A Brief History of Armadale's Bands including Armadale Concert Ensemble

If you have any details that would interest our readers, please let me know.

This page is only as reliable as the information it receives.

Updated 20 May 2012

Over the years, Armadale has been entertained by many bands and performers.  Here are details of a few of them:

More information in Armadale Past & Present

  • 1855: Some young Dale men formed a flute band. 

  • 1855: A Temperance Brass Band, Armadale Brass Band, run by the local Temperance Society, was created.  All the members had to sign the pledge to resist the temptation of strong drink.  However, the drummer found drumming to be thirsty work, which he solved by carrying a mineral bottle, supposedly filled with lemonade.  Soon other Band members discovered his secret and followed his lead, but they were soon discovered by their audiences at engagements.  The Temperance Society ordered almost half the band (many of the best players) to return their instruments as the pledge had been broken.  Their refusal was backed by the support of the other band members.  The Society decided to take the men to court, little realising what a spectacle was in store when the Band marched and played their instruments through Linlithgow to the courthouse.  The Sheriff dismissed the case on the grounds that the instruments had been bought by public subscription.  As a result, he ruled that the men were entitled to retain their membership and their instruments since they were part of a public band.

  • Although the musicians were enthusiastic, the interest dwindled and the band closed in the 1860s.

  • 1873: It was decided that Armadale should have an Armadale Brass Band again.  A public subscription raised 10 and the organisers added 4 to the total, which was still insufficient to buy the required instruments.  However, they learned that Grangepans Band was closing and it was selling its instruments.  A deal followed whereby Armadale's 14 was well spent in buying the redundant instruments.  James McDonald, a local fruiterer, drove to Bo'ness with his horse-drawn van to collect the instruments and, when he returned to the Cross, an eager group was there to claim the instruments.  Ironically, only one person could play an instrument, but, undaunted, with instruments blaring noisily, they marched off to Buckshead Tavern to celebrate.

  • The new Armadale Public Band soon developed under the leadership of a talented cornet player from Durham, George W. Scott, who was appointed bandmaster. 

  • 1895: After a few years of mixed success,  the Band was reorganised and  new instruments were purchased. 

  • 1897: Armadale Diamond Jubilee Band: formed from the original Armadale Flute Band (1873), but closed about 1903.

  • 1898: The Armadale Band gained 2nd place in the Scottish 2nd Section playing the test piece 'Ireland', conducted by E. Sutton.

  • 1902: One of their most successful early years was when they won three first prizes and several specials.  The band disbanded about 1903.

  • 1905: Armadale Town Band: formed in (1)pictured c1912

  • 1931: The present Band reformed.  Over the years, the Band has had various names: Armadale Public Band, Armadale Burgh Band, Armadale District Brass Band, and now, Armadale Concert Ensemble.

  • During its first 5 years there was also the Armadale Silver Band, known as the Auld Band, as well as the Young Band.  The Auld Bandmaster was Willie Martin.  Some of the original members of the Young Band were:  John Duncan, Mark Watson, Jim Kerr, Bill Maxwell, Tommy Murray, Bert Hinshelwood, John McDonald, Duncan Williamson, John Gordon, Dave Hinshlewood, George Strickland, George Robertson, Bill Carlaw, R. Lawson who later played for Hitchin Town Band, Alex Peden, Willie Mulcahy, Robert Rodger, Jerry Mulcahy, Alex Denholm, Neil Clark, John Sword, Jim McAlpine, Jimmy Robertson, W. Strickland, Johnny Wallace, Robert Watson, Willie Williamson, Wattie Cameron, Alex Cameron, later joined by John Peden, Alex Wallace, Donald Fullerton, Jimmy Hall, George Watson, Alex Rodger, George Black, Johnny Hay, Sammy Yuill, Donald Torrie, and Willie Ferrier who played Solo Cornet and was Bandmaster for many years.  The original Committee was: President Jimmy Kerr; Secretary Hamilton Duncan; Treasurer Archie Craig, later Secretary; Conductor Mr Muirhead.  Later Committee included: Willie Carlaw, Malcolm Torrie, Sanny Rankine, Bob Campbell, Sailor Hunter, Rab Watson.  Ladies' Committee: Mrs Muirhead, Mrs Park, Mrs Rodger, Mrs Gordon, Mrs Watson, Mrs Williamson and Jean Williamson.

  • 1932: It joined the Scottish Band Association as Armadale Public Band.

  • 1938:  After raising the money the Committees were able to provide the band with new uniforms and replacements for the older instruments.

  • 1938-9:  The Band gained 2nd prize in the 4th Section of the last competition before the War.

  • Post-war: The Band was conducted by John Fullerton.

  • 1949: The Band achieved minor success at the Edinburgh Charities Contest (The Burns Centenary Contest) where it gained 3rd place in the open Contest as a 3rd Section Band playing 'A Day Wi Rabbie Burns' .

  • 1955: 3rd place in the 4th section.

  • 1957: 1st place in the 4th section playing 'A Joy of Youth'.

  • 1959: 3rd section with 'English Folk Songs' conducted by Hugh Forbes.  Jimmy Taylor took over from Hugh Forbes and a few successes followed in minor contests.

  • 1971:  Jimmy Taylor died and the Band appointed Michael Brown for a short time, followed by John Newton under whose leadership the Band experienced their most successful run with numerous first places in many contests.  During this time there were two Presidents: John (Mung) Smart and John McDonald (Auld Jock).

Email received from Robert Todd: 1961 Memory

I played with West Calder Brass Band, and was taught by Rab Graham & Alex Lynn (both in your picture)

I was about 19 yrs old, and on loan to Armadale, for contesting, along with Ronnie Pratt. (both on cornet)

In the picture we are in the back row.....(see photo below for names and Robert Todd's correction, Rosie)

I remember it well, picture taken in front of the then bandhall, as we were going to London to play in the national championships

I think we were in the 4th?section but I remember we did quite well, and we played in Kensington town hall

On the Saturday night we were privileged to go to a concert in the Royal Albert hall, to a concert by Fodens and Black Dyke Mills bands.

What an outstanding hall it is, and I remember they played ''Finlandia'' & ''The thieving magpie'' -- Brilliant - what a memory at that age.

I remember faces and some of the names from playing at contests and Gala Days.

I hope this helps filling in some information, and say all the best to anyone who is still around.


Robert Todd

(now residing in East Calder)

posted 15 May 2012

Scottish Brass Band Championship 1938

Fourth Section Championship, Coatbridge Town Hall, Saturday 19 November

Test Piece: Over the Hill             Adjudicator: George Hawkins


1st prize: Harold Memorial Band conducted by Gregor Grant

2nd prize: Armadale Silver Band conducted by Gregor Grant

3rd prize: Broxburn R C conducted by Jack Riley

4th prize: Burntisland conducted by Colin Terris

21 bands competed in this section.

The following is based on the reminiscences of Tom Allan of the Scottish Brass Band Association, which gives interesting information about the details contained on the 1938 Certificate awarded to Armadale Silver Band.

At the time of these contests in Scotland, there were only four sections.  The contests were run on four separate Saturdays.  The Championship for First Section bands was held in Usher Hall, Edinburgh.

The Second, Third and Fourth Section contests rotated round venues such as Coatbridge, Airdrie, Hamilton, Kirkcaldy, Cowdenbeath, Leith, Stirling and the Pinkie Garden Hall at Portobello.

The Fourth Section test piece for 1938 was a selection of pastoral tunes and dances put together as a test piece.

The Scottish Brass Band Championships began in 1895.  At the beginning, there were only two Sections: ten bands in Section One and two in Section Two.  The venue was Waverley Market, Edinburgh.

From 1926, the prize-winning bands in each Section were given a certificate and 25 medals.  From 1895 bands could only play 24 players.  In 1946 this was increased to 25 players (no percussion).

Names on the 1938 Scottish Brass Band Championship certificate

Conductor GREGOR GRANT lived in Maryhill Road, Glasgow and he was a former military euphonium player.

After military service, he was tuba player with the SNO and took up brass band conducting.  He had a long association with Govan Burgh Band with whom he won the Championship Section four times: 1929, 1932, 1951 and 1953.

He was a gifted entertainer with Govan Burgh and they were supported by a large following.  His rapport with audiences was outstanding, particularly as there was always a surprise in his concert programmes.

He also spent time with lower Section bands in West Lothian, ie Armadale and West Calder.

The1938 winning band, Harold Memorial, was made up of factory workers from the west side of Edinburgh.  Their win in 1939 was a 'one-off' as they never competed again and, between the war years 1939 - 1945, the band was dissolved.

JAMES BEATTIE from Cowdenbeath was President of SABBA from 1935 until 1950.  He was a very dignified man with a cultured speaking voice.

After World War II, The Daily Herald newspaper, based in London, took an interest in the English Band Movement as they were starting the national qualifying contests in England and Wales.  Jimmy Beattie travelled to London and convinced The Daily Herald that Scottish bands should be included.  These qualifying contests to be held in February and March were separate from the established Scottish Championships.

The finals for The Daily Herald contests (Champion Section) were at the Albert Hall, London, on the first Saturday in October.  The other Sections (2,3 and 4) were to be held in the Zoological Gardens, Belle Vue, Manchester, on the third Saturday in September.  Belle Vue had three large halls, the Kings Hall seating 5,000.

From 1953, all Sections were moved to London and took place the first weekend in October.

JAMES ALEXANDER was Secretary of SABBA from 1900 until 1944. 

Jimmy Alexander was a native of Musselburgh and took over as Secretary of SABBA after the court case between SABBA and Bo'ness and Carriden in Linlithgow's Court of Session.  The affair caused a split in the Scottish Band Movement with many bands leaving because of SABBA's treatment of Bo'ness and Carriden.

In 1900, an Extraordinary General Meeting was called and a new Committee was formed, Jimmy Alexander being appointed Secretary.  He persuaded the bands that had left to return and, by 1905, the Movement was thriving with an increase in  membership and the prospect of a Third Section being added.

In 1918, The Glasgow and West of Scotland Association was formed with sponsorship from Sir William Beardmore.  Jimmy Alexander acted as Secretary.

In 1930, the Edinburgh Charities Association was formed on similar lines as that of the Glasgow Association with sponsorship from Mr William F Hanniford, Deputy Provost of Edinburgh.  Jimmy Alexander took on the Secretaryship of this Association also.

Jimmy Alexander died in April 1944 at Musselburgh.

Adjudicator GEORGE HAWKINS was a native of Middlesbrough, Cleveland.  He found fame as Conductor of Harton Colliery Band, Durham, with which he had much success.

In 1926 he came to Scotland as Conductor of Newmilns Band with a guaranteed weekly wage of 3 for only two rehearsals a week.  Newmilns, Ayrshire, was a wealthy conservative burgh with 11 lace factories and all the lace factory owners lived in the town.

George Hawkins was a composer, arranger and professional band trainer, as well as the proof reader for all the music written by Drake Rimmer before it was published.

From 1943 until 1947, I travelled from Dalmellington to Newmilns (36 miles) every Saturday for private lessons with him.  My pit manager let me work on a Sunday for which I got 10 shillings, ie 50 new pence, to pay 6 shillings for my lesson, 3 shillings and 9 (old) pence for bus fare and 3 (old) pence for a bag of chips at Ayr Bus Station on my way home.  I found my four-year tuition from George Hawkins to be a valuable musical experience.  He was a master tactician in training bands.

Armadale Concert Ensemble

The Armadale Concert Ensemble meets every Monday from 7.30pm until 9.00pm at the Methodist Church Hall in East Main Street.

The late Jim Lambie was kind enough to allow us to show his photographs on the website. 

For Armadale Concert Ensemble's Tippethill Concert, November 2007, with music snippet, see here



Photo of Armadale Silver Band taken between 1935 - 1939, includes William Williamson


Photo of Armadale Silver Band taken between 1935 - 1939, includes William Williamson

Armadale Public Band, 1949.  Armadale Public School in the background.

Front Row, left to right: Tom Morris, George Reid, George Wilson, Bill Louden, Sam Saunders, T. McGrorty
Back Row: Willie Ferrier, Alex Peden, Jim Lambie, Jim Edwards, Jim Davidson, Ron Harvey, Robert Watson, Alex Wilson, John Dowie, Bob Lawson, Robert Rodger, ? Donaldson, Frank Knox, Derek Beresford, Jim Salmon, Dick Saunders, Rab Watson


Front Row, left to right: Frank Knox, Walter Mallace, Scott Naismith, Campbell Currie, Alex Peden, Hugh Forbes (Conductor), Tom Morris, ?, Sam Saunders, Jim Lambie, Dick Saunders
2nd Row, left to right: Joe Knox, Jim Gorman, Bill Louden, Dave Steel, Willie Lambie, Dave McGrorty, Stuart Walker, ?, Robert McAlister
Back Row, left to right: George Wilson, Willie Ferrier, Alex Lynn, John McDonald, Charlie Duncan, Bob Graham

About 1961

Front Row, left to right: Willie Ferrier, Bob Graham, John Dowie, (Conductor) Hugh Forbes, Stuart Walker, Dick Saunders, Alex Lynn
2nd Row, left to right: Archie Craig (Secretary), Joe Knox, Jim Gorman, John McDonald, Robert Watson, Jim Lambie, George Wilson, Jim Saunders (President)
Back Row, left to right: Scott Naismith, Jim Edwards, ?, Frank Knox, Robert Todd, Ronnie Pratt, Willie Lambie

Armadale Burgh Band's practice session on the eve of their London trip to the British Championship, 1975

Left Back Row: George Wilson, Walter Mallace, Gavin Marshal
Left Front Row: Robert Burnett, Ken Smolak, James Brown, Eddie Hunter, Jim Edwards
Right Front Row: Jean Marshall, Tony Lawson, ?, Graham Ewart
Right Back Row: Bryan Keast, Finlay Marshall, Ian Hay
Centre: John Newton (Conductor)
Front Row behind Conductor: John McDonald, Tom Smart, Jim Lambie
2nd Row behind Conductor: Alistair Dornan, Jim Frazer, Dave McGrorty, Bill Louden, David Bann
3rd Row behind Conductor: Douglas Drummond, ?, Morris Whitehead, Michael Prokipczyn, ?

Armadale Burgh Band's London trip to the British Championship, 1975

Front Row, left to right: Geo Wilson, Jim Lambie, Bill Louden, (Conductor) John Newton, Willie wedlock, Jim Frazer, Morris Whitehead
2nd Row, left to right: John McAuley, Robert Burnett, Margaret Michie, Anne Marie Brown, ? Brown, Jacqueline Wilson, Jean Marshall, ? Brown, Bryan Keast
3rd Row, left to right: Colin Thomas, Ken Smolak, Eddie Hunter, Jim Edwards, James Brown, Gavin Marshall, Graham Ewart
Back Row, left to right: Alistair Dornan, Lesley Mitchell, Jim Fairley, Susan Hutchison, Tony Lawson

Thomas Smart and his brother Jim Lambie

Armadale Concert Ensemble, 2007

Left to Right: Kenny Smolak, Tom Weir, George Beattie, Marco Marzella, Tom Smart, Jim Lambie, Ken Carlyle (Conductor) (standing), John Frazer, Mark Carlyle (standing), John McAuley, George Wilson, Bill Louden