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Brigade Scouting

The Boys' Brigade was founded on 4th October 1883 by Sir William Alexander Smith in Glasgow for Boys no younger than 13 years of age.

The exact date of when
The Boy Scout Association was formed is vague - according to some official scout researchers - who suggest that it was sometime in 1909 (or even as late as 2010). It is curious that (what is now) the Scout Association celebrated its 100th year in 2007 - even though they had not started until the first scout troop was possibly enrolled in Glasgow in October 1908 - and that they have "forgotten" their origins in the BB and have effectively written that part out of their history.

In 1902 Robert Baden-Powell, a national hero, became a BB Honorary Vice President and became a close associate of William Smith and involved himself in many Brigade functions.

Following a suggestion by William Smith that Baden-Powell write a manual for BB boys on scouting, an early version of "Scouting for Boys" was published by The Boys' Brigade Gazette in June 1906. (Note: Pearson's were the printers of the Gazette).

Proficiency tests in open-air observation, camping and orienteering were adopted within the BB badge scheme (as shown below). Two BB Boys are shown in the photograph wearing their "scouting" uniforms in 1908.

The Fleur-de-Lys badge (pictured left), later to become the Boys Scouts own badge, was the badge awarded to BB members who completed a course of instruction into woodcraft, observation, camping, etc. in two parts that was devised by B-P. There were two badges, bronze and the silver, that could be awarded. From time-to-time you can see them advertised on eBay and command very high prices owing to their rarity.

On Monday 29th July 1907 Baden-Powell held an experimental camp on Brownsea Island, Poole for twelve days. Half of the boys present came from the 1st Bournemouth and the 1st Poole BB Companies with the rest coming from public schools.
This was not a "Boy Scout camp" as at that date the Boy Scout Association had not been founded.

The photograph (opposite) was taken after the Brownsea Island experimental camp in 1909 and shows two of the boys selected by Captain Harry Robson to go on the camp. They were Sergeants Herbert 'Nippy' Watts (left) and Herbert Collingbourne (right) of the 1st Bournemouth Company of The Boys' Brigade. Baden-Powell selected Brownsea Island as he found it an attractive location to explore as he used to trespass there when he was a boy.

Lord Robert Baden-Powell approached William Smith in 1909 on the possibility of a single organisation, combining the BB and the new surge of Scout patrols.

Baden-Powell invited Smith to become a member of the Scout Governing Council but Smith was concerned over the secular nature of the new organisation and the correspondence indicates a courteous but firm reluctance to become closely involved in its governing structure.

The decision having been taken (in 1909), the Boy Scouts moved forward independently and were soon to dwarf the other older organisations. This would have happened in either 1909 or early 1910 when the Boy Scouts would have then been formed independent from the Boys' Brigade! History is very vague about the dates, to which Scout archivists are still researching!

As the Boys' Brigade celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2008, there was very little media coverage afforded - as without the BB there would have been no Scouts or Guides! It is possible that the Scout Association moved their anniversary somewhat earlier to clash with the BB's celebrations!

Some interesting Video and DVD productions well worth watching are:
"Centenary Celebrations" - The Boys' Brigade
"The Smith Boys" - BBC TV Productions (Scotland)
"The Ship" - BBC TV Productions (Scotland)
"First for Boys" - The Boys' Brigade
"1983 Songs of Praise" - BBC TV Productions
Thanks to Julian Farrar, 18th Halifax, for contributions to this article.

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