Penicuik Silver Band

BAND HISTORY


12.  THE GEORGE JOHNSTONE YEARS

 

The committee then approached George Johnstone (pictured in 1900), conductor of the local male voice choir, to take over.   He consented to become bandmaster on a temporary basis. This temporary appointment lasted nearly eight years.   These were relatively happy years for the band.   Johnstone, with a policy of encouraging youth, laid the groundwork for the continuation of the Silver Band.   He had solid backing from a committee in which J Scott, a local banker, and Sandy Findlay, were prominent and things looked promising.   These years are described here by George Johnstone, who until his recent death was still a highly respected member of the community.

 

“I decided that there would be no competitions until I felt that the band was fit.   As a result, three good players left to join another band.   I had only 15 players.   It was hard work but I gathered together some promising youngsters and gradually we got better.

 

“In 1972 the Band entered the Edinburgh Charities Contest in the Usher Hall, and in 1973 we entered the major contests but with poor results.   Our instruments were poor and we had to raise funds.   The test piece for 1975 looked frightening.   I began to increase the practices, especially with the youngsters.   I had begun teaching the junior band and while I took them on a Sunday afternoon, Ian Forrest, our euphonium player practised in another room with his section.   Then the band came together for an hour and a half.   The practice Ian put in with his section meant a lot to me.   The 1975 contest was held at Motherwell.   The piece was "The Seasons" by John Carr who was the adjudicator.   When we left the platform I felt we had done well.

 

At the end of the contest, Jack Forrest, our secretary, took his place on the platform. Jack had always said, "the day I carry something from the platform I'll get drunk."   The hall was too crowded for me even to get in so I went for a cup of tea and a chat with two friends.   All of a sudden there was a commotion and Peter Hawkins and Iain Peaston came rushing towards me.   Peter was shouting, "We've won, we've won" and waving his hands in the air.   By three clear points we were the winners - champions of Scotland's fourth section.   I was the first non-professional conductor to lead the Penicuik Band to championship in a major contest. (There is no record as to whether Jack Forrest - pictured here recently - did get drunk).

 

“As winners of a regional section we were eligible to compete in London, but we came out of it rather badly, playing off-tune either through tiredness or excitement, or a combination of both.   "Promenade" by Frank Bryce was the piece set for the third section in 1976.   We practised hard and were doing well until disaster struck.   Iain Peaston was taken ill.   He was our principal cornet player.   For the sake of those who had practised so hard we decided to go on but were placed last.   A year later with Iain fit again we were runners-up in the third section.   This was my last contest with the Band as I felt that I was taking on too much.   I still kept on the junior band and, of course, my work at the school."

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