Music Makers of Maybole
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MANY an Ayrshire town can claim an impressive musical pedigree. But surely none can equal Maybole when it comes to the amount of musical talent per head of the population. Read about them below and link on the images for links to other pages on this site. This story appeared in the Ayrshire Post in March 2002.

The capital of Carrick has proved itself a musical centre of excellence for more than a century. But things didn't look good back in 1867, when town bandsmen had their instruments taken away from them - for failing to attend rehearsals! The instruments were given to the local Volunteers, and although this was nominally a military band, it was still considered the town band. The instruments were returned to Maybole Burgh Council around 1900, and Maybole Burgh Band came into existence. Under professional conductor Mr W. Shaw, the band won many competitions, and was a popular attraction at town and district events. Maybole Burgh Band hit another low point in the 1950s, although conversely, a number of dance bands in the town were doing very nicely by now. The burgh band instruments were said to be deteriorating in storage, and Maybole Town Council sold them. By coincidence, the council bought scarlet and ermine robes for the Provost and Bailies about the same time. And it was a joke in town that the band had been robbed for robes!

MAYBOLE folk would turn up their radios for trumpet solos by local legend Tommy McQuater. Born in 1914, Tommy received some brass band tuition, but was largely self-taught. He began playing professionally with Louis Freeman, whose band performed on Transatlantic liners. Tommy next worked with band­leaders Jack Payne (1934) and Lew Stone (1934-35) before joining Bert Ambrose (1936-38). During and after the war he played with the famous RAF band, the Squadronaires. Tommy was a regular on radio and TV after the war, first as a member of Cyril Stapleton's BBC Showband, then as a staff musician under Jack Parnell. He worked as a freelance player right into the 1980s, and still lives in London.

SHEONA White began blowing her tenor horn at the age of 10. The former Carrick Academy pupil won the BBC Radio 2 Young Musician of the Year title in 1996. She went on to play with super­stars of pop, in the BBC promo version of Lou Reed's `Perfect Day' which topped the charts and became a platinum disc. Sheona studied at Salford Unversity between 1992 and 1996, and toured Ecuador and Brazil as principal horn of the university band. She has been principal horn for the past five years with the Yorkshire Building Society Band, winners of the All-England Masters and European championships. Her professional appointments now include the post of tenor horn tutor at the University of Salford.

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A MAYBOLE band of around 1920 showed the kind of instrumental line-up at social functions since the 1890s. It consisted of two violinists, plus flute, cornet and piano, and this type of band would have played at some great dance nights in the town hall. Organisations such as the Yeomanry, the Masons, the bowlers and the quoiters all organised an annual ball. And in days before the First World War, the youth of the town would take their place in the Grand March, which always opened a ball. There were several dance classes in the town, and it was necessary to learn the steps for the Lancers, the Petronella, the Waltz Cotillion and other favourites. Those were the days of dan­cing pumps and white gloves for the gentlemen and long, graceful frocks for the ladies.

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AMERICAN influences saw the saxophone become a dominant instrument in the 1930s and 40s. The `sax' had been around for decades, but found an important niche in jazz and swing music. A famed Maybole band of the era was Paterson's Ragtime Band, who played at big functions at Turnberry Hotel. The accordion became a favourite instrument too, being more portable than a piano! Saxophones were favoured by T.B. Smith's Sylvians. They even featured as little motifs on the big drum. The Sylvians were a popular band of the 1930s and 40s. Musicians in a picture loaned to the Post are Jim McCulloch, Jimmy Colquhoun, Alex MacKay, Borthwick Smith, Robert Hempkin and Jim McDonald.

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HAWAII is a long way from Maybole, but Jimmy McCulloch fell in love with the sound of the Hawaiian guitar. And he went on to become one of Britain's top exponents of the instrument. Jimmy was heard regularly on radio, playing with Felix Mendelssohn's Hawaiian Serenaders. He was also an accomplished dance band guitarist, but an arthritic condition prevented him continuing his career. Back in Maybole, Jimmy showed a whole new generation of keen young rock `n' rollers how to get to grips with the guitar. And his instruction stood many in good stead, as he insisted they learn the correct way - reading `the dots'. Sadly, Jimmy is no longer with us, but his legacy lives on in many local guitarists. Another evocative picture loaned to the Post shows Jimmy with a group of local musicians at Culzean Castle in the early 1950s. The others are: Bobby Law and Len Girvan, with guitars; Andrew Gardiner, John Hempkin and Albert Holmes.