Wednesday 7 May 2014

Conductor,Composer,Arranger, Educator

Gregor James Grant was born on 2nd July 1888 in Glasgow. His parents, Gregor James Grant and Isabella Proven married in Lanark on 31st December 1884.

Wedding of Isabella Proven to Gregor James Grant 1884
Isabella & Gregor James with Gregor 1887

Isabella died in 1895 aged 36 and his father married Christina Bain on 12th February 1897 in Glasgow.

Gregor was a skilled musician but his stepmother was envious of his talent and would lock the piano, he joined the 2nd volunteer Battalion HL1 as a band boy at 14 and then transferred to 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to be solo cornet and solo euphonium. He was also principal violin in the Regiment Orchestra under F.J.Ricketts (AJ Alford) who later wrote Colonel Bogey and other marches.

Gregor with his Father and Stepmother in 1903

He passed the entrance examination to the Army School of Music in 1914 but, instead of going to school, he was sent on active service in France then East and West Africa. He obtained a commission in 1st Cameronians.  Gregor  married  Catherine (Katie) Cameron on 23rd July 1909 in Durban, South Africa where she was born, they had three children,

The marriage of Catherine and Gregor in Durban 1909

Margaret (Rita) Gregor James and Donald Kitchener (Kitchie).
Rita married  Duncan MacTavish and had three children, Ronnie, Renee and Donald (aka Grant).
Gregor married Eba McIntyre and had three children, Gregor, Ian (aka Donald) and Simone.
Kitchie joined the RAF and was killed in a Lancaster bomber on 23rd May 1944, he was engaged to be married.

Katie & Gregor with R/L Kitchie, Rita and Gregor
Lieut.Gregor J Grant Nigeria 1918


After completing his army service in 1922 Gregor concentrated on training brass bands, composing, arranging and teaching.

He was on the staff of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music as teacher of euphonium and tuba, and was passionate about the benefits of playing and listening to music especially for children living in povery in Glasgow slums.

He conducted the Govan Burgh Band from 1924 and the Bonnybridge Band from 1925 and coached many bands for contests. He joined the Scottish National Orchestra in 1929 with a break to return to army service with the Royal Artillery in WW2.

Brass bands under his baton won many national competitions and on 21st May 1929 at The Peoples Palace in Glasgow he conducted two bands to receive 1st and 2nd place.

21st May 1929

Bands he directed won the Scottish title in 1929,1932,1951 and 1953.

15th May 1931 Daily Record “ Great credit must be given to Lieut.Grant, as not only has he made his band one of the foremost in the country, but he has also, by the application of modern methods of arranging and by adapting the compositions of composers new to the brass band world, been essentially responsible for the increase in popularity shown by the public to the bands of Scotland.”.

 23rd October 1932, Broadcasting News  “ Lieut. Gregor J Grant has discarded the conventional idea of what music is suitable for Brass bands and has arranged a programme with a judicious mixture of light and classical music”.

1929 with his Morris Minor

The Scottish National Orchestra 

His children ~ Kitchie, Rita and Gregor

Katie and Gregor
Ranger1 Gregor had 3 GSs all called Ranger

8th December 1937 Glasgow Herald ~  International football match between Scotland and Czechoslovakia at Ibrox Park. (The Govan Burgh Band also played before Rangers matches).

"There is more than one Czech national anthem so Captain Grant, after listening to Prague Radio selected the correct one. He bought a copy of National anthems for the Olympic games from Leipzig but, as there were no arrangements for brass, he had to transcribe and arrange them for his band to rehearse. The music was a great success and Scotland won 5-0."

He was dedicated to the bands he conducted and was rewarded with their loyalty and respect. From comments in various newspaper clippings, he was very popular and entertaining and also modest. When praise was heaped upon him he always acknowleged the band members and after particularly fulsome applause would always bring soloists forward and thank the band.

Catherine (Katie) Grant

Grandpa wrote The Flying Scot for the brilliant cornet player Willie Barr.

Whether playing in the Albert Hall, Band stands, market places or recording he loved what he did.

A page from one of his scores

Page from National Temperance Society book of pledges

Although teetotal and a supporter of the National Temperance Society (founded in 1855), Grandpa was a generous host and always had beer and spirits for his guests. He would mix alarming cocktails not having a clue as to the strength of his concoctions – parties were great fun.

His wife Katie died at home 23rd August 1955. We were all staying with them and her coffin was placed in the front room. Due to her illness, Granny had been unable to talk so as a wee girl I was unfazed that she didn’t reply to my chatter.

Grandpa kept very busy, teaching, conducting and adjudicating he also had hobbies.
He enjoyed driving but wasn’t very good – he wore out gear boxes and clutches but refused to get an automatic. We would fight to sit in the back seat instead of the front, which was what most children wanted. If he went through a red light he would be indignant saying that it ‘wasn't there yesterday’.

Eba with Donnie, Gregor, Granny, Gregor, Grandpa
 Smartly dressed even at the beach with Renee and Grant

Grandpa,Grant, Renee,Granny,Rita

Grandpa enjoyed gardening and had a small boat on Loch Lomond and a caravan at Largs. He was one of the first of his friends to get a television, it had a tiny screen so he bought a special magnifier that sat in front. The problem was that only one person had the benefit of the magnification. He loved gadgets and would plug many into one adaptor – even in the bathroom. The house would crackle and one day Rita shot across the room after plugging in the hoover. He changed his ways after that.

With Rita and her dog Eden

We lived in London so Grandpa would stay when the bands were playing at the Albert Hall. He taught me the cornet and a very important lesson – I played the flute and just left it on top of the piano – not even a pull through – he was very cross and told me that I should respect my instrument as I was fortunate to have one. As I had never seen him angry before, it hit home.

Grandpa died in 1966 and a beautiful memorial service was held in Bonnybridge Parish Church on Sunday 11th September 1966. The Band of the 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, of which he was musical director, played Land of the Leal and the Grand March from Aida arranged by Captain Gregor J Grant.
My father, Captain Gregor J Grant with his father Captain Gregor J Grant

Many of Gregor's pieces and arrangements are played by bands worldwide, his arrangement of The William Tell Overture was played in the finale of the film Brassed Off ~ which would have pleased him as would Billy Connolly's lovely remark,

"My definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger."

As a teenager I wasn’t impressed with brass band music but now, much, much older I appreciate its beauty and intricacy and also really appreciate the music Grandpa wrote and the tunes he arranged and the generous nice man he was.


  1. Hi there - I just wanted to say thanks so much for writing, compiling and uploading this. My name is Jason and I am the son of Catherine, who was Renee's daughter. Over the last year or two, I have been looking into the Family Tree and while searching for Gregor James Grant, who is my 2nd great-grandfather, I stumbled across this wonderful blog. It is such an interesting and wonderful story, and the photos are fantastic. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hello Jason, my apologies for not replying sooner as I have just seen your post. Your Great Uncle Grant is a font of family history and he gave me many of the photos and various dates. There is a branch of the Grants in Toronto, I remember a nephew of grandpa's called Gregor Grant who had a son called ~ Gregor. They all stayed with us in London, 5 Gregors at once. So happy you enjoyed the blog, with very best wishes, Simone

  3. Hello - My name is Chris Helme retired police officer here in West Yorkshire- and now a retired brass band player but I am still writing brass band nostalgia. I also have a brass band radio show Sunday Bandstand and on Sunday 14 January 2018 I am featuring Willie Barr playing Gregor Grant's Flying Scot.
    Can you contact me at I would like to speak to you re the story you have put together about Gregor

    Thank you

    Chris Helme

  4. Hi Simone - It's been a while (!). Would you email me at Best Regards

  5. Hi Simone - will you please email me at