Boys Brigade in Rishton

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Rishton has (as far as I'm aware) One troop of the boys brigade, who meet at the Methodists school, details are at the bottom of this page.

Patron: H M The Queen

The Object: "The advancement of Christ's kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-respect and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness."   

The Motto: Sure & Steadfast

BB Anchor   The Emblem: The Anchor


Founding of the Boys Brigade

William Smiths birthplace, Pennyland House, in August 1995.

William Smith was born on 27th October 1854 at Pennyland House, Thurso, Scotland. At 15 he moved to Glasgow to work in his uncle's business. While there, he joined the volunteers and by 19 he had become a Lance Corporal in the 1st Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers. The very same year he joined the church after hearing the evangelists Moody & Sankey.

By 1883 William Smith had become a Lieutenant and was teaching in the North Woodside Mission Sunday School. The boys in his Sunday School class were a challenge, he had found the older boys were bored and restless, and he was open to new ideas about how best to deal with them. 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.

Someone suggested that the methods used in the volunteers might be appropriate, 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.

Boys Bridage Anchor

This new organisation's badge was an anchor, and the motto became '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).

This plaque is located on the wall outside Pennyland House.

William Smith took a leading role in the new organisation, accepting a full-time post as the first Brigade Secretary in 1887. He worked non-stop for the movement, on two occasions even crossing the Atlantic to promote the Boys' Brigade in Canada and the U.S.A. Throughout he remained Captain of the 1st Glasgow company, rarely missing a meeting.

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.

For the first year, the 1st Glasgow company was alone, but shortly afterwards this new method of dealing with boys began to spread. By the end of the third year the movement numbered 2,000 boys, mostly in Scotland, centred around Glasgow, with companies ranged from Ayr to Inverness.

Shortly afterwards the movement filtered southward into England, all the way to London itself. In 1887 the Boys Brigade's advance crossed the sea, with the formation of the 1st Jersey, and then across the Irish sea, when the 1st Belfast was formed in 1888 and the 1st Dublin formed in 1890.

The movement's great advance continued, with missionary companies soon developed overseas, usually at isolated stations and outposts. Perhaps the most notable was the growth in Nigeria. The organisation also spread across the Atlantic, to Canada and the U.S.A., encouraged by the founder's visits there in 1895 and 1907.


It was not all plain sailing though. There was often opposition and criticism, and many Boys were rough and unruly and not as civilised as those today. The Glengarry cap would sometimes attract the scornful cry of "Scotchie! Scotchie!", and in the worst cases drill parades were conducted under a fusillade of stones and bricks thrown upon roofs and through windows!

From the early years, the leaders of the companies had come together to form the Council of the Boys' Brigade, providing the machinery for the administration of the movement. In 1887 William Smith was appointed as the first full-time Brigade Secretary, and he dedicated his time to the organisation. He brought many influential people into the organisation to strengthen its advance, including the Duke of York, who filled the position of Patron as Prince and King for forty years.


One early innovation was to hold a camp - at the time, public opinion was aghast at the idea of Boys camping out in the "wilds"! The first camp by the 1st Glasgow company was held in a building at Tighnabruach on the Kyle's of Bute in 1886. William Smith was an experienced yachtsman, and each squad had its own craft - it was a sight indeed to see the boats in nautical array on the placid waters of Bute. Camping spread rapidly and camping under canvas soon became the normal order of the day.

In 1903 the annual display at the Royal Albert Hall was of special significance - from it can be traced the very start of the Boy Scout movement! General Baden-Powell, back from his exploits in Mafeking, agreed to preside over the forthcoming display and began a sincere friendship with the founder. Baden-Powell saw the possibility of teaching the Boys the art of Scouting. The seeds of the Scout movement had been sown and were soon to spread like a prairie fire.

In 1909 William Smith was knighted by King Edward VII for his service to boys. He continued his work within the organisation throughout. During 1913 the question of union with the Boys Life Brigade was discussed - but a dozen years were to pass before this effort would be successful.

Sir William Alexander Smith

On May 8th 1914, the founder fell ill during a meeting of the Brigade Executive in London, and two days later he passed to rest. Sir William Smith died on 10th May 1914 and he was buried in Glasgow.

There is a plaque located on the wall outside Pennyland House, William Smiths birthplace, The inscription reads: PENNYLAND HOUSE, Sir William Alexander Smith Founder of The Boys' Brigade was born in this house on 27th October 1854.

It also bears the Boys' Brigade anchor with the motto Sure and Stedfast.

Thursos welcome sign.

This sign is found at the entrance to Thurso.

It is a tourist sign which bears the words: Welcome to Thurso, Birth Place of Sir William Smith, Founder of Boys Brigade

Today the Boys' Brigade is still active and "First for Boys" all over the world.

THE award-winning 1st Rishton company of the Boys' Brigade was (and still is) on the lookout for new recruits to swell their ranks. Although numbers remain steady they would like to sign up more boys and are also short of staff.

Despite being one of the smallest units within the area they landed the runners-up trophy for the best company overall in the East Lancashire Battalion in April 1996. Competition successes included first aid, gymnastics, drill, indoor and outdoor sports, scripture and cross-county events.

Two of the senior boys have also won the Brigade's top award, The Queen's Badge. Paul Gaynor and Paul Osborne, both 16, received their awards from the High Sheriff of Lancashire during 1996. A special presentation ceremony took place at the North West Training Centre, Kirkham, on Sunday, June 2nd 1996.

On Saturday 24 May 1997, A TEENAGER was honoured with one of the Boys' Brigade's top awards for his bravery in fighting a wasting disease. John Foote, then 15, of Lynton Road, Accrington, received a rare commendation signed by national brigade president The Right Hon Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne during the 1st Rishton group's annual open evening at Rishton Methodist Church.

John, was a member of the Accrington Brigade Band which played at the event, suffered from Cushings Syndrome. He was diagnosed four years previously and underwent several lengthy operations. John was a member in the brigade for about six years and company captain Geoffrey Smale said: "We were very pleased he got the commendation because he's always very cheerful and never complains. It's quite an honour. We only hear about one being given every 18 months or so." Boys' Brigade members picked up achievement awards and gave displays for their parents.

The president's award was given to Nicholas David Flynn, 15, who will now work towards his Queen's badge, the highest accolade in the movement. Richard Hek and Craig Parkinson received gold awards for the junior brigade section. David Turner, eight, picked up the junior merit award, Adam Hek, 13, received the company section merit award and Paul Gaynor, 17, got the non-commissioned officer merit award. Mr Smale added: "It was a successful evening and parents and church people who attended seemed to enjoy it.

The Brigade is a non-denominational organisation and is open to all boys over the age of eight. The 1st Rishton Company meets every Wednesday evening at Rishton Methodist Church, 6pm for 8 to 11-year-olds, and 7.30pm for 11 years plus.

Further information is available from Geoff Smale on 883054.


Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 30th April 1996, and 24th May 1997.

Boys Brigade Web Site

Livingstone Boys Brigade web site