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 Boys' Brigade a Glesca story


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


The Easter Parade ..... a Glesca story
The Easter Parade! Naw no the wan wae the wimmin aw done up in thir finery an easter bunnets innat, struttin elegantly in the warm spring sunshine. Ah'm talkin aboot the BB Parade!   Ye know? The Boy's Brigade.
              Still gaun strong it is but no as strong as it wis then. The idea behine the BB wis tae gie the backstreet boays sumhin constructive tae dae wae thir time ither thin hingin aboot street coarners innat. Teach them some discipline, self respect, morals and fortitude - innat.
It mimicked the army bae gein the lads a 'military' style uniform and teachin them skills like merchin (marching) an salutin an how tae communicate wae wan inither usin flags an morse code. Aw essential street skills furr the Glesca streets! It wis based oan the assumption thit aw boays secretly wanted tae be sojers. [In the early days they even issued the boys with widddin (wooden) rifles!] But bae the time mah brother an me wurr jined up, two world wars an the threat of nuclear oblivion hid noaked that notion right oot wirr heids! The only sojers we wirr interestit in wirr the wee plastic wans thit wae wid play wae oan eh flerr (floor), urr wans made a choaclit (chocolate).
                    The uniform consisted of a BB belt (broad leather belt wae a big brass buckle wae an anchor motif), a pill boax cap (thit looked lik an upturned floo-er poat (flowerpot)), an a white canvas 'haversack' furr ceremonial occasions. An armband sported whitever merit badges urr awards ye might hiv an also displayed any stripes ye hid earned tae show yer 'rank'. Aw in aw it wis a kinna junior 'Dad's Army'.
               When aw lined up ye presented a motley crew. The belt wid be strapped tight, roon yer waist, an ower yir jaiket/anorak/pullover, the ceremonial haversack wis slung ower yir shooder an goat stuffed unner the belt tae wan side, an wae the hat worn at a jaunty angle - We wir the boays!
Anywae, Easter wis aye the big event. We'd aw be warned bae the Captain oan the Friday night that if wae didnae turn up fur the big easter church parade that Sunday then woe betide us. We wid be excluded fae future gemmes a fitbaw. We'd lose attendance points (that meant nae prize at the end eh the season - usually a book or bible). Oor parents wid be spoken tae, an we might even be de-moted, assumin we'd been moted in the furst place! Ther wid be a weepin an a gnashin of teeth the like of whit hid never bin seen afore if wae daert miss the Easter Parade!
                  So wae aw trooped oot oan Easter Sunday moarnin. Intae the Glesca wind an the rain. The getherin point wid be aboot a mile fae the church an we'd aw mill aboot freezin an grumpy an wantin tae get it ower wae an get back hame tae wurr Easter egg(s).
                  Ah used tae see these BB magazines showin pictures eh wir foreign BB counterparts in distant lands ie. Africa, Australia - hot, dry places. All grinning an lookin like they wir luvvin evry minnit eh it!
Us? We wir staunin in a huddle, in the middle eh a street, maest eh us in shoart troosers wae berr legs, shiverin, soaked, freezin, shiverin an wunnerin if aw this wis worth a gemme a fitba an a book/bible at the end eh the year. Did ah mention eh shiverin?
                  The assembly process seemed tae take furrevir! Big parades lik this attractit other BB companies fae aroon Glesca an it took ages furr them tae aw arrive an soart thimsells oot.
Wae wid be lined up, shoogled aboot, merched doon the street a few hunner yerds, turned roon aboot, shunted sidewaes, marched backwards, shuffled sidiewaes again... oan and oan it went, while the rain battered doon, wirr feet squelched and the belt buckles rattled fae oor shiverin.
                           "COMPANY! FALL IN!"
Oor Captain wid shout at the tap eh eez voice, strugglin tae bae heard ower the sound eh the wind, chatter, an eejits blawin bugles an batterin drums in tenement closes. We'd aw shuffle aboot tryin tae organise oorsels intae somethin military lookin.
                "TALLEST TO THE LEFT , SHORTEST TO THE RIGHT, SINGLE RANK - SIZE!!!" he wid scream.
Maist eh us didnae know oor left fae oor right, an as furr whit size we wurr? So wae jist shuffled aboot some merr an hoped furr the best.
                    A couple of officers wid wade in an grab the tallest guy an manouvre him intae pole position. Then they'd manhandle the rest eh us intae a line wae the wee-ist at the other end. This done, the Captain wid kerry oot the inspection, slowly struttin alang the line. This guy aye seemed impervious tae the weather. Mine you the big trench coat doon tae the ankles must hiv helped a loat. He seemed tae sort a 'glide' past ye as if eh wis oan castors. An the umbrella wis a positive asset. An a couldnae help bit noticin thit eez shoes didnae squelch like mine did!
                  "DID YOU POLISH THAT BELT BUCKLE LAST NIGHT WILSON?" he'd scream at mah face.
"Yes Sir!" I'd retort in a spray of rainwater as it run aff mah nose, doon oan tae mah lips an dribbled aff mah chin.
                                           "IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE IT FROM HERE!"
It was hard to believe that oan any ither day eh the week yid find this nonentity filin invoices in an obscure oaffice sumwher. He clearly loved this stuff.
Ah used tae envy the boays in the bonn (band). That fly lot wirr usually aff tae the side, in the shelter a shoap doorways an closes, 'tunin thir instruments'(that meant bangin the drums occasionally and blawin a tuneless blast fae a bugle.
                 As the various companies arrived and the battallion of Glesca's fine young fightin men grew, evrybiddy wis oot thir windaes watchin, admirin, cheerin, jeerin, an...dry!
Ah wance tried tae get intae the band but ah couldnae evir get a noise oot the bugle let alane a note.
"Blaw harder!" the instructor wid say, an ah'd blaw tae mah face turnt purple - nothin!
"Purse yer lips and spit." eh wid say.
                 So ah'd gie it mah best shot. A big green glob wid shoot silently fae the open end eh the bugle, much tae the disgust of aw aroon! So ah gave up oan that. Mah Grandaddy Wilson, Salvation Armiest, bugle player an band leader, widnae hiv been impressed wae meh at aw!
                 Ah hid a wee bit merr success wae the drums though. Managed tae batter oot mah 'mammy-daddys', 'rolls' an some other stuff that ah cannae mine the name ah (two-sixes, nine-threes, parradiddles - urr sumhin lik that). Bit when it came tae playin durin band practice in the in the church hall oan cauld Setturday moarnins, mah fingers froze up an refused tae co-operate. So mah dreams ah becomin the nixt Eric Delaney [google it!]wir shattered an ah hid tae accept thit the band wisnae furr me. Ah wis relagatit tae the rank an file, wan eh 'le miserables', at the church parades.
                   Meanwhile back oan the street, things wid eventually begin tae take some kinna shape. A long column of wet, sniffin, scruffy Glesca youth wid form thimsells intae sumhin resemblin a bedraggled army of refugees returnin fae the front.
                 The moarnin wid be brightened up wae the arrival eh the Girl Guides. They wirr the female equivalent eh the BB. Ah don't know if aw these lasses wanted tae be sojers but thae sure looked better than us, in thir blue uniforms an stuff. Big Deirdre wis a firm favourite. Big lassie wis D. The weather never seemed tae bother hurr. She wis a 'Colour Bearer' furr the local troop. The reason furr this wis thit she wis the only lassie big enough, an strong enough, tae kerry the flag!
                 Bae the time the whole thing goat underwae maist eh us wirr oan the verge a hypothermia. Oor bonn wid bae merched intae position, the order given, an we'd aw start movin furrit (forward). It wis supposed tae be merchin, but 'movin' wis aboot as accurate a description as yir likely tae get. Jist as ye startit tae get intae a bit eh a stride an yir circulation goat gaun, the guys in front eh ye wid stoap deid. That meant ye ploughed right intae thir heels! They wid turn an gie ye a moothfull, to whit ye wid be jist aboot tae return the sentiment when the folk behind collided intae you! A squabble wid ensue. Unrest in the ranks wid be quickly quelled bae the officers who patrolled the periphery and movement/marchin/shufflin continued.
                                                 "LEFT..! LEFT..! LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT!"
An officer wid shout out the step. A futile exercise as wae aw shuffled, tripped, cursed an swung oor erms aboot lik eejits as wae sloshed through the puddles.
The bonn wid strike up. Tae be ferr, quite a few eh thim played thir instruments no to bad. Aw the notes wirr ther - jist no necessarily in the right order! An some seemed tae be playin a different tune awthigither! The only wan thit seemed consistent wis the guy oan the big drum. He hid it sussed. Ah reckon ah could hiv played the big drum but ah couldnae lift it, let alane walk an play it aht the same time! If the Guides wid hiv hid a bonn, Big Deirdre wid hiv been thir big drummer, wae aw agreed oan that!
                   Up aheid we could see the flags wavin. Well, no sah much wavin as... takin aff! People don't realise how unwieldy thae flags an poles urr! An when ye get a force 10 behin ye yir likely tae be jist a passenger!. The only wan thit remained upright throughoot the merch wis Big Deirdres'. She wis sum lassie ah'll tell ye. Respect.
Eventually we aw filed intae the church an sanctuary! Oot the wind an the rain. Drippin oan the carpet an wipin wirr noses oan wir sleeves. As we filed doon the aisles ther wid be squabbles brekkin oot as some guys tried tae get closer tae the Guides. A think some guys wid hiv pit in furr transfers if thae thoat thaed get away wae it! Bit the officers oan baith sides pit a stoap tae any shenanigans.
                  Afore the service stertit, the colours wid be merched doon tae the front eh the church. Each colour party wid proudly merch thir flags doon the centre aisle and place the poles in hauders in front eh the pulpit. Oor guys bae this time wirr nackirt. They staggered doon that aisle, knees bucklin, flagpoles swingin aboot erratically, nearly takin the minister's eye oot at wan point.
But the star eh the show wis always Deirdre. She strutted doon the aisle, flagpole straight up in the err, tae calls of "Aun yirsel hen!" an "That's the wae tae dae it!"
                  The worst bit eh the service furr me wis aye the singin. It's no that ah didnae try in the early days. But when ah stertit tae make 'singin' noises wae mah mooth, evrybiddy turnt roon tae look an giggle or sneer! Ah soon realised that ah couldnae sing an thit ah wis pittin evrybiddy else aff, includin the minister. So a stertit tae mime, an fund aht worked better. Even tae this day, in the rerr (rare) occasion a find mahsell in a church, ah mime. Naebiddy notices. In fact - ah don't hink ah'm the only wan thit dis it!!!
                  The great thing aboot the church service wis that ye wirr in oot the cauld an rain, but the time came when ye hid tae face the elements again. So ootside wae went, to an assembly point roon the coarner, an the whole process sterted ower.
                 The merch wis shoarter this time, the main purpose bein the 'Marchpast'. This involved the whole throng merching past the front eh the church and 'saluting' the minister an eez entourage who'd be lined up on the pavement. Noo here's a strange thing, the rain ALWAYS stoaped when the minister stepped oot that church!
He'd be staunin ther, robes blawin in the wind, as we merched/shuffled/squelched towards the church. As the front eh the column drew level wae the holy man, the Captain wid salute an scream.
                                  "EYES RIGHT!" (unless the minister was on the left of course!)
An we wid aw turn wir heids an look tae wir right. (Except furr the wans that thoat thir right wiz oan thir left.
They endit up lookin the wrang wae!)
Of course aw this meant we couldnae see wher wae wirr gaun and we enditt up, bumpin intae each ither, walkin up each ither's heels an generally the whole column gaun past the minister like a drunken centipede!
As soon as we wirr past the church, the rain wid stert again an thoughts turnt tae hame, easter eggs, an a shoap tae spend the collection money!

The author of this piece is Bob Wilson frae Garngad aka 'Moonwatcher' - it was sent to me by GlescaPal Nell who got it from this fabulous website
read more of Moonwatcher's stories in his 'Glesca Patter' series.




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