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Jean McBride, doyenne of Northern Ireland scouting dies aged 91

 

Jean McBride, one of the best known figures in the Northern Ireland Scout movement, has died at the age of 91.

She began working in the Scout headquarters in Belfast at the age of 14, and retired an impressive 70 years later.

During this time she was a familiar face as manager of the Scout Shop in Belfast.

She was employed initially as a personal assistant and typist by Ernest Moore, who was the Field Commissioner for Northern Ireland.

Her role expanded into selling uniforms and also camping gear, which laid the basis for the establishment of the city's Scout Shop.

Under her direction the business became highly successful, and all the profits were ploughed back into the Scouting movement.

This helped to fund important initiatives such as the establishment of the Scout centre at Ardnavalley, which is currently the headquarters of Scouting in south Belfast.

Bruce McCormack, company secretary of the Scout Shop, worked with Miss McBride for many years.

He said: "She was an old-style trader who knew everybody who came into the shop.

"She was welcoming to all, and she knew the colours of every Scout troop in Northern Ireland.

"Jean was a remarkable lady who drove into Belfast every working day, parked her car at Millfield, walked to the Scout Shop, worked all day, locked up, and went back to her home.

"Jean also played an important behind-the-scenes role in the many Gang Shows performed by members of the Scout movement.

"She was most self-effacing and totally shunned the limelight, even at her retirement reception."

However, she was recognised for her work by the award in 1990 of the Silver Wolf, the highest award in Scouting.

It was initiated by the founder of the Scouts, Lord Baden-Powell.

She was also awarded the John McMaster Trophy in 1996 by the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce for her exceptional retail services to the city.

During the Troubles the Scout Shop was bombed, and she helped mastermind moves to several premises before settling at 12 College Square East.

Her friend and colleague in the Scout Shop, Paddy Cooper, paid tribute to Miss McBride at her funeral in Lyle Hill Presbyterian Church.

"The Scout Shop was her life and she put every ounce of energy into running the business," he said. "She worked well beyond retirement age.

"The Scout Shop reminded me of a ship of which she was the captain. Everyone who came on board was offered a cup of tea and a biscuit.

"Jean McBride was one in a million.

"She had such a profound influence on my life - she had standards, she had a listening ear, she helped so many people who were in difficulty, she gave generously to charities, and we will all miss her so much."

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