Armadale Bands and Performers

Conductors and Impresarios etc

updated February 2013

see also information on the Sports and Leisure page

re: William (Willie, Bill) Peden, an Armadale miner who trained as an opera singer at London's Royal College of Music

His daughter, Alison, is writing her family history which includes

"anecdotal stories about my father, who was a well known local operatic singer, trained at the London School of Music with a grant from the Armadale Miner's Welfare Board, and studying with greats such as Dame Joan Sutherland (who visited us in Armadale when I was around 5, and again when she did her farewell tour in 1983) and Kenneth McKellar and Edward Ward. Many older people will remember the buses leaving Armadale for Edinburgh, to attend the productions of many operas when my dad was the leading tenor in the Edinburgh Operatic Society - culture with chips on the way home!!! I still recall attending these, from the age of 4-5 and singing in Italian (my version of!!) when my dad was rehearsing at home.

We have managed to salvage some of the many taped sessions my father made in the 60s and 70s, of which many people in Armadale will have copies -we have put 12 together in a CD, but some of the others are not good enough copies - they were copied so often, the quality faded. In particular, we would like to ask if anyone has copies of the many reel to reel tapes made by Jimmy Mitchell, a local miner with a love of opera, and who recorded an extensive catalogue of operatic arias by my father and Mrs Elizabeth Prokipczyn, his regular pianist. We think the quality was better than the cassette tapes we have. Armadale's cultural history goes deeper than most people would now know!!

I would be delighted if someone could lead us to the 'Mitchell tapes' to prove it."

posted 20 May 2012


A Brief History of Armadale's Bands including Armadale Concert Ensemble

For Armadale Concert Ensemble's Tippethill Concert, November 2007, with music snippet, see here

Choir master: Sir Hugh Robertson (1874 - 1952) was the founder of Glasgow Orpheus Choir.  He lived in a single-storey whitewashed cottage in South Street, Armadale.  The Orpheus Years 1901 - 1951
Impresario: John Archer son of Daniel and Agnes Archer, newsagents: he organised concerts in Armadale and attracted well-known stars to the town such as Sir Harry Lauder, (2)

11 April 1941: Armadale was one of the towns in which Sir Harry Lauder performed on behalf of War Relief Funds.  Provost Russell presented him with a set of briar pipes.: 'When you want me to come back to Armadale, just let me know...'.


Nu Notes

Agnes MacDonald (nee Harris) told us: 'My Dad, Tommy Harris, was the leader of this band. He was the trumpeter. I am not sure of the exact date he started up this group but I think I am safe in saying early to mid 50's. The band played at the Norbury in Union Road, Bathgate for some time and I think he also played at the Palais in Jarvey Street, Bathgate at some time. Other members of his band were : Jimmy Smith (from Bathgate) - saxophone, Davie Bryce (from Bathgate) - drummer, Jenny McClure (Armadale) - pianist/accordionist, and Frank Knox (Armadale) - saxophone. My father filled in as vocalist. The band played at Wee Sanny's in Armadale (run by Sanny Gorman).'

If you have any other information / photos / memories of the band, please Contact Rosie


The Keynotes

  • Singer: George Hunter

  • Accordion: Davy Gibson

  • Drummer: Vince Ezzi

I would like to thank Joyce McLaren, daughter of Davy Gibson, for supplying the five photos shown below.  If you can name any unidentified members of the bands shown below, or if you have any other information / photos / memories of them, please Contact Rosie

Left to right: Davy Gibson (accordian), Jack McLeish (Whitburn) (drums), Colin Meiklem (Bathgate) .

Jimmy Tait on sax, George Hunter second left and Davy Gibson accordion, others unknown

 My thanks to Harry Arthur  who sent the following comment: "The drummer reminds me of Hugh Mooney who came from Broxburn and sometimes played with Colin in the Norbury, Bathgate when Colin's drummer, Bill Ewans was unavailable."

My thanks to Alan Stewart of British Columbia, Canada, who wrote:
"The saxaphone player on the far left is Jimmy Tait from Dechmont who was my boss at Bangour Hospital's laboratory in the early sixties when I was a lab student."

June 2012

Does anyone have more information about the band members?

Second from the left with the trumpet is Frank Knox. (He also played cornet in Armadale Brass Band for many years.) Third from left Vince Ezzi, drummer, fourth from left George Hunter and second right Davy Gibson, others are unknown, The band member second from the left could be Alex Thomson.

My thanks to Gerard Ezzi for the update. Rosie

Above: Davy Gibson, in the 1990s

George Hunter


 Late 1960s - early 1970s

Gerry McPhillips played in rock bands before he and the singer, Tom, went to Australia - Gerry to the east, Tom to Perth

1980s onwards

Dj Vu


Northern Ignorance

(formerly Day of Defeat).

Psycko, their drummer, told us: "I'm from the Dale. We're a 4 piece band that play old skool rock/metal , inspired by Black Sabbath and ACDC etc....

We have 4 of our own songs: Undercover Jim, The Bandit, The Dead Song ... and a new song which we don't have a name for yet. The name "Northern Ignorance" came from the fact that we're from the north (Scotland) and the fact that we don't really care if no-one likes our songs, because we just want to play because we enjoy it.

 If you look on our bebo site, there's loads of pictures and a few videos on there, as well as more information. The band has been together for a year and they're now keen to play gigs." 

To hear their music and see their photos, look at this site

Mayfield Drive

A local three man rock group: Bobby Knox, (guitar and vocals), Mark Trodden (bass guitar, backing vocals, rhythm guitar), Ryan Mathieson (drums)

Addicted 2 The Rush

Sadly they have now disbanded

Pen 2 Paper

Nikki McDonald from Armadale and Jess Reilly from Craigshill

Armadale Flute Band (established 1983)


  • David Begbie, a tenor singer, particularly of Scottish songs.

  • George Boyd, an engineer of South Street, near Gladstone terrace, was a bass singer who always performed on stage dressed in tails.  He emigrated to New Zealand.

  • The Laird Sisters, singers of Academy street who performed nationally and eventually emigrated to America.

  • Johnny McNicol, Local Registrar of Births and Deaths, Manager of Robinson & Love, light entertainer of amusing songs such as In My Little Garden Hub Bub. He was also a shipping agent who aided many Armadalians to emigrate by helping with their paperwork.

  • Hammy Nesbit, tenor soloist or duettist with a female performer.

  • James Scott, draper of Melville Scott, who had a fine baritone voice, and, like so many performers in Armadale, was willing to give his services free for local concerts.

  • Betty Simpson nee McNair, contralto, who always performed free.

  • Gavin Watson, a light baritone singer who often performed with James Scott, and he also played the organ for the local church.

  • Jackie Clarke singer of Armadale, has woprked with Lena Martell



  • Maggie Boyle played at the Pavilion as well as at children's parties and Co-operative functions organised by the Women's Guild.

  • William Martin was a cornet player in local brass and silver bands.

  • John Oliver accompanied silent films and played violin in the orchestra.

  • George Owen played clarinet and piccolo in many leading local bands.

  • Robert Paterson was an accordion player who performed solo as well as an accompanist at local events.

  • William Peden aka Wull, one of a renowned family of fiddlers. He accompanied silent films  as well as local singers at the Goth on a Saturday night.  He emigrated to America.

  • David Russell played cornet in many local orchestras as well as an accompanist for silent films and stage shows in the Pavilion and Star Theatres.  He emigrated to America.

  • Miss Christina Shaw, piano teacher of Wood Terrace, who bequeathed money to be given out at Christmas-time to needy Armadalians.

  • T. Shaw, brother of Miss C., violin teacher and member of leading orchestras in the area.

  • Forrester Smith aka Fossy, a pole erector (for electric power conveyance) for the United Collieries, was a fine pianist, who played at the Pavilion and Star.  The orchestra accompanied visiting performers and comprised: piano, violin, cornet and drums.  He was a founding member of a popular local dance band called  The Charleston Band.*

  • William Smith, an accomplished drummer, was one of the original members of The Charleston Band, and he also accompanied silent movies and live shows.  He was also a tap boot dancer like his father and brothers.

  • Willie Strain, a foundry steel moulder, a performer of Scottish music who won many prizes in competitions, while also performing as a soloist as well as an accompanist at local shows (live and silent movies).

  • Jack Walker played for travelling shows, but also played locally at the Pavilion and other 'Dale theatres.

  • Hector Wylie was a popular performer who accompanied silent films.

*Diane McDonald has contacted us about her grandfather: My grandfather, Forrester Smith (born 1900 in Armadale) was a pianist in the Armadale area. He died in Kirkcaldy in 1979, but I believe he lived in the Armadale area for the majority of his life. I wonder whether there could be any local newspaper articles that mention him during his time as a musician. Any information would be greatly appreciated. email:


As Diane has never seen a clear photo of her grandfather, we would love to help her.  Rosie



Jamie Wardrop of Armadale trained under Sheridan Nicole, and, when he was 12, he was accepted by the Royal Academy of ballet, Edinburgh, with whom he continued to train until he was 16.  He achieved all his Royal Academy of Dance qualifications and also became SDTA qualified (Scottish Dance Teachers Alliance)

He worked on many television shows such as Thingamijig (STV) Royal Command Performance (LWT), Video Entertainers (ITV), Little and Large (ITV), and Tribute to the Falklands (LWT). He also worked on West End musicals and a number of videos and commercials, including Wild Boys (Duran Duran).

Apart from working around the world, Jamie also toured the US as a member of a Scottish Ballet Company in their production of Gathering of the Clans.

He is now co-director and co-owner of a very successful dance studio, Dance Arts Centre, in Georgia, USA, and he has received numerous awards for his choreography.

John Banks of East Main Street, Armadale, attended Armadale Public School before continuing to Bathgate Academy and then Heriot Watt College, Edinburgh.  After army service, he trained initially with Mr and Mrs James Ellis at the Norbury School of Dancing before continuing to Edinburgh and London, and then on to considerable success in amateur competitions. After teaching in the Victor Sylvester School of Dancing, he set up his own establishment, the Adell Dance School, a name partly formed by using Ad of A'dale.  After qualification as a full professional, he travelled all over the world to judge competitions, especially those at major championships.  He served on the Official Board of Ballroom Dancing in London as well as on the Executive Committee, eventually becoming President of the British Association of Ballroom Dancing, a post he held for three years before retirement.

Also, he ran a dance class at Armadale Welfare for some years while his parents were still living in Barbauchlaw Avenue.

Our thanks go to Mark Sterrick who told us that John Banks was his first teacher when I attended his Armadale classes at the age of 5! John and his wife Eleanor both taught ballroom dancing in Armadale and Bathgate in the 1960s before they moved East to Edinburgh and then started ballroom competitions in Portobello Town Hall.