PAST and present members of the Girls' Brigade came together last weekend to mark 50 years since the formation of their hugely successful company.
It was established in 1958 under the ministry of Rev. William Magahey and able stewardship of the first Captain, Miss Maureen Anderson, (now Boreland.) Her First Lieutenant was Miss Emma Ewart, (now Hemphill.)
In the 50 years that have followed, the company has only had an additional five Captains, namely Helen Craig, Joan Baird, Barbara Forgrave, Elizabeth McAuley and at present Amanda Anderson.
Initially, the group began with 12 Cadets as they were then known with a further 12 girls in the Company Section. Numbers attending grew after the inaugural display until membership reached around 70.
In those early years, the girls went to Hezelett School in Castlerock where good times were had by all. They also took their bicycles on riding outings to Slemish and Loughgeil.
Nowadays, members travel a little further than Slemish; they recently enjoyed trips to the Grand Opera House and Belfast’s Odyssey Arena.
The main Girls’ Brigade programme is split into four main areas; Spiritual, Physical, Educational and Service. The girls complete a Scripture Course each year, which is compiled by Girls’ Brigade Northern Ireland. A range of topics can be covered in the other programme areas such as: Sport (football, netball, Unihoc), Fund Raising for a chosen charity, learning about the world in which we live and learning skills such as cookery, craft, etc.
Girls’ Brigade has certainly adapted the activities that are offered as the girls needs and expectations have changed. Where PE sets were previously the norm now girls can play 5 a-side football and participate in dance routines. The uniform has also changed with Company Section girls wearing open necked shirts and sweatshirts with their tunics or skirts rather than shirts, ties and blazers.
All of these activities are undertaken with the aim of helping girls to become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and through self-control, reverence and a sense of responsibility, to find true enrichment of life. The GB motto is simple to, ‘Seek, Serve and Follow Christ.’
An international and interdenominational organisation, Girls Brigade is not confined to Cullybackey. In Northern Ireland alone, there are approximately 300 companies, comprising some 20,000 members. What’s more GB is active in 61 countries and islands around the world.
Members range in age from three to eighteen years and are divided into four sections; Explorers, (3-7 years); Juniors, (8-10 years); Seniors, (11-14 years) and Brigaders, (15-18 years.)
Each of these sections is thriving at Cullybackey Methodist. A total of 75 girls and 17 dedicated officers participate every Monday night in the recently refurbished Church Halls.
Not surprisingly, the girls have always been very willing to attend with their parents also offering constant support.
Particular highlights have included a very memorable camp in Jersey. A team of girls also did themselves proud by winning the District Scripture Shield. Another member is also a worthy holder of a Queens’ Badge, the highest award in Girls’ Brigade.
Girls’ Brigade is still popular today as an activity for girls only with a chance for girls of all ages to mix together, meeting friends and learning skills having fun and learning about the Lord Jesus Christ.
To celebrate 50 years of GB at Cullybackey Methodist, a series of events took place over the 11-13 April weekend.
A packed audience of parents, friends and special guests enjoyed an exciting annual display, which took place at Cullybackey High School on Friday night.
Appropriately, the Inspecting Officer was the Company’s first Captain, Mrs. Maureen Boreland. Other past members, Captains and Officers also participated in display items.
Saturday evening’s anniversary dinner at the Ross Park Hotel also provided an opportunity for former members to share memories and enjoy fellowship with past and present Officers.
Importantly, this very special time of celebration concluded with a Service of Thanksgiving at Cullybackey Methodist Church on Sunday night.
Past Chaplain, Dr. Kenneth Wilson was the speaker. Again, past members, Officers and Captains took place by joining the current Company in a joint choir.