Helen Isabel McSwiney, OBE

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Helen Isabel McSwiney, OBE

Birthdate: (75)
Birthplace: Paddington, Greater London, UK
Death: October 10, 1978 (75)
Alresford, UK
Place of Burial: Alresford, Hampshire, UK
Immediate Family:

Daughter of William (Billy) Daniel McSwiney, Captain, FRGS and Ethel Maude McSwiney

Occupation: 1962 Member of the Girl Guides Association Executive Committee - Chief Commissioner of the Overseas Girl Guides Association
Managed by: Erin Spiceland
Last Updated:

About Helen Isabel McSwiney, OBE

19 June 1903 - birth of Helen McSwiney. Her father died when she was three years old. However, her mother was born into a family of means - The Trowers, and they maintained a Paddington residence with a governess and five servants. (See the 1911 Census below)

1911 UK Census 12 Oxford Square, Paddington, London Helen age 7, born Paddington, London with mother Ethel, Widow, age 49, living on private means, a governess and 5 servants.

c.1915 12 year old Helen enrolled as a Guide in Cornwall, UK.

Helen's fiance was killed in WWI. Helen never married.

1928 Dec 1 - London Gazette for 1 January 1929 regarding the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England and a scheme to effect the transfer of the ownership of the Advowson (perpetual right of Patronage and presentation to the Church and Cure of saint Silas, Penton Street, Middlesex) - Patrons were, inter alia, Helen McSwiney and her relatives the Reverend Cuthbert Fetherston Trower and Muriel Bence-Trower.

1952 June 26 - London Gazette for 22 July 1952 same as above "...whereas we are satisfied that the transfer will tend to make better provision for the cure of souls".

Helen and her mother travelled to Buenos Argentina in 1928 and August 1931, to South Africa in 1930, the Far East (returning from Jakarta, Indonesia) in 1934 and New Zealand in 1936.

Helen became a national Vice-President of the YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association) [Source The Times obituary Oct 13 1978]

Worked with the Girl Guides in England and worldwide. Travelled extensively. Her career is listed with the Girl Guides UK Archives and below.

The Council Fire: July 1955. Guides. World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Principal Contents: Eastern Tour by Helen McSwiney. Opened Far East Jamboree, stayed in Singapore with neice Joan "McSwiney" Tugwell. Joan's nine-year-old daughter Angela was v. proud to introduce Helen to her Singapore Brownie troop!

[NB Angela's paternal grandmother, Marion Tugwell, began Girl Guides in Poona, India, at request of her friend and Chief Girl Guide - Olave, Lady Baden-Powell who is mentioned below]

1957 The Strait Times - 24 March 1957 "Girl Guides Chief in Colony". "The Deputy Chief Commissioner of the Overseas Girl Guides Association in London, Miss Helen McSwiney, flew into Singapore........"

1959 The Strait Times - 31 January 1959 "Miss Helen McSwiney, visiting Chief Commissioner for Overseas Guides......."

1962 Member of the Girl Guides Association Executive Committee

On June 2 1962 Helen received the OBE for her services to the Girl Guides Association

1962, June 2 Supplement to the London Gazette:

"Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood. St. James Palace, London, S.W.1. "The Queen has been graciously pleased, on the occasion of the Celebration of Her Majesty's Birthday, to give orders for the following promotions in, and appointments to, the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE): Miss Helen Isabel McSwiney. For services to the Girl Guides Association."

[http://www.hkgga.org.hk/eng_index.php?page=eng_girlguideinfo_history] "1962 Lady Baden-Powell, accompanied by Miss Helen McSwiney, visited Hong Kong again."

1972 Helen lived at Rutland Mews South in London SW7.

Later in life, Helen lived at 70 Whitelands House, Chelsea, London SW3, and shared a flat with Grace Browning, sister of Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick A. M. Browning (Father of the British Airborne movement, who was married to British author Daphne du Maurier)

After this, she moved to live in Alresford, near Winchester, Hampshire, UK.

Helen died in 1978. Death registered in Winchester, Hampshire.

A "In Memoriam" service was held in the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, Alresford on Monday, 16 October 1978.

The Olave Baden-Powell Association (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) lists Helen as a member in their Roll of Honour in 1989 'in memoriam'.

The Girl Guides [http://www.girlguiding.org.uk] also has the following information on Helen's career and achievements in their Archives:

Miss Helen Isobel McSwiney, OBE [ 19 Jun 1903 – 10 Oct 1978]

  • c.1915 Enrolled as a Guide in Cornwall
  • 1922 Ranger
  • 1924 – 1925 Captain, 3rd Pentonville Guide Company, London
  • 1925 – 1930 Assistant Camp Adviser for North London
  • 1926 – 1928 Captain, 3rd Pentonville Ranger Company, London
  • 1926 – 1929 Camp Adviser for Hackney, North London
  • 1926 – 1929 Brown Owl, 3rd Pentonville Pack, North London
  • 1927 – 1929 District Commissioner for Hackney,
  • 1929 – 1930 Assistant Division Commissioner for North London
  • 1929 – 1932 Division Commissioner for Hackney,
  • 1930 – 1931 Assistant County Commissioner for London area
  • 1931 - ? Captain, 1st Islington Guide Company
  • 1931 - ? District Commissioner for South West Hackney
  • 1932 – 1938 Division Commissioner for South Hackney
  • 1938 – 1942 District Commissioner for Southern Westminster
  • 1938 - ? Captain, 7th Westminster Guide Company
  • 1942 – 1946 Division Commissioner for Shoreditch
  • 1942 – 1946 Captain, 17th Shoreditch Guide Company
  • 1942 – 1944 Assistant Camp Adviser for Westminster Division
  • 1943 – 1946 Assistant Division Camp Adviser for Shoreditch Division
  • 1946 – 1947 District Commissioner for Abbey
  • 1946 – 1950 Division Commissioner for Hackney
  • 1947 – 1972 Member of Girl Guides Association Council
  • 1947 – 1953 Member of Girl Guides Association Executive Committee
  • 1951 – 1962 County Commissioner for Middlesex East
  • 1951 – 1962 Captain, 2nd Hagerston Guide Company
  • 1953 Received Silver Fish Award [Association’s highest award]
  • 1954 – 1955 Travelling Commissioner for Imperial Headquarters [Commissioner based at Girl Guides Association headquarters available to assist any division throughout the UK]
  • 1950 – 1954 Chairman of the Public Relations Committee
  • 1950 – 1955 Representative of the Public Relations Committee on the Religious Panel
  • 1950 – 1955 Representative of the Public Relations Committee on the Training and Advisory Panel
  • 1955 Member of the Training Overseas Ad-Hoc Committee
  • 1955 – 1960 Deputy Chief Commissioner for Overseas Territories
  • 1956 – 1960 Representative of the Society for the Overseas settlement of British Women
  • 1956 – 1957 Representative of Commonwealth Headquarters [Girl Guides Associations Headquarters] on the Advisory Council for the Standing Committee of the WVS
  • 1958 - ? Representative of the Overseas Committee on the Public Relations Committee
  • 1960 - ? Co-opted member of the Overseas Committee
  • 1962 - ? Member of the Girl Guides Association Executive Committee
  • 1962 Received OBE for services to the Guide Movement
  • 1964 – 1966 Captain, 1st Yetminster Guide Company, Dorset
  • 1966 – 1969 Division Commissioner for Dorset North
  • 1971 – 1975 Guide Guider [Captain], 1st Yetminster Guide Company

Other appointments where dates aren’t known:

  • Served on organising committee of Sangam [WAGGGS World Centre] for 6 years
  • Accompanied Chief Guide, Olave Baden-Powell, on three tours: twice to Asia and once to the West Indies
  • Vice-President of the Trefoil Guild
  • Chairman of the Commonwealth Circle

OBITUARY - The Times, Oct 13 1978, p 19, Issue 60431, Col.G

Miss Helen McSwiney, OBE, who died on October 10 (1978), had given invaluable service to the Girl Guide Movement for over 50 years in the United Kingdom and overseas. She travelled extensively on behalf of the Girl Guides Association and the World Association, including two tours with Olave Lady Baden-Powell to the Far East and one to the West Indies. For a time Miss McSwiney lived in the Lady Margaret Hall Settlement and it was the need of a London Guide Company without a Guider in a slum area that first brought her into Guiding in the early 1920s. She was also a national vice-president of the YWCA.

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Helen Isabel McSwiney, OBE's Timeline

June 19, 1903
Paddington, Greater London, UK
October 10, 1978
Age 75
Alresford, UK
October 16, 1978
Age 75
Alresford, Hampshire, UK