History

Sir William Smith

The first Boys' Brigade company was set up by Sir William Alexander Smith on 4 October, 1883, at Free Church Mission Hall, North Woodside Road, Glasgow, Scotland, to develop "Christian manliness" by the use of a semi-military discipline and order, gymnastics, summer camps, and religious services and classes.

In the years following the establishment of the 1st Glasgow company, others were rapidly formed throughout Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom leading to a movement comprising thousands of boys. The Boys Brigade movement in Wales was founded by George Phillip Reynolds in 1887 at Havelock Sreet Presbyterian Church, Newport, Monmouthshire.

By the early 20th century there were about 2,200 companies connected with different churches throughout the United Kingdom, the British Empire, and the United States, with 10,000 officers and 160,000 boys. Each company is normally affiliated to a battalion encompassing several nearby companies, which in turn are organized at a district and then national level, although in Scotland each company is attached to a local district, which is attached to a battalion. Companies are named in the form "2nd Springfield", indicating the second company to have been established in or around Springfield; it should be noted that where companies have closed, numbers are not normally reallocated, so it is quite normal to find a "2nd" but no "1st" company.

Being the earliest of all youth organizations, a simple rosette was worn as an identifying uniform, shortly being replaced by the simple use of a belt, haversack, and pillbox cap (a popular military cap of the day) worn over the boys' everyday clothing. The pillbox cap was used into the 1960s, long after it had fallen out of use in the British Army, when it was replaced with a field cap.

The movement also pioneered camping for leisure in Britain, previously rarely used outside the military. Early admirers of the Brigade included Robert Baden-Powell who as Vice President of the Boys' Brigade used it alongside initiatives in schools, particularly Eton, to promote the idea of scouting and outdoor pursuits based on those of the military for boys. At the time, he did not originally intend that any individual organization would later arise from this aim in the form of the various Boy Scouts movements. Early examples of Scouting were seen in Boys' Brigade Scouting awards and even specialised Boys' Brigade Scout sections who wore a blue uniform with shorts and the distinctive Smokey Bear hat traditionally identified with Scouts, and still worn today by drill sergeants in the United States Army. However, nowadays there is a certain friendly rivalry between the two groups.

The Boys' Life Brigade was one of many similar movements formed by the Boys' Brigade's influence, sometimes along denominational or religious lines, including the Church Lads' Brigade, the Jewish Lads' Brigade, or the Catholic Boys' Brigade. The merger also prompted the abandonment of dummy drill rifles that had been used in The Boys' Brigade, due to the Life Brigade's objection to use of weapons or their representations. For some time afterwards, the section covering members aged 8–12 years was known as Life Boys, before being restyled as the Junior section.

"The Boys' Brigade" — Wikipedia

First for Boys

You can also read more detail about the BB's history in "First for Boys", a book detailing the history of The Boys' Brigade. The book was prepared for the centenary in 1983. This book is but a glimpse of the Movement which was and is 'First for Boys' written by Donald M. McFarlan. Download book here.

Key Dates

1854 - William Alexander Smith born (27th October)
1883 - BB Founded in Glasgow (4th October)
1886 - First BB Camp (Tignabruaich)
1908 - Scout Movement Formed (by Baden Powell, developed from the BB)
1909 - William Alexander Smith knighted (July)
1914 - Sir William Alexander Smith died (10th May)
1917 - Boy Reserves started
1926 - Amalgamation of The Boys' Brigade with The Boys' Life Brigade
1933 - Jubilee Celebrations
1976 - World Conference (of The Boys' Brigade) formed
1983 - Centenary Celebrations
1993 - Junior Section 75th Anniversary (previously called 'Life Boys')
2002 - World Conference renamed to Global Fellowship of Christian Youth
2004 - 150th Anniversary of the Founder's birth
2008 - 125th Anniversary of The Boys' Brigade