After a successful 1973 in Grade 3, most of the boys went on to play in Grade 1 bands such as Paisley, Red Hackle/Clan Campbell/Britoil, British Caledonian Airways (Renfrew), Shotts and Dykehead, Scottish Power, Babcock Renfrew and Bucksburn.
In 1993, the BB company celebrated its Centenary. There was a Grand Dinner in the Town Hall on the Friday evening at which, amongst others, ex-member Lord George Penrose, a high court judge, spoke.
By Iain White
A Church Service was held on the Sunday morning. Of course there was a parade and it comprised the Company and ex-members. The parade (above, top) was led by a pipe band made up of former members of the band.
Approaching 30 pipers played. In the first photo, Donnie Thomson may be seen as Pipe Major. By that time Donnie was P/M of Seagrams in Paisley, having been co-Pipe Sergeant in Shotts and Dykehead with Sandy Bell.
Beside Donnie leading the second file is ‘Wee Dunky’, or Duncan Brown MBE, the original tutor and Pipe Major of the band. His MBE was for services to piping. Donnie passed away tragically from a brain tumour in 2000 whilst still a young man; Wee Dunky survived to a ripe old age.
The Drum Majors are Jim Williamson on the left and Gordon Brown on the right. Jim, I think, was World Champion, and after his BB days served with Renfrew PB and Shotts; Gordon went on to Paisley and then Red Hackle/Clan Campbell/Britoil. Sadly, Gordon passed away a short time ago; I don’t know about Jim.
There were many Grade 1 pipers in the band but only one soloist. That was the inimitable, multi-talented Finlay McNeill who may be clearly seen in the second photo with beard:
I knew Finlay very well through piping and also local Gaelic circles. Whilst I have no Gaelic myself, my mother’s family had its roots in Argyllshire and was very involved in local Gaelic circles – the Gaelic choir, Gaelic Parish Church and Comunn Tir nam Beann, a ceilidh which ran forthrightly on a Saturday evening and at which I was Hon. Piper for many years.
Finlay initially learned the pipes in the 1st Port under Wee Dunky. It was when he went to study at the University of Glasgow that he found his way to the College of Piping and came under the wing of Seumas MacNeill.
Of course, Finlay was an Oban Gold Medallist (1971) and a Mod Gold Medallist for singing. I always think of him at the time of the Argyllshire Gathering, as I did again at the end of last month. Finlay’s Herald obituary is via this link: Finlay
The third photo (below) is added for fun. It is of (from the left) David Mooney, Willie McIntosh and me at the Centenary Dinner obviously enjoying ourselves. The late Willie Mac was the iconic Shotts bass drummer in Jim Kilpatrick’s corps.
The first of my final two photos shows the famous 1st Port BB Bus. It carried the band to contests near and far and took the Company on its summer camp jaunts down south – even as far as Devon – driven by Skipper Maxie Hill.
The father of one of the boys in the band was a partner in a haulage contractors and the bus was maintained there. It was an iconic vehicle and much loved by all who travelled in her. It is pictured in Gourock outside the Victoria Bar – a pure co-incidence, of course.
The second photo shows the band marching along Shore Street in Gourock. It is obviously the day of the Gourock Highland Games as the Darroch Jug (prize for first in Grade 3) is being paraded in front of the band (behind the D/M in the picture).
Donnie Thomson is P/M but the band is the year before mine, although we too did win the Darroch Jug. Back then (late 1960s), it was common for bands to play down the road from the park to the railway station after the games.
I once heard the Paisley Pipe Band under P/M Eddie McAtear play along Shore Street with a series of wee reels, Fairy Dance, Dancing Feet etc.
As reported earlier, to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1st Port winning the World Juvenile title, a reunion is being planned for 30th September, naturally enough in Port Glasgow.
It is hoped that the reunion will start with a march of the attendees, led by a few pipers and drummers. It will leave from Balfour Street, where 1st Port bands practised, to the venue for the evening.
The event will give everybody a chance to catch up, reminisce and celebrate the achievements of the various bands over the years. During the evening leading piper Callum Beaumont will perform a recital.
If anyone has an association with any of the 1st Port bands and is interested in attending, please send an email to 1PGBBPB@btinternet.com and please spread the word!
- If any reader has memories of the 1st Port Glasgow BB band, or of the era so well described above, please share with the PP family by emailing email@example.com or use our comments section below.
Donald Sutherland Collection (digital download)
Super tunes at a nominal price – a Piping Press service