The Watford Observer is delighted to team up with Three Rivers Museum for a series that will remind readers of some of the people who, often now forgotten, made an impact on how their neighbours lived and worked. The next in the series looks back at the life at a trailblazer for the Guiding movement.

Museum chairman Fabian Hiscock said: "Mary Evaline Barton Smith (May) was the daughter of Charles Barton Smith, manager of Croxley paper mill from 1899 to 1918, and his wife May. May was born in 1882, and never married: she lived with her parents in Croxley Green at Lindiswara, the mill manager’s house until his death in 1929, and then at No. 7, Dickinson Avenue (“Marden”), staying there with her mother and siblings (only their brother Frank seems to have married). She died in 1948, at the age of 65.

"This apparently undistinguished life belies a great deal of lifelong work for young people, especially for girls through the Girl Guides, but also in local organisations. She set up the first Guide Company in 1913, about three years after the movement was formed by Baden-Powell, and was both Captain and secretary of it. They met at the Dickinson’s Institute on Tuesdays and Fridays, and some idea of the imagination she applied to it comes from items in the Watford Observer: in June 1914 they arranged ‘entertainment’ at the Institute with the help of several soldiers, and in 1915 they put on a play at the annual Mill staff children’s party: it wasn’t all camping and cooking. She set up the Brownies in 1925.

Watford Observer:

May, Arthur and their mother c1912

"She was a Red Cross Volunteer through the First World War from early 1916, serving as Quartermaster (logistics coordinator) in the Voluntary Aid Detachment at the Croxley Green Hospital which took over the Institute at that time. She was also a founder member, and Treasurer, of the Croxley Green Society when it was set up in 1938, and of course the Girl Guides were affiliated to it – as was the Croxley Green District Nursing Association, of which she was also (joint) Hon Secretary.

"On the outbreak of WW2 she was leading a Guide Camp on the south coast, and had to get the girls home while applying the new blackout regulations, and continued to run Guides through the War without differentiating the ages too closely, no doubt to make sure that everyone could be occupied. May Barton Smith instilled the disciplines of Guiding in a large number of young women, and is still remembered for it."