Senior leader fears rise of computer games risk Boys Brigade’s existence

A Boys Brigade leader who joined the organisation 55 years ago said membership is depleting because modern youngsters just want to play computer games.

Youngsters are spending more time on the electronic devices, Mr McIlwraith said.
Youngsters are spending more time on the electronic devices, Mr McIlwraith said.

Gordon McIlwraith, 63, joined the youth association in 1964, aged eight years old.

He joined after following in the footsteps of his older brother, and in later years ­Gordon’s two sons went on to move up the ranks.

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For nearly six decades, Gordon has stayed with the 3rd Kilmarnock Company in East Ayrshire, which he was made captain of in 1984.

But he said concerns about health and safety, and modern technology, had changed the structure of the organisation.

Gordon said: “When I used to go as a kid it was held on a Friday night after school, with gymnastics and a crashmat.

“Some companies still do it but a lot of companies don’t do hillwalking or gymnastics anymore, because of health and safety.”

He added: “I think the Boys’ Brigade has changed in the past ten years.

“You used to line them all up and you wouldn’t hear a pin drop, but you don’t get that now.

“I asked one of the boys recently why other kids don’t come along and he said a lot of them are lazy, playing computer games.

“There’s a lack of encouragement from parents as well.

“We used to have about 30 or 40 boys but we’re just about extinct now.

“We’ve got about ten boys, it’s very, very poor – we’ve cut back quite a bit.”

There are three other Boys’ Brigade companies in the town, so competition is tough.

Gordon’s two sons David, 28, and Stephen, 24, followed in their father’s footsteps and earned the Queen’s badge – the highest honour awarded in the organisation.

Although resources are stretched and funds in short supply, Gordon believes the Boys Brigade still has a future ahead.

He said: “It’s a struggle but I think it will continue in some shape or form.

“The Boys’ Brigade is still a big organisation, there’s still a lot going on.

“I’ve been asked if I’ll retire soon but I think I will continue for as long as possible.”