In Command of the Church Lads' Brigade

From the files of The Gazette February 4, 1999.

James Crawford was born in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, England, the son of James and Elizabeth Crawford of Cardonald, Scotland, on Jan. 29, 1893. He was educated at Bellahouston Academy and Royal Technical College, Glasgow, Scotland. After serving in the Royal Navy during the First World War, Crawford moved to St. John's, NL, where he entered the firm of G. Browning & Son, Ltd., a bakery established by Gilbert Browning in 1860. The president of the company and Crawford's uncle, the Hon. John Browning, died in 1921; Crawford succeeded him and eventually became president and managing director. In 1931 the firm joined with A. J. Harvey & Company to form Browning-Harvey, which later diversified into the production of aerated beverages. Crawford eventually became managing director of the new firm, a position he held until his retirement in 1949.

Heraldric shields at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, St. John's
Heraldric shields at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, St. John's
Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections (Coll - 027, 4.84), Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL.

Crawford devoted much of his spare time to the Newfoundland branch of the Church Lads' Brigade, a Church of England boys group, organized along paramilitary lines and dedicated to the "advancement of Christ's Kingdom among lads of all classes, the promotion of Christian charity, reverence, patriotism, discipline, self-respect, and all that tends towards true Christian manliness." He entered the organization as a second lieutenant on Feb. 2, 1928, and rose rapidly in the ranks being promoted to lieutenant on June 13, 1929, and to captain on Jan. 29, 1931. On Oct. 5, 1933, Crawford was raised to the rank of lieutenant commander. This coincided with the establishment of the brigade's first naval company, a development which Crawford initiated. Crawford became the first commander of the naval company and was instrumental in helping it to develop a solid foundation within the organization.

In 1935, Lt.-Col. Walter F. Randell retired as commanding officer of the Newfoundland Church Lads' Brigade. Crawford was selected by his fellow officers as new commanding officer, the first naval officer to command the brigade. He took command on Sept. 16 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, but in less than a year, on Aug. 1, 1936, he was promoted to the rank of colonel, the first CLB officer in Newfoundland to hold that rank.

Crawford spent 12 years as commanding officer of the Church Lads' Brigade, retiring on Sept. 17, 1947. During his tenure he did much to promote and enhance the brigade, including several visits to all companies around the island to learn first-hand of their progress. He was also instrumental in securing the donation of a naval shield, to be presented to the winner of a yearly competition among the members of the naval company. Named the Eric Bowring Shield, it was presented by Bowring Brothers, a St. John's based mercantile business, but the design was Crawford's. He also designed the naval flagstaff, and served several years as camp adjutant at the annual brigade summer camp. He was president of the officers' mess in 1930, after having served as its secretary-treasurer for several years previous.

In 1949, Crawford retired from active service at Browning-Harvey. He did not give up working, however; he joined the vice-regal staff at Government House as private secretary to the lieutenant-governor. There he served three succeeding lieutenant-governors (Sir Leonard Outerbridge, Campbell Macpherson and Fabian O'Dea) before his death on Dec. 28, 1963. During his career he was a director of the Newfoundland Mutual Motor Insurance Association and a director of the St. John's Gas Light Company; he was also a member of Bally Haly Golf and Country Club.

A Church of England adherent, Crawford worshipped at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist parish in St. John's where he served as church warden for eight years. He was also a devotee of heraldry, particularly of ecclesiastical heraldry, and did much research in the subject. The heraldic shields on the wall of South Transept at the Cathedral are his work.

Crawford married Dorothy C. White in April 1925. She was the daughter of William Charles White, Anglican Bishop of Newfoundland, and Frederica Thorne Bayly White. The Crawfords had three children: two sons, Gerald and Anthony, and one daughter, Jennifer.

The archives has a small amount of personal research papers from James Crawford. These papers document his very keen interest in heraldry and genealogy, particularly the heraldry and genealogy of the European (mainly British) royal families, and heraldry associated with the Church of England around the world. Much of the material in his collection would appear to be notes, charts and manuscripts for a book he was preparing on heraldry. There are also copies of photographs of British monarchs and thirteen published booklets on heraldry and the British monarchy. They provide an interesting glimpse at this fascinating subject.

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