Boys' Brigade officers conceived of the idea of adding a scouting program to the Brigade. They sought out General Robert-Baden-Powell to start up the program. The annual Boys' Brigade display at the Royal Albert Hall in 1903 was of special significance - from it can be traced the very start of the Boy Scout movement. Baden-Powell, back from his exploits in Mafeking, agreed to preside over the forthcoming display and began a sincere friendship with the Boys' Brigade 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. Many boys put off by the Brigade's focus on religion and drill were attracted to the Scouting program.
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. 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! So, 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.
The annual Boys' Brigade display at the Royal Albert Hall in 1903 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 Boys' Brigade founder. Baden-Powell saw the possibility of teaching the Boys the art of Scouting. The seeds of the Scout movement had been sown.
Some 25 years later the Vice President of the Boys' Brigade in England wrote a training book for one of the BB proficiency badges. This badge was a metal sheild with an arrow on it with the BB anchor superimposed in the centre of the badge and was called the Scout Badge. The Vice President at that time was a retired soldier and hero of Mafieking, Major General (later Lord) Baden Powell. Many boys outside of the Brigade organizations took this book and used it as a basis to form there own groups and called themselves Scouts. Many boys were attracted to Scouting that were not interested in the Boys' Brigade more religious and drill oriented program.
The British Government was concerned at this and prevailed upon Baden Powell to leave the Boys' Brigade and organize the other groups of
boys. Thus the current Scouting movement was formed. After the Brownsea Island experiment in 1906, the Scouting movement spread like a prairie fire.
William Smith in 1909was knighted for his services 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. By the outbreak of World War I (1914), Boys' Brigade organizations were operating in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, United States of America, Africa, India, Ceylon, China, Hong Kong, Burma, Japan, Belize, British Guiana, Panama and throughout the Caribbean.
Sir William Alexander Smith and Lord Baden Powell were firm freinds, having very similar ideals and beliefs. The Boy's Brigade Founder, William Smoth, on May 8, 1914, fell ill during a meeting of the Brigade Executive in London, and 2 days later he passed to rest. At Sir William's funeral the
streets were lined by Brigades and Scouts from the church to the cemetary.
Edmiston, Mal. E-mail message, September 11, 2003.
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