Alternatives to marching & hazardous journeys

As it is the marching season – with Whit Friday, various march contests, Durham Miners’ Gala, local parades, walking days etc. I’m sure that many players (especially bass players) would like to revert to the old days when bands processed in their bandwagons, which were quite often brightly decorated – especially those involved with circuses and travelling shows. There are historical precedents for some alternatives in the absence of a wagon – roller skates or bicycles! Of course these would probably be even worse for the teeth going over cobbles, but it would certainly save on the shoe leather. Perhaps we could have Chris Froome or Bradley Wiggins as deportment judges for the “marches”…


Dunfermline Skating Rink Band


The perils of roller-skating while playing


Christchurch (New Zealand) Cycle Band c.1895


unknown Dutch band c.1910


unknown penny-farthing band


another “cycle” band


who needs two wheels ?


Stephen Hughes provided the above picture of Besses o’ th’ Barn Band preparing to travel in a charabanc to a concert at the BBC c. 1924.


Not all such trips are successful, as evidenced by the above picture of the Bristol (Connecticut) Band’s bus when it ran off the road into the river.

There are many accounts of mishaps occurring to bands as they went about their business – a few examples are:

Forth Brass Band (Lanarkshire) – In 1893 a brake containing the members of the band met with an accident while passing through Motherwell, the vehicle split in two spilling the passengers to the ground – the back portion were left while the horse took fright and bolted down the street with the other portion. Several members of the band were injured and the horse ran down two children before being brought to a standstill.

May 1905 – On Saturday afternoon the members of the Batley Old Brass Band had an unpleasant experience. They were playing a lively march on the way to a contest at Linthwaite when they were run into by a gentleman on a motorcycle. The rider was accompanied by his daughter, who was accommodated with a seat in front of the machine. The result of the collision was that several bandsmen were thrown down, and their instruments scattered, while the motorist and his daughter were pitched on to the road with some violence.

Suckley Excelsior Band (Worcestershire) – On one occasion the band was returning from an engagement at Broadwas Court, and had to cross the River Teme, and when the whole band stepped onto the ferry boat it sank. The bandsmen grabbed the cords on the side of the big drum and sailed across under their own efforts, reaching the bank damp but undaunted.

While we are on a morbid note – the Canadian Territorial Staff Band of the Salvation Army, formed in 1907, consisted of around 40 members. In the early hours of May 29, 1914, while on its way to the Army’s International Congress in London, the ship on which they were travelling – The Empress of Ireland – was struck by the Norwegian collier Storstad and sank in 14 minutes. Only eight bandsmen survived. 1,012 people perished in the accident, which remains the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history.



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