Farewell to a champion of Guiding and Scouting

08 Août 2016
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Eileen Burbidge OBE - Obituary

On Wednesday 15th June 2016, Mrs Eileen Burbidge OBE died peacefully at home. 


Eileen was the first Secretary General of the Olave Baden-Powell Society from 1985 - 1996. Quite simply, she made OB-PS what it is today, through her tireless work and dedication to our global Movement. She set up the running of the Society, developing the protocols, Presentation Ceremonies and events, produced the first communication materials and even provided wonderful flower arrangements at the events, which were her hallmark.

She was a Guide in Shoreham and from 1948 to 1977 and was variously a Guide leader, Senior Section leader and even, for a year assistant to a Brownie Pack. She was twice a Division Commissioner and was very instrumental in the creation of Sussex central Division. During this time she became a Senior Section Trainer in the County.

In her personal life, she was married to Tony who often accompanied her on OB-PS duties and even became the (un) official photographer.  Tony’s job meant that he worked abroad a lot and Eileen always went with him. And her Guiding knowledge went with her.  His first posting was to Nigeria. Here she ran a Guide Group. From 1960 they were in Hong Kong for a couple of years. She was also a Guider there and she made many friends, some of whom were to play a very important part of her life

Next to Malaysia in 1966. Here, because of restrictions placed on foreign women  in Malaysia at that time and she was, very unusually, permitted to wear Malaysian Guiding uniform. This meant that she met many people who were not allowed to mix with foreign women. Finally she went back to Hong Kong in 1977 to test 2 Hong Kong Guider/Trainers for the highest qualification for a trainer – a Diploma.  

Back in the UK Eileen became a trainer for the Region and in 1979 was appointed Chief Commissioner for London and South East England. This is a huge, densely populated area that runs from Waltham Forest in the North to Surrey in the East. A very responsible job and you have to remember that all this was done as a volunteer. After 5 years in this job she worked at the Headquarters in London as Media Spokesperson for the Association and even for a short time as Chief Executive. Anyone would have thought that retirement would be the next move – But not for Eileen.  She loved Guiding and she loved a challenge.

In 1984 she was approached to be Secretary General of the newly formed Olave Baden Powell Society. Eileen devised, not only how the Society would be run but also the format of the annual meeting of members. All of this still exists.  Eileen was so good at forming close relationships with individuals across the board, from the patron HRH Princess Benedikte of Denmark to corporate and individual supporters. Her legacy is the 10% of WAGGGS income which OB-PS still contributes to this day.

But as so often happens when someone achieves so much, in the end she came home.  She had been Chair of Olave House Committee, the World Centre in London and gladly took the same role when Pax Lodge was built.  But her affection for Sussex and Sussex Central in particular never dimmed. She was President of the Division and also of Horsham Trefoil Guild and told with great pleasure of how the mother of her County Commissioner had been one of her Guiders.

The global Guiding and Scouting family has lost a true champion, who believed completely in our vision and mission and who dedicated her whole life to making it a reality. She is a role model for all who believe in empowering our girls and young women, and will always be remembered for all she has done.


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