Looking back over the years the Boys Brigade captain Robert Nesbitt says lot of things have changed within the organisation, but many of the core foundations remain unchanged.
Talking of the uniform Robert said: “We have simplified it to just a shirt and tie now.
“Years ago there was a lot of cleaning of brass to be done every Friday night, for the competition to see whose squad is the best turned out. We still have that competition today.
“I know that nowadays it isn’t so cool for boys to turn out tidy, but they know if they keep the deal then we will have fun after.
“Boys need guidance, discipline and help to learn how be organised - that is our aim and this competition helps them with that.”
While the organisation’s purpose remains the same, “The Promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-Respect and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness” what has changed is how they go about promoting that object.
The organisation recognises that the influences surrounding young people are not always helpful and that many lose control at cost to themselves, their families and the community. The answer, they believe, is to catch the energy and enthusiasm of youth and to channel it purposefully. To that end there are many more activities on offer for the young boys today.
Robert said: “I’m still surprised by our big numbers - 30 to 40 boys every Friday night, but I try to keep it fun.
“I take them go-carting, clay pigeon shooting, we do archery and are proud to have two boys going to the world championships this year, we do airsofting and I use the leisure centre a lot.
“We also have the bee-keepers coming to talk to the boys soon and while I know this might not appeal to every boy, I try to keep things varied because I realise not every young lad is into football or wants to do that every Friday night either. We also do gymnastics.”
Drill is another discipline that hasn’t changed within the organisation. Robert said: “Doing drill with the boys is an advantage as some of the boys end up in military posts where marching is used - for instance we had one boy who joined the RAF, but even so, it’s a good discipline for the boys even if it just teaches them the difference between left and right! We always do five or ten minutes of drill each night and it’s good craic. Then on display night we have a drill competition.”
The 1st Banbridge company still takes the boys to Camp, but nowadays this can be further afield than Scotland.
“We used to have an annual camp but it varies a bit now,” said Robert.
“We’ve been to Switzerland where we did mountain biking and white water rafting. Switzerland is also the place where you discover who doesn’t have a head for heights - on the mountain lifts we had to squeeze some of the guys into the middle of the lift as they found out they didn’t like heights - but it’s experiences like this that hold the guys together. We also have weekends and more local camps but it’s good to give the boys the experience of travel.”