A04 Nan Hall
South Australia, Guiding in Australia August 1989
Extracts from a talk given at the Commissioner's Conference, South Australia, August 1988, by Mrs Nan Hall.
Now you may well ask, what was she really like? Well, to me she was a most generous, warm, caring person, with a great sense of humour, tireless energy, always thinking of others — and of course who could ever forget that lovely smile?
Before visiting any country, she made it perfectly clear there were to be NO presents, so on one other trips here, Australia came up with an idea. It was called Ice Cream for the Chief. Every girl was told when buying an ice cream they may like to contribute one for the Chief Guide. This amounted to many hundreds of pounds, and was duly sent to her to be spent in any way she wished. After a great deal of thought she decided to have guiding material translated from English into Spanish for South America, then later in giving doors to guide buildings in many parts of the world. She loved doors, and would often say, Doors welcome friends and shut out the cold. When staying at Hampton Court, one soon realised that HER doors were forever open to friends.
The first time I met her was in 1935, when she opened the training centre, Paxlease. The guides presented her with a beautiful standard which they had made by hand. On her last visit to Australia, I was fortunate in being her secretary for the overall tour here, so we became very close friends, BUT, I must admit, there were times when she caused me some anxiety. All activities were scheduled to time, but that didn't unduly worry her as she always wished to speak to the many brownies, guides or rangers, in fact anyone who was taking part.
In 1953, I went to England for the Coronation, Lady B.-P. had written inviting me to spend a few days with her in her Grace and Favour apartment, at Hampton Court Palace. The apartment consisted of 16 rooms, but she had converted eight into an annexe, separated by a roof garden, where one could sit, chat, have refreshments, especially during the summer months.
The annexe was self-contained, where guiding families and friends could stay if accommodation was difficult to find in London. While I was there, and on behalf of the Burnside division, I bought her a rose bush, which she truly loved and placed it on the roof garden among the other flowering plants.
She was a very keen gardener, and had her own allotment fenced off about 10 minutes walk through the Palace grounds. One day we decided to do some gardening. The day was a bit bleak, so I donned my good raincoat and made my way to her bedroom. She took one look at me and said, Nan my dear, you can't possibly work in those clothes, come over to my gardening wardrobe and see what we can find for you. Well, I ended up in a tatty old rain coat, torn at one of the pockets, a pair of boots, a size too large, and one other old guide which came down to my eyebrows She didn't look all that crash either, but no matter, off we with our lunch baskets.
During stroll, a few of the employees would stop us, bow slightly and say Good morning MY LADY, this would lead to a little chit chat. Eventually we reached the garden, which enclosed by a wooden fence. On opening the gate, what a surprise I got. It was huge and very colourful. You see, I had expected to see just a couple of small plots. It was then she admitted she had taken over most of the other people's allotments as they didn't seem to want them any longer.
After heading a lean-to shelter, fitted out with chairs and tools, she asked me would like to start weeding REGENT STREET. This was of course the first time I had been there, so I guess my look of amazement must have given me away because she explained that she divided her garden into well known streets and squares in London, so while I went to work in Regent Street she disappeared to pick raspberries n Berkely Square!
After a couple of hours' work, we stopped, had lunch, then back to work until finally wending our way home with a huge basket of rhubarb, roses, delphiniums and raspberries. She grew all her own vegetables and flowers and loved them just as much as she did people.
Lady B.-P. announced that two bus loads of international guides would be arriving the next day for afternoon tea and a chat. To make things a bit easier, she asked me if I would take the first lot over the State apartments and tell them the history of the rooms. After seven years since my last visit, I didn't remember, but there were no excuses, she had written it all out for me, so off we set.
On returning sometime later, we swapped groups, and off I went again. Eventually, we all assembled together. Betty, her daughter, had arrived in the meantime, so we all had something to eat, a couple of guide songs, a brief talk from Betty, a farewell chat by Olave, three cheers for the Chief, and off they went. By this time I was exhausted but she was not.
We had many interesting outings together, to the Guild Hall where she was speaking at some special function, and shopping for the Palace Garden Party. It was always a joy to be with her, but one never quite knew what would happen next, so you see our motto, BE PREPARED, meant just that.
Guiding throughout my many years has been most rewarding, memorable in so many ways, I have met and made so many guide friends from around the world, and still keep in touch with some, stayed with others in their part of the world, but my most memorable and vivid memories are those I've shared with Olave Baden-Powell.