A lifetime with the Brownies for Horden grandmother

Jennie Coatsworth.
Jennie Coatsworth.

A GRANDMOTHER has looked back on a lifetime of helping to nurture youngsters as part of the Brownie movement.

Jennie Coatsworth was just 18 when she first became involved with 1st Horden Brownie Guides.

And an astonishing 55 years later, after holding roles including Tawny Owl, she is still a unit helper with the local branch.

Brownies has been a way of life for Jennie, who was given a Brownie guard of honour at her wedding to Frank Coatsworth, now 74, at St Mary’s Church in Horden on September 26, 1964.

The mum-of-two says Frank always said: “We have three children, a boy and a girl and the Brownies.”

Jennie was recognised for her services to Brownies and Guides when she and her daughter, Dawn Coatsworth who followed in her mum’s footsteps and is Brown Owl, were invited to a special ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

The service was attended by around 3,000 people from all over the country connected to the Brownies, Scouts and Guides.

Jennie’s hopes for 2014 are that more youngsters join Horden Brownie Guides this year as the national movement celebrates its Centenary.

The branch itself, which has celebrations planned throughout the year, was established in 1946, when Jennie was five.

When she was 18, she became Tawny Owl and ran the local unit with Enid Gowland, who was then Brown Owl.

“Years ago we had our own hut near where the pit was and it was run by the National Coal Board,” said Jennie.

“It was in such a terrible state we asked the NCB to upgrade it.

“The wall came away from the roof and it was condemned so we had to find a new home.”

The Brownies are now based at Horden Social Welfare Centre, in Seventh Street.

Speaking of her longevity with the Brownies, Jennie said: “It started as an activity, and then you get hooked.
“It’s working with the children that I enjoy the most.”

Jennie, also mum to Trevor, remembers taking youngsters on Brownie Pack holidays.

She said they would go to Kildale, in North Yorkshire, but following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, the outing moved to the seaside setting of Marske-by-the-Sea.

Youngsters can take part in a range of activities and games, but Jennie prides herself on the group’s educational benefits.

She said: “Being an old-school guider, I still believe children should learn things. We learn things at Brownies that they don’t at school now.”

Horden Parish Council will pay their own tribute to the local Brownies in the spring, when a flowerbed in the shape and colours of the Brownies’ badge is planted.

The Brownies are open to girls aged from seven to 11.

Any youngsters wishing to join can go along to Horden Social Welfare Centre on Mondays from 5pm-6.30pm.