9th NSW Epping Boys’ Brigade Company
9th NSW Epping Company commenced in 1943 at Epping Baptist Church by John Haddon Stone. The company is the oldest company still operating within NSW.
A deacon in the local church and active in it’s youth activities, John Stone was also a city accountant and close friend of Robert McEwan, M.B.E. Registered initially at the 40th Sydney Company, the new work commenced with 20 boys and two officers and soon had the reputation of being a well disciplined group with a strong emphasis on drill training. In those early days it is said that Stone’s O’Connell St. Office was often used as the unofficial centre for the Brigades administrative activities in NSW. After John Stone moved from the area, the captaincy was continued by some of his former boys in the company, first by Graham Tomkins and then Ross Kafer.
In the early 1950’s memberships had fallen off drastically and it is reported that at one stage with only seven members, the company was parading with 52nd Sydney Company at Eastwood Baptist Church. Later, however, as numbers were restored the situation was reversed until the Eastwood ministry was closed down completely.
With the commencement of the Parramatta Battalion in 1957, the company title changed to 6th Parramatta Company. Ross Kafer later moved to Carlingford to live and together with his wife Nola commenced the present 61st Carlingford Company in 1958, starting off with a group of Lifeboys in the old Literary Institute Hall at West Pennant Hills. Next to lead the company was Englishman, Reg Brice, who with a number of year brigade experience in the London area had moved out to Australia during the war years.
The year 1963 saw the commencement of neighbouring 109th Epping Company at Epping Church of Christ, following a period of several months when Col. Bartrim and a group of boys from that church combined with the existing company for direction and experience. A healthy spirit of co-operation existed between the two companies and they worked together as needs arose.
Later in 1965 when Northside Battalion was formed it was changed to 1st Northside Company. Company visits to places such as Sydney Observatory, Fire Brigade HQ, overseas liners etc were reported to be popular with up to 50 excited Juniors Section and Seniors Section boys on a rail carriage travelling to town, one can imagine the noise level and the reason they would have the carriage to themselves by journeys end.
Early camping activities concentrated mainly on light weight, expedition type camps, with members travelling by train to Blue Mountains centres and setting out on foot to areas such as Blue Gum Forest, Kedumba and Megalong Valleys and Cox’s River. After this, larger static camps became more popular and for many years regular beach camps were held over the Christmas holiday period at Crookhaven Heads.
Later Epping captains included Tony Cupit 1969-1970, Stan Jacques 1971-1973, Steve Gourlay 1974-1978, Robert Lees 1979-1983 and Graham Petschack 1984-2008. The company was renamed to 9th NSW Epping Company consistent with the NSW naming stategy.
In the 1980s the company became more active again in Battalion events including the swimming and athletics carnivals. The church hosted many Northside Battalion Dedications and Business gatherings. In the 1990’s and 2000’s the company dominated the swimming carnival till 2007 when the carnival has ceased to be run.
The company reaching highs of over 100 boys during the early 2000’s. Numbers have changed as the demographics of the area change and leaders move on. Presently there are around 40 registered boys.
The section names were officially changed by The Boys’ Brigade Australia to Anchors, Juniors and Seniors. In 2005 the Seniors Section changed to a contemporary style uniform, with Juniors Section following in 2009.
From 2009-mid-2010 the company was led by the section coordinators (Chris Petschack, Graeme Cox & Andrew Scott) with no formally appointed captain, in mid-2010, Chris Petschack & Andrew Scott took on the role jointly, with Chris moving on in mid-2012. The company has since been led by Andrew Scott.
During the company’s history an active program has been followed including awarding of the Queen’s Badge (previously King’s Badge), with 31 company members having received the badge.
With the company being active for over 70 years, many must look back with thankfulness for the spiritual and practical help they have received from 9th NSW Epping Boys’ Brigade. Many people are continuing with the principles learnt in Boys’ Brigade and have become Christian leaders in the community. Acknowledgement must also be given to the many wonderful leaders, helpers and particularly company captains who have helped to shape the company to what it is today!
The Boys’ Brigade
The Boys’ Brigade was founded on October 4th 1883 by William A, Smith in the North Woodside Mission Hall Glasgow.
The Boys’ Brigade was the first of all the voluntary uniformed youth organisations, represented in 60 countries worldwide. For the first year of The 1st Glasgow Company’s formation it was the only one, however shortly thereafter this new organisation for boys began to spread and by 1886 the movement numbered 2,000 mostly in Scotland although centred around Glasgow, companies had been formed from Ayr in the southwest to Inverness in the north. From then on the movement filtered southward to England soon reaching as far south as London.
In 1887 the BB had spread to all points in the British Isles crossing the English Channel to the Channel Isles where the 1st Jersey was formed and then across the Irish Sea where the 1st Belfast was formed in 1888 and the 1st Dublin in 1890. The First overseas company was formed in St. Louis, Missouri USA in 1887.
The Boys’ Brigade movement continued to advance overseas where missionary companies soon developed usually in isolated stations and outposts, the most notable growth being in Nigeria, Africa. The organisation also spread across the Atlantic, to Canada and the USA encouraged no doubt by the founders promotional visits there first in 1895 and then again in 1907.
In the Brigades early years the leaders of the companies joined together to form the Council of the Boys’ Brigade which provided the administration for the movement. William Smith, whilst remaining Captain of the 1st Glasgow, was appointed the first full-time Brigade Secretary in 1887 and dedicated much of his time to the Brigade by bringing in many influential people to strengthen the advancement of the organisation, including the Duke of York, who as both prince and later King was the Boy’s Brigade Patron for forty years.
William Alexander Smith was born on the 27th October 1854 at Pennyland House, Thurso, Scotland. His father was Major David Smith and his Mother Harriet was the daughter of Alexander Fraser a merchant in Glasgow. The Smiths were a military family and David Smith had served as an ensign of the 7th Dragoon Guards during the Kaffir War in 1849 – 1850. After his marriage to Harriet he joined the Caithness Volunteer Artillery Corps in which he rose to the rank of Major.
Young William was brought up in a Christian atmosphere both in his own home and his uncle’s home at 28 Hamilton Park Avenue Glasgow, where he had moved at the age of 15 to work in his uncle’s business. In Thurso William Smith attended the local Parish Church and in Glasgow he accompanied his uncle to the Free College Church where he was a teacher in the Sunday School. At this time, having just moved to Glasgow, he joined the 1st Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers and by 1883 aged 29 he had become a Lieutenant.
Whilst continuing his duties at the Sunday School he also became involved with the Young Men’s Society, as an assistant, in the Mission, North Woodside. In this area of Glasgow many new houses had recently been built to accommodate the large numbers of skilled workers who had moved there from the Highlands and Islands and Ireland. Glasgow was a thriving city at this time and was the Second City in The British Empire after London. Not far away from North Woodside Road where the Mission Halls were located was Great Western Road were great mansions stood built by the wealthy city merchants involved with tobacco and cotton trade in the New World.
The workers and their families living in the area attended the Mission, as did many of the young boys who joined the Sunday School. William Smith sometimes found it a challenge to cope with the older boys who could at times be wild and unruly teenagers and thought these boys needed other activities to take up their time and interest. Comparing this to his time with the Volunteers where he had no difficulty making the men obey his every command at drill on the parade ground, Smith thought it would be good for these young lads to experience some drill and discipline.
Therefore he concluded that he would turn the Sabbath School boys into a volunteer band or brigade with the same military order, obedience, discipline and self-respect. Combining this with other activities such as games, gymnastics and sport as well as bible studies, hymns and prayers. Having discussed his planned programme with two friends brothers J.R. and J.B. Hill also Sabbath School teachers, for this new organisation for boys, he obtained the authority of the Minister and the Kirk session to proceed. The three leaders invited the young men from the Sabbath School to join The Boys’ Brigade on the 4th October 1883 where some twenty-eight boys turned up on parade for the first time in the North Woodside Mission Hall to form The 1st Glasgow Boys’ Brigade.
In 1903 the annual BB display held in the Royal Albert Hall London was of special significance as from it can be traced the beginnings of the Boy Scout movement.
General Baden-Powell recently back from his exploits in Mafeking, agreed to be the presiding officer at the BB display, became a very good friend of the Founder. At first hand he saw the development of the BB and soon realised the possibility of teaching boys the art of scouting thus the seeds of the Boy Scout Movement were sown and soon grew spreading throughout the World, as had the Boys’ Brigade.
In 1909 William Alexander Smith was knighted by King Edward VII for his services to the Boys’ Brigade. Maintaining his commitment to the Brigade, in 1909 it was proposed that a union with the Boys Life Brigade should be considered and although discussed it was many years before this union proceeded successfully. On the 8th of May 1914 at a meeting of the Brigade Executive in London the Founder took ill and died two days later on the 10th of May. He was buried in Glasgow.
From the inaugural meeting of some 28 boys in October 1883 who joined together to form the Boys’ Brigade at the time of the Founders death in 1914 the movement had grown to 60,000 members.
The Boys’ Brigade in Australia
The Boys’ Brigade was first introduced into Australia well within a decade of the formation of the movement in Glasgow by the Founder. In 1890-91 a Company was formed at the St. Mark’s Church of England, Fitzroy, Melbourne. The next Company to be formed was at the Wesley Church, Perth in 1895 and this was very quickly followed by Companies in each of the other States on a fairly scattered basis. For instance in Queensland by the year 1899 there were Companies in Mackay, Townsville, Weipa, Aurukun, Charters Towers and Brisbane, whilst in New South Wales there were Companies in Richmond, Kurrajong, Bathurst and Cobar as well as in Sydney. In Tasmania by that year efficient Companies were operating in Launceston and Hobart.
To provide a more coordinated basis for growth an Australian Council was formed at the turn of the century, based in Sydney. The first Annual Report in 1900 noted that the Secretary knew of 15 Companies functioning with a membership of 431 Boys and 41 Officers. The first Battalion Council was formed in Adelaide in 1901 and comprised four Companies. In the beginning of this century several Companies of the Naval Boys’ Brigade were formed, mainly in Victoria, and in 1907 separate Battalions of “Military” and “Naval” Companies were formed in that State. It appears that most of these Companies merged with the Government scheme of Military Training for Boys of 12 and upwards introduced in July, 1911, and as a result of this scheme plus the drain on leadership into the Armed Forces, few Companies survived the First World War.
There was one notable exception, in 1913 a new 1st Brisbane Company had been formed at the Ithaca Presbyterian Church, led by a Mr. George Orr a former Lieutenant of the 1st Glasgow Company under the Captaincy of Sir William Smith. The formation of this Company marked the commencement of the present era of The Boys’ Brigade in Australia. In the years following the First World War, a former Captain of the 5th Dublin (Ireland) Company, Rev. J. Wesley-Smith, who had migrated to Western Australia, after correspondence with Mr. Orr, was instrumental in the formation of the 1st and 2nd Fremantle Companies at Fremantle Baptist Church and Wesley Church, Fremantle, respectively, and the 1st Northam Company at Northam Presbyterian Church, W.A.
It was not until 1929 that a new 1st Melbourne Company was formed at Armadale Church, Melbourne, and a new 1st Sydney Company was formed at Glebe Presbyterian Church, Sydney. Of these the 1st Brisbane is still active. No further Companies were formed in Queensland or Victoria up to the outbreak of the Second World War and in New South Wales growth was extremely slow, there being 18 Companies active in Sydney at that time. However, the immediate post-war years saw a rapid spread of the Movement so that we now have Companies in all States and Territories.
Another point of interest relating to the pre-Second World War years is that upon the Brigade becoming more active in New South Wales in the early 1930s it was pointed out that other non-uniformed Boys’ Organisations had been operating in Sydney and Adelaide for many years under the name “The Boys’ Brigade” and had been incorporated in those States as Limited Companies. As a result, we no longer had the legal right to the use of the name “The Boys’ Brigade” in New South Wales and South Australia and ultimately agreed to use the name “The British Empire Boys’ Brigade”.
In 1970 the Australian name “The Boys’ Brigade Australia” and the movement is now known by that name in all States of Australia. In 1948 the Overseas Committee of The Boys’ Brigade Executive Committee in London, appointed Mr. Robert McEwan (Captain 3rd Sydney Company) to act as Honorary Organiser for Australia and acting under this authority Mr. McEwan invited one Officer in each State to join him in what was called the Provisional Federal Advisory Committee (P.F.A.C.).
This body continued to operate until 1955 when each State was invited to appoint two representatives to the Committee. The enlarged P.F.A.C. paved the way for the formation of The Australian Council and on 1st January, 1958, The Boys’ Brigade Australian Council was formally constituted. A fitting tribute was paid at this time to the oldest Company in Australia, the 1st Brisbane Company, when its Captain, Mr. R.H. Tait, was elected the first President of the Australian Council. A full history of The Boys’ Brigade in Australia is published in “Boys, Urchins, Men”