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The boxing warrior who became the prince of the euphonium

Sunday 24 January, 2021

From growing up in Scotland’s industrial heartlands to becoming a founder member of the celebrated Munn and Felton’s Works Band, Bert Sullivan enjoyed a fascinating life.

Band historian Tim Mutum looks back on the career of the renowned musician, who rose to fame during his long tenure as solo euphonium at the famous Kettering organisation.

 

It’s highly likely that for most, growing up at the beginning of the 20th century in the Scottish town of Wishaw was not easy. Situated near Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, 15 miles southeast of Glasgow, the town had grown dramatically in the 1830s with a spread of industries including iron and steel making, foundry work, railway wagon building and fire-clay making and many collieries opened during the period too. There would have been work, but it was hard work and there was little money around.

It was here and in this environment that Bert Sullivan was born in 1902. One indicator of his modest roots is that he had no proper shoes on his feet until well into his teens. He did become a professional boxer but had originally been named Bartholomew after his father and his manager decided that it wouldn’t fit or appeal on advertising posters so he was called Bert and it stuck. The boxing career, however, ended when Bert realised that punching and playing didn’t mix; the knocks and cuts around his lips played havoc with high notes.

 

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