THE BOY RESERVES
In the winter of 1924, the year I turned nine years old, the minister in Bluevale Parish Church, the Reverend Robert Boag, who had visited the house on a fairly regular basis for some years, persuaded my parents to enroll me in the "Boy Reserves," which was the under-12 organization of the "Boys Brigade." I'm not sure of the year the B.B. was formed, but I'm fairly sure it was before the official organization of the Boy Scouts, because my father had been in the B.B. and as a young man was a Lieutenant. The B.B. officers and the N.C.O's had ranks similar to the Army and, indeed, in the early days -- at least into the 1920's, the B.B. drilled with replicas of the Lee-Enfield rifle, which was the standard weapon in the British forces. Later, the rifles were abandoned and the exercises were confined to marching.
The "uniform" required a blue suit, to which a leather belt and a white over-the-shoulder pouch was added with badges pinned to the jacket collar. The hat for the ranks was a pill-box, blue with two white rings and a white button on the crown. Staff sergeants wore a shako-like cap with a bill at the front. Officers wore a blue Glen Garry bonnet with black satin ribbons at the back. The Boy Reserves wore blue shorts, blue woolen jerseys with a silver badge on the breast, and the lot was topped off with a sailor cap with white starched top.
The activities of the Boy Reserves were figure marching taught by ex-Army instructors, choral singing, taught by the church organist Mr. Waters, and I remember learning the "Harmonious Blacksmith," which painted a picture of the Blacksmith at work with lots of clang, clang of the hammer. Football (soccer) was another outlet for us and we practiced hard. We usually had a game on Saturday morning, played on one of the 14 pitches laid out in Alexandra Park. Each pitch was a different size and each was for a different age group. We alsohad field trips to various outlying areas of Glasgow and we usually travelled on a specially chartered trolley-car and picnicked at whatever place we were visiting.
Periodically, we had a parent's night and the boys would strut their stuff in the church social hall to the strains of the B.B. Pipe Band. Occasionally, my dad acted as inspecting officer and wore his Glen Garry cap with silver badges and his "swagger cane" -- a lightweight cane sported by Army officers. All in all, it was a lot of fun -- if that is the right word. Most of the boys really enjoyed it. I believe it gave us a sense of pride in our appearance and encouraged us to be neat and tidy. We learned to respect our elders. Today, I don't think the B.B. plays much of a part in boys' lives, which I think is a great pity. It filled a lot of gaps in my life and I certainly missed it when we left to go to Dalmuir. I attended the local B.B., but after two or three visits, I dropped out.