HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to a leading light in the Girl Guide movement who died after a courageous battle with cancer.

Lesley Marsh, 32, passed away peacefully at the Margaret Kerr Unit in Melrose on the morning of Monday, March 26.

Her commitment and devotion to Girl Guiding had been a hallmark of her life from a young age.

Originally from Peebles, Lesley moved to Innerleithen 11 years ago where she set up home with her husband Damian and their children, 12-year-old Jamie and nine-year-old Megan.

She joined the Brownies at seven years old, and thereafter made the natural progression onto Girl Guides. Following this, she stepped up to be a Young Leader alongside her mum, Margot Swanston who ran 4th Peebles Brownies.

At the age of 18, Lesley continued to assist with the Brownies and worked hard training for her Girlguiding Leadership Qualification which would soon see her take on her dream role.

In 2014, when her mum moved away from Peebles, Lesley took over the reins, building on the wonderful reputation of the unit, taking it from strength to strength with her zest for fun and adventure.

Supported by her family leaders, sister Emma Swanston, auntie Leigh Brown, cousin Ellie Swanston and friends Jill Clegg and Lucy Warrington. Lesley, now the Brown Owl of 4th Peebles Brownies, was ready to make her mark in the world of Guiding.

Her dynamic approach, adventurous and wildly different ideas proved popular with her Brownies, who now have wonderful childhood memories thanks to the numerous excursions she planned and took them on.

These included weekends at Scottish guiding’s home from home, Netherurd, where they enjoyed outdoor pursuits, a sleepover at the Glasgow Science Centre, another in the shark tunnel of Deep Sea World, and a night away in the wigwams with good old fashioned singing around the campfire.

As more young girls enrolled for Brownies, Lesley had the great honour of listening to them recite their Brownie Promise and presenting them with their certificate and badge, a moment which often saw her with tears in her eyes.

Lesley was a Brown Owl praised by parents for her inclusive nature, and she made sure those with additional needs and disabilities had the same experience and journey through Brownies as others.

And when her mum returned to Peebles the following year, this Brown Owl was not moving from her branch, telling her that she wasn’t getting her Brownie pack back. Seeing how well her daughter was running the Brownie Unit, proud Margot was more than happy to step aside.

However, tragic news came in May 2016 when Lesley was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Her determination and fighting spirit was admired by family, friends and the Girl Guide movement. Nothing was going to get in the way of this Brown Owl running her unit. Not even cancer.

Lesley battled through chemotherapy and operations, and rarely missed her weekly Brownie evenings. But an operation in June 2016 prevented her marching with her Brownies to the Beltane Festival Inaugural Service, which she loved.

Nothing would stop her a second year running however, and last June the sun was splitting the sky for Brown Owl's return. She marched along Peebles High Street beaming with pride and her pack of happy little Brownies.

As well as battling the illness Lesley, alongside her close guiding friend Susan Bell who runs 3rd Peebles Guides, raised an incredible £1,000 for Macmillan Cancer Relief, as a personal thank you for their support.

And she didn’t rest on her laurels. She continued to inspire her Brownies by taking part in the Girl Guide sponsored walk a mile for the Margaret Kerr Unit, a purpose built palliative care unit serving the population of the Scottish Borders. Again with the company of 3rd Peebles Guides, Lesley and her Brownies helped contribute towards funds totalling over £8,000.

Recognised for her unfailing commitment to Girl Guiding, Lesley was nominated by former Girl Guiding County Commissioner Gail Fox, in the Loving our Borders Volunteers Awards in 2017, for which she received a certificate of recognition.

And earlier this year she received the runner up award, which was collected by very proud daughter Megan, who presented it to her mum in hospital.

Tributes poured in when the sad news was announced that their brave Brown Owl had passed away.

Parent Jill Lapsley,who now runs 1st Peebles Rainbows thanks to Lesley’s help, said: "I think every Brownie remembers her Brown Owl, but Lesley will be remembered by all our girls and many others, as being a particularly special one. Her enthusiasm, dedication and selflessness were incredible and I will always be grateful to her for her help on my Guiding journey."

District commissioner of Girl Guiding Peebles, Benny Lawrie praised Lesley for her endless passion and enthusiasm for her girls. "She always looked to create special memories for them in all sorts of ways. Throughout her illness, she continued to plan and organise her Brownies even from her hospital bed. Her courage and commitment in the face of illness was truly inspiring."

Mrs Lawrie added: "She was always the first to volunteer at local district and county events and her infectious enthusiasm will be missed by her fellow leaders, her Guiding friends and of course her beloved Brownies. Lesley was a huge part of Girl Guiding in Peebles and she will be very sadly missed."

A rugby fanatic and supporter of the Scotland team she fondly referred to as the 'boys in blue', Lesley watched and cheered from her hospital bed as Scotland beat England – so loud the nurse came in to check she was alright.

A loving wife and mother to her children, Lesley will be sorely missed from her large supportive family who were her crutch during the hard times. Her heartbroken Brownies and friends in the Girl Guides will treasure their fond memories of her generous, kind-hearted and fun loving nature.

And so for one last time, and in true Brownie honoured tradition, this remarkable young lady is saluted and bid farewell. 'Goodnight Brown Owl'.