Victoria Girls Drill Team trophy returned to the Butchart Gardens

Robin Clarke, great-granddaughter of Jennie Butchart, receives trophy.

The last original member of the Victoria Girls’ Drill Team

A little piece of history has been returned to The Butchart Gardens with the assistance of four members of the Victoria Girls’ Drill Team.

In 1949, Jennie Butchart, honorary colonel-in-chief of the corps, presented the team with a silver perpetual challenge trophy engraved with the names of the top team members from past years.

And on the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 23, Helen Tregellas, the last original member of the team, along with younger members Marlene Gordon, Suzanne Sjostrand and Elfie Jeeves, presented it back to Robin Clarke, Jennie Butchart’s great-granddaughter and owner of the gardens.

Tregellas, who lives in a retirement home on the Saanich Peninsula and turns 97 this July, joined the drill team when it formed in 1938 under the leadership of Norman “Cappy” Foster. The team was composed of young single women of “high moral standing,” and was organized into a skilled drill corps.

The team performed at numerous events, including for troops during the Second World War, at Queen Victoria Day celebrations, the 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair and the Portland Rose Festival, before disbanding in 1972.

According to a report from the Victoria Daily Times at the time, “About 900 persons were on hand to witness the presentation and the concert that preceded it.”

The paper also stated the trophy was valued at more than $300, more than $3,000 today.

The return of this piece of history had just as much fanfare, with print and television media arriving to capture the moment, and the gardens treating the ladies to high tea after the presentation.

“It was just fantastic what they did for the girls,” said Wendy Yates, Tregellas’ daughter, adding that her mother still has her original uniform. “She (Helen) just had a wonderful time. She couldn’t stop talking about it the whole way home.”

The trophy, along with a collection of photographs, will now occupy a place of honour in this year’s Historical Display at the gardens, which runs until March 15 in the former residence of the Butchart family.

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