TOMORROW (May 17) is the 100th anniversary of the visit to St Helens of the Chief Guide, Lady Olave Baden-Powell.

The 35-year-old wife of the Scouting founder Sir Robert Baden-Powell came to the town in 1924 to address a rally of Girl Guides on the St Helens Recs ground in City Road.

About 1,100 girls were in attendance. They did not all come from St Helens with some drawn from Ormskirk, Prescot, Southport, Warrington, Widnes and Wigan.

According to the St Helens Newspaper's report, the Chief Guide made a "cheery little speech" in which she congratulated the girls on their "smart appearance and jolly smiling faces". The St Helens Reporter added that she had called those in the gathering a "jolly nice happy lot".

St Helens Star: Lady Olave Baden-Powell visited St Helens in 1924Lady Olave Baden-Powell visited St Helens in 1924 (Image: Stephen Wainwright)

In fact the word "jolly" was used much in Lady Baden-Powell's speech! The girls were told they had made a "jolly good beginning" and that it was "jolly good work" they were all doing.

After what was described as "vociferous hurrahs" were given to the Chief Guide, the girls began a programme of activities. These included rope splicing, physical drill, ambulance work, camp pitching and a series of dancing displays that featured a sword dance. One company even signalled the words "Welcome to the Chief Guide" in Morse code.

There was also a fire drill in which the St Helens Newspaper wrote: "Great thrills were experienced by most realistic fire escape and ambulance scenes".

The current holders of the County Shield were the guides of the 2nd St Helens (Parr) and they were given the honour of undertaking the ceremony with the flag known as "breaking the colours".

What is now known as girlguiding had begun in 1909, when a number of girls gatecrashed the first ever Scout rally at Crystal Palace demanding the creation of their own organisation. Robert Baden-Powell duly obliged and with his sister Agnes they formed the Girl Guides Association.

St Helens was quick off the mark in establishing companies and Christine Pilkington of Prescot did much to develop the guiding movement within Lancashire.

St Helens Star:  Robert Baden-Powell and his much younger wife Olave Robert Baden-Powell and his much younger wife Olave (Image: Stephen Wainwright)

Robert Baden-Powell had visited St Helens on February 4 1908 when 3,500 boys and men had crammed into the Volunteer Hall in Mill Street to hear the Scouting Lieutenant General speak. As a result the 1st St Helens YMCA Scout group was formed and the scouting movement began in the town.

Although Baden-Powell is considered a somewhat controversial figure today, the 51- year-old was then a Boer war hero and his visit to St Helens was a major event. However, some newspapers focussed their reports chiefly upon Baden-Powell's visit to Beecham's and the keen interest he demonstrated in pill making.

The Chief Scout made a return trip to St Helens on August 30 1915 where he addressed a rally of 400 boys on the parade ground of the Volunteer Hall.

This month is also the 50th anniversary of Lord Derby opening the Guide Hut in Rainford.

The 100-strong guides and brownies group had been formed in the village in 1966 and without a home of their own they'd been forced to meet in church halls.

St Helens Star:  St Helens Wesleyan Methodist guides pictured in 1936 St Helens Wesleyan Methodist guides pictured in 1936 (Image: Stephen Wainwright)

The lack of accommodation led to a waiting list of 70 youngsters wanting to join. But after eight years of fundraising the girls managed to raise almost £2,000 – that's about £30,000 in today's money – from activities such as fashion shows and jumble sales.

Grants totalling almost £6,000 had also been received and Rainford Council provided the girls with a suitable site off Church Road. And members of Rainford Round Table offered to lay the foundations for the new hut which saved the guides £2,000.

Stephen Wainwright's three books The Hidden History Of St Helens Volumes 1 to 3 are available from the St Helens Book Stop, The World of Glass and online with free delivery from eBay and Amazon. Price £12. Vol 4 will be published soon.