by CALUM WATSON.
Following more than 30 years as leading drummer, and after the 2022 World Pipe Band Championships on Saturday, August 13, Gordon Brown has retired from his post as leading drummer of Peoples Ford Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia.
Gordon was born in Whitburn, West Lothian in 1964, and from an early age showed a keen interest in drumming. His father, DM Tom Brown, taught him on and off during those early years, but it was in 1976 that he took it up seriously. He joined the Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia Novice Juvenile Band in November that year, where his dad was already teaching the youngsters and the then Grade 3 adult corps. A few months later, in February 1977, Gordon gained 6th place in the Juvenile Section of the World Solo Drumming Championship at his first attempt. That season, Gordon and the Novice Corps went on to win the Drumming in the five Major Championships. In 1978, the then Grade 3 adult band was upgraded to Grade 2 and Gordon became a member of that drum corps under the leadership of his dad, Tom. During the seasons of 1978 and 1979, the Grade 2 drummers gained about every major championship – drumming and band. On the solo side, Gordon steadily moved up the prize lists at the Worlds and other solo drumming events, including winning the World Juvenile Solo Drumming titles in 1980 and 1981.
It was during this time that he started to get involved in teaching at his dad’s famous “Tuesday Night Drumming Class” in the Whitburn Burgh Town Hall.
Gordon and the band were promoted to Grade 1 Status in 1980 and in their first season, they won the Cowal Drumming Championship. The next three seasons saw them lift a fine hat trick of World Drum Corps Championships; 1981, 82 and 83, as well as every other drumming award. This continued throughout the eighties and included another World Drumming Title in 1986. One of the proudest moments and memories for Gordon and the Boghall Drummers was being the first drum corps to win the Alex Duthart Memorial Trophy for the Grade 1 Champion of Champions Drum Corps. Searching through old championship tables has also found that from 1981, they would have won that title almost every year up to the introduction of the prize. Boghall’s Novice and Juvenile corps also won the title in their respective grades that season.
Gordon started helping out in the early eighties with the Novice and the Juvenile Drum corps within the band, enabling them to go on and win numerous major drumming awards throughout the eighties and nineties. The most recent wins with the Juvenile corps were the World Drum corps titles in 2009 and 2010, and the British title in 2011.
In 1991, Gordon took over as Leading Drummer of the Grade 1 corps from his dad and it didn’t take him long to win his first major drumming award as Leading Drummer when the corps won the European drumming title that same year. To date, Gordon has won the Scottish, British, European & Cowal Championships on numerous occasions with both the corps and band. The Best Drum Corps at the 2001 and 2012 World Championship and the 2007, 2010 & 2012 Champion of Champions Drum Corps.
Gordon was also named 2012 Drummer of the Year in the 10th Annual Pipes / Drums Honour’s List.
In 1994, Gordon’s life-long ambition came true when he gained 1st place in the World Solo Drumming Championship. He had made it through to the final on several occasions and was placed 4th in 1993, but to have won such a prestigious award in 1994 was a dream come true. Gordon achieved 1st place again in the 2002 event and a top six placing up to retiring from the event in 2013.
Since Gordon became involved in teaching, he is now realising another ambition, by following in his father’s footsteps with this as well. Through his achievements as a teacher, solo player and as leading drummer of the Grade 1 corps, he has carried out workshops and seminars all over the world. Looking to the future, on the teaching side, he would hope that like his dad Tom, he unselfishly continues to pass on what he regards as a noble art, especially to youngsters, to make them the drummers of the future. To date, Gordon has several young players who have advanced through the Novice and Juvenile ranks and achieved Grade 1 status.
The whole organisation would like to thank and congratulate Gordon for all his hard work and achievements over the years.
We are delighted to announce Kerr McQuillan, pupil of Tom and Gordon, as our new Leading Drummer. Kerr is a product of the organisation and has been around the band since the age of 2 where he would attend all competitions, practises and concerts with his dad, Stevie, who played alongside Gordon and Tom for 30 years.
Kerr quickly progressed through the ranks and joined the Grade 1 band at age 14. Along the way he has had major solo success including North American Champion at Winter Storm Kansas City, Lothian and Borders Branch Champion, Kingdoms Thistle Champion and Livi Innvitational MSR winner in 2021. Above all, Kerr is a multiple Juvenile World Solo Drumming Champion and studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Band stalwart, Ian Tobin, will assist Kerr during his transition into his new role as Gordon moves to be a full-time RSPBA Adjudicator.
On the announcement Gordon said: “It has been a great honour to lead the band over the last three decades. I feel the band’s 50th anniversary year is the right time to pass the reigns onto Kerr. I’d like to wish him all the best in his new role and I can’t wait to see how the corps develops under his leadership.”
On his new appointment, Kerr said: “Becoming the leading drummer of Peoples Ford Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia Pipe Band has always been my dream. It is an opportunity that I am hugely excited for and I’m confident that the team we have across the entire Boghall organisation has the potential to achieve great things. I can’t wait to get started working with such a musically talented group where we all share the same drive and ambitions.
“I am grateful and honoured to be able to follow in the footsteps of Both Tom and Gordon who have been my inspirations throughout my drumming career.
“I am very much looking forward to working with PM Ross Harvey and PS Calum Watson where collectively we will take the band into this exciting next chapter.”
PM Ross Harvey and Brian Gilda, Chairman and MD of Peoples Ford also wanted to pass on their wishes to Gordon and Kerr. PM Ross Harvey said: “The Browns’ musical input and teaching legacy have helped shape the Boghall sound over the last fifty years. I’d like to thank Gordon for his decades of commitment to the band. The continuity in Gordon’s leadership allowed for a smoother transition when I stepped in as Pipe Major. As the band moves into its next fifty years I am excited to see Kerr help shape the band through his musical talent, creativity and teaching.”
Brian Gilda said: “When Tom retired it was always a foregone conclusion that the baton would be passed to his son Gordon and so it came to pass. When I watch him playing and leading out his accomplished drum core I am in awe of his sanguine and almost laid back approach to the challenges of the day, I seem to be more on edge than he is! Leadership comes in many manifestations but Gordon has the lot, the competition prizes attest to that.
“I understand that Gordon has elected to retire from playing but the likelihood is we will continue to see him on the fields of play as he will no doubt become a successful adjudicator, no one would question his undoubted credentials for that poison chalice.
“The baton once more gets passed, in this instance to young Kerr, a long standing band member and a prodigy of Gordon. His age probably belies his talent and musical skills but as one famous football manager once said if he’s good enough age doesn’t matter.”