A SUM of just £20 was used to create a band, which has been a musical fixture in Wigtownshire for the last 137 years. John Barr and Rob Elliot joined forces in 1880 to purchase 20 instruments and so Creetown Silver Band was born.
Along with them were 18 bandsmen, who knew nothing about how to play brass music, but would go on to leave a lasting legacy.
There have been many changes, in line-up, obviously, and also in venues, but the traditions forged so long ago remain.
A sum of four pence a week was paid to each member but starting from scratch it was not until ten years later that the band entered its first contest – a floral fete at Newton Stewart.
Despite many members emigrating to the U.S.A as the trade of local granite fluctuated, the trophies started to flow
Creetown Silver Band secretary Jack Norgate said: “The original members were simply people who wanted to play in a brass band. Of course they didn’t know how to play brass music but this didn’t stop them from creating the band.
“It has been going for a long time and, despite all the ups and downs, we’ve been able to continue moving forward.”
Their schedule remains busy, including practice sessions, but it is towards the end of the year that the dates start booking up. Think silver, think brass and think Christmas. The Creetown band helps lift the festive cheer.
One of the main driving forces behind their success in recent times has been bandmaster Stuart McNab, who has been with them since 1983.
Stuart arrived in Newton Stewart to take up a teaching post at Douglas-Ewart High School and was eventually persuaded to take over the reins of the band.
With his leadership, they have competed at many different events, including the Scottish Championships. His knowledge has also helped members of the band further develop their skills.
Jack said: “Because of Stuart we are able to do so much and, because of that help and support, some in the band have gone on to play in the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, which shows what we have been able to achieve.
“He knows what he wants and he’s got the expertise to take the band forward and for one person to stay in such a prominent position for so long is a fantastic achievement.”
They have also returned to the Scottish Championships after a ten-year absence.
Jack said: “We hadn’t been playing in the championship, due to our numbers, but, when we got the band back in, we came tenth. This year 16 bands competed and we came 12th. The standard of the other bands is so good, so 12th was an achievement.”
Attracting and more importantly keeping new members in a rural town has been a challenge but there is an opportunity for people to join – no matter the skill level.
Jack said: “People can come and hear us play and if they want to learn, even if they’ve never picked up an instrument before, then they can join. All we want to do is to keep the band going from strength to strength.”
Little did John Barr and Rob Elliot know how much that £20 would be worth to life in Creetown.
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Picture: Stephen Jolly Photography
Featured in Issue 4 (Autumn 2015)