Inverness – a look at its brass bands from the 1840’s to 1936

Brass bands have been very thin on the ground in the highlands of Scotland, indeed Inverness-shire has only seen two bands at Fort William and one at Tarbert, outside Inverness itself. The current Highland Brass, which was formed in 2013 is a welcome addition to the area which had not seen a brass band since World War 2. [See: https://highlandbrass.org]

Here are a few details of the Inverness brass bands. Not much is known about them and even fewer pictures exist.

Inverness Amateur Brass Band

Founded in November 1858 by C.H. Morine and still active in 1866. Morine solicited the people of Inverness for subscriptions, with over 120 people pledging over £80 in lots of 1 guinea, half guinea and other amounts. Instruments costing £65 were bought from Mr Williams, of Cheapside, London. The original band consisted of 13 performers – four cornopeans, two sax tenors, tenor and bass trombone, ophicleide, contre-bass, bass drum, cymbals and triangle. The bandmaster of the 12th Highland Regiment, stationed at Fort George, was engaged to provide the first few lessons.

Their first public engagement was at the Northern Meeting Rooms on Thursday 31st March 1859. An open air concert was held on the Ness Islands on Monday 30th May 1859, followed by several similar concerts when the weather was favourable. The band advertised for an Eb cornet player in July 1859, stating “None but an expert player, and one who can play tolerably at sight, need apply. A small salary will be given.” In January 1860 the band played at the Northern Meeting Rooms in a “grand evening concert”, a regular venue for their performances. Together with many other organisations and officials, the band performed at the ceremonial “cutting of the first turf” for the new Inverness & Ross-shire railway line in March 1861.

A concert at Ness Islands on Monday 17th June 1861 consisted of: quickstep – March to the Battlefield; My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose; Selection from Sonnambula (Bellini); Glentore Quadrilles (Scotch); Ellen Polka (Morine); quickstep – Robin Hood; selection – Boatie Rows and Lass o’ Gowrie; strathspey – Duchess of Gordon; Hark! The Song of Jubilee (Wade); selection – Norma (Bellini); Dunachton Quadrilles (Morine); Abbotsford Polka (Jones); quickstep – Hoky, Poky & Hazeldell;  quickstep – Pretty Poll (Morine); and reel – Cawdor Fair.

In 1863 the instruments and music were handed over into the keeping of Mr W. Ferguson, hatter, and the members of the band took over its running, instead of the town council. Conductor A. Wernthal in 1865. It probably disbanded in the late 1860’s, perhaps helped on its way by the formation of the two volunteer bands in the town.

Inverness Artillery Brass Band

Active in 1860. Still active in 1886. The band of the 1st Inverness-shire Artillery Volunteers

Inverness Artillery Volunteers with their brass band

Inverness Brass Band (1)

Active from pre-1850, conductor Mr Mcgillivray in 1852. Disbanded some time prior to 1858 when a successor band was formed

Inverness Brass Band (2)

See: Inverness Amateur Brass Band above

Inverness Highland Rifle Volunteers Brass Band

Active in the early 1860’s. Secretary William Ferguson, and Richard Turnbull was a member in 1864. Bandmaster S. Sanderson in 1886. Still active in 1887. The band of the 1st Inverness-shire Rifle Volunteers

Inverness-shire Rifles Volunteers Band, 1870’s

Inverness Mechanics Brass Band

Founded in September 1859, bandmaster Mr Morine. Still active in 1860. Probably did not last long as it was in competition with the Amateur Brass Band. 

Inverness Town Band

Founded in April 1904, conductor Harry T. Tuff, with £300 donated by Andrew Carnegie. Still active in 1922. Performed at the Highland Gathering in Inverness in 1903. Skibo Castle annual fete in July 1914. Secretary & treasurer, G. Smith Laing, and bandmaster, Harry T. Tuff in 1907, when the band rehearsed at Meal Market Close, High Street, Inverness. Disbanded during WW1.

Inverness Silver Band

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The band was formed in 1920, appealing for more instruments and uniforms in 1921. Its first public appearance was at the Great Musical Fete in the Northern Meeting Rooms, together with choirs of 700 voices. It became free of debt in 1922, and held its first AGM in 1923. The founding Secretary, Mr A Ross, a railway worker, retired in May 1924. William Grant, the bandmaster, resigned in August 1924.

A new bandmaster, Mr G. Scotland, was appointed followed, in June 1925, by a crisis when “Numbers of the committee take little personal interest. No effort to recruit young musicians. A good band is sorely needed in Inverness. The first consideration is a good bandmaster. Those who know about the Silver Band will not tell us what is wrong. There is something far wrong with the band which cannot keep its own engagements.”

At the 1927 AGM, George Smith Laing was in the chair. “Last year was the most successful since the band’s inauguration. 40 appearances. In 4 cases the band was paid. 10 members under tuition. Compliments to Bandmaster MacConnachie.”

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Performances included the Aird & Strathglass Agricultural, Horticultural and Industrial Society’s Show in July 1924; the Tain Tennis Club bazaar and fancy fair in August 1924; leading a procession of 200 Oddfellows delegates at their conference in Inverness in May 1925; at a garden party at Balmacaan House, conducted by R.H. MacConnachie; the cutting of the first sod of the £100,000 extension to the Northern Infirmary in Inverness in November 1927; at the garden party at Cawdor Castle in July 1929, which attracted over a thousand tenants, employees and tradesmen of the estate; at the Rememberance service at Cavell Gardens, Inverness in November 1934 (and serveral preceding years); and at the Forres & District Horticultural Show in August 1936. The band’s conductor was Mr Rieves in 1932, Mr Rae in 1934, Will Grieve in 1935. Folded in 1936, and the instruments were loaned to the Inverness District Asylum.

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