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Tam Bain
...... social history from Glesca 's east-end        


Fabulous photograph of the Bridgeton Purple & Crown Flute Band taken in Belfast in 1935. 


                       Bridgeton Purple and Crown Flute Band       Belfast 1935










9 Billy Bilsland 




5 Sammy


7      Tim  McGuiness




11 Wullie   
Wilson Sen



2 Colin



5 Billy  Fullerton

6 Tam

7 Wullie

9. Wullie
 Wilson jnr


( Dec.2003 photo from John Caldwell, Australia )



Oct.2007, Laurie 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.  Kind 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 Noey!


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 Halls, 
   1st floor was the Dan Daly private snooker club, 
   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........ 

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 marksman!"

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 been learned! 
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 another story


In those days the 'Billy Boys' gang stood at Bridgeton Cross 
opposite Orr Street at the Midland Bank, now a chemist 

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 many others. 



    Edwin Morgan, 1963, wrote this  poem about the gang leader
    Billy Fullerton of the Brigton Billy Boys.

Grey over Riddrie the clouds piled up,
dragged their rain through the cemetery trees.
The gates shone cold. Wind rose flaring the hissing leaves,
the branches swung, heavy, across the lamps.
Gravestones huddled in drizzling shadow,
flickering streetlight scanned the requiescats,
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'

Bareheaded, in dark suits, with flutes and drums,
they brought him here, in procession seriously,
King Billy of Brigton, dead, from Bridgeton Cross: 
a memory of violence, brooding days of empty bellies, 
billiard smoke and a sour pint,
boots or fists, famous sherrickings, the word, the scuffle,
the flash, the shout, bloody crumpling in the close,
bricks for papish windows, get the Conks next time,
the Conks ambush the Billy Boys, the Billy Boys the Conks
till Sillitoe scuffs the razor down the stank -

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 boredom,
lost in better days, a bouncer in a betting club,
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.

Deplore what is to be deplored, and then find out the rest.

 Billy Fullerton lies in 
  an unmarked grave in 
  Riddrie Park Cemetery 



The Rev.Bill 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 book 'keeping it Cheery'


Dec.2003 extract from messageboard, Peter 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."

Oct. 2004, extract from e-mail, Raymond Clarke, Glasgow, Scotland
 "........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 In Scene
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 behind.
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 deserted.

Jun 2006, extract from messageboard, Charlie McDonald, Glasgow, Scotland
The gang 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 with flowers.
As the cortege moved slowly into Crownpoint Road it was led by the band to the strains of "Onward Christian Soldiers".
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 Cemetery.
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.

Dec. 2014, email, Robert Bryden, age 64, Pittsburgh PA, USA                   
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 morning.


Whilst pursuing some social history of Bridgeton 
I have been very fortunate to have found and met
two members of the Bridgeton Purple & Crown 
Flute Band from the 1930's
Tam Bain and Wullie 'swagger' Watson.



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