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leslie's guiding traditions

In 1915, though the Rosebud section was flourishing, the name was being questioned. In the Girl Guide Gazette there was a request for suggestions of alternative names. Soon it was announced that Robert Baden-Powell had come up with an idea. He had recalled a story he had read, by the children's author Mrs J.H. Ewing, written in 1871. It was a 'story within a story within a story' and Baden-Powell opted to edit it down, using only the central part.

The original story concerned a rector's daughter, upset because she and her brothers were in a row with mother over not tidying their toys away properly, and losing them or mixing them up. Her friend the doctor, concerned, told her a story about a tailor, told by the Tailor's mother. The tailor was poor, and struggled to make ends meet - and his mother, now elderly, could not do so many of the household tasks. His elder son, Tommy, made work instead of helping it, and led younger brother Johnnie astray in the same direction. Their baby sister was too young to help. If Tommy could be persuaded to help with anything he usually made a token effort or a mess before giving up. After messing her rug-making, Tommy asked his grandmother for a story. She told the boys about a Brownie who had lived with the family for several generations. This Brownie did the housework each morning, but was gone before the family got up. The maids tried leaving out food for the Brownie, this was eaten and the dishes tidied away. But one morning they caught a glimpse of him, and saw that the Brownie's clothes were ragged. So they made some clothes, and that night left them out with the food. But when the Brownie saw the clothes, things changed. He put them on, left the house, and never came there again. Tommy asked, why not? Grandmother said she did not know, but the wise owl might. It was said the wise owl was a witch who took the shape of a bird. That night Tommy put out a dish of water in case a Brownie should come - and once everyone was asleep he crept out of the house and out onto the moor. As he reached the fir plantation he heard the owl. It flew across the moor and into the shed by the mere. Tommy ran to the shed, and at first could not see the owl. Then he looked up and saw the owl perched on a beam, so he climbed up beside the owl. The owl asked Tommy what he wanted, and he explained about the Brownies. The owl tells him there are two Brownies living in the house, and to find them Tommy should go to the north side of the mere, in the moonlight, then turn round three times, reciting the rhyme "Twist me and turn me and show me the Elf, I looked in the water and there saw . . ." He looked in the water, but saw only himself. He reported back to the wise owl, who suggested that 'myself' might be the answer. She explained that Brownies are little people who live in houses where bigger people pay the rents and taxes. But Boggarts are idle urchins who eat the bread, and drink the milk, and do no work, they lie in bed without an ache or pain to excuse them, and cause work instead of doing it. Then the owl gave Tommy a ride home. Tommy woke his brother Johnnie, and explained what had happened. they then rushed downstairs to make a start. Once the room was tidied, the fire lit, and some potatoes roasting for breakfast, they went out to collect some wild mushrooms as accompaniment. They had no sooner got back than they tipped the mushrooms in a dish and rushed upstairs, for fear of being spotted by father. Soon their father came downstairs, expecting to be faced with an hour's housework before he could turn to his own work and start earning money towards the bills. When he got downstairs he was shocked by the sink empty of dishes, the swept floor, the cosy fire with the potatoes roasting and a dish of fresh mushrooms ready to cook. Day by day, the mysterious Brownies kept working, and the tailor, though much less tired, was confused. He resolved to make a set of clothes, as a thanks-offering to the Brownie, and grandmother could not persuade him otherwise. So Tommy helped make the suit. Soon it was finished, and laid out for the Brownie to find. Next morning Tommy and Johnnie got up early as usual, and Tommy tried on the suit. Their father, coming downstairs early, caught them, and Tommy explained.  

So the story was chosen, and altered so there was a girl and a boy - Tommy and Betty. The abridged story soon appeared, the Brownie name was agreed upon, and soon instead of a navy uniform there was a choice of navy or brown, and within a few years, just brown.