History: Grangemouth Boys Pipe Band and a First Picture of Muirhead & Sons

I came across the photograph above in my great-grandfather’s collection. This is a copy I made in the days of negative film – the original is lost, writes reader Donald McLean

It shows the Grangemouth Boys Pipe Band circa 1927-28. Of note for me is that seated second from left is my godfather John Ross (1909-1988). I spotted a reference to the Grangemouth Boys winning the Juvenile prize at the Cowal Gathering in 1927 under Pipe Major John Ross.

I wondered if this photograph was linked to that win? In particular, the round trophy, with an embossed diagonal cross looks similar to, but not exactly like, the Cowal trophies.

Reader Trevor Clydesdale confirmed from the 1928 Cowal programme that the Grangemouth Boys had won at Cowal in 1927 and added the following picture:

Grangemouth Boys Pipe Band. The newspaper caption reads: ‘The band won the Open and Confined Championships at Cowal Games, and also obtained a premier award for drumming. In addition they lifted first prize at Alloa…’

In it I see my godfather extreme left – John (‘Jock’) Ross. The chap not in uniform on the right may be my great-grandfather, who had something to do with the band. 

Trevor later wrote: ‘A lot of the band members seem to have been part of Charing Cross BB Pipe Band which was formed in 1924 and which was last seen in 1927. It is then that Grangemouth Boys appeared on the scene. Either a name change or new band, I am not sure which. One of the Charing Cross members, John Owens, looks like he took over as P/M in early 1930s.’

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Trevor also supplied the following from a local newspaper cutting: ‘At Cowal last Saturday, Grangemouth Boys Pipe Band, under bandmaster James Burns, were once more very successful…..first in the juvenile championship and first in juvenile confined championship…they competed against eight bands. Mr Burns had on the field eight pipers and four drummers: P/M John Ross, P/Sgt. Alex Kiddie, P/Cpl. John Crawford, D/S David Dick, pipers James Todd, Alan Kennedy, John Owens, John Straiton and Duncan Stewart….drummers William Jack, and Ian Christie. Mr Burns and his boys are to be congratulated on the additional renown they have conferred upon the Port’s [Grangemouth’s] musical reputation….’

An article about John Ross in the Grangemouth Advertiser in 1944 headlined ‘Local Piper in Middle East’ said he had been Pipe Major of Grangemouth Boys Pipe Band. He would have been just 18 at the time of the 1927 Cowal Gathering. He then joined Muirheads until he enlisted in the Army. That suggests he was with Muirheads from 1928 or so until 1939.

The following is the first picture of the famous Muirheads pipe band:

The newspaper caption reads: ‘These tartan clad lads were all members of the first ever Muirheads Pipe Band and the picture was taken in 1927….Pictured in the historical group are, back row l-r: P/M John Wilson, John Ross, William Robertson, Alan Kennedy, William Dick, Lochland Dick, Sandy Wardlaw, Eddie Stirling, William Wilson and Harry Fraser; front l-r: J MacIntosh, W Straiton, D Paterson, T Dempster and Ian Wilson… ‘

The editor writes: Tommy Dempster, second from the right, seated, was a regular visitor to Muirheads practices in the 1970s. Intriguing to see the name of Alex Kiddie mentioned in the Grangemouth Boys band’s ranks. He also played in the Muirheads band and went on to lead BP Grangemouth to Grade 2 success at the Worlds and ultimately promotion to Grade 1.

1 thought on “History: Grangemouth Boys Pipe Band and a First Picture of Muirhead & Sons

  1. My grandfather was John Owens, I have his Cowal medal engraved on the back from 1927. His brothers Bill and Tom also played with the band.

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