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Lerwick Brass Band
The story of Lerwick Brass Band goes back well over 100 years, to 1863, when young James Bryan, son of the second Rector of the Anderson Educational Institute, founded brass and fife bands in the town. The brass band, whose membership appears to have been drawn largely from the working-class men of the time, practised at the Institute, and so impressive, and presumably so novel, was the blare of brass, that the people of the town thought it was coming from the nearby island of Bressay, and named the band in those early days "The Bressay Band".
In 1886 there is record of the band leading 502 men from Fort Charlotte to the Market Cross and back again on New Year's Day, and in the following three years the "only event worth recording" on Christmas Day was the procession of Oddfellows through the town led by the band. By this time Archie Robb had succeeded young James Bryan as bandmaster.
In the early years of the present century the band seems to have been moribund, until, in 1914, under McGowan Scott, and probably to satisfy the needs of Lerwick's viking fire festival, Up-Helly-Aa, the band reappeared in home-made uniforms. Reports show that at this time it performed open-air concerts on a number of occasions in the summer months. Soon the band ordered new uniforms, and the bill for twenty complete outfits, including caps, in 1915, was just over £25. On June 13th 1915, the band played as the troopship carrying the Shetland Territorials pulled away from Victoria Pier. The strains of Auld Lang Syne provided a fitting background to the emotional scene, and to the departure of the khaki-clad young men, so many of whom were never to return.
Between the wars provides interesting excerpts from the band accounts:
1931 - Bag of Coal - 3/- (15p).
Picnic at North Roe - £2.
1933 - Queen's Hotel - 48 suppers @ 2/3 each (11p).
Bandmaster Mackie Scott was followed by George Hay, and later Joe Linklater. In 1955 Robert C. Burgoyne took over and worked hard to build up the band, which had never really regained its strength following the second World War. The late Dr T. M. Y. Manson was conductor in the years 1959 to 1964, and from that date onwards Andrew G. (Drew) Robertson has wielded the baton, becoming bandmaster (chairman) in 1981 on the death of Bobby Burgoyne. Hamish Nicol took over as bandmaster in 2000 to be followed by David L Thomson in 2008, while Drew continues as musical director.
Nowadays band practices are held from 7.30 to 9.30 p.m. on Tuesdays, and from 11 to 1 on Sunday forenoons. Thanks to the foresight of the Lerwick Town Council and later the Shetland Islands Council, the band has had exclusive use of a bandroom in the Gilbertson Park since 1967. Its ideal central situation and ample storage space for instruments and stands makes it a great boon to the band.
The band's membership is presently (in 2012) 33 players. Five of the members are still at school, and four are senior citizens.
Due to the very high cost of travel to and from Shetland the band rarely ventures outwith the islands. However, over the years, there have been visits to the neighbouring islands of Orkney, as well as a memorable trip to Norway in 1986. Most recently, the band performed in the celebrations for the Tall Ships' Race in Aberdeen in 1997.