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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Carol Forrest and the Girl Guides

Guiding was a favorite topic in stories for girls as it promoted independence, a can-do philosophy, and active citizenship.
Was Carol Forrest = Catherine Christian?
Owen Dudley Edwards, 715, index states that Carol Forrest was a pseudonym for Catherine Christian, formerly Mamie Muhlenkamp [I am seeking confirmation of this] editor of The Guide (but no evidence offered). The copyright libraries do not make the connection. Neither does Google connect the two names, nor with "Mamie Muhlenkamp". Nevertheless, my mind is open but far from convinced. See Catherine Christian, The Big Test: The Story of the Girl Guides in the World War, 1947: The Guides Association. CC, born in 1901 was copiously writing guide stories before and during the war under her own name and used the pseudonym Patience Gilmour for a sequence of four books around 1935.
The Marigolds Make Good (Blackie, 1937 - blurb) The Marigolds belong to a school, which has grown slack, and the new Head decrees that, school work coming first, the Marigolds must soon disband. Meantime fired with sudden enthusiasm, they carry on, more or less unofficially. In doing their first good deed they come in contact with a very understanding elderly friend and later with her granddaughter Andrea. Very soon follows a foolish excursion that misses being a tragedy only through Andrea's unexpected command of the gipsy language. Andrea, however, pays for her recklessness by a serious illness. The star turn of the Marigolds, however, comes when with much labour, and Andrea's capable assistance, they secure the happiness of old Ellie. This convincing bit of work earns the verdict, The Marigolds have made good.

Diana Takes a Chance (Blackie, 1940 - blurb) DIANA TREMAINE, living with her widowed mother at their lovely home, Grey Ladies, is a spoiled young person. She has everything she wants, and takes it for granted. Then circumstances change; the old house has to be sold; her mother marries again and goes with her husband to Australia, leaving Diana for the time being in charge of a small half-brother and sister. Diana finds herself in a poor part of London, fortunately with Keziah, devoted to her step-father's family, to help her to bear a heavy load of responsibility. She is a Ranger, but has never taken Guiding seriously; now in London, she meets Sally, another Ranger, a girl uneducated but full of the right spirit, and Sally's example does its share to bring out the best that is in Diana. Other friends play their part, not least, in his rather eccentric way, young David Rhys, doome to be a lawyer against his will. Life in London is not by any means as grim as Diana expected, and when at length the day comes for her to go with the youngsters to Australia, she leaves London and her varied circle there with regret.

ODE features A House for Simon (1942). It is a strange book, but nevertheless rewarding. The hapless children of an artistic but incompetent father escape wartime Europe in the nick of time, arrive in London during the blitz and an actual air raid, find their guardian has gone to America, go to Dorking to find that that person has left and the house commandeered. So they set out to fend for themselves and fit out a derelict house. In the end their father returns to England but neglects to tell them since they seem to be getting on so well. As a story of survival during the war it is breathtaking, a story of endeavour, courage and determination. Many children were having to cope without fathers, and some without parents. Being passed from pillar to post was a common experience. For most child readers, what happened to them was not worse than what happened to these children: their coping could inspire others.

Two Rebels and a Pilgrim, 1941 is also a curious story, about guides fed up with guiding. Protestors, rebels. The story takes them through a range of experiences which re-enervate them and give them backbone, self-belief and ownership.

Caravan School (1946), opens up a radical discussion of the purpose and nature of education, shortly after the 1944 Education Act. Education should be practical, based on craftsmanship rather than knowledge/information/regurgitation. There is a beautiful description of the building of a farm cart, made to last generations, but declared to be a declining art. Also, the craft of furniture making and similar are extolled. The children learn not in school but by roaming in a caravan with a radical relation, and end up in a new type of school which follows the enthusiams and craft skills, enthusing pupils by bringing in the best role models. The details are a bit stilted - they travel in the caravan with their aunt who has not admitted who she is, so the deception has to be sorted out at the end. This is shown as the device to get children thinking outside the box, and not just being dependent on adults.

The Quest of the Curlews (1947, Newnes) features a team within the guides ("The Curlews") getting involved with a disabled girl, Honor, as they try to regain access to a local wood to practise woodcraft after a hostile new owner moves in. Midge, a nervous girl, comes out of herself and prevents a dangerous accident, becoming a hero. Sonia, a little girl coming up from the brownies, was traumatised by being buried alive by a bomb which also killed her sister. She comes to terms with her fears a little. That brings us to the secret of Honor's disability, her back broken when, after rescuing Sonia from the bombed house, returned to fetch her sister only to have the house collapse around her. The book makes the very strong point that even if paralysed, people can do a great deal and should not be written off. The curlew patrol finally feature in a film showing the range of things guides did during the war as examples of community involvement and service.
Other books:
Two Rebels and a Pilgrim, 1941
The House of Simon, 1942
The Patteran Patrol, 1944
Fortune's Coin, 1945 (Lutterworth)
Caravan School 1946.


  1. Owen Dudley Smith got it wrong - Carol Forrest is not same person as Catherine Christian. Her real name is Margaret Tennyson. The two of them were friends, they had a caravan near Woldingham and ran Guides there. One edited The Guide, and the ither The Guider.

  2. Hi,Thank you for valuable information. We often rely on friends and family members for information that might otherwise be lost. It would really help if you say who you are and how you know, even if privately by email to This is Woldingham, Surrey I expect? Stephen

  3. There is a book called The Silver Secret by Margaret Tennyson (1959) - any connection? S

  4. Just been reading The Guide for 10th July 1941. It contains a Pearson's advert for 2 Rebels and a Pilgrim which is stated as "by Carol Forrest (Margaret Tennyson, Editor of The Guider)" with another book in the same advert listed as being "by Catherine Christian (Editor of The Guide)