Night of violence when the Bay City Rollers played a Lancashire bonfire party

Youths fought in the street and smashed windows after rockers Guy Fawkes Night gig in Garstang

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 3:45 pm

In November 1971, the Bay City Rollers had just broken into the music charts with their debut single Keep on Dancing.

The first rumblings of Rollermania were starting across the land as it was announced the Scottish six-piece would headline what would surely go down as one of their most unusual gigs.

With their cover of Keep On Dancing by American band The Gentrys entering the UK top 20 at number 16, the Rollers were confirmed as the headline act at Garstang’s bonfire night celebrations.

Poster from the night Bay City Rollers played in Garstang on November 5, 1971

A week after making their third appearance on Top of the Tops, the Bay City Rollers topped the bill for a show at the Royal Oak Field featuring DJ Izzy Pound and Go Go Girls plus a barbecue, bonfire and fireworks display.

Les McKeown had yet to join the line-up, which at the time comprised teenagers Derek Longmuir, Alan Longmuir, Eric Manclark, Neil Henderson, Archie Marr and 20-year-old Nobby Clark.

The band stayed at The Hamilton Arms in Cabus, near Garstang, before taking to the stage on a rain lashed Guy Fawkes Night.

While the Rollers went down a storm with fans, the mood turned sour afterwards as hordes of young people descended on the market town.

Bay City Rollers fans flocked to Preston Guild Hall for the band’s concert on May 15, 1975

Reports suggest police were taken by surprise at the number of people arriving for the concert and gangs fought pitched battles in the town centre. Three youths were arrested and a number of other people were questioned by officers.

Speaking to the Lancashire Post the following day, Coun Frank Walmsley said: “The town is seething with anger. These were hooligans from outside who came with the specific purpose of making trouble.

“They were smashing windows, fighting in the street and getting the boot in. We don’t want this in Garstang and it must not be allowed to happen again.”

The Post reported shopkeepers were afraid to go to bed in case their premises were attacked. Police drafted in reinforcements from Blackpool and Lancaster to calm the situation and magistrates came under fire for granting the event a 1am drinking licence.

Bay City Rollers back stage at the Preston Guild Hall on May 15, 1975

Butcher Mr E Wilkinson had his High Street shop window broken by yobs and said: “It was a disgusting and ridiculous situation. It was roughnecks from outside who did the damage.”

Irene Carter, of Bridge Street, said: “Fighting was going on outside our shop. The noise was terrible. We were frightened to death. The police are to be commended for the way they handled a difficult situation in the early hours but we think the magistrates let the police down by allowing this to happen. We didn’t get to bed until about 4am.”

Gig organiser Trevor Smith said: “Everything went according to plan at the barbecue and dance and everyone enjoyed themselves. We had no trouble at the event. We are sorry this should happened in Garstang after the event.”

There would be more joyous scenes when the Rollers returned to Lancashire to play Preston Guild Hall in May 1975, with 2,000 tartan clad fans packing into the venue amid scenes of great hysteria.

Bay City Rollers wow fans at Preston Guild Hall on May 15, 1975