Christmas 2021

For a festive-themed post I tried to find a vintage band photograph that portrayed Christmas or a similar winter celebration, but the only one I could come up with was the unknown, American band, below, photographed in a fake snowstorm.

The second photo is of the Snowflake Cornet Band, from Snowflake, Arizona – perhaps one of the more inappropriately named places in the USA. Best wishes for the festive season, and here’s hoping 2022 is a little kinder than the last two years!

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A young Oswaldtwistle cornetist

This is a young cornet player from Oswaldtwistle, photographed in the 1870’s or 1880’s by R. Longton. It is not known which band he played with, but there are a few local possibilities that were active around that time (in rough date order):

Church and Oswaldtwistle Model [Subscription] Band
Foxhill Bank Subscription Brass Band
Oswaldtwistle Subscription Brass Band
3rd Lancashire Artillery Volunteers Band (Oswaldtwistle)

Unknown boy cornetist
Details of the photographer

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Napoleon Bird’s piano marathon

How many bands have undertaken a playing ‘marathon’ or ‘playathon’ for a ridiculous number of hours, to raise money for their own funds or for charity? It is hard work, particularly if the audience drifts away! However, it is much better to have someone do all the hard work for you – witness this example from 115 years ago.

Napoleon Bird’s 48-hour marathon piano performance to raise funds for the London & North Western Railway Employees Brass Band (Stockport) in 1906. For the full story, see the linked article, below.

A L.N.W.R. Band and a 48-hour piano marathon

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Heathfield Silver Band

A new book by Mark Learey has just been published, covering the history of Heathfield Silver Band, in Sussex. Mark first contacted me a couple of years ago during his research for the book, and I hope it will find some interested readers out there.

Blowing up the High Street – The Story of Heathfield Silver Band. ISBN: 978-1399910446. Available to order online from

“… is a must-read for all local history enthusiasts and anyone with a keen interest in the amateur brass band scene. It explores the story of a rural community band in a fresh and engaging way, fusing social and oral history through the vivid and often amusing memories of bandmembers past and present. The book aims to be detailed and yet accessible. There are chapters covering each decade, thematic essays, short biographies, stories and poems, and a rich selection of photographs from the Band’s history. There is also a foreword by Philip Harper, musical director of the world famous Cory Band. Blowing up the High Street provides a unique case study into traditional brass banding in Sussex.”

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Scanned documents

I have started to add a number of scanned/digitised documents, in PDF format, to the IBEW archive. Additional items will be added in the future. The documents include some band histories, vintage contest and concert programmes, catalogues, etc.

If anyone has similar documents/scans, I would be happy to add them to the online archive – just let me know at

The documents can be viewed/downloaded at

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Daisy Squelch – cornet soloist and music hall star 

Agnes Mary Squelch (familiarly known as Daisy) was taught to play the cornet by the Black Dyke cornetist, John Paley at the age of 14. Having mastered the instrument, Daisy went on to become a well-known soloist on the concert stage, eventually moving to the music halls, where she excelled in various productions, touring the country from 1909 to 1922.

Daisy Squelch, 1906

The PDF article, linked below, outlines Daisy’s musical life from her first steps in local cornet competitions, to becoming a guest soloist with some of the countries’ best bands, to performing solos at the Royal Albert Hall for the National Brass Band Championships, and to her career as a music hall and variety musician.


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And now for something completely different….

This blog normally focuses on the history of brass and similar “brassy” ensembles over the last 200 years. Many “works” bands existed during this time and some of the most famous brass bands of the past owed much of their success to their industrial or commercial patrons. A few still survive, though the sponsorship and patronage elements are very different these days.

Aside from the brass and military/concert bands, other forms of musical groups occasionally were formed by or in commercial companies. These included drum and fife bands, concertina bands, choirs and, even more rarely, banjo bands.

This example is the Manchester Corporation Tramways Banjo, Guitar and Mandolin Orchestra from the 1930’s. They broadcast on the Regional Northern Radio Programme in January 1933, January 1935, and August 1935, conducted by Arthur F. Hill. It was formed in 1932 by Arthur Hill, and by 1938 it was known as the Birchfield Banjo Mandoline and Guitar Orchestra, but still mainly composed of Corporation employees. It is presumed to have disbanded during WW2.

Manchester Corporation Tramways Banjo, Guitar and Mandolin Orchestra, c. 1934

During this time the Manchester Corporation also supported two brass bands, based at the Hyde and Birchfields depots. Two earlier brass bands were also sponsored by the Manchester Corporation in the 1890’s and early 1900’s – at the Holt Town and Water Street depots. Sadly there are no known photographs of any of these four bands.

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A Battersea Band Mystery

Ten years ago, I remarked on two images of the Bolton Borough Prize Band which had a phantom player (see:

A similar question arises with the two photographs of the Battersea Borough Prize Band. One contains the image of a child (a girl perhaps?) leaning on the bass drum. In the second picture she has been removed. She was probably the daughter of one of the players, who insisted on being in the photo. At some point the Band decided that her presence detracted from the formal nature of the picture and obtained a “clean” version.

Not much is known about the Band – certainly none of the players’ names have been found, so the identity of the child is even more unknown. The Band was active in the early 1890’s through to the 1920’s. It bought a new set of Besson instruments, costing £295, in October 1904, with conductor Tom Morgan and secretary F.W. Baker (who also took the photograph). So, perhaps, this was the occasion of the photo session?

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Deanston Brass Band

Two photographs of Deanston Works Brass Band in Perthshire. The first c. 1860, the second c. 1910. The band was formed in May 1853. Its first conductor was Mr Watts, the manager of the Adelphi Cotton Mill in Deanston, where most, if not all, of the band were employed.

Deanston Brass Band c. 1860

The mill was the first in Britain to produce its own coins and paper money for issue to its workers, which was designed to overcome a shortage of currency in circulation at the time (the late 1700’s). In 1858, a young boy named Daniel McDonald, who was a drummer in the band, lost an arm in an accident at the mill where he worked. It was also known as Doune Brass Band by local people.

Deanston Brass Band c. 1910

The band was active through to WW1. After the mill closed the building was converted into a whisky distillery, in 1966.

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Sterling music

The city of Sterling in Illinois supported a number of brass bands in the latter half of the 19th century. Some faded in and out of existence, one lasted, in various guises, to the present day. This PDF article, linked below, looks at the bands, players and activities in the city of Sterling and its twin across the river, Rock Falls.

Keystone Sixth Regiment Band

PDF – Sterling music – the bands that provided music in a typical small Illinois town, 1864-1910

Sterling and Rock Falls, 1872

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