Echoes of Brass and Bugles: Boys’ Brigade Bands in Manchester

In the bustling heart of Manchester, a unique musical tradition thrived within The Boys’ Brigade (BB) for generations. Beyond the city’s well-known cultural scene, these young boys in uniform forged their own path through the enchanting world of brass and bugles. Join us as we explore the rich musical heritage of the BB bands in the Manchester area, an experience woven with camaraderie, history, and harmony.

A Symphony of Bands and Bugles
The BB’s musical legacy in Manchester bears a striking resemblance to the renowned HM Royal Marines. Among the notable figures in this vibrant tapestry was Frank Stott, a former Queens Own Hussars member who took on the role of bandmaster for the 2nd Altrincham company. Not only was Frank a remarkable sight reader of music, but he was also a gifted composer. His creative genius shone brightest when he crafted music for the stage productions at Altrincham Methodist Church, during the era when entertainment licenses were granted. Frank Stott’s talents extended far beyond music; he was also the producer behind the scenes, bringing these theatrical performances to life.

10th Manchester Company
10th Manchester Company BLB

A Harmonious Collaboration
Another luminary in Manchester’s BB musical history was Alan Ashbrook, a former bandmaster hailing from an army regiment, the Royal Artillery. Alan, like Frank, possessed an extraordinary ability to read music at sight, and he shared their passion for music and theater. Together, they embarked on a series of joint band engagements, uniting the worlds of 1st Sale and 2nd Altrincham. Alan Ashbrook’s correspondence with the late Dave Cherry unearthed an early draft of “Parsons Green,” a composition that underwent a fascinating transformation before finding its place in the current BB repertoire.

Guardians of Tradition
In a world where musical landscapes evolve, some melodies are preserved as time capsules, capturing moments of history. Scott Eaton, intimately connected to the BB’s musical journey, composed “Lockdown” specifically to immortalize the unique experiences of the lockdowns in 2020/21. This composition holds the potential to become a cherished historical piece, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. “Mancunian Bee” and “Ogles Parade” remain patiently waiting for their time in the spotlight, bearing personal significance and emotional weight.

15th Manchester BLB 1913
15th Manchester BLB, 1913

A Chorus of Bands and Bugles
The Greater Manchester area was a melting pot of diverse musical ensembles within the Boys’ Brigade. Pipe bands held a prominent place, marked by the fierce rivalry between the 6th and 14th Manchester Companies. Other Companies, like the 35th Manchester, transitioned from Pipe bands to Bugle bands, while the 49th Manchester proudly boasted a Pipe band. Though detailed records of competitive Pipe bands are scarce, the intense rivalry between the 6th and 14th Manchester stands as a testament to their unwavering commitment.

Honoring Bugle Bands
Bugle bands were once a common sight within The Boys’ Brigade in Manchester. Today, the tradition lives on in a select few Companies, such as the 5th Manchester and the 3rd Trafford. Others, like the 1st Sale, 2nd Altrincham, 4th Altrincham, and 7th Altrincham, have become part of history. The legacy of these bugle bands endures through the memories of those who were part of this cherished tradition.

32nd Manchester 1930
32nd Manchester, 1930

In the bustling streets of Manchester, beneath the shadows of towering buildings, The Boys’ Brigade bands played on, creating their own melodious narrative of unity and inspiration. This is a tribute to the remarkable individuals, like Frank Stott and Alan Ashbrook, who etched their names into the BB’s musical annals. Their contributions, along with those of countless others, continue to resonate in the hearts of those who hold The Boys’ Brigade and its musical heritage close to their souls. The echo of brass and bugles lives on, weaving an enchanting melody that is uniquely Manchester.

Do you have pictures, documents, or other items to share from The Boys' Brigade in Manchester? Contact us as we would like to hear from you.

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Baileys Boys

Written by Scott Eaton in memory of late Captain of the 2nd Altrincham, Mr Bailey


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