Tributes have been paid to the longest-serving member of Hawick Saxhorn Band ever and a stalwart of the town’s knitting industry for decades following his death at the age of 89.
Bill Baptie had completed an extraordinary 74 years of service with the band when he finally retired in 2015.
He died peacefully at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose with his family by his side on Tuesday of last week, with a funeral service to be held this Friday, February 1, from noon at Wilton Parish Church.
Mr Baptie, of Teviot Court in Hawick, was only 11 years old in 1941 when he joined the band despite having no previous musical knowledge.
After that start as a musical novice, Mr Baptie, a retired knitwear tutor at the former Henderson Technical College in Hawick, soon conquered the cornet and went on to become one of the band’s all-time greats, concluding his service on the baritone horn.
Leading the tributes was Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall.
He said: “I was absolutely shattered to learn last week that Bill had passed away.
“I had only spoken with him a couple of weeks earlier, and he was his usual cheery self.
“The Baptie family and mine have been great friends spanning many decades.
“Bill was a very quiet, unassuming man who contributed so much to our town over the years, and in 2016 I was privileged to have the honour of presenting him with the honorary provost council achievement award in recognition of his public service, and even on that occasion he kept saying ‘I don’t know why you’re making a fuss over me’.
“He was undoubtedly the father figure of Hawick Saxhorn Band and, like other mill workers past and present, I will always have fond memories of him teaching at the former Henderson Technical College in Commercial Road, where in those days all knitwear apprentices were sent to learn their trade.
“Although a great friend of the family, Bill never favoured anyone, and when you made a mistake on the knitting machines he told you very sharply, simply because he wanted you to succeed to his standards.
“He was so well respected throughout the industry and indeed in our town, and I don’t think Hawick will ever be quite the same without him.”
Speaking to our sister paper the Hawick News at the time of his retirement, grandfather-of-two Mr Baptie, survived by his wife Audrey and sons David and Cameron, recalled: “The band was particularly strong in the 1950s, 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 a stage.”
A spokesperson for the band said Mr Baptie’s passing marked the end of an era.
They added: “Bill was a well-respected member of the band and was well known in the whole banding community all over Scotland.
“He was a huge role model to a lot of the band members, serving just over 74 years.
“After he retired, he kept a close eye on us, popping in regularly to make sure we were all doing fine at our practices.
“He will be a huge loss, not only to the band but to the whole Hawick community.
“Bill was a real gentleman who spoke his mind, and the whole band loved him for his honesty. It’s the end of an era for all of us.”