East Antrim Battalion - The Boys' Brigade

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History - Boys Brigade

William Smith had started as a teacher in the Sabbath School which was held in the mission hall, where he found that the older boys were bored and restless. They were suspicious of teachers who told them to sit still, make less noise, and generally behave themselves - in short, they were typical teenagers! He compared this with the time he spent on a Saturday afternoon, as a Lieutenant with the volunteers, when he had no difficulty in making a hundred men obey his every word of command on the nearby drill ground.

It was then he had his idea: 'Drill and Discipline'. Why not turn the Sabbath School boys into a volunteer band or brigade, with the same military order, obedience, discipline and self-respect as the volunteers? A programme combining games as well as discipline, gymnastics and sport as well as hymns and prayers would appeal to the boys. William Smith planned the programme for this new idea with two friends, and on the 4th October 1883 the three leaders invited the boys of North Woodside Mission Sabbath School to join The Boys' Brigade. The new organisation's badge was an anchor, and the motto 'Sure and Stedfast'. This was taken from the Authorised Version of the Bible, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 6, verse 19: 'Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast'. The Object was also quite clear from the beginning:

"The advancement of Christ's Kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of Reverence, Discipline, Self-Respect, and all that tends towards a true Christian Manliness."

(The word Obedience was added some ten years later).

For the first year the Boys only wore a Rosette as a badge, and the officers wore the civilian bowler hat. The following year the Cap, Belt, and haversack were brought together as the first complete uniform. The Pill-box in common use during these days had no chin-strap and fitted close to the head, but it had two distinguished rows of white braid worn at a jaunty angle. Soon afterwards the proper pill-box was brought in and the officers turned to the Glengarry for their headgear.