Jim Bell remembers days at camp

1st Banbridge Boys Brigade at camp in Scotland
1st Banbridge Boys Brigade at camp in Scotland

At the end of the first year, 1st Banbridge BB started bringing boys to camp with 30 attending that year.

William Smith, founder of the Boys Brigade had drawn from his military experience and introduced the concept of camping into the Brigade to allow boys and officers to remain in contact with each other when other activities ceased for the summer break.

Jim Bell second from left, with good friend William Lutton on the left and two other friends

Jim Bell second from left, with good friend William Lutton on the left and two other friends

The notion was initially ill-received due to concerns for the boys’ safety, with one mother has quoted as saying, “Camp! My children have always had a roof over their heads, and as long as I live, always will!”.

But the Banbridge boys not only survived the rigours of camp, but it very soon became one of the highlights of the company year with former members having many happy memories of camp life.

Jim Bell along with Robert Nesbitt’s father George Nesbitt and friends Bill Lutton and Billy Beck were some of the first boys to attend when the company was founded. Some of the other senior boys at the time were Joe Morton, Albert Morton, George Nesbitt, and Eric Lutton.

Jim Bell still has memories of camp with these friends.

“There were great camps for the boys in Scotland in those days, mostly in Ayr but also in Dunleer and Cork,” said Jim.

“I remember one year in Ayr there was an ice rink and the boys learned how to skate there. We mostly stayed in church halls on straw beds which were actually very comfortable.

“I remember going to see films - one was “A Man Called Peter” and it was about the life story of Peter Marshall, a Scots-American preacher, and also a film that told of how the BB was first started.

“They were good times. It was a great adventure.”

Jim also recalls the uniform of the time.

“We just wore our good suits with leather belts and had white haversacks and field caps. I think it stood out more than the present day.

Jim continued: “There was great competition and different activities such as drill competitions against Dromore and Dromara and Donaghcloney.

“The boys today are still good at drill, discipline and activities and listening for commands.

“We also had a bugle band - there’s no bugle band now.

“It is a good organisation for boys and men. The aim of the organisation ‘The advancement of Christ’s kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-respect and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness” has made us better citizens.