The History of Lochgelly Band
Up to 1914
It is not known exactly when the town of "Lochgellie" came into being, but it was certainly present as a community in the 14th century. It lies at a crossroads equidistant from the Perth - Edinburgh and Stirling - St. Andrews axis towns, flourishing at the time. It may have been a watering stop/market trading village where travellers could barter for food etc. The area around "Lochgellie" had many attributes e.g. fishing, agriculture, pure water, and was on a hillside, one of the highest in Fife. Various opinions say the name Loch-Gellie meant shining water.
With the coming of the agricultural revolution the community would certainly have expanded and deposits of coal found during farming would be crudely mined and used for fuel. With the advent of the industrial revolution in the early part of the 19th century deposits of iron ore were also found along with the coal.The entrepreneurs of the time were quick to realise the potential of the now renamed "Lochgelly" area. An influx of manpower to work the new mines and iron works commenced. Agriculture subsequently became a sideline to heavy industry.
To satisfy the recreational needs of this growing town various organisations were being created about the mid 19th century. These included sports activities, dancing, plot holdings, pigeon racing, a flute band, and, in keeping with similar areas elsewhere in Britain, a Brass Band. The first recorded instance of a Lochgelly Brass Band was in 1854 under the banner of Lochgelly Public Brass Band. The choice of brass instruments rather than more delicate musical instruments was due to the fact that the workers taking up the pastime would probably have calloused hands and possibly have fingers missing due to the type of work they were doing.
Also in comparison to other instruments, brass instruments were relatively cheap to buy and easy to play, and could be played with three fingers or a slide. The major local employer, the Lochgelly Iron and Coal Company were happy to support these ventures to keep the workforce happy during their scant leisure hours. The Lochgelly Public Brass Band certainly took part in events in the town as old posters have been found advertising their attendance. The earliest photograph was taken around 1890, in full uniform.
The first documented contest success was in 1904 where the band won 4th prize in the Scottish Championships, which begun in 1895. The conductor was Mr James Carmichael and the test piece was Romeo & Juliet. Under the baton of Mr Carmichael the band went from strength to strength gaining 2nd prize in 1906 and 1st prize in 1907.
Also around this time the band were winning prizes outwith the Scottish Championships, travelling to a contest in Chester-Le-Street, Co. Durham in 1907 and taking 1st prize. The logistics of taking part in a contest south of the border in 1907 can only be imagined. Travel would probably have been by train possibly with 3 or 4 changes taking place. A large framed photograph exists of the winning team with the names of the players and conductor appended. Some of these names are still common in the town in the present day.
From this point in time until after the Great War very few records of the bands activities survive, but a photograph dated 1910, again showing names, exists. At the outset of the Great War it is probable that all music making ceased as local men answered the call to arms.