Band stalwart Bill retires on relaxing note

Bill Baptie has given 74 years' service to Hawick Saxhorn Band.

Bill Baptie has given 74 years' service to Hawick Saxhorn Band.

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The longest-serving member of Hawick Saxhorn Band has retired after more than seven decades of service.

After performing with the band for 74 years, Bill Baptie has decided to call it a day.

When the 85-year-old first joined he had no musical knowledge. Taking up the story, he told us from his Teviot Court home: “I was only 11 when I joined and I couldn’t even read music.

“I was a part of the Boys’ Brigade when a letter from George Guy, the bandmaster at the time, arrived inviting us to join.”

Despite their lack of musical experience, Mr Guy accepted five new recruits into the band and Mr Baptie started on the cornet. He continued: “I joined in 1941 when the war began and the band was losing members as the young men signed up to go and fight.”

Mr Baptie went from a musical novice on the cornet to an all-time great, and concluded his time with the band on the baritone horn.

Speaking of his musical highlights, he has fond memories of a trip in the 1950s.

He said: “The band was particularly strong in the 50s and we went to play at an event in Manchester.

“When we got there it was at a boxing ring and as we got up to play the whole band had to climb through the ropes to get onto what was the stage.”

Mr Baptie, a retired tutor at the Henderson Technical College, has seen many people come and go over the years including around 10 different conductors. However, one constant in his life as well as the band has been his wife of 61 years, Audrey.

Talking about his retirement from the band, Mrs Baptie joked: “I told him that if he didn’t stop going he’d get a divorce!

“It will be nice to get my husband back after all these years. He’s a great man and I’m very proud of him.”

Speaking of his retirement plans, Mr Baptie concluded: “I plan to relax at home with my wife.”