer, Pioneer and Athlete and other badges were worked for and won, National Guide Day and church parade on Armistice Day (now Remembrance Day.) 

During World War II the Guides and Brownies collected quilt patches and flour bags for the Red Cross in 1942, clothing for 6-year old boys, flour and sugar bags for the Red Cross, piecing flannelette for Red Cross quilt blocks, and a scrapbook "for the boys overseas" in 1943, a layette of diapers, dresses, kimono, bonnet, bootees, sweaters, mittens, jacket, blankets, etc., for which the Louisbourg Guides and Brownies were awarded the Bessborough Shield in 1944.

In 1943 Elinor Kyte was awarded the Gold Cord, the highest Guide Award in Canada and in 1944 she was chosen one of two Canadian Guides to attend a special camp with U.S. Guides at Deer Island, Maine. In 1944, too, Etta Dickson was awarded the Gold Cord.

In 1946 Joyce Shepard was chosen part of the Guard of Honor at the Rally in honor of Lady Baden-Powell and in 1951 she was a member of the Guard of Honor for Princess Elizabeth at Halifax. She subsequently attended National Camp in Ottawa in 1952.

In the 1950s Guides participated in local and island-wide celebrations for Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation, meeting with Lady Baden-Powell and the Color Party was chosen from Louisbourg. They welcomed visiting Guides at the Fortress, and began programs of assistance to local groups. Regular sports and badge programs continued.

In 1958 Mrs. Stewart left for New Germany. At her farewell party she was presented with the Medal of Merit, a special award, for exceptional service to Guiding. She was District Commissioner at this time, and was succeeded as Commissioner by Mrs. Catherine Lewis.

The 50th anniversary of Guiding was celebrated in 1960. A subtle change took place in the 1960s with a more insular outlook on activities- gift exchanges between each other, gifts to the Bairncroft Orphanage in Cape Breton and local nursing homes, slumber parties, and crafts.

In 1975 the Guides from Saskatoon and Quebec visiting Fortress Louisbourg were welcomed. The "Gold Cord" gave way to the "Canada Cord" and some recipients were Maureen Kennedy in 1975, Denise Bate in 1976, and later JoAnne Forgeron, and Bernadette and Bernadeen Kennedy from Second Louisbourg Company.

In 1978 the First and Second Louisbourg Guide Companies joined to form one company, and in 1982 the First and Second Brownie Packs joined to form one Pack.

By the 1980s the Guides and Brownies continued to meet and carry on with their programs. In 1984 they were on hand in uniform to greet Prince Michael of Kent when he opened the new Town Hall in Louisbourg, and in 1985 they helped Parks Canada celebrate its 100th anniversary. Badges were conscientiously worked for, and others receiving the All Round Cord over the years included Rose Gartland, Theresa Forgeron, Regina Forgeron, Laura Bussey and Janice Harris. In 1996 the Company received a Certificate of Appreciation for their contribution to Packets for Peace to Mozambique.

The Guide Company today has fourteen members under Jennifer Bussey, and twelve Brownies under Brown Owl Eileen Burke and Tawny Owl Kathleen Ley.  

The Guide movement was sparked at a meeting held September 10, 1940 at the home of Mrs. Catherine Lewis when Mrs. C.H. Sutherland of Sydney, Commissioner of the Cape Breton District, explained the functions of a Local Association. The ladies present - Mrs. Lewis, Mrs. J.A. (Erna) MacDonald, Mrs. Earl (Dorothy) Lewis, Mrs. A. A. Martell, Mrs. Walter Tucker and Mrs. Ruby Stewart, expressed themselves as being very much in favor of starting Guiding in Louisbourg. Mrs. Catherine Lewis, Mrs. MacDonald and Mrs. Tucker stated their willingness to form a Local Association. The Local Association was registered November 20, 1940. Mrs. Catherine Lewis was President and Mrs. MacDonald was Secretary.

The members, year after year, were women whose names also appear in records of their church groups , The Women’s Institute, The Red Cross and other community organizations. The women, whether they called themselves the Local Association, the Group Committee or the Guiders’ Club, kept in close touch with the Guide leaders, helped recruit leaders, raised money for special Guiding representation abroad, provided Badge testers so the Guides could get their coveted badges, and in many cases, taught the requirements for the badges. The annual reports pay tribute to these women who "transported Guides, bake for parties and do all the many useful things to make a Guide year successful. You ladies keep Guiding alive in our community by your kind deeds and generous gift of your time." That tradition carries on.

Individuals, too, have devoted many years to the Guide movement. Mrs. Ruby Stewart spent over forty years in Guiding in Sydney, Louisbourg and elsewhere. Mrs. Sadie Dowling of Louisbourg, who began in 1953 with the First Louisbourg Brownie Pack and went on to become District Commissioner 1960-66, kept up her support until her death in 1984; Mrs. Marion Thomas, who in twelve years of participation, led the Second Louisbourg Brownie Pack for at least seven years; Mrs. Elsie MacLean, who began in 1949, was active off and on as a Guide Captain and later a Ranger Captain, until 1976; Mrs. Ida Eisan was District Treasurer for many years, and the Baldwin sisters, Mary MacMullin and Patsy Harris, whose involvement began about 1963, are still active. There are many other women who provided, and still provide, help as assistants, chaperons, speakers, badge subject teachers, examiners, transport drivers, counsellors, camp helpers, nurses, and other service-givers. That tradition, too, is being carried on in the Louisbourg District Guide movement.

On November 15, 1953 application was made for registration of the Second Louisbourg Brownie Pack with Mrs. Josephine Peck as Brown

Owl and Mrs. Margaret MacMullin as Tawny Owl.

In 1954 the Second Louisbourg Company was formed with Bertha Chaisson as Captain and Mary Leahy as Lieutenant. Chaisson left shortly thereafter, and Leahy carried on to firmly establish the company. Both First and Second Companies and Brownies cooperated in programs and activities.

Two Group Committees were formed, one for First Louisbourg Guide Company and Brownie Pack, and one for the Second Louisbourg Company with three members from each group, and the Commissioner. A new Local Association was formed with Commissioner Stewart as Chairman, Mrs. Earl Lewis as Secretary, Mrs. Cletus Lynk as Treasurer and Mrs. Frank O’Keefe as Public Relations Convenor. The Second Guide Company joined with First Guide Company in 1978, and the Brownies joined with First Brownie Pack in 1982.

In 1979 a Pathfinders unit under Theresa Forgeron with eight girls and two advisors was established under the C.W.L. of Stella Maris Church. In 1980, Debbie Dominey and six girls and two advisors carried on. The unit was suspended in 1981 and revived again in 1983 with Nancy MacLeod, four girls and two advisors. It has not been active since. 
The Louisbourg Ranger (Land) Company was begun in 1966 under Mrs. Elsie MacLean. Original members were Mary Beaver, Mabel Cluett, Margaret Ferguson, Anne Fiander, Debbie Fiander, Bernadette Fleet, Norma Kennedy, Patsy Lewis, Anne Lovett, Jean MacKay, Jean MacLean, Heather Mousseau, Patsy Parsons, Ann Thomas, Carolyn Tutty, Judy Whynott and Nora Whynott. Meetings were held in Calvin Hall. The Rangers participated in the Guide programs as well as many philanthropic projects.

Mrs. MacLean continued from 1968-71, with Mrs. Margaret Steele taking over in 1972 and 1973,and Mrs. MacLean again leading the group from 1974 to 1976. Assisting over the years were Maude Lovett, Lucy MacMullin, Mabel Hanham and Olive Crowdis. A ten-year anniversary banquet was held in 1976 to close out the Rangers. 

The Sparks movement was organized in Louisbourg in 1989 by Mrs. Valerie Hanham, beginning with five girls and three adults. Taking over from her was Mrs. Cathy Wadden, who currently leads the group.

1954-1957 Mrs. Ruby Stewart

1957-1960 Mrs. Catherine Lewis

1960-1966 Mrs. Sadie Dowling

1967-1970 (Feb) Mrs. Anne Peck

1970-1974 Mrs. Jessie Wilson

1974-1978 (Apr) Mrs. Marion Hanley

1978-1980 Mrs. Patricia Oakley

1981-1986 Mrs. Patricia Harris

1987-1990 Mrs. Diane MacKay

1990 - Mrs. Maureen O’Neil