Boys Brigade dummy
'Boys' experiment' started in a Glasgow mission hall in
October 1883 as a last-ditch effort by William Alexander Smith to improve
discipline and tuition in his Sunday School classes. Dummy rifles,
military drill, and a uniform of dark blue 'pill box' cap, brown
leather belt and white haversack slung over the right shoulder, were
all quickly introduced.
It was the embryo of the first mass youth organisation, through
whose hands over two million men in the United Kingdom have since passed
at its centenary.
William Smith was satisfied that in military organization and drill he
could create a movement which had real attraction for boys, and foster an
esprit de corps which would hold their loyalty.
By and large the nation backed him, though there was always a
murmur of criticism about the dummy rifles until eventually they were
abandoned after World War I
Fabulous photograph of BB boy
used for a cigarette card
photo from GlescaPal Norrie 2009
Boy's Brigade replica 'dummy rifle'
This rifle is one of five 'found' when Wardlawhill Church
in Rutherglen merged with another church in the area.
This replica wooden rifle was one of a few which were 'borrowed' from a
BB company to be used in a drill item for the
195th Glasgow company display in the
centenary year, 1983. They were stored away and possibly forgotten
about. This replica rifle is approx 30yrs old.
see differing story below
Sept2009, Mark Laurie (195th
The picture of the dummy rifle "recovered" from Wardlaw Church has a
longer tale behind it. It was one of a group of at least a dozen
borrowed from another company for a display, like you say, but not in
1983. I can't say exactly which year it would have been, but they were
acquired for a sketch I choreographed for our annual display, which was
held that year in the auditorium of the old Cathkin High School.
The routine was copied exactly (perhaps not lawfully!!) from the Bill
Murray film "Stripes", which occurs roughly in the middle. The boys wore
a mish-mash of unkempt uniform pieces and baseball caps, and came
trooping in down the aisles and onto the stage, where we performed a
much practised comedy rifle drill display, as seen in the film, whilst I
filled in as Bill Murray and Alistair McInnes doubled up as the long
From my memory, it was the highlight of the whole display, but since I
was responsible for staging it, perhaps my memory is slightly biased! I
would have been a late teenager at the time, so that puts the year
somewhere around 88, 89 or 90. I suppose the rifles where never
returned, and nobody ever came looking for them. I wonder what happened
to the rest of them?!?!?
Anyway, congratulations on a fantastic trip
down memory lane. I am still in touch with many of the lads
in these photos, and you can be assured I will be pointing
them in the direction of this website.