It’s summer camp season for youth groups and in honour of this I have decided to do a series of posts on summer camps from the past. The first camp I will look at is the 1st summer camp of the Boys’ Brigade which began on July 16th 1886.
The camp was conceived by William Smith (Boys’ Brigade founder) as a way to ensure that boys remained engaged with the Brigade during the long summer months. The camp cost 9 shillings (approximately £26) and in order to be eligible boys had to have regular attendance and show good behaviour at weekly drill sessions and Bible lessons. Unlike now, where camps are a common occurrence for young people, then, they were unusual and many parents had objections to the boys going. One parent is recorded to have said ‘My children have always had a roof over their heads and as long as I live they always will’. Despite this, preparations continued. The list of items taken to the camp was extensive, and indicate a level of comfort during the week that was certainly missing from camps that I went on as a child! Items included – Stoves, Boats, dishes, Knives, Forks, Spoons, Boot blacking equipment, Soap, Brooms and Coffee Urns from reputable ironmongers! Boys were told to bring their own blanket, clothes, a towel and a hymnal and a Bible – demonstrating the emphasis the Boys’ Brigade placed on religion.
During the week, the routine of the camp was as follows;
7.am Bathing parade (Boats) and service of biscuits.
9.am First Breakfast Bugle.
9.45.am Morning Prayers.
10.45.am Dress Bugle.
11.00.am Inspection of Camp and Full-Dress Parade.
1.15.pm First Dinner Bugle.
5.45.pm First Tea Bugle.
7.00 pm.Fishing Parade (Boats)
9.30.pm Evening Prayers.
10.00pm Lights Out.
I can’t imagine getting boys to wake up at 6am today (except for the first day!) The food was simple, reflecting the expectations of the boys as well as the camp budgets. Breakfast was porridge, coffee, bread and butter, Dinner was a nourishing meal of vegetable soup, mutton, potatoes and bread and tea was bread, butter, jam and biscuits with cake added for Sunday and the last night – they must have got through a lot of bread!
Throughout the week the boys remained in full uniform, showing how committed the brigade was to discipline and uniformity. The mission of the Brigade from its beginnings up until today was “The advancement of Christ’s Kingdom among boys and the promotion of habits of Reverence, Discipline, Self-Respect, and all that tends towards a true Christian Manliness.” The experiences of the first camp certainly support this mission, emphasising the discipline and the religious aspect of the group.