The “Co” band as they are known today, were formed in 1918, after persistent efforts by Mr Millar who at the time was the manager of the furniture department at the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, (SCWS) Sheildhall factory. Following various meetings in 1917 a committee and supporters of the band met with directors of the SCWS and in March 1918 at the general meeting of the SCWS, the meeting authorised the formation of the Band. In recognition of his tireless efforts, Mr Millar regarded as the ‘father of the band’ was elected as the first president. Wisely the committee also elected the SCWS Chairman Mr Robert Stewart, JP as honorary president.
After auditions, the first band rehearsal took place on the 6th August 1918, where the band would start rehearsing immediately for their first performance. This first performance of the band was held on the deck of the pleasure steamer the ‘Lord of the Isles’ on the 1st October 1918 as the steamer sailed to Lochgoilhead. The directors of the SCWS had arranged a trip for soldiers recuperating from wounds suffered in the First World War. The Co band were up and running and ready to entertain.
The early years.
The band was soon fulfilling regular engagements starting with a charity event at the Scotstoun Show ground with a collection for the Samaritan Hospital for Woman, followed by events in Bellahouston Park and the SCWS Jubilee meeting in St Andrews Hall. In all the band made nineteen public appearances in its first year with the highlight being another excursion on the 10th Sept to Loch Lomond to entertain the Trades Union Congress.
Dress and deportment only….
The first contest success came at Scotstoun on the 12th June 1919 and with it the entitlement to hold for a year a solid silver shield, valued at £ 50. But this prize did not, it seems reflect musical prowess. Rather it was for ”dress and deportment” which the sponsors the Uniform Clothing and Supply Co Ltd, of London considered reflected credit on Bandmaster Pedan and band Sargent Lawson. Musical success in competition initially proved more elusive. In the first major competition, the Scottish 2nd Section Championships in Motherwell Town Hall, in December 1919, the band finished last of the 26 bands entered. Clearly there was much work to do.
Throughout 1921 and 1922 the band now with conductor Edward Sutton, worked hard but in contests were held back to some extent in that they were unwilling to secure the services of professional musicians, what they described as the ‘professional tramps’ of the brass band world, saying they wanted to fight ‘shy’ of these gentry’ and rely on the co-operative workers themselves. The SCWS directors nevertheless desired more contest success and sent a circular to all co-operative managers throughout Scotland urging them to find more talented players.
The search proved fruitful, aided by the more relaxed policy in respect of adhering to the the principle of having employees only as band members, by applying the simple expedient of finding suitable employment for promising musicians! ( a practice that was common place in many of the works bands up and down the country, making young players were given good apprenticeships if if was seen they had good musical potential and could help the works band) Notable recruits to the SCWS Band were David Greenhorn, principal cornet and William Barr (senior) also on cornet. This approach, together with strenuous rehearsals, 3 time a week including Saturday afternoons began to pay dividends for the band which now had 26 registered players. Success was achieved by securing third place in the Glasgow Charity Band Contest in April 1921. Later in 1921 and 1923 third places in the second section of the Scottish Championships allowed promotion the the Championship Section. The band in a few short years had made it into the premier section of Scottish Brass Bands. Thereafter the band was entitled to to describe itself as a ‘Prize Band’ an important distinction for the ‘packin-em in’ on the concert circuit.
As its status grew the band took the further step of appointing a professional conductor to take the band to contests. J.A Greenwood from Birkenhead who at the time was one of the leading brass band conductors of the day.
Despite the thirst for competition success, the band also continued to play an active role in the community throughout this period. Examples were concerts for injured soldiers at the Bellahouston Military Hospital and performances in Glasgow’s public parks. There were also concerts arranged by the Glasgow Charities Band Association of which harry McMaster, the first secretary of the band was president, which raised money for local hospitals.
And according to the local press, the band was inspiring youth. The Scottish Daily News reported that one young boy having been to a concert watched the man ‘band the drum and things’ and was so impressed that he gave up his ambition of being a smuggler and decided to grow his hair long and become a drummer!
Long haired drummers aside the band’s reputation for sartorial elegance had continued with a second success win for dress and deportment at Scotstoun, with the adjudicator this time complimenting in particular Mr Reid of the SCWS bespoke department, who had created the band uniform.
Building success through the 1920’s.
Lots of hard work during the early 1920’s led to rapidly to further contest success with the band securing its first Scottish Championship victory with a one point win over Clydebank on 1st November 1924. The set piece was ‘Adelson’ by E Salvini with William Robb, euphonium and William McCubbrey, trombone winning the individual soloists awards.
This success led to a week’s engagement at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in June 1925. The Scottish Co-operator reported ‘Whitsun holiday crowds, glorious summer weather and the organising genius of Mr George Hill, the secretary the band all conspired to make the engagement an outstanding success’. A record attendance at the exhibition of 250,000 ensured for each band performance a packed audience, which ‘manifested its approval in no half hearted way’.
One band member, John Braidwood, had the satisfaction of having his own composition ‘A night in June’ included in the programme. Scottish items in the repertoire were especially popular with the haunting strains of Scottish melodies’ arresting the progress of promenaders as well as the occupants of the chairs!’ To add to the excitement, the BBC broadcast a live concert from the exhibition’s Lakeside Bandstand on the final Friday afternoon- another first for the band.
Inspired by the public reception at the exhibition, the Vocalion Gramophone Company undertook a recording session making eight records. two of these featured the compositions of conductor Greenwood and there was also a recording of the composition by their earlier conductor Edward Sutton, ‘The joy when’ with trombone solo by William McCubbery. As would be expected, all records were available through any Co-operative Store in Scotland. The price was 2/6d (12.5 pence) per ten inch record and if you needed a gramophone that was also advertised at £ 2.5s.0d (£ 2.25pence), again from your local Co-op.One advertisement also helpfully pointed out the advantage in case anyone might have missed the point that with a record, a performance ‘may now be enjoyed over and over again by all who possess a gramaphone’
The band with the organ tone……
With contest and recording success came the need to maintain musicianship and the search for talent continued with William Crozer, Gilbert Watt, William Brown (cornets) and Bobby Andrews (soprano) joining the band. Musical talent alone was not sufficient; band members still had to perform their jobs as employees satisfactorily. But there were concessions. Principal players were allocated an extra hour lunch break for individual practise. That routine had the desired effect. The band won the Scottish Championships again 1926 and 1927. They had also begun to excel in the National Championships of Great Britain, which drew the top bands from throughout the UK, with second place in the 1929 Championships held at Crystal Palace. Conducted again by J A Greenwood, the winning piece was called ‘Victory’ a fitting end to a decade that had seen the band rise from its faltering first steps to championship status and one of the top bands in the country.
Advertising of records and concerts at that time drew attention to the organ-like tone of the band, a feature that was much emphasised and appears to have originated from the judgement of adjudicator, George Nickolls of Marple Bridge, at an open comtitionpe in August 1925. Awarding the band first prize, he said that the performance was ‘like one great organ, and the balance, tone and tune were of the finest quality’.
Consolidation – the 1930s
In 1931, George Hawkins was appointed as the new professional conductor. He soon built on the success of the previous decade with first place at the Scottish Championships in 1931, 1934 and 1935. The National Championships (now billed as the World’s Championships) at Crystal Palace was however, proving tantalisingly elusive. After eighth place in 1932, the band were runners-up in both 1933 and 1934, being pipped at the post on both occasion by the Foden’s Motor Works Band. How sweet it would have been for the SCWS bandsmen of the mid 1930’s when the band did win the National title in 1990 that it was Foden’s who were pipped at the post that day. Second place did however secure for the band the Daily Telegraph Cup and a cheque for £ 45. In the evening concert which followed the 1934 contest, the band performed in front of an audience of 20,000 winning a double encore for a piece ‘The Troubadours’, by conductor George Hawkins, which featured art by trombonists, Chambers and French. The band also caused a stir on this occasion by appearing in evening dress rather than uniform.
Prizes continued to be acquired in other Scottish Contests, notably the Glasgow Charities and Glasgow Corporation contests. William Crozier, cornet and John McIntosh, soprano continued to be pre-eminent amongst the soloistsbut by 1933, the band was advertising itself not only as the band with the organ tone but also as the band with ‘every member master and everyman a medallist’.
The round of charitable and commercial concerts also continued. In 1934, the bandsmen were recorded as having fulfilled 270 practices and engagements during the year. One of the more popular venues was a weeks engagement in the Pittencrieff Glen, courtesy of the Dunfermline Carnegie Trust. Fame was also spread by the release of a ‘talkie’. Whilst the use of film was not a new venture for the SCWS it had for example, engaged Gracie Fields, then at the height of her fame, in an advertising film for salmon. It was an exciting innovationfor the band. Pathe Pictures of London were contracted and the resulting film was shown ‘in halls all over the country’.
But it was not all plain sailing. In 1937 George Hawkins resigned as conductor. The circumstances were particularly unfortunate in that he had injured himself travelling in the elevator to the rehearsal roman had met with obdurate resistance from the SCWS directors when seeking compensation.
Back on the scene came J.A Greenwood supported by William Crozier who was now bandmaster as well as principal cornet. Under that combination success continued with the band winning the Scottish Championships in 1937 and 1938, there was no contest in 1939 and the Scottish Championships did not take place due to the war.
Through the years of the Second World War from 1939 to 1944, there were no contest but those in the band not serving at home or abroad kept the band in the public eye by regular radio broadcasts for the BBC.
There were also significant changes in personnel, stalwart trombonist, William McCubbery, died in 1942 with his position being filled by Thomas Telfer from Shotts. Two players left to sing with the Glasgow Orpheus Choir and William Crozier having clearly taken his employee status seriously had so excelled in that regard that he was promoted to head of SCWS catering. He resigned from the band in 1945 but kept an interest. The new principal cornet was Frank Elliot. Economic and manpower pressures had also taken their toll on the employee-only policy with players now joining the band as players only.
The enforced layoff from contests due to the war did not diminish the bands competitive prowess. On resumption of contests the band won a hat trick of Scottish Championships.
1946 – Test Piece: Les preludes, Adjudicator: H. Bennet
1st S.C.W.S Conductor F.Mortimer 2nd Clydebank Burgh Conductor C.Telfor 3rd Tullis Russell Mills Conductor D.Rimmer 4th Wellesly Colliery Conductor J.Faulds
1947 – Test Piece:Chopin, Adjudicator: F.Wright
1st S.C.W.S Conductor F.Mortimer 2nd Forfar Instrumental Conductor E.Clayton 3rd West Calder Conductor C.Telfor 4th Parkhead Forge Conductor G.Hawkins
1948 – Test Piece: Henry V, Adjudicator: C.A.Anderson
1st S.C.W.S. Conductor F.Mortimer 2nd Coltness Works Conductor G.Hawkins 3rd Clydeband Burgh Conductor G.Hawkins 4th Parkhead Forge Conductor G.Hawkins
The hat trick of victories were all under the baton of the legendary Fred Mortimer who had also led the Fodens Motor Works band to many local and national titles.
In 1950 George Hawkins returned as musical director, William Barr (junior) took over as principal cornet and secretary, Bram Thompson as solo horn, with William Robb on solo euphonium.
A highlight in 1951 was a massed bands concert in May, conducted by the great Sir Adrian Boult, at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations. There were contest successes too including first prizes at the Royal Burgh of Forfar Festival of Britain contest and the Edinburgh International Festival contest. The contest in Edinburgh had added satisfaction as the Scottish CWS Band had beat the world famous CWS (Manchester) Band under the baton that day Eric Ball into second place.
In 1956 the band made its first appearance at the Belle Vue British Open in Manchester playing ‘Tam O Shanter’ by Dennis Wright and conducted on the day by Elgar Clayton, playing off a No 4 draw fortunately the band were not to be in the prize list on this occasion. The contest that day was won by the Fairy Aviation Band, conducted by Harry Mortimer.
Fred Mortimer had been hugely successful with the band during the 1940’s and continuing with the Mortimer connection, Fred’s son Alex took over as professional conductor and led the band to its second hat trick iat the Scottish Championships, with wins in 1957, 1959 and 1960. There was no contest in 1958 as dates were altered to fall in line with other Daily Herald Area Contest.
In recognition of this second hat trick the Scottish Amateur Band Association (SABA) presented each player with a commemorative medal.
1958 saw the band in good contesting form taking second place in the national Championships of Great Britain in the Royal Albert Hall in London playing ‘Variations on a shinning river’ by Edmund Rubbra. The conductor on this occasion was William Crozier. William Crozier also lead the band to a fine win at the Edinburgh Festival Contest the same year, playing ‘Life Divine’. The Edinburgh Festival Contest was now attracting some of the big name English bands and this year was no different with, Carelton Main, Brighouse & Rastrick,Yorkshire Imperial Metals Band, Wingates temperance and Agnes Street Temperance band from Ireland all in attendance. By the close of the decade the band was featuring many well known players, including the previously mentioned William Barr (cornet), Bram Thompson (horn) Bram Thompson was the main contributor to the history you are currently reading. Peter Wilson (euphonium) who went onto become the editor of the British Bandsman publication for many years, James MacMillan (baritone) and James Carruthers (trombone). James Currthers went on to play for many years and was latterly the band librarian, he also had to opportunity to be with the band on its historic 1990 tour of Australia and New Zealand.
During the 1950’s the band was regularly featured on the BBC radio. From 1950 to 1964 they made over 100 broadcast performances, appearing on Friday Night is Music Night, Saturday Bandstand and Music While You Work which was broadcast live from the Shieldhall factory. On these occasions the band was joined by the stars of the day including Kenneth McKellar and Ian Wallace. The band also reached an international audience in those days by recording test pieces for Dr Dennis Wright to use on the BBC World Service.
The 60’s and 70’s
The 1960,s saw something of a retrenchment in the contest field with the band concentrating on Scottish events such as the Glasgow Charities and the Edinburgh Festival contests. There was also some concentration of furthering performances of contemporary Scottish composers such as David Dorward, Maxwell Geddes, Thea Musgrave and Thomas Wilson.
The Band’s 50th anniversary also coincided with the centenary of the SCWS itself and the band played at the official opening of the Society’s Centenary House and for Queen Elizabeth II when she visited in July that year.
By the time Robert Oughton was bandmaster and through the decade there were several conductors including Drake Rimmer, Gregor J Grant and F J Beckingham. Another record was released on the ‘Music for pleasure EMI Record label. Highlights were Willie Barr playing the ‘Flying Scot’, which was conducted by the composer gregor Grant and second euphonium, Alistair Campbell singing in a humorous fantasy ‘ Baa Baa Black Sheep’ !!!.
The 1970’s started well with a victory in the Scottish Championships in 1971 with Geoffrey Whitham conducting ‘Joyful Noise’ at Ayr. The band could only manage one more podium placing in the Championship section, a fourth place in 1974, with John Elliot conducting ‘Variations on a Ninth’ at Falkirk Town Hall before being relegated to the second section in 1977. The band now found itself back where it had started some 60 years before when if had competed in the 1921 Championships as a second section band. The setback was, however short lived (and to date never repeated). In 1978 the band appointed a young conductor Nigel Boddice who was at the time the principal trumpet of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. The win at the Scottish Championships in 1978 was emphatic, with a 15 point margin between the band and the second place band who were Tayport Instrumental. The test piece in Falkirk Town Hall that day was ‘the three musketeers’ and Kenneth Dennison was the adjudicator. With promotion back to the top flight of Scottish banding secured that band traveled to London for the National Finals in confident mood. Again conducted by Nigel the band were runners up in the National Second Section Finals held at the Imperial College, London. By 1979 form was restored as the band were runners up in the Scottish Championships held this year at the Motherwell Civic Centre. The result also ensured the band qualified for the European Brass Band Championships which was now in its second year, playing ‘Triumphant Rhapsody, as its own choice piece and the set piece ‘Symphonic Music’ by Paul Huber, Nigel guided the band to a very credible 7th position.
Nigel Boddice would stay as the band professional conductor till 1981 and guided the band to some very memorable contest and concert performances. Nigel has been involved with the band during every decade since the 1970, During the 1970 the band recruited its first female players. (More research is being carried out on the first female players Sept 2019)
The ’80’s – Resurgence
Dennis Carr was appointed musical director in 1981 and stayed in this role until 1984. During this time the band gave the first performance of Eric Ball’s ‘Scottish Festival Overture’ at the Carnegie Contest in Dunfermline, even although the performance did not see favour with the adjudicator and a fourth place was the best the band would get that day.
Howard Snell, former principal trumpet with the Sadler Wells Orchestra and later principal trumpet with the London Symphony Orchestra who by 1985 a well respected and experienced conductor and arranger was appointed to take the band to the Scottish Championships where the band came second. During this period the band were very fortunate to also have the services of resident conductors Tony Swainson and a young Raymond Tennant. Under the guidance of the resident conductors the band reached the semi-final of the BBC television’s ‘Best of Brass’ and were also runners up in the Tetley Open Brass Band Championships which were held in the splendid Leeds Town Hall. Raymond Tennant would be involved with the band for many years to come as both a player and conductor. The band also gave the first broadcast of of ‘Primavera’ by Bryan Kelly on BBC Radio 3.
It was during this time in 1986 that the band lost a great servant to the band Peter Grant who sadly passed away in 1986. Peter had served in the position of band secretary for many years.
During 1987 Howard was appointed the bands professional musical director and the previous year John Hudson had been appointed as the bands new resident conductor.
Band History is still Work in progress Oct 2019