Newspaper Article 1995 – Old friends gather for jubilee

Old friends gather for jubilee

Old friends will be reunited when the Girls’ Brigade 2nd Hastings Company met [meet] for its 50th jubilee next weekend.

Organiser and Hastings Company captain, Melva Mildenhall says she’s expecting about 60 members of the Girls’ Brigade to attend the jubilee.

The jubilee will be held at the Hastings Baptist Church on Saturday, May 27 and Sunday, May 28. The jubilee will be of particular interest to Melva who joined the Brigade in 1945 and has been captain of her company since 1947.

“Our Girls’ Brigade started in 1945, we had a concert and raised nine pounds, we had 19 girls and two officers in the group.”

“The Boys’ Brigade in those days was a flourishing company, they lent us some money to buy uniforms to start with and we paid them back the next year,” she says.

Melva was 17 years old when she and her family moved to Hastings from Lower Hutt in 1945 and she was keen to join in the local brigade.

“Within 12 months of being in the Hastings Girls’ Brigade began, I was keen then and had a lot to learn.”

Melva is now aged 67 and has gathered some fond memories during her 50 years with the Girls’ Brigade.

“When we first started we used to be called the Girls’ Life Brigade,” she remembers.

“Then all the heads decided we would become one strong movement and we became the Girls’ Brigade.”

“There were three similar movements, like the

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Girls’ Brigade in Dublin, the Girls’ Guiding in England and us, the Girls’ Life Brigade.”

“So we were all amalgamated into the Girls’ Brigade in 1964.”

“Our badge was changed and it incorporates symbols from the three original movements.”

“I think a lot of the women coming to the jubilee won’t recognise the badge because they will be used to the old one!”

In 1961 the International Girls’ Brigade movement had its diamond jubilee in Britain, an opportunity too good for Melva to pass up.

“I went to Britain with a group of about 85 girls for about six months, New Zealand was the biggest contingent there.”

“We were staying with billets over there and I still keep in touch with them today.”

Melva was recognised for her efforts in the Girls’ Brigade in 1986 when she was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal.

“It was the last time the Queen was in New Zealand and she presented the medal to me personally, that would have been a big highlight for me,” she says.

Melva has also been appointed as District Commander for the Brigade where she had to coordinate other Brigade groups in the Hawke’ s Bay area.

“But now I just concentrate on the girls within my own group, I’m a bit long in the tooth to be doing that (District Commander) now,” she says.

Melva is in charge of the 2nd Hastings Company with a brigade of 42 girls.

“There are three sections, the five to eight year olds who meet every Saturday morning.”

“When the girls turn nine years old, they are promoted to seniors and they meet on Monday evenings.”

“Then there’s the pioneers group for 13 year old and up who meet on the same night as the seniors,” she explains.

“All of the groups have different programmes to follow.”

Melva says she has stuck with the Girls’ Brigade because of the great friendships she built up through the group and its activities.

She says the Girls’ Brigade is a Christian organisation and its motto is “seek, serve and follow Christ.”

“I’ve always been interested in it (the Brigade), it seems to be in my character to keep on going.”

“I have a good team of supporters, you just can’t organise a jubilee like this, or anything else for that matter without a good team.”

“I used to take a lot of time off especially during my holidays to organise camps and activities for the Brigade.”

“It’s time I gave up really, but what do you do when there’s no one who wants to take it over?”

“I don’t want to see it going down and I’m determined about that. I’m no chicken!” said Melva.

Photo caption –

Members of the Girls’ Brigade 2nd Hastings Company in 1961 who will be at the 50th Jubilee next week. From left, Marion Murgan (nee Beattie), Margaret Fowler (nee Baker), Melva Mildenhall and Beverley Boots (nee Mcewan).

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Business / Organisation

2nd Company Hastings, The Girls' Brigade NZ

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Newspaper article

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  • Beverley Boots, nee McEwan
  • Margaret Fowler, nee Baker
  • Melva Mildenhall
  • Marion Murgan, nee Beattie

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