Funday Times

Guiding Light

Olave St.Clair Soames was born at Stubbing Court, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England on February 22, 1889. The world was then a very different place from the one we know today. Queen Victoria was still on the throne, and there were no aeroplanes, televisions or cinemas, and very few motor cars. Women would have to wait another twenty-nine years before gaining the right to vote, and Scouting and Guiding had not yet been founded.

Olave was the youngest of three children, having a brother, Arthur, and a sister, Auriol. She was called 'St.Clair' after her godmother, and 'Olave' because her father had hoped for a boy he could call 'Olaf.' Like a great many girls of similar background Olave did not go to school – instead she had a succession of nurses and governesses.

Olave B-P

Olave's father, Harold Soames, was a restless man; consequently he and his family moved frequently from one house to another. By the time Olave was twenty-three they had moved in and out of more than seventeen houses! One of these, Cranborne Manor, was rented by the Soames family from Lord Salisbury, then Prime Minister of Great Britain. All their homes had lovely gardens in which Olave learned to love and appreciate the natural world. She had her own dog, her own horse, and at one time she and her sister Auriol ran the 'Cranborne Poultry Farm' which meant that they looked after the hens and chickens, and sold the eggs to their mother.

Olave's young life was filled with activity. She was keen on all kinds of sport (riding, tennis, sailing, swimming, skating), a lover of animals, interested and concerned about other people. She loved music and often went to concerts. At one of these she saw the great composer Debussy make his first appearance in England. She herself played the violin, only giving it up when she became busy with Guide and Scout activities. Her violin 'Diana' she gave to the UK Guide Association.

In 1912, Olave and her father went on a cruise to the West Indies. They set sail from Southampton on January 3 on board The Arcadian. It was a voyage which was to change her life, for one of her fellow passengers was a certain Major-General Sir Robert Baden-Powell. They were married on October 30, 1912 when Olave was twenty-three. From now on her life was inextricably linked with the Guide and Scout movements, then still in their infancy. Guides everywhere owe a great deal of gratitude to Olave Baden-Powell, the World Chief Guide, who was once Olave St.Clair Soames.

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