The beginnings of South Newton

On this 50th Birthday of South Newton, we would like to tell you a little of the history of the South Newton and how it came to be in the possession of Girlguiding Renfrewshire.

Jill Middleton the Commissioner for the County in the late 1960’s felt there was a need for a County campsite with additional buildings which could be used by everyone and in 1969 an advertisement appeared for the sale of a working farm called South Newton. Financial assistance was sought to help with the purchase of the property and particular help was given by the Scottish Education Department ran a Capital Grants Scheme for Youth Organisations who advised that if Girlguiding could raise 25% of the cost, they would fund some of the rest. Truth Research Foundation also contributed to the overall cost.  This was a big boost to everyone who was involved in the process.  

Newspaper clipping of sale of South Newton farm
Newspaper clipping reads:
FOR SALE by private offer. DAIRY and STOCK-REARING FARM, extending to 88 acres.
Stone-built DWELLING-HOUSE of [5 or 6] rooms, bathroom, kitchen, etc.
STEADING has dairy premises, dairy byres from 19, young sock byres for 16, turnip shed, stable tractor shed, 5-bay hay shed, etc.
Further particulars and viewing arrangements from A. & J. Wilson & Co., Ltd.. At etioneers and Estate Agents, 6 Orr […]. Paisley. Telephone No. PA1sley 714172.
Offers, in writing, to above address. Offers close Monday, 14th July, 1969.

Renovations would be required to bring the property up to a good standard and the assistance of an architect named Margaret Brodie, a significant figure and recognised for her work was employed to bring “the dream” to reality. 

Black and white image of a farm house behind a small wall with a barn in the bakcground

The fields surrounding the property were first used for camping in 1970 whilst the buildings themselves were still undergoing extensive work with replumbing and electrical work being carried out by specialists. Much of the remaining work was done by active leaders and helpers.

A group of women sit outside of a canvas ridge tent

The newly refurbished buildings were opened on 22nd May 1971 by Viscount Muirshiel Lord Lieutenant when he planted a tree in the garden. In his opening speech Viscount Muirshiel said “The whole value of a centre such as this lies in the fact that those who are going to use it, enjoy it and benefit from it, will do so all the more because their own personal effort will have gone into its creation. By personal effort I mean both physical and mental, and this effort will go on in the maintenance and development of the centre.”

Our County President, Lady Maclay spoke about the hard work and effort which went in to completing the refurbishment “marks the climax of three and a half years of dreaming and scheming”, “there have been many moments of difficulty and doubt, but a mood of optimism and determination has prevailed and we have been able to achieve the realisation of a dream.” 

The house was well equipped as Mrs Middleton advised local newspapers. “We have also bought equipment at savings, resulting from tireless shopping around for worthwhile discounts and from gifts gratefully received including bunks from HM Prisons.”

Two women stand behind a microphone outside of a farm house