Alfred Dornan

Whilst Alfred Dornan is most widely recognised for his work in New Zealand, his story starts in Northen Ireland, where Bruce Young writing in ‘Faces of Boyhood’ recalls: from a family business background (in the bacon and ham curing trade) in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, Alfred Dornan was an excellent “BB salesman”, with a native wit and gift for putting it across. A founding Boy member of 3rd Ballymena in 1934, Alfred went through all ranks to Captain before, under the influence of the famous William McVicker, Overseas and later International Secretary in Britain, accepting appointment as Training Organiser for Northern Ireland from 1945 until he left for New Zealand in 1955. His appointment arose directly from his official contacts with the New Zealand contingent to the Founder’s Centenary Camp at Eton in 1954.

The BB Gazette from December 1955 – Northern Ireland gave Alford Dornan a wonderful send-off at the end of October as he left to take up his new post as Training Officer for the B.B. in New Zealand. At a meeting attended by representatives from all parts of Ulster warm tributes were paid to the excellent work he had done during the past ten years as Trainer-Organiser. The good-will which he had inspired was shown in tangible form by numerous presentations, and many were the expressions of good wishes for his new sphere of work in New Zealand. To bid farewell to Alford as he sailed from Belfast to join the liner at Glasgow were many B.B. friends, and he departed to the stirring music of B.B. bands on the quay side. As the vessel steamed down Belfast Lough, more surprises were in store—a firework display by the Whitehead and Carrickfergus Companies, with answering sirens from the ship, whose Captain entered into the proceedings with cordial co-operation and navigated his vessel inshore for the occasion.

Alfred Dornan, together with Mervyn Dearsly Brigade (NZ) President from 1954-68, initiated a golden era of expansion, especially in training, national awareness and international relations. Between 1954 and 1968 the membership almost doubled from 7000 to 12,500. The Boys’ Brigade in New Zealand became respected overseas as one model for Brigade work outside Britain and led other BB countries towards a rea/”partnership” in international affairs. No longer was every word from London HQ accepted as the only view on BB matters, and Alfred Dornan and Mervyn Dearsly wielded great influence on behalf of the Brigade in Australia and the Pacific Region, especially at the World Conference in Leeds, England, in 1963.

In 1960 Alfred Dornan became Brigade (NZ) Secretary, and in 1962 attended the first meeting of the Pacific Regional Fellowship in Australia, leading to his appointment as part-time Secretary in 1966, with the aim to bring cohesion and extension to the most widespread BB Region in the world. Alfred continued his outreach work in the Pacific region well after retirement from formal BB employment, attending many events in Australia, and the Pacific Islands, through into the early 1990s, always promoting the work and values of The Boys’ Brigade.

In 1968 Mervyn Dearsly was awarded the M.B.E. for his “community service”, and in 1980 Alfred Dornan was awarded the O.B.E. for his work with The Boys’ Brigade in two countries.

Alfred Dornan is attributed with creating the intensive training and extension programmes which lead to the growth of the movement in New Zealand in the 1960’s. National officer and NCO training was introduced. National week-long Christian Leadership Development Courses for NCOs were started in 1957, providing some of the most intensive training for young men anywhere in the Brigade movement.

Media Files




Share This

Heritage -
Newsletter of The Boys' Brigade Archive

Heritage is the newsletter of The Boys’ Brigade Archives. Volumns 1 and 2 were published in print form by the BB Archive Members Association. Volumn 3 onwards is a digital newsletter sent to supporters of the BB Archives monthly.


The Boys’ Brigade Archive Trust relies on supporters to further the preservation and promotion of the Heritage of The Boys’ Brigade, ensuring that is is accessible and relevant to future generations of young people. If you are able to support our work though a financial donation, by the donation of artifacts, photographs and paperwork of by volunteering please click on the links below. If you wish receive our monthly newsletter please sign up. We look forward to hearing from you and advancing the work of The Boys’ Brigade Archive Trust.

Whats' new

Our volunteer researchers are constantly developing content for The Boys’ Brigade Virtual Museum.

Links to our brand new content can be found below.