Uniformed Youth Group Biography: William Alexander Smith (Scotland, 1854- )

Figure 1.--


William Alexander Smith was born in 1854 in "Pennyland House" at Thurso, in the remote north of Scotland. When William was 13, his father died and he had to go 550 kilometres south to the big industrial city of Glasgow. There he lived with his uncle.

Sunday School

As a young man, William Smith taught Sunday School. He found that although he wanted to tell his boys about Jesus, he had to spend most of the time trying to keep them quiet. He looked at the volunteer Army unit in which he was an Officer, and saw how young men would willingly work together doing drill. Suppose the Sunday School boys were able to do some drill and other activities during the week! Perhaps they would then behave better on Sundays!

Boys' Brigade Founded

With some friends he did some planning and in 1883 started The Boys' Brigade (the 1st Glasgow Company). It was soon clear that William Smith's idea was just what boys needed and other Companies formed in Scotland, England, New Zealand (1886) and elsewhere. At the beginning when William Smith started The Boys' Brigade, he chose an anchor for the badge and used the words "SURE & STEDFAST" for the motto. Smith became the became full-time Brigade Secretary in 1888. He was knighted by Edward VII in 1909. He ied in London at the age of 59 in 1914.


In the beginning boys wore haversacks to put their equipment in (and perhaps their lunches...) and often carried dummy rifles.


Brigade boys could earn a Scouting Badge before 1908. There was a special uniform to be worn when doing scouting activities. The Scout movement developed from the Boys Brigade. Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouts, was a friend of William Smith and went on some camps. Smith and Powell at first saw the Scouts as a Brigade division or activity. Powell soon saw, however, that Scouting attracted more boys than the Brigade and that that thge heavy emohasis on religion woyld impede the Scouting movement. Smith dis not want to change the emphasis of the Brigade/

Other Grouops

The idea grew and over the following years several other organisation were begun. In 1899 in England a group called "The Boys' Life Brigade" (BLB) started. It's emblem was a red cross. In 1926 the Brigade and the BLB joined, keeping the name The Boys' Brigade. They also combined their badges.

Younger Boys

Younger boys wanted to join the Brigade. At first only boys aged 12-17 could join because these were the ages of William Smith's Sunday School boys. Whenever the boys of a BB Company marched along the street in uniform with their band playing, they were followed by crowds of boys who sometimes sang "Here Comes The Boys' Brigade, all covered in Marmalade." In 1917 the Captain of the 1st Warley (Essex) Company, Mr Carey Longmore started a junior branch of his Company. He called these young Boys, "The Boy Reserves". The Boys' Life Brigade also had a junior branch called The Life Boys. When the BB and the BLB joined, the name of the junior branch became "The Life Boys". In 1967 the whole movement was named The Boys' Brigade and the name "The Life Boys" dropped. Boys from 8-11 now form the Team Section and Boys from 11-18 form the Company Section. Since 1982 groups of 6-8 year old boys are now attached to some Companies. In New Zealand, they are called "Anchor Boys".

Christopher Wagner

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Created: December 4, 2000
Last updated: December 4, 2000