The Boys' Brigade - Southport & District Battalion

A History of The Boys' Brigade
in the Southport District

by the late Kenneth Blundell J.P.,

onetime Brigade Honorary Vice-President

THE BRIGADE IN SOUTHPORT

A certain Mr. John Henry Silverside was caretaker at Saint Philip's School, Southport, and played his part in the life of the Church as a Sunday School teacher. One of his boys, name Whitehead, died rather tragically and for his funeral, Mr. Silverside borrowed some B.B. uniforms from a Liverpool company so that a few boys from the Sunday School could attend the funeral. It seemed that in those days, all had to be in a formal order and uniforms were foremost in the minds of most leaders. These few Boys in their uniform caused great interest and on 23rd February, 1905, The Boys' Brigade was founded, with a company of 40 Boys and four officers. This company was called the 1st Southport Company and had its Captain, Mr. Fred Burnett.

The 2nd Southport, connected with All Souls' Parish Church, Blowick, was enrolled during March 1905, quickly followed by the 3rd Southport at Saint Peter's Parish Church, Birkdale. Little is known regarding the early days of these two companies owing to time taking toll of the records.

On 13th October, 1910, the 4th Southport Company, SS Simon & Jude's Parish Church held their first meeting in the Mission Room, High Park Road. The Company was enrolled on 1st December, 1910.

These four companies in general, the 1st, 2nd and 4th in particular, were the rock on which the strength of the Brigade in Southport were founded.

1910 saw the first camp for Southport Boys at Bakewell in Derbyshire, the cost being 2/6d per head. (12.5p)

It was not until 1913 that reliable records for the Brigade in Southport were kept.

SOUTHPORT & DISTRICT OFFICERS' COUNCIL

A meeting was held on Tuesday, 17th June, 1913, in SS Simon & Jude's Church Hall at 8.15 p.m.

There were present 12 officers:- Rev. H. W. Bainbridge, Rev. C. M. Stewart-King, F. J. Firth (Captain), E. W. Baldwin (Captain), A. G. Hines (Lieutenant), T. L. Bower (Lieutenant), W. L. Steele (Lieutenant), E. Johnson (Lieutenant), J. N. Griffiths (Lieutenant), W. Hayes (Lieutenant), E. B. Griffiths (Lieutenant) and H. W. Campbell (Lieutenant).

At this meeting, it was resolved "That we consider it advisable in the best interest of The Boys' Brigade work in this district, that an Officers Council should be formed, as suggested in the Manual, page 49 and that we here and now constitute a Council, to be known as the Southport and District Officers Council".

The following office bearers were elected:-

President - Rev. H. W. Bainbridge
Vice-President - Rev. C. M. Stewart-King
Hon, Treasurer - F. J. Firth Esq.
Hon. Secretary - H. W. Campbell Esq., 

It was also reported at this meeting that King George V was to visit Southport to open the King's Gardens on the Promenade and arrangements were formulated for B.B. Boys to line the route.

EARLY ACTIVITIES

On 24th February, 1914, a demonstration was held in the Cambridge Hall (this word has a different connotation today and would not be used).

In August of the same year, the first joint Camp was held in Derbyshire. A drill competition, cross-country run and ambulance competition were the only inter-company events held, but great emphasis was made on parading to Church and, on many special occasions the Brigade was well to the fore in the public eye. Great stress was made by the Officers that the Brigade took precedence over the Scouts.

The First World War caused the call-up of the Officers and all the Companies, with the exception of the 4th Southport, closed down. A gentleman by the name of Mr. Campbell, who had been a B.B. Officer in Ireland and Liverpool, came to Southport to retire from business and took command of the 4th Southport and kept it going.

After the armistice, several attempts were made to re-start the company at Saint Philip's and in 1922, Mr. E. B. Griffiths transferred from the 4th Southport Company and took over the running of the 1st, a position he held for over 20 years.

Towards the end of 1918, a young lady by the name of Eleanor Mercier, who was a Sunday School teacher at All Souls' Parish Church, made great efforts and was indeed successful, in restarting the 2nd Southport Company.

Soon after this rather out-of-line happening, Mr. E. S. Robertson, being transferred from his business in the south to our area took over the Company.

The 3rd Southport Company at Saint Peter's, Birkdale, did not re-start.

On 4th June, 1920, the first meeting of The Officers' Council after the armistice was held. The 1st, 2nd and 4th Southport companies were represented. At this meeting, it was reported and the sorrow of the meeting expressed, at the deaths of two B.B. Officers, killed in action. Lieutenants Hayes and Steele. Mention was made of the fact of Messrs. A. C. Hines, E. B. Griffiths and T. Forrest having been wounded. It was proposed at this meeting "that The Southport and District Officers' Council of The Boys' Brigade resume its duties on the lines laid down before the war".

The Council purchased a Cup at a cost of 24/- (One Pound 20p) to be awarded to the winners of each competition. This was called the "Hines Cup" to perpetuate recognition of the splendid service A. G. Hines had given to the various companies in the Brigade's early days in Southport.

Enthusiasm from Officer and Boys for B.B. activities must have been outstanding when it was noted on Easter Monday, 1920, that the companies marched from Southport to Drummersdale in Scarisbrick (4 miles), held a Sports Meeting and then marched back again.

Another demonstration of the work of The Boys' Brigade was held in the Cambridge Hall in 1925/26. His Worship the Mayor and Lt. Col. G. Dalrymple-White, Member of Parliament for Southport were in attendance. According to reports, those displays were highly successful.

In January 1928, the first company at a non-conformist Church was formed at Churchtown Congregational and was designated the 5th Southport.

The Boys' Brigade celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1933. Southport played its part in many ways. A pageant was held in the Floral Hall and called "Hail Boy!" Companies went into Scotland to camp for the first time. This was at Gourock on the Clyde. Officers attended the national celebrations in Glasgow and a party of Officers and Boys went to Wembley to see the London Displays.

1939-1945

The Second World War brought with it many difficulties and companies found themselves short of staff due to the rigours of war. As officers were called up for military service the work of running a Company became more difficult and in fact one company had its full complement of officers called up including the Captain, Mr. C. W. (Bill) Rimmer, who was killed in action during the D-Day Normandy Landings. Fortunately, another company was able to loan an officer and the company was able to continue.

Those officers who by reason of age or in reserved employment found greater claims on their time either Fire Watching, Air Raid Wardens, or serving on First Aid Posts, and we thank God that at the end of the war we had not lost any company (but rather we had gained one) Saint Paul's Parish Church formed a company in November 1941 and was designated the 6th Southport. Mr. V. C. Smith was its Captain.

During the war we were able to continue with our camps every year with the exception of 1940 when we were advised by Headquarters not to do so due to the possibility of being mistaken for a military encampment and attacked.

THE BATTALION IS FORMED

In October 1945 the enrolment of the 7th Southport Company was recorded under the captaincy of Mr. F. Rushton. This brought our total number of companies to six - the magic number. This was the number of Companies required to form a Battalion.

Mr. K. Blundell urged the companies to form themselves into a Battalion and at the June, 1946 Officers' Council it was resolved that the Southport Companies form themselves into a Battalion to be called the Southport and District Battalion, having as its area the County Borough of Southport, together with the parishes of North Meols, Hesketh with Becconsall, Tarleton, Rufford, Ormskirk, Scarisbrick, Aughton, Halsall, Downholland and Formby."

It was also resolved "that Mr. B. J. Hartwell be President, Mr. J. N. Griffiths be Vice-President, Mr. E. B. Griffiths be Treasurer and Mr. K. Blundell be secretary."

During the following years the Battalion grew in strength with companies forming at the Baptist Tabernacle (1948), Brighton Road Methodist (1956) and Crossens Methodist (1956). Officers and Boys also played their part in the festival of Britain and Coronation celebrations with a contingent attending the Founders Camp on the playing fields of Eton.

1962 saw the formation of a company outside Southport, namely the 1st Ormskirk. This was quickly followed by the 10th Southport Company at Marshside Road Methodist Church.

During these early years of the Battalion great financial assistance was given to us by the Trustees of the Skelton Bounty. This enabled us to purchase P.T. kit, gymnastic equipment and above all, marquee and bell tents for Battalion Camps. By now the Battalion was well-established and Officers and Boys played their part in District and National affairs with the Annual Display at Blackpool Tower and the Christian Leadership course at Capenwray being the highlights.

From the very beginning Southport has been well served by loyal and faithful Officers such as A. G. Hines, H. W. Campbell, T. Forrest, J. N. Griffiths, E. B. Griffiths, B. J. Hartwell, H. C. Boggis, G Blakeway, E. Hodge and F. Simm to name but a few. These men, with their Christian faith, made a sure foundation for the work among Boys in Southport.

During the years 1979 to 1982, the Extension Committee proved their worth by having new companies enrol at Saint Mark's Methodist, Saint John's Parish Church in Ainsdale, Russell Road Methodist and Churchtown Congregational to be known as the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th Southport. A company was also formed at Banks Methodist Chapel, this to be known as the 1st Banks Company.

With increased interest in our movement it was gratifying to note our membership was over 1,000 in Centenary Year.