On this day 1935: Edinburgh's Ross Bandstand officially opens to the general public

Crowd of 10,000 gathered to witness historic opening ceremony

By David Mclean
Monday, 11th May 2020, 5:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th May 2020, 8:22 pm

Unloved, out of date and unfit for purpose. This is how the ageing predecessor to Edinburgh's Ross Bandstand - now considered obsolete itself - was viewed 85 years ago this week.

A huge swell of people - estimated at around 10,000 - huddled round West Princes Street Garden's new purpose-built outdoor theatre at its official opening ceremony on the evening of 10 May 1935.

Read More

Read More
The mystery surrounding the origin of Leith Links' famous twin braes

Sign up to our Retro newsletter

Bandstand history

Designed by prolific City Architect Ebenezer James MacRae the bandstand was a gift to the Capital from Mr William Henry Ross, who generously parted with £5000 of his own cash to see it built.

Chairman of the Distillers Company Ltd, Ross intended for the bandstand to be his gift to the city to mark the King's Silver Jubilee.

It is said the benefactor referred to the new structure as the Ross Bandstand simply for the purpose of brevity. However, the name stuck.

Crowds of holiday-makers watch a session of open-air dancing at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens, 1950s.

Being of similar style to its restored cousin which occupies modern-day Saughton Park, the previous bandstand at Princes Street Gardens was a much smaller and more traditional piece of architecture.

Dating from 1877, it had "served its day and generation" according to several of the speakers at the new bandstand's opening ceremony.

It had originally been intended to replace the Victorian bandstand in 1930. A benefactor had even donated £3000 towards the cost of the project.

Perhaps it would have been constructed earlier, but, unfortunately, the Great Depression arrived, the donor passed away and the £3000 was lost.

Crowded audience for the children's concert in the Ross Bandstand, 1950s.

Historic moment

The Scotsman records that the opening ceremony was attended by a large number of members of the Corporation and prominent citizens of Edinburgh.

Speakers on stage included Lord Provost Sir William Thomson, Councillor Rhind, chairman of the General Purposes Committee of Edinburgh, and the donor himself, William Henry Ross.

In the absence of a thirties equivalent to Deacon Blue or Lewis Capaldi, organisers turned to the armed forces to provide the Ross Bandstand's first musical performance.

The combined bands of the Royal Scots Greys and the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders presented the first programme of music at the new outdoor auditorium.

The assembled crowd crammed into the arena with throngs of people reportedly pressed against the railings up on Princes Street in an effort to witness the historic opening.

The new concrete-built bandstand was constructed "with a thought for acoustics and sound production which never occurred to previous generations" and was said to function like "a scientifically constructed gramophone horn, throwing the sound out in such a way that, were it not for the rumble of tramcars, people on Princes Street could hear piano passages which were previously inaudible".

Eighty-five years on and the current Ross Bandstand - like its long lost predecessor - has now "served its day and generation" and West Princes Gardens waits patiently as the Ross Development Trust and Quaich Project attempt to gather the multiple millions required to build a 21st century replacement.

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.Subscribe to scotsman.com and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director