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   Boys Brigade dummy rifles


A social history of the BB in Glasgow
 photos and memories preserved on GlescaPals for future generations.


The '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 BB 1975-1990), Kirkhill, Inverness-shire
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 suffering General. 

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.
Kindest Regards





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