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Bedford Highlanders

Borough Recreation Commitee for the Troops - Hogmany and Highland Games

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Borough recreation commitee for the troops

The Borough Recreation Committee for the Troops was established by Bedford's Mayor, Harry Browning, the day after the Highlanders arrived in town. The Committee performed a sterling service not only for the benefit of the Highland Division, but for all the troops who passed through Bedford in the four years of the War.

The town's female population was prominent in the Committee's activities, galvanised by some powerful figureheads such as Miss Collie, Miss Stansfeld, Miss Walmsley and Mrs. Browning.

The Committee and some of the many volunteer helpers who worked tirelessly from August 1914 to November 1918 are pictured on the steps of Bedford Grammar School's cricket pavilion on the occasion of the Highland Games, held on Easter Monday 1915.

The story of the Borough Recreation Committee for the Troops and the tireless work of the hundreds of predominantly female volunteers from the towns and villages in Bedfordshire is an inspirational one of which the local community should still be very proud.

Hogmany Supper programme 

In the knowledge that the Scots would wish to celebrate Hogmanay in some style, the Borough Recreation Committee for the Troops was determined to mark the occasion well. £900 was raised towards the total cost of £1048 in contributions from the main Scottish towns to which the Highland Division was most closely connected.
Over two evenings each man in the Division was treated to a Hogmanay Supper which was provided simultaneously in eighteen venues around the town, one of which was St. Martin's Church Hall, Clapham Road and the programme for the evening is shown here. On the first evening, priority was given to the men who were living in unfurnished dwellings. The suppers were presided over by Bedford's civic dignitaries and the Lord Provost of Aberdeen and the Editor of the 'Aberdeen Journal' were also in attendance.
1000 suppers were sent to Howbury Park where the 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were in quarantine, under canvas.
The evenings were a triumph of planning and organisation, being hailed a great success. Much to the relief of the towns folk there were no major problems reported regarding the discipline of the soldiers in the town.
(photo: courtesy of Richard Galley)

From the Barrhead News:
"Dec 31st 1914 - January 1st 1915 Hogmanay at Bedford
A correspondence sends us a copy of a report Bedford record containing a report of the Hogmanay festivities in the town on the part of the Scottish Soldiers stationed there. From the report we make the following extracts:-
Since the warm golden days of August when the kilt first came to Bedford, there has been much to make its stay memorable in the minds of the inhabitants of the old riverside town, but nothing has aroused and interested us more than the celebration of New Year's eve, or to give its appropriate name Hogmanay. Had we known what good-hearted and happy, unspoiled fun there was going to be on the old market square at midnight all Bedford would have been there to see. By half past eleven o'clock the ringing of hand bells, shouting and sturdy hoots and whistles showed that something was astir, with or without the authority of the powers that be. The Square was obviously the centre of attraction and a large crowd in kilts and khaki were already there. From every direction fresh processions and fresh batches poured in; over the bridge they came singing "A song of Bonny Scotland"; from somewhere else was a piper swinging along in front, plaids and uniforms of every kind mingling like their owners in agreeable concord.
Not at least was the charge of the Camerons, who arm in arm, kilts and sporrans swinging and flashing, rushed in a laughing, shouting, human whirlwind down the High street. At quarter to twelve the square was as full as on an election night and dancing was in full swing. How Scotsmen dance! They fling themselves into it whole-heartedly and their movements are as light and easy as you could well wish to see. In the square an enormous ring was formed, and everywhere, according to Scottish custom, the Scottish lads were waiting hands ready and linked to sing out the old and sing in the new. The hands of the clock plainly visible, passed slowly on, and as they touched midnight the vast crowd started off with "Auld Lang Syne"so that the striking of the hour was left to the imagination. The singing over, such a hand shaking began as must have made the moon smile and the cock on the spire wish to lose some of its dignity and crow in sympathy"

Advert for the Highand Games in Bedford

Bagpipe competition

"The piping and dancing competition's the one thing which above all distinguishes a Highland Gathering… the ladies and gentlemen in the enclosure and grandstand appeared very much to enjoy it. But no more than did a large white dog, which lay quietly between the judge and the performers for hours. At last it raised its head and howled, as only dogs can do and was then gently led away up the steps of the grandstand to the pavilion. This noble animal is the mascot of the 6th Gordons and always accompanies the battalion on its route marches, trotting along with the pipers."

(Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service).

220 yards Officers race

The photographer captures the finish of the 220 Yards Officers'Race. (Photograph: courtesy of Richard Galley)

Caber tossing

The caber tossing competition took place near the boundary with Pemberley Avenue. The Duke of Bedford provided two cabers from the fir plantations on his Woburn estate. After the Games, the cabers were made into a fine set of garden furniture which was presented to the Mayor Mr Harry Browning and his wife as a gesture of thanks in recognition of the hard work they had put into supporting the Highland Division during its time in Bedford.
(photo: courtesy of Richard Galley)

Victoria Cross race

"Victoria Cross Race
The Victorians had to run out – presumably under fire – and fetch in a wounded and unconscious comrade from about 100 yards out. Any assistance in picking up by the "wounded"man disqualified both. Private Tough, 7th Gordons, arrived home easily first but was disqualified through his comrade helping him."

Bedfordshire Times and Independent
At the far right of the picture can be seen the boy scout who was gainfully employed in picking up any of the competitors'hats which fell off during the race!
(photo: courtesy of Richard Galley)

Fencing at the Highland Games

Looking towards Pemberley Avenue and the School chapel, this photograph captures the image of an Argyll and Sutherland Highlander and an officer of the Gordon Highlanders competing in the fencing competition.
(photo: courtesy of Richard Galley)

Dancing competition

The Argylls versus the Gordons in the Highland dancing competition. Highland Dancing is a centuries old tradition within Highland regiments.
"Verily it was a grand day and it was wound up with a distribution of prizes by His Grace the Duke of Bedford, who was accompanied by Her Grace the Duchess of Bedford, who witnessed the sports with great interest. Major-General Bannatyne-Allason spoke in terms of high appreciation of the Committee's successful effort to provide amusement and recreation for the Troops. A silver cup given by Colonel Grant, for the unit which had most prize-winners, fell to the 8th Argylls.
The profit from this Sports Meeting was £211 2s. This provided welcome sinews of war for the Committee's general fund."

'A Record of Four and Half Years Voluntary Work'; J.Hamson – pub. by Bedford Borough Recreation Committee for the Troops May 1919
(photo: courtesy of Richard Galley)

Page last updated: 15th July 2014