A Boys’ Brigade company has just celebrated its 125th anniversary, but it has a determined woman to thank for its rich history.
The unique history annals of the 1st Camelon BB show that when the Company lapsed in 1893 after being formed two years previous, Bessie Wilson resurrected the group in 1897.
A she was a woman Bessie couldn’t act as Captain so she deftly appointed students to act in her stead for over 30 years until it was handed over to the care of St John’s Church in 1929. Bessie sadly passed away in 1933 – the Silver Jubilee year of the BB.
The 1st Camelon Boys’ Brigade (BB) is still going strong after all these years, thanks again in part to the dedication of another woman and her team who have kept alive its traditions and ethos for generations, despite the challenges modern times throws in the way.
These days children have so many pastimes or distractions to keep them amused from Play Stations and mobile phones to the X Factor and satellite or cable TV.
Back in 1891, however, none of this existed and structured fun was found manually through physical activity by organisations like the BB.
Today, traditional groups can sometimes struggle to attract young people to their ranks as they are seen as not being the “in thing” – 1st Camelon has had its problems here over the years – but their old fashioned values are still as valid, if not even more important, in today’s helter skelter society.
The ‘object’ of the Boys’ Brigade is: “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.”
However, while it’s the Boys’ Brigade and the literature talks of ‘manliness’ – girls can also join. Indeed, the current Captain is a woman in the form of Janice Arbuckle.
Janice (55), a church elder at Camelon St John’s Church which the Company is attached to, has been involved with 1st Camelon for 40 years and has been Captain for the last 20.
She said: “Both my brothers were in the BB so I felt a bit left out.
“I wasn’t really into what the Brownies were doing. I thought the BB was more interesting so I tried to get in when I was 12 but they sussed me out and I couldn’t join because I was a girl. That was a rule at that time, but obviously that changed and girls can join now.
“The children we get are by no means perfect and they give you a challenge, they all do, but the Boys’ Brigade helps give them structure, guidance and discipline.
“There are so many electronic gadgets these days, so much going on for young people, but we offer brilliant activities like camps, outings, craft work, badges work, games and everything in between.
“I even have them doing flower arranging and the boys totally love it, it’s a real eye opener. This is usually done around Mother’s Day though so they can give their mums something nice.”
The Company held its 125th anniversary dinner at Falkirk Rugby Club and former members, some from many moons ago, turned up to help the group celebrate its milestone.
Janice added: “Although the content has changed over the years, the ethos hasn’t. There is a camaraderie among the boys that they have for life and we saw that at the dinner.
“I was amazed at how many ex boys turned up, some I taught 30 years ago. They’ve all done well and I think the Boys’ Brigade can take some credit for that.
“I give out references all the time for boys for jobs from everything to a trolley boy at Tesco to a journalist in London.”
One man who can back up what Janice says is Falkirk Provost Pat Reid – who was a member of the Company as a young boy. He was one of the guests of honour at the dinner.
He said: “As an ex-member of 1st Camelon, I can testify to the hard work of a succession of fine Company Captains – Andy Jack in my case – up to and including the present incumbent, Janice Arbuckle, and their fellow officers and helpers.
“They have instilled a sense of discipline, respect and camaraderie in the boys whom they have served which has stood the test of time as witnessed at the recent anniversary celebration.
“The present Company will go on to do the same guided by the constant principles of the BB and I would recommend membership to any boy in the area.”
The Company’s Officer Lieutenant Peter Marshall (58) is also a long-standing member going back to 1973. He said: “The stuff we cover include creativity, interests and life skills.
“We would like to thank all who attended our dinner and made it an enjoyable affair. There were friends and ex-members dating from the 1950s up to the present reminiscing past events in their time in the BB from camps to the football team. Everyone had a great evening.”