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Bo'ness & Carriden Band
The Band was founded in 1858 and was originally known as the Grange Instrumental Band. It has the distinction of being one of the oldest brass bands in Scotland. Most of the players were miners from the Grange Colliery.
Records show, even in the early years, professional conductors were employed to increase the standard of musicianship. Some of the engagements of those early years were adventures indeed, as getting round the country was infinitely more difficult than it is today. On one occasion the Band attended Culross Fair. The players were ferried across in small boats but the tides did not always suit the public house closing hours. A few stragglers had to spend the night on the sands until they were collected the next day.
Before the advent of radio and television, the band always enjoyed a very large following, so large in fact that on one occasion a steamer had to be hired to get the band and its supporters to a major contest at Kirkcaldy.
In November 1891, one reads of an engagement with a difference. There was a torchlight procession in Grangepans to mark the inauguration of the lighting of the village. Each of 60 or 70 gas lamps were lit as the Band marched its way along their ranks. One can just imagine the inhabitants thinking "this new fangled lighting is all very well but do we have to have this Brass Band every night?!"
1895 was a momentous year in the Band's history. As the brass band movement grew in popularity, competitions became an increasingly important part of its existence. This particular year saw the first Scottish Championship, which Bo'ness and Carriden Band went won. A private train was hired to take some 800 supporters to the contest.
At the Waverly contest in Edinburgh, an unbelievable 10,000 spectators watched ten first class bands compete. The test piece was "Eureka" arranged by H. Round. By all accounts the best band won the day and the prize it bore home was a 30 -guinea challenge cup and £15. On the return journey the Waverly Station was so packed with the Band and its followers that the train was delayed by 20 minutes. Once back in Bo'ness the Band headed a torchlight procession and marches were played throughout the town. Crowds turned out everywhere to cheer the players. Everyone lost count of the number of times the Trophy was filled with ale that night!
1897 saw the introduction of the first Bo'ness Fair as we know it today. The Band played "The Red White and Blue" which is still played at the Fair to this day.
In 1904 they were again top of the Scottish Championship bands. In 1977, under the leadership of David Richardson (The SNO's General Administrator) they were not only the Scottish Champions but were also placed fifth in the UK National Brass Band Championship in London. That year saw James Anderson (euphonium), Gus Mitchell (horn), Archie Sutherland and Willie Rodger (cornets) take the Scottish Quartet Championship. In the first European Championship, which was held the following year (again at the Royal Albert Hall), they secured an unbelievable fourth position behind Black Dyke (England), Grimethorpe (England) and Solan (Sweden). The conductor was the late Bryden Thomson, a name normally associated with the concert hall.
In 1984 and 1987 the Band managed to secure second place at the Scottish Championships and you only have to look to 1995 to find the band's last win there.
Over the years the Band has also appeared on radio and television, their most recent engagement being a radio performance in September 1987. Incidentally their first radio performance took place on Friday 5th September 1930! Sadly BBC Scotland have discontinued the broadcast of Brass Band programs.
An illustrious past indeed, but some of the later successes very nearly did not happen. On the 13th March 1956 the band hall containing the instruments and music was totally destroyed. The estimated loss was £4,000 a large sum in those days. The bandsmen through an enormous act of willpower turned the catastrophe round and got help from all quarters. The famous writer/arranger for brass band, Eric Ball, sent a large bundle of music. Other bands throughout Scotland sold many raffle tickets to greatly help the Band. The people of Bo'ness rallied to its aid and the Council sponsored an appeal. The debt generated by the purchase of so many new instruments was miraculously cleared by everyone's sheer determination and hard work. Some years later, an extreme act of generosity saw Harrison the builders donate the material to build a new hall. The players and supporters used their own sweat and muscle to build the present band hall in Boundary Street (Bo'ness). It has been named HARRISON HALL in honour of this magnanimous gesture.