Founder of The Girls' Brigade in Singapore: Mrs Elsie Lyne (1892 - 1968)
Mrs Elsie Lyne nee Duncan was born in 1892. At the age of fifteen, she joined the 1st Gateshead Company of the Girls' Life Brigade in Durham, England. She rose through the ranks quickly to become an officer. The later years of her service saw The Girls’ Life Brigade changed its name to The Girls’ Brigade. In 1927, she came to Singapore to teach at the Methodist Girls' School where she started the 1st Company, pioneering the Girls' Brigade movement in Singapore.
With the conviction to expand The Girls' Brigade into Singapore, Mrs Lyne built up a nucleus of dedicated young leaders. She set out with their help to start companies first, in Geylang Methodist Girls’ School, followed by Fairfield Methodist Girls’School, Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School and then Kuo Chuan Girls' School. She ensured that each company was functioning well before moving on to open the next one. By the start of World War II, there were already five flourishing companies with hundreds of girls, serving and leading in The Girls’ Brigade.
Just before the Japanese invasion, Mrs Lyne was evacuated to Melbourne, Australia where she continued to serve at the Girls’ Brigade. During this time, The Girls' Live Brigade's activities were at a standstill. All documents and equipment were lost, yet hopes of starting again were fostered. With the liberation in 1946, Mrs Lyne not only returned to re-establish the companies in Singapore, she further expanded her work to Malaysia and Hong Kong.
While doing so, Mrs Lyne’s faith and persistence were significantly tested. The strict discipline of total abstinence from alcoholic drinks demanded of its leaders did not attract the necessary manpower to facilitate its expansion. The challenges she faced rendered her to feel demoralised. However, she persevered on to finish the task that she set out to accomplish, training other officers and encouraging potential ones to join the Brigade family. With the moral support of her husband, Mr Roland Lyne, as well as those of her close friends, she was able to press on towards her goal.
Having served the Girls’ Brigade in England, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and Hong Kong, Mrs Lyne was eager to bring about a regional and international unity of purpose. Over a period of about fifteen years, she opened her home for numerous visiting Brigade national leaders to meet and discuss the expansion for GB. Her dreams were realised with the inauguration of the Pacific Fellowship of the Girls’ Brigade at Suva, Fiji, in 1964, and of the Brigade International Council at London in 1968.
As we celebrate the work of The Girls’ Brigade in Singapore, we want to memorialise Mrs Elsie Lyne for her dedication and persistence. She laid the foundations, provided the means, and paved the way for newer generations of brigades to lead by example, injecting enthusiasm, nurturing the wayward and sustaining the weary. Her radiant faith was to be applauded and respected by all.