social history from Glesca 's east-end
photograph of the
Bridgeton Purple & Crown Flute Band
taken in Belfast in 1935.
Purple and Crown Flute Band
9 Billy Bilsland
5 Billy Fullerton
( Dec.2003 photo from
John Caldwell, Australia )
Singleton, extract from email.
My father John
Singleton is no 4 (front) on Billy
Fullertonís right of the Purple and
Crown Flute Band. It might
also interest you to know that my
mother was a shirt machinist at that
time and I have it on my eldest
brotherís authority that she made the
shirts for the band.
Regards Laurie Singleton
|Billy Fullerton the
leader of the flute band & of the Brigton
Billy Boys gang is seated front row no.5.
Tam Bain told me the Bridgeton Purple
& Crown Flute Band had a large
following. The band would march with up to
60 strong members with eight 'spearmen' marching
either side of the band with their followers
thronging the pavements. The Spearmen got their
name because they actually carried 'spears'
often seen being sharpened prior to a march.
Nowadays wooden batons are carried to keep the
band in marching formation and the followers
from spilling into the ranks. This band was a
'ragtime band' a '12th July band', not a
derogatory remark but a term often used to
describe a band of gallus first flute players as
opposed to concert flute players. Invariably
these type of bands had the most followers, as
it is today.
The modern day flute band equivalent would be
the 'Bridgeton No Surrender' Flute band... The
Old photograph of 'The Noey'
in full flight. The mace or stick man
is about to throw the mace into
the air and note the crowd of
followers on the pavement.
The Bridgeton Purple
& Crown flute band marched from the
Orange Hall in Kerr Street Bridgeton.
This 3 storey building (now demolished) must
have been a busy place in those days.
Ground floor was the Unionist
1st floor was the Dan Daly private
2nd floor was a clothes shop
and top floor was the Orange Hall.
Every 12th July the band went to Belfast and
would stay at relatives and friends, in 1935,
the year of the infamous Belfast riots the band
were in the thick of things........
Oct.2004 I met Wullie 'swagger' Watson aged
90yrs old who told me
"....... the flute band
photograph was taken in Belfast in 1935 and
that the young man in the top row holding
the flute, Robert Burnside, was shot in the
stomach in Belfast that year by a rooftop
Tam Bain who will
be 88 yrs old in two weeks, told me
"....... every year the
band went to Belfast for the 12th July
parade. In 1935 myself, Big Burny
(Robert Burnside) and Swagger stayed
at Swagger's auntie's house. There had
been a lot of unrest in Belfast and
tension was high. We were told there was a
street in Belfast no band had marched up
.... 'is that right' says Billy
Fullerton', well we're gonny march up it!'
Aye and march up it we did when they
started shooting at us! Big Burny, ( who
stayed at 44 Harvie Street, Bridgeton) was
shot in the stomach. We were told that a
guy called Brady was on top of the chapel
roof firing bullets at us." oxer
Tam went on to explain such was the unrest
and tension about, that for a week there was
no way on or off the island.
Bridgeton boy Robert Burnside
shot in the Belfast riot of July 1935
In 1935 Tam, then 17yrs old, was playing the
cymbals, all new members whilst learning the
flute started by playing the cymbals,
progressing to the flute when enough tunes had
The band continued to play at all the 'walks'
and were ever-present at the 12th July parade
in Belfast, however in the early 1940s Billy
Fullerton was jailed for six months and around
this time the Bridgeton Purple & Crown
flute band folded ......why? Well that's
In those days the
'Billy Boys' gang stood at Bridgeton
opposite Orr Street at the Midland Bank, now a
and the 'Derry Boys' gang stood across the
toll at the
Bridgeton Cross weighbridge at Olympia Street
Tam told me he was
pals with both crowds, mostly the Derry Boys,
but wandered between the two gangs, as did
1963, wrote this poem about the gang leader
Billy Fullerton of
the Brigton Billy Boys.
Riddrie the clouds piled up,
dragged their rain through the cemetery
The gates shone cold. Wind rose flaring the
the branches swung, heavy, across the lamps.
Gravestones huddled in drizzling shadow,
flickering streetlight scanned the
a name and an urn, a date, a dove picked
out, lost, half regained.
What is this dripping wreath, blown from its
grave red, white, blue and gold
'To Our Leader of Thirty years Ago'
in dark suits, with flutes and drums,
they brought him here, in procession
King Billy of Brigton, dead, from Bridgeton
a memory of violence, brooding days of empty
billiard smoke and a sour pint,
boots or fists, famous sherrickings, the
word, the scuffle,
the flash, the shout, bloody crumpling in
bricks for papish windows, get the Conks
the Conks ambush the Billy Boys, the Billy
Boys the Conks
till Sillitoe scuffs the razor down the
No, but it isn't the violence they remember
but the legend of a violent man born poor,
gang-leader in the bad times of idleness and
lost in better days, a bouncer in a betting
a quiet man at last, dying alone in
Bridgeton in a box bed.
So a thousand people stopped traffic for the
hearse of a folk hero
and the flutes threw 'Onward Christian
Soldiers' to the winds
from unironic lips, the mourners kept in
step, and there were some who wept
Go from the grave. The shrill flutes
are silent, the march dispersed.
what is to be deplored, and then find out
Billy Fullerton lies in
an unmarked grave in
Riddrie Park Cemetery
Shackleton from St.Francis-in-the-east church
buried Billy Fullerton from a house in Brook
St, Bridgeton. You can read about it in his
Dec.2003 extract from
Scott, Vancouver, Canada.
".......Hi wull, I'm almost sure the guy
immediately to the left of the centre guy (
Billy Fullerton ) with the big drum (his
left) is Tommy Bain from
Fairbairn Street Who would now
be about 84 years old."
extract from e-mail, Raymond Clarke,
"........Tam Bain who is in the photo
(Big Billy Fullertonton's Band ) is alive
& kicking he uses the Keystane on a Friday
and Saturday along with his brother
Andy.........It's normally the afternoons he's
there......... no. 6 front row is Tam Bain. no
9 front row is Wullie Wilson with the
triangle, the guy standing next to him holding
the mace is his dad (that's who the Wilson
memorial is named after) .........No 5 in the
centre row is Sammy (Kelly)
Campbell)........ Cheers Big Raymond".
| Feb 2006, extract
from messageboard, Charlie
McDonald, Glasgow, Scotland
"......Hey Webmaister I came across this
yesterday in the Mitchell Library in the Glasgow
Eastern Standard dated Sat.20 July 1935"
Terror In Belfast - Bridgeton Band Involved
Great alarm is stated to have been caused in
the heart of Belfast on Monday night, when a
band from Bridgeton ( described in certain
quarters as the 'Billy Boys' band ) which had
been over in Ireland for the 'Twelfth'
celebrations marched into Royal Avenue to
catch the night boat to Glasgow.
Accompanied by a big crowd of followers , the
band played a party chorus , while its
supporters , men and women , sang and danced
Suddenly a young man on the pavement
brandished a revolver. The crowd scattered and
fled in all directions. The man with the
revolver was surrounded by a hostile mob , and
took refuge in a billiards saloon.
The crowd were on the point of attacking the
premises when tenders of armed police dashed
up , and the fugitive was taken away in one of
the tenders, while a strong force of police
remained behind till the crowd had dispersed.
Almost simultaneously another shot was fired
and another detachment of police dashed in
this direction with rifles at the 'ready'. In
the twinkling of an eye the street was
extract from messageboard, Charlie
McDonald, Glasgow, Scotland
was named after King Billy not their leader so
when we sing it we sing about them as a group
of people... remember they were not the first
sectarian gang in Glasgow though you wouldn't
think so according to the press.
The Evening Times. Wednesday
25th July 1962.
About 1,000 people packed Brook Street,
Bridgeton , Glasgow, today , outside a drab
tenement, to pay their last respects to
Bridgeton's uncrowned king - 57 year old Billy
Fullerton, King of the Bridgeton Billy Boys, who
died at the weekend.
His funeral to Riddrie Park Cemetery today
stopped the traffic at Bridgeton Cross, scene of
his gang's most bitter battles in the 1930's.
A strong force of uniformed Police kept the
crowds under control outside No.8 Brook Street.
As the simple oak coffin was carried from the
close a flute band, made up of members from
various Bridgeton bands, played "Come To The
Saviour". Two red, white and blue wreaths were
placed on top of the coffin and a car was packed
As the cortege moved slowly into Crownpoint Road
it was led by the band to the strains of "Onward
Billy Fullerton was being taken on his last
journey through the streets of the Bridgeton he
loved, and at Fielden Street the band joined a
bus to continue their journey to Riddrie Park
Since his "abdication" after the arrival of Sir
Percy Sillitoe as Chief Constable of Glasgow,
Billy Fullerton had left a non-violent life.
Many people waited at the cemetery for the
funeral cortege to arrive.
email, Robert Bryden, age 64, Pittsburgh
I played the flute in the
Alexander Memorial, Alex Wilson who
ran the band told the band on Tuesday
night that they needed fluters on
Thursday for Billy Fullerton's orange
funeral go to Brook St. outside the
Snug Bar . Three men who I knew to see
a tall man middle shed round bone
framed glasses they could not find a
big drum they ended up after going to
the masonic hall the third time
finding it in the back room Hugh
Magill bands big drum which was
covered with a black cover. It took
quite a while I stood next to these
three men and heard it all. Three
times around the toll and up Brook St
and onto a bus there was two of them
then onto Rddrie Cemetery. I
remember the two hymns we played at
the grave then on the bus back to
Brigton there was fluters from many
bands from all over Glasgow. My photo
was in the Glasgow daily record Friday
Whilst pursuing some social history of
I have been very fortunate to have found and met
two members of the Bridgeton Purple &
Flute Band from the 1930's
Tam Bain and