John Shone has written to the Editor on a still-thriving English BB company…..
It was good to read your earlier story about the Boys Brigade history and in particular your own company the 214 Glasgow.
Readers may not be aware that one BB company and its band is still thriving down in the deep south! It’s good to be able to report that the 5th Croydon BB Pipes and Drums are going strong in south London. The band was founded in 1923 by a ‘mad keen’ piper, Mr VC Hinks. VC found himself without the means to purchase instruments, and so spent his early days combing the antique and junk shops of greater London to find enough pipes for his boys. Without his boundless energy in those early days the band would never have got off the ground.
VC’s son, Harold, who had volunteered for service in the Gordon Highlanders during WW2 and who attended the Pipe Majors’ course run by the redoubtable Willie Ross at Edinburgh Castle, took over the reins from his father at the end of hostilities.
Under his guidance, the band, based at Downsview Church, Upper Norwood, did not look back and became famous in the London area taking part in the ceremonial life of the metropolis. The Royal Albert Hall, Buckingham Palace, the Festival Hall and Horse Guards Parade all saw the band play on many state occasions and at national events.
There is not a prestigious venue in London at which the band has not performed. It has had a major influence on literally hundreds of boys down the years, always promoting the object of the Boys’ Brigade of leading boys to ‘true Christian manliness’. It was from the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s that I guided the band, and I was fortunate to be able to persuade the great Pipe Major JB Robertson MBE to lend a hand.
Although nearly one hundred years old, in all this time the band has only been led by five Pipe Majors with P/M Jon Tickle the current incumbent. By invitation of the Edinburgh BB Battalion, it has on many occasions, amalgamated with them to beat retreat on the Castle Esplanade. The 5th have returned the compliment and massed with the Edinburgh boys to perform in the Royal Parks and at the Royal Albert Hall.
And so the BB banner is held high south of the border and the pipes heard in London still.
• The main picture is of the 5th Croydon BB and members of the 10th Hounslow company beating retreat on the Moat at the Tower of London on June 6, 1970, with P/M John Shone in charge.