BEAT on Orkney Island

In the 1960’s, beat music gained a following in far north of Scotland when the British Government built a large-scale nuclear reactor at nearby Dounreay across the water [near Thurso].

The beat music scene became popular on Orkey Island as well though bands traversing the sometimes rough waters were limited.  The Alphabeats were local youth were among those who regularly performed to those living on the Island: “The Alphabeats in the Cosmo. (Dave) Alan Hale has put together this excellent homage to the heyday of the Cosmo Ballroom in Kirkwall.”

Note: Alphabeats members Alan Keldie was killed in a motor accident 25Jan71 [age 27], Brian Peace died in a drowning accident 19Jun77 [age 29], and Robert Swanney died in last ten years.

The Nomads were first in Orkney to record pop music [I’m Coming Home/Hey Little Girl] L-R: Brian Peace, Ken Ross, Roy Wood, Ian Farquhar [photo copyright “Images in Time” V.2&3]

“The Nomads were the first [beat band] to appear. The Kossacks started in early ’60s and lasted two or three years. The Alphabeats came into being in the mid 1960’s starting as a four piece band. We were the support act to several famous bands that came to Orkney in the ’60s. They included Sounds Incorporated, Christian St Peters, Four Pennies, David & Jonathan, The Luvvers minus Lulu, and Neil Landon & The Burnettes – all good fun and enjoyable. I called it a day on 31 Dec 1969 and the band continued for about a year or 18 months before becoming basis for a band called the Orcades…” Robert Milne [former member of Alphabeats and The Kossacks]

The Kossacks were Bobby Corsie,Colin Omand,Rob Milne,Alan Kelday and me- started off as the Echoes with Colin,me,Jim Park and Wullie Winnick.The Nomads were Ken Ross,Roy Wood,Ian Farquhar and Brian Peace- they were the first band to keep going for some time.The Dominoes started in the West Mainland and moved on to Saturday nights in the Cosmo later on in the sixties.If I mind right the Vampires were Dimmy Kelday and some others. And that’s how Rock and Roll was born.” John Schollay [Orkney Past and Present]

Elgin, Scotland promoter, Albert Bonici, was known for hosting most of the top British musicians and vocalists to the north of Scotland from the mid 1950’s to mid 1970’s. Besides recording several Scottish musicians on the Norco Records label, he is noted for sponsoring the Beatles tours in Scotland 1963-64. Albert had flown to Orkney Islands on several occassions though not to manage venues. Besides various concessions, he sold ice cream to vendors on the island besides scheduling acts on tour. I heard a story from nephew, John Ruggeri, how “Uncle Albert” returned from Orkney in a shuttle airplane with a paper sack of money on his lap…

Besides the Faley brothers of Glasgow who sent acts to Thurso, Albert Bonici booked some top beat groups in Wick besides sending some out to Kirkwall, Orkney Island to perform for inhabitants in this sparsely populated part of the world.

Kirkwall was host to beat music venues in the 1960’s thanks to a demand from incomers and locals who wanted some weekend entertainment.  Innes [Fit Like, New York?] recorded John Rennie’s recollection of traveling with The Jacobeats in ’64 when they did a gig on Orkey Island:


The Orcades Dance Band played at dances, weddings, etc from 1971-81 L to R: Ruby Chalmers [aka Rendall] became a national radio broadcaster and recording artist, Robert Swanney, Albert Linklater, Jim “Mosh” Marwick, and Brian Peace.  [photo copyright “Images in Time” V.2&3]

Thorfinn Football Club held a Beat Festival in the Phoenix Cinema, once a month for four months during 1964. The concerts, arranged by Ernie Donaldson, were very well attended and the local artistes played to full houses. Some of them are seen here about to fly off “on tour”. Back row, L to R: Hazel Ground water, Jill Leonard, Bertha Flett and Olive Flett. Front row L to R: Davie Sinclair, Bobby Leslie, Roy Wood, Ivy Corsie, Bobby Corsie, Ian Farquhar, and John Schollay. [photo copyright “Images in Time” V.2&3]

Shuttle airplanes made it possible for bands on tour to visit the island and local bands going abroad as an alternative to catching the ferry to the mainland. From the back L to R: Elizabeth Tait, Anna davidson, Isobel Herdman, Michael Corsie, Ernie Donaldson, Alan Keldie, Pete Davidson, Colin Omand, Eddie Black, and Robert Milne.  [photo copyright “Images in Time” V.2&3]

Eddie Peace’s Band at a dance in the Royal Hotel, Kirwall. The band members are, L to R: Mike “Piker” Parkins, Jimmy “Dimmy” Kelday, Sandy Windwick, Jim “mosh” Marwick, and Eddile Peace. The band played at various funtions in the ’50’s and ’60s. [photo copyright “Images in Time” V.2&3]  Local music has continued to thrive on Orkey Islands with a popular folk festival and talented people from the area  More about life on Orkney


My research began in 2007 as a visitor to the north of Scotland. With a fascination for the beat music era that took place throughout the UK, my research investigates the late '50s through early 1970s. Relying on interviews, the Albert Bonici archives, and other resources, I continue to gather materials to tell the story of a special time in music in the mid 20th century. Scottish promoter, Albert Bonici, brought many of the top beat music acts to Scotland which delighted music lovers during the early days of the beat music era. SCOTBEAT was created to share a bit of history about the BEAT years in Scotland and remembers the contributions of promoter, Albert Bonici, a man with a vision who, with the help of his family and staff, created a happening that is still fondly remembered by those who attended dances and concerts. Besides other local resources and interviews, SCOTBEAT presents exclusive photos, adverts, and documents from the A Bonici Archives [circa 1960s]. Unless otherwise agreed, materials are not to be used for financial gain and ask that you respect the terms below. Materials presented are not to be used for financial gain without consent. © 2014-2019 All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be copied, redistributed, broadcast or published in any form without crediting this blog and/or copyright websites mentioned. All correspondence, flyers, programs, and photos from the Bonici Archives are not to appear in print other than through the propietor of SCOTBEAT. Use of the site signifies your agreement to all of these terms without condition. Please reference when sharing materials found here as the site is continuously updated to present the subject matter accurately and as a historical resource. Thank you.

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Posted in 1960's pop music

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