Scottish Brownie leader to retire after 42 years’ service

A Scottish Brownies leader - known as a Brown Owl - is retiring after 42 years' service
A Scottish Brownies leader - known as a Brown Owl - is retiring after 42 years' service
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A Scottish Brown Owl, believed to be one of the longest-serving in the UK, is retiring after 42 years’ service.

In a voluntary role which has spanned four decades of change, Brownie leader Caroline MacInnes, 61, has taken more than 1,000 girls under her wing.

Mrs MacInnes, from Oban, can add her own five years as a Brownie to her incredible journey with the movement.

However, with three grandchildren, and another on the way this year, she decided the time had come to retire from Brownies, so that she and husband Iain can see more of their family, who now live in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In an age filled with smart phones and new technology, Mrs MacInnes said the Brownie ethos, of helping others and doing the best you can, has remained the same.

She said: “The values have stayed the same in a world that has changed dramatically. You would think that, in the world today, they wouldn’t want to come to Brownies but I have always had a waiting list. There is still a demand and they still have fun.”

Mrs MacInnes has had her fair share of fun too, joining in everything from abseiling, sledging, pogo stick hopping and stints on the dry ski slopes with her girls.

There have been camp trip adventures – where her Brownie charges didn’t mind that she banned the distraction of mobile phones – and many memorable visits, including a trip to EuroDisney, and city outings to the theatre.

Having welcomed two generations of Brownies, mothers and then their daughters, in her pack, Mrs MacInnes said: “I have absolutely loved it.”

She added: “I come from the village of Plean, outside Stirling, and that’s where I started as a Brownie when I was seven. I went from Brownies to Guides when I was 12. My aunt was a Brownie guider and when I was 19 I started as the assistant Brownie guider, then in 1976 I became a unit leader.”

Marriage and a move to Oban followed and she then became unit leader of 2nd Oban Brownies, before a waiting list led to her starting the 5th Oban Brownie pack.

But her devotion to the Brownies has meant that her husband has rarely seen her on a Friday night – Brownies night – over the years.

Karen Mackie, lead volunteer for Girlguiding Argyll, said: “Girlguiding Argyll want to say a huge thank you to Caroline. In her 42 years as a volunteer with Girlguiding she has helped hundreds of girls have new experiences, make life-long friends and try all sorts of things.

“She has endless enthusiasm and is committed to helping each girl to find her voice.”