Brass & pipe bands

Music from our own Scottish traditions survived. Several pipe and brass bands in the county made a significant contribution on ceremonial occasions and at the galas, which were very popular events, particularly in the early part of the period. In 2000, it was gratifying that, despite the downturn in the mining industry, three brass bands existed in the area. One of these was the Penston Band, originally associated with the defunct Penston Colliery and, founded in 1842, claiming to be the oldest brass band in Scotland. One family, the Grays, were largely responsible for its continuing success. At one period there were twelve family members playing in the band. One bandmaster, George Gray, composed or arranged much of their music in his 40-year tenure.

The Musselburgh and Fisherrow Band played on many occasions in and around their hometown; and the Dalkeith and Monktonhall Silver Band rehearsed in Prestonpans and, as a competing band in the First Division, was much in demand for concert performances. All the bands encouraged children as young as eight to join by giving them the opportunity to learn to play an instrument.

The history of piping in East Lothian can be traced back to the 17th century. All four existing pipe bands appeared to be thriving. The Haddington Band forged strong links with their French twin town, Aubigny-sur-Nere. Thanks to this association, Aubigny had its own pipe band, whose Pipe Major had grandparents in East Lothian! North Berwick Pipe Band made several trips to its namesake town in the States. Prestonpans and Dunbar had their own British Legion pipe bands, founded in1921 and 1976 respectively. All these worked hard to recruit young people.

Fiddles and Reels

Three groups gave and received enjoyment from Scottish folk and dance music. The Haddington Fiddles, formed in 1980, and the East Lothian Reel and Strathspey Society, started in 1973, provided music for ceilidhs and other occasions as required. The Haddington Folk Club met in the Toll Bridge in Haddington and members have made music together since 1983.


One group which stood on its own was the Holy Trinity Handbells in Haddington. They started in 1988 with handchimes, then in 1994 bought their first set of handbells. By 2000, they had 37 handbells and 15 members including youngsters, and were a popular addition to concerts especially at Christmas.

A set of church bells were incorporated into the restoration work at St Mary’s Haddington; originally from Dunecht, Aberdeenshire, the bells were re-dedicated on 6th June 1999. The bells opened the Millennium Carillon on January 1st, 2000, shown by the BBC (Marshall, RK (2001) pp62-64).