A FOUNDING figure in the formation of the Cub Scouts had strong links to Helmsley - and lived for several years in the old vicarage.

The role of scouting pioneer Vera Barclay in the creation of the group is less well known than that of scout founder Robert Badon Powell, but it has become increasingly recognised in recent years.

The Cubs were initially formed as the Wolf Cubs in 1916, nine years after the idea of Boy Scouts was created. It was started to cater for the many younger boys who were too young to be Boy Scouts.

Ms Barclay was one of the leading figures in the formation of the Wolf Cubs and she is now seen as a co-founder alongside Robert Baden Powell.

According to the Scouts website, Vera was born in 1893, daughter of a vicar, in Hertford. In 1912, aged 19, she joined a small but growing number of women in the Scout movement by working with the Scout troop in her village.

She became not only one of the first female scoutmasters but also the first woman to hold a post in what was then the “masculine world” of the early Scout headquarters.

She started a “Wolf Cub” group with imaginative activities for the younger boys and wrote articles about how to lead cub groups.

When the First World War broke out, she became a Red Cross nurse but was then offered the job at Scouting headquarters - the first woman to work there. It was then that she designed a range of cub badges, some of which are still in use today.

Her scouting association was put on pause in the 1920s and in the early 1930s she went to live in France. She was also the author of more than 50 books, many of them about scouting, and fiction, including the “Jane” series.

Now, Vera’s ancestors have been telling the story of their relative and her wartime links to Helmsley.

Vera’s brother Cyril became vicar in the town and lived in the building that is now the North York Moors National Park offices. Cyril’s daughter MaryRose remembers how, when the Second World War broke out in 1939, other family members came to live in the house too.

“They all arrived, including Aunt Vera. She was already famous for writing children’s books. She came up with a Swiss friend from the south and they started a little school for small children in the vicarage. They had a marvellous time and used to put on little shows.”

MaryRose also remembers that her aunt continued to write while at Helmsley, with her books finding great success.

Angela Barclay Browne, MaryRose’s daughter and Vera’s great-niece, also spoke of Vera’s passion for alpine sports such as tobogganing in her youth.

Angela said: “She was one of the first women to ride, from the top, a toboggan on the infamous Cresta Run in St Moritz. They banned women a few years later, saying it was bad for their health.”

In fact it wasn’t until 2018 that women would be allowed to race down the iconic Cresta Run toboggan track in Switzerland when the 89-year ban was overturned by members of the St Moritz Tobogganing Club.

Vera’s association with Scouting was rekindled in the 1950s when she wrote for Scouter magazine and helped with cub packs in the midlands. She died in Norfolk in 1989. Angela added: “She did an awful lot but didn’t get the recognition in those days.”

Hopefully that’s now changing.