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The founder of the Boys' Brigade movement was Sir William Alexander Smith. He was born on the 27th October 1854 in Pennyland House, Thurso, in the North of Scotland. He joined the volunteers and at the age of 19, while working in his uncle's business in Glasgow became Lance Corporal in the 1st Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers.

By 1883 William Smith had become a Lieutenant and was teaching in the North Woodside Mission Sunday School. The boys in his Sunday School class were a challenge and they had no discipline. He was open to suggestions. Someone suggested that the methods used in the volunteers may be appropriate. He took this idea further and the BB was formed.

The Boys' Brigade was officially formed on 4th October 1883 and was a tremendous success. Other youth organisations resulted from the formation Boys' Brigade, most notably the Scout movement in 1908.

In July 1909 William Smith was knighted by King Edward VII for his services to boys.

He died on May 10th 1914 after being taken ill at a Boys' Brigade meeting in London.