AN inspirational youth leader who has shaped the hearts and minds of generations of children for five decades has been recognised with a long service award.

Sandra McColl has been a girl guiding leader for 50 years and was presented with a badge and award by Provost Drew McKenzie.

The retired nurse says Girl Guiding is a way of life and that her 50 years of duty has gone past in a flash.

Greenock Telegraph:

Sandra, 66, said: "I joined the Brownies in Port Glasgow when I was seven and when we moved to Greenock when I was 10 I went to the 27th Greenock Guides and I have been there ever since.

"Guiding gave me a lot when I was younger, my mum was a widow and it was somewhere I could go for fun and friendship. They took us away on holidays, so it was a bit of adventure."

Sandra lives in Gourock with her husband Hugh and they have two daughters Ashley, 41, who is a teacher at Aileymill Primary and Samantha, 37, an anaesthetist, and three granddaughters, Islay, Robyn and Alexis.

Greenock Telegraph:

Her daughters have also followed in her footsteps, with Ashley a rainbow leader and Samantha a brownie leader.

She says being part of the guiding movement means that people forge friendships that last for a lifetime.

Sandra said: "Ashley was born at 3.55 in the afternoon and the guides come up to the hospital to see the baby at 8pm that night.

"I wanted to give back something to the girls, all the kind of opportunities that my guide leaders Elizabeth and Cath Slater gave to me."

Sandra says recent years have been difficult for the movement due to the pandemic. Public health restrictions meant the unit effectively 'lost two years' as it wasn't suitable for the group to use Zoom.

Sandra said: "Every eight-year-old missed out on their last two years of the Brownies and when we started meeting up again there wasn't the same natural progression, but we have started to build up again." 

The stalwart says that while the Guide programme has changed over the years the overall ethos has stayed the same.

She said: "It's about fun and friendship, learning and developing. The badge the girls do has been modernised. But the kids love to go back to the hostess badges, making tea and setting out fancy tables, with napkins, so it's the old and the new combined."

The unit enjoy time at Bettyburn Camp in Inverkip and go away on trips to Disneyland Paris and London.

Sandra said: "It gives kids fun and adventure and opportunities they wouldn't get at home.

"It's like being part of a family.

"The last 50 years have just flown by."