The year it was founded went unremarked both in the columns of the Greenock Telegraph and also in the minutes of the Kirk Session of St Andrew's. On the occasion of the Semi Jubilee in 1911, Sir Hugh Shaw Stewart, who chaired a gathering honouring the twenty-fifth year of the founding of the 1st Greenock, stated that “...the time was gone for making apologies or giving explanations for the establishing of the Movement in their midst”. The feeling lingers that it was the concentration of the membership of the Boys' Brigade among the working classes which caused the Movement during the first part of its history, to have a less than welcomed public profile, even in the Church. Tribute requires to be paid to those founders of the early days for their vision and their foresight, but also for their determination to doggedly pursue their deeply held principles in the fact, not so much of apathy, but as we would seem correct to infer, downright disinterest and opposition. Whatever else it may have been, membership of the Movement in its early years was certainly not fashionable.
The Company started with 30 boys attending the first meeting – the same number as had greeted the birth of the Movement in Glasgow , and at the inaugural meeting of the Company, Dr Bonar presided and the new Company was honoured with the presence of the founder himself, Captain William A Smith.
Thomas Stewart was helped in his task by two enthusiastic and dedicated young men – Colin Campbell and Charles G Macara, who were his Senior and Junior Lieutenants. Less than three weeks after the Semi-Jubilee celebrations Thomas Stewart died, his Obituary Notice in the Greenock Telegraph on 20th April 1911 paid tribute thus – “His interest in the young was a noteworthy and outstanding feature of his work. In this connection he will be long remembered as the originator of the first Company of the Boys' Brigade in Greenock .”
The Kirk Session Minute Book bears the following tribute, dated 23rd April 1911 : “The Kirk Session and the Deacon's Court desire to record their deep sense of the great loss sustained by the congregation and Mission through the death of their esteemed colleague Mr Thomas H Stewart”.
Perhaps an equal mark of Thomas Stewart's greatness has been reflected in the fact that his work did not die with him, but what he had begun, in faith, continued by the impetus which he had given it, and also, surely by the prospering of it by the Holy Spirit.
In the Next 25 Years