The 1st Port Glasgow Boys’ Brigade Pipe Band won the World Juvenile Championship in 1972. The Golden Jubilee was to be celebrated by a parade and dinner on Friday 30th September.
When the day dawned it was raining, only as it can in Inverclyde. To make matters worse a gale was blowing. It seemed that Hurricane Ian (their spelling, not mine) had taken a detour from Florida to pay a visit to the Port.
By Iain White
The parade marshal, ex-Skipper Raymond Brown, even had a call from the local polis at teatime and was asked, ‘Are you still going on with this parade?’ ‘Aye’, replied Raymond, ‘I hear it’s to brighten up!’ This was a real leap of faith. It had been pouring all day. However, by the time the old boys were assembling at 7pm it had indeed dried up.
But the skies over Greenock were ominous. It looked like another downpour was coming up the river towards the Port. We better get moving! Skipper Raymond got us formed up behind three pipers from the band in years gone by – Billy Mooney, myself, and Brian Knight, the latter being presently Pipe Major of Kilbarchan Pipe Band which had such a successful season in 2022.
The icing on the cake was that we were led by Jimmy Williamson, World Drum Major Champion in the 1970s whilst with Renfrew and Shotts. More remarkably, Jimmy was telling us that in 1962, whilst only 16 and in his 1st Port BB Uniform, he won the British at Renfrew against all the top adult Drum Majors. Now there’s an achievement. Also in the parade was former World Juvenile Champion Drum Major, Alan McBride.
The pipers decided to play safe with the family favourites and we marched off to the Green Hills. As we went down the hill in Balfour Street, we passed the old BB Institute, the former meeting place of the 1st Port and the where the band had practised.
‘Eyes left’, came the command from Raymond. Many of the boys found this to be an emotional moment and spoke about it later at the dinner. It was a nice touch. If the building remembered us, it gave no sign as we passed. Perhaps it was too intent on simply surviving its journey since its sale from boxing club to prospective gym with a few stops in between.
They say the sun shines on the righteous. We didn’t have any sun, but it remained dry all the way from the muster point to the car park in Brown Street where the parade dismissed.
The autumn darkness was descending, so the sun was well and truly over the yard arm as we headed in for a much needed, and well-deserved, refreshment or two.
We were joined by some very special guests for the evening. Donnie Thompson, or Big Donnie as we called him, was our Pipe Major in the Championship year and his widow Betty accepted our invitation to attend. Donnie, of course, went on to be Pipe Sergeant at Shotts before becoming Pipe Major at Seagrams in Paisley and taking the band from Grade 2 to Grade 1 via a World Championship win.
Ellen Hill, widow of Maxie, the Company’s iconic skipper and driver of ‘the bus’ back then, was with us too. Last, but by no means least, Agnes Mungin, who, as Miss Service, had been the Lifeboy Leader for so many at the function. These ladies made up our trio of honoured guests.
At the dinner, Raymond Brown took the Chair and led us through the proceedings with panache and expertise. Former 1st Port and Red Hackle piper, and another ex-skipper of the Company, Andy Johnstone, took us on a trip down the band and the Company’s memory lane and evoked many happy memories of times past.
He concluded with a poignant Toast to Absent Friends, whose number included three members of the World Championship band who have passed to their rest and reward far too soon. We remembered those who have gone before in a moment of silent contemplation.
Later on, Calum Hill (himself a former 1st Port and Hackle snare drummer) said a few impromptu words ‘for his dad’ Maxie. He managed to make them poignant and amusing at the same time.
Entertainment for the evening was in the hands and magical fingers of another World Champion, Callum Beaumont. He gave us a fine selection from his vast repertoire to the huge enjoyment of all in attendance.
We were especially grateful because he was first on at 9am the next morning at the Captain John A. MacLellan Memorial Solo Piping Competition run by the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming. When the results were published, we were pleased to see him in the prize list.
Of course, the main point to the evening was to allow ex-members to get together, enjoy each other’s company, and reminisce. It was a very happy evening with much laughter. Some had travelled from south of the border to be with us whilst others made the short, yet equally challenging, journey down the hill from the Upper Port.
A successful raffle was held and a fine sum of money raised which will be used to inaugurate a pipe band trophy in the 1st Port’s name and support the continuing work of the Boys’ Brigade in Port Glasgow.
Ex-1st Port and Paisley piper David Mooney thanked all who attended and contributed, the caterer, Lodge Doric Kilwinning No 68 for the use of its fine premises and reminded us that the next event would be in 25 years’ time! Given the age profile of the attendees, there wasn’t a big queue for tickets!