Sunday, September 18, 2016

Smithfield’s Blue Ribbon Army

In the 1880’s a new temperance movement moved rapidly through the country attracting many members.  The society originated in England by R T Booth (no relation to General Booth of the Salvation Army). One of the greatest evils on earth was alcohol and the only remedy was total abstinence.   The Blue Ribbon Army was formed as it was considered that there was a lack of Christianity among the existing temperance bodies.   A branch was founded in Adelaide on 17 July 1882.  Branches of this society were formed all over the state, many churches establishing divisions with their Sunday school. 
Rev Nelson the founder of the army in South Australia was present at the Gawler Institute in July 1883 as Mr J.M Howie explained the objectives of the movement.   A branch was subsequently formed in Gawler.   In 1884 a large number of the Gawler branch proceeded to Smithfield with the purpose of opening a branch there.  One opened on 31 May 1884 when 40 people donned the blue ribbon, amongst them several habitual drinkers. The Rev R. Jackson of Salisbury was chairman and Mr Swann, Marsh, Cross, Matthews and Kekwick delivered addresses. Miss Kekwick is credited with starting the movement in Smithfield.

Regular meetings with a musical or literary program and address were held at the Angle Vale Bible Christian Church or Smithfield Institute.  Former hard drinkers would give testimony to the misery of drink and the blessing of abstinence.  Attendees were encouraged to sign the pledge and ‘take up the blue’.
By 1886, 182 signed the Smithfield roll.  Nothing more is heard of the Army after this time.

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