Sam Knox – 70 Years at Whitburn
“It was a tremendous surprise. Just being part of the band is good enough for me. It was a honour and I feel quite humble.” The words of Sam Knox, a legend of Whitburn Band. Last week, he was recognised by his fellow band members for a remarkable achievement – over 70 years of playing with the Whitburn organisation.
When Sam played his first notes with Whitburn, King George VI was on the British throne, Harry S Truman was the US President and Nat King Cole was in the charts. Sam’s life with the band began one Sunday evening during his school holidays. He was playing on the streets of Whitburn with some of his friends when he heard a brass band playing in the hall of the local pigeon racing club. He went to have a look. “The next thing we heard was ‘come in lads, come in’,” recalls Sam. “I was given an Eb Bass. I took it down the road, and my mother nearly had a fit when she saw this big clarty instrument.”
Sam was soon playing the cornet and he never looked back. One of his fondest memories occurred in 1954, when he played with Whitburn as the band became the first Scottish outfit to secure a National title – the Third Section crown. Sam said the victory caused a stir back home as the result had been televised. “It rained the whole weekend and we got home around 11pm on the Sunday night. The streets of Whitburn were lined with people to welcome us home. “We played a march coming up the street to the Welfare Hall. We then played our test piece to a packed hall. Everybody knew we had won. It was quite a boost for the town.”
Sam was a key member of the band’s cornet section as Whitburn became a force in world banding under the baton of Major Peter Parkes in the 1980s and 1990s. He was part of the band that won the Scottish championships four years in a row, and was placed at the European Brass Band Championships and the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain.Sam played all over Europe with Whitburn, and performed with the band on radio and television, including performances at BBC’s Best of Brass. He became a Scottish Champion with Whitburn for a remarkable 13th time in 2008 – 40 years after his first triumph.
Today, at the age of 84, he still plays with Whitburn Heartlands, passing on his considerable knowledge to the younger generation of cornet players as they make their way in the banding world. He said: “I would be lost without the band. I lost my wife in January and the band has helped to keep me sane. As I still play with Heartlands, I still have to practice and it keeps the mind active. If I had my time again, I would do the same thing again. It has been a tremendous way of life. I have enjoyed every single minute of it. I would recommend it to anybody, especially young people. It is something you can do from the cradle to the grave.”
A spokesperson from Whitburn summed up the band’s feeling succinctly saying, “Thank you Sam from everyone at Whitburn Band. What a legend.”