The Crieff Burgh Band /Crieff Silver Band

The Crieff Burgh Band  
( written  in the early 1950s )
MacRosty Park c 1920s

Crieff Silver  Band- MacRosty Park  1949

  Back Row: D Scott; A McCabe; D Copland; R Boag; W Suttie;
Mid Row: K Blair; C Duncan; D Shepherd; J Oliphant; J Hutchison; C Wilson; F Turner;
Front Row: A Duncan; B Gudmunsson, J Watters; R Dickson (Conductor); G Pluckrose; J Duncan; G Watters.



My old friend Alex McCabe is a Crieff  man through and through – a member of a well respected and known family who have   been around the Strath for more than a few generations  . Alex  kindly gave  me a typed article  which had come into his possession and believed  to have  been written in the  early 1950s . Its  title  was  simply “The Crieff Burgh Band “ and the author was unknown . As someone  who spends a disproportionate part of his life  trawling the local archives I have  not stumbled across this in more than a few decades .It is interesting and informative . To many the names  mentioned  therein will  ring a familiar chord – Arnott, Roy , Campbell , Ritchie , Tainsh . McOmish and Cuthbert are still around in Crieff and the Strath . ‘Nuff said – let  me proceed !

The exact origin of the Town Band is difficult to pin point  but the love of “ following the band “ is age long and  somewhere in the early years of last  century  , the “ processional musicians “ of Crieff grew to an organised body five – three fife players and two drummers  This was probably the first Crieff  Town Band .

At any rate  this ensemble  became the nucleus of the 1st Western ( Perthshire ) or Crieff Band , which won a wager for its officers’ at a ceremonial parade  on the North Inch  of Perth . The Crieff Band  easily provided the  best pace  for  a march past .

By 1825 , a few of the Crieff notables  organised a Crieff Town Band  . The Lady Willoughby d’Eresby and Sir Patrick Murray , by their patronage  , gave considerable assistance  and under Bandmaster Thomas Gaunt  , the first municipal band  came into being , The first to wear the blue jackets  faced with white  and the Drummond  Tartan trews were : James Gow , William Tainsh , William McInnes , Peter Roy , Robert Arnott , John Seaton , clarinet players ; John Stewart and John Rose  , flute players ; Peter Arnott played the keyed bugle ; Alick Rose , the serpent ; Donald McOmish  and Peter Matthew , the  bass trombones ; William Roy and William Campbell , the bassoons ; Duncan Campbell and Thomas Matthew  , the  French horns and Angus Berry and Thomas Edington , the bass horns ; the tambourine  , the cymbals and the bass drum  were played  respectively by  Alexander McDougall, John Ritchie and Anthony Cuthbert . Most of these surnames are familiar to day in Strathearn .

These were the days when music  led and enlivened  all proceedings  grave and gay , political  or historical . The Crieff Band  attended  such ceremonial occasions  as the foundation of Muthill Church , the Sir David Baird monument  and the new bridge at Stirling .

Round about 1832 were stirring  times in Parliamentary Reform and in this  connection  a meeting  of some 4 000 people  was held in the Square  at Crieff .

From a paragraph  in the Stirling Herald of May 24th 1832  , we read :

 “On Thursday last , a numerous and respectable  meeting of the inhabitants  of the town and parish of Crieff was held in the Market Park . The different districts of the town , under the superintendents o their various committees , walked to James Square , where the whole met and proceeded thence to the general meeting   , headed by the instrumental band belonging to the town “.

Why the Sirling Herald required to  include  “ respectable  meeting “ is better  left unanswered .

The records show that this band  was in existence  until 1864  when Alexander Roy was the leader . But  a Rifle Band  was the formed  and the local brass band  was not  re – formed until 1878  when for a while the town enjoyed  the luxury of two bands . Until the beginning of the present century , the Crieff Brass Band  had the usual “ ups and downs “ of all bands  and there is no authentic record  of what happened in these years  but in 1907 , there was constituted , a Crieff Brass Band which , in many respects is the parent of the present day silver band . The Secretary then was John Guthrie now janitor of Crieff Public School . The band  convener was  Mr MD Stewart , the band’s most stalwart supporter at any time in its history , father of the famous screen star Miss Sophie Stewart and of J Henderson Stewart  MP . J Henderson Stewart himself at one time figured in the junior section  of the band  . New instruments  and new uniforms were required . Without  a  penny at the time  to pay for them MD Stewart placed  an order and then set about raising funds for the band’s needs .

Such enthusiasm cannot  be denied and before the Band  appeared in allits new  splendour  , all accounts were paid .

It was the Crieff Games  of 1910 that the new outfit appeared for the first time  when the Band played  for th performance  provided by the Border Yeomanry . This Band played the volunteers off to the First World War , as its predecessors had done at the time of the  Boer War and remained  an active  organisation  until 1918  whn most of its  members had either enlisted  or been called to the colours . 

The playing off was done by the Junior Band as seven of their Seniors  were among those marching off to service . The seven included Sandy Duncan  who still plays in the Crieff Band and W Bissett who later won the VC .

1920 saw the band in being once  more in the Old Weavers Hall . This Band met and played regularly until 1931 when a dispute with the Town Council over the salary paid to the Bandmaster caused  an interruption  which lasted into the Second  World War . The Band  resumed practice again in  1946 and from that date has made steady and satisfactory progress . It is interesting to note that a John Duncan still plays in the Band ; he it was  who “ ran the tape “ round the bandsmen in the Old Weavers Hall in 1907 and again in 1930 when new uniforms were being ordered .John has upwards o 50 years service to his credit .

The present Band is recruited  from local lads ( and lassies of late ) entirely ; it plays regularly in the local MacRosty Park and is beginning to enjoy a reputation outside its native town . To the present personnel , the best known names are  John Watters and Bandmaster Robert Dickson . Both have  been loyal , enthusiastic  players and leaders  during many years . John has a good story of how the Band suffered at one time from the usual critics . One day  the Band  literally shone  in its new  uniform when giving a performance  in the MacRosty Park . One of the collectors   approached a well known lady who had been rather severe in her  criticism . To his concern she asked “ What’na band’s that playing today  ? “ Appreciating the situation the collector   at once replied  “ Oh that’s that Clydebank Band “ . “ Of course it is “ replied the lady ,” I knew it couldn’t be that local lot ! “ But good uniforms  do make  good Bands and it has been the zeal of John Watters  and Robert Dickson  that has carried  the grand old  men who have rallied  round the enthusiastic young players  to the satisfactory status that the Band enjoys  today , the Crieff Silver Band enjoys great good will on the part of the local  Town Council . Salaries, retaining fees  and music  are provided by the Council  and soon  the citizens  will hear their own Band  , not only  in the well known MacRosty Park but in the other districts of the Burgh .

As a footnote  we would add that recently , the Crieff  Band has not only  struck up a particularly warm friendship  with the  famed Clydebank  Band . When the Clydeside players make their annual visit to Crieff they are entertained , overnight if need be , by their friends in Crieff . This is just typical  of the spirit of harmony facing Scottish Bandsmen in  our time .


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