No brotherly love for the Salvation Army in early Nanaimo

Peace was all but restored when one of those in attendance discovered that his watch and chain had disappeared during the excitement!

They’re as recognizable at Christmas as Santa Claus and lights: members and volunteers of the Salvation Army with their kettles, soliciting donations outside stores. Just as they have become identified for their administering to spiritual and physical needs around the world.

But the first Sally Ann volunteers weren’t always welcomed, at least not initially. Twenty years after John and Catherine Booth began their evangelical work in Cornwall, Eng., their disciples were looked upon by some Nanaimo residents, at least, as being little more than a public nuisance and treated with scorn, even outright hostility. A city councillor made the first unkind comment on record when he complained about their band practice being held at the same time that council met. He said he couldn’t hear himself think over their "noise."

Things became considerably more heated when a man, initially identified only as "Liverpool," crashed a public meeting at the SA barracks. Although reported to have been "slightly" under the influence of liquor, Liverpool has to have been carrying a full load to have so tested their patience with his very loud, very bad singing, and repeated Amens and Hallelujahs!

One Christian Soldier became so incensed that he grabbed Liverpool by the scruff of the neck and the seat of his pants and hustled him out of the meeting room, down the hallway, across the sidewalk and, with a little added propulsion for good measure, into the street.

A witness who objected got into a fist fight with another Salvationist, both having to be forcefully separated before they injured themselves. "The excitement was intense," it was reported, "and the language indulged in was not such as would be considered polite, let alone in accordance with scripture".

SA officers struggled to dampen emotions and peace was all but restored when one of those in attendance discovered that his watch and chain had disappeared during the excitement! The Free Press, not at all impressed, complained that the self-appointed bouncer had shown "but little of that mercy and forbearance which the God of the Salvation army so beautifully teaches".

Its editorial tone was that of censure – not of the boorish behaviour of the drunken Liverpool but of bad judgment, excessive force and lack of Christian brotherhood on the part of the Salvationists.

"While we strongly hold that no person has the slightest right to disturb a place of worship no matter how much he may be opposed to the doctrine expounded or the methods therein employed, still we cannot help thinking that the God of the Bible which the Salvation Army so earnestly invokes, would not take an erring brother by the throat, and with more than reasonable force expel him from a meeting especially called for the purpose of reclaiming the fallen and bringing the sinner to repentance. Our idea of the duty of the avowed disciples of the meek and lowly Saviour would have been to take the offender kindly by the hand and urge him to forsake his evil ways, etc.

"This would appear to be the precept, but unfortunately, judging from last night’s proceedings, is not the practice."

The Army’s Capt. Aikenhead initiated unspecified charges (likely those of causing a disturbance) against T. Wallace, R. Hutchinson and J. Kelly. To Magistrate J.P. Planta went the challenge of sorting it all out, future magistrate C.H. Beevor Potts appearing for the prosecution, E.M. Yarwood for the defence.

A similar charge against George Richards made by an SA member named Mitchell was dismissed with costs laid against the complainant whose testimony had been given over such a chorus of loud hisses that Planta had had to intervene.

As for Messrs. Wallace, Hutchinson and Kelly (who, it appears, was the infamous Liverpool who started it all, the others having been involved in the ensuing scuffle), Capt. Aikenhead said that he and his fellow members would agree to dismiss the charges if they publicly apologized and paid court costs.

Of the three, only Kelly – the instigator of the whole fuss – was penitent.