Marie Louise McConville: Kind and selfless guide leader will be greatly missed

Andersonstown woman Eilish Smyth changed the lives of countless young people through her work with the girl guides
Andersonstown woman Eilish Smyth changed the lives of countless young people through her work with the girl guides Andersonstown woman Eilish Smyth changed the lives of countless young people through her work with the girl guides

When I was five-years-old I learned a very important life motto - `Be Prepared'.

It was my first night at St Teresa's Brigins and little did I know my membership of this wonderful organisation would change my life.

Walking into the den in the grounds of St Teresa's Primary School, I remember I was nervous but then I was met by this huge, glowing smile from the leader, Eilish Smyth.

Over the next decade or more, this wonderful woman and her dedicated team of volunteers shaped me as a person while they joyfully gifted me a lifetime of treasured memories.

Back then, being a girl guide was my life.

Pretty much every Friday, I would rush home from school to get my rucksack and sleeping bag to join the unit for a weekend of camping.

These were just magical times as we learned to cook, how to put up tents, build fires, tie perfect knots, all while going orienteering and abseiling.

We often won the annual Northern Ireland camp fire competition and really, St Teresa's guide unit had the reputation for being the best.

This was ultimately down to Eilish, who devoted much, if not all, of her free time to supporting us.

She always had a smile on her face and generosity in her heart.

Eilish treated each of us like her own children, always encouraging, always pushing us to better ourselves, and always supportive.

As you can imagine, I was left absolutely devastated this week when I learned of Eilish's passing at the age of 65 following a short illness.

Attending the funeral, it just left me feeling so sad.

Looking back, it is hard to measure just how much of an impact she had on my life.

She and fellow leader, Trudy McCreary, were always there for me, building me up when I didn't think I could do something and supporting me when I felt a bit overwhelmed by things.

Of course, it wasn't just my life that Eilish touched. As a teacher, she had an input into countless childrens' lives and through her charitable work, her reach went far beyond Ireland.

Eilish had been a member of the Catholic Guides of Ireland for more than 50 years, had set up St Teresa's guide unit and spearheaded its success.

She also held multiple posts in the organisation over the years and most recently had been National Training Commissioner.

She worked tirelessly for each of us, and it's only now that I realise how selfless she was.

Thanks to her I learned a host of life skills and I have no doubt that all she did and encouraged me to do, boosted my confidence.

The Girl Guide guard of honour at her funeral this week was both fitting and very moving.

Simply put, Eilish will be greatly missed.

I am indebted to her for all she did for me.

I'm sad to say, she will never know the amazing impact she had.


Belfast circus company, Tumble Circus will be returning to the city in December - so prepare for some festive fun.

The Tumble Circus troop promises to treat visitors to a winter extravaganza unlike anything else on offer in the city.

The Winter Circus will run between December 16 and January 2 at a fully heated big top tent at Writer's Square.

Those attending can expect modern, high skilled acts, including acrobats, aerialists and jugglers along with an inspiring modern soundtrack, with international circus artists and comedy characters also on offer to entertain.

Further information is available at



The school half-term break will soon be upon us so how do you fancy winning a family pass to Northern Ireland’s award-winning science and discovery centre?

Located in Belfast, W5 has just been transformed by a £5 million investment.

With two re-imagined floors, eight interactive zones and more than 250 hands-on exhibits, there is something for all ages.

Visitors can discover and experience everything from climate change and optical illusions to medical science and engineering.

Kids will also love Climbit!, a multi-storey climbing structure which fuses together elements of a jungle gym and a vertical maze.

In additional to permanent exhibits, W5 also runs a programme of seasonal exhibitions and events.

I have two family passes, either for two adults and two children or one adult and three children, to give away.

If you would like the chance to win a pass, simply email your name, address and telephone number – along with the answer to the question below – to

Closing date for entries is noon on Tuesday October 18.

(Q) How many interactive zones does W5 have?

Normal Irish News rules apply


The winners of The Toy Soldier competition are Briege Haddock, from Glenarm, Stephen Smyth, from Enniskillen, and Helen McVeigh, from Ballynahinch