Punishments for banding infractions were harsh in the 19th century. Rules were common, strict and often involved fines and other measures. These three cornet players had split notes during a contest, losing the band their first place. As you can see, the bandmaster is standing guard with his extended baton (shillelagh), while the local mill owner (and band sponsor) sits behind on a gravestone to ensure justice is done. Euphonium soloist George is in the background, enjoying the suffering of his colleagues who dashed his hopes of another winner’s medal for his collection.


Below is the band before the infamous split notes/stocks incident mentioned above. The band is waiting for the charabancs to convey them to the contest. As you can see, the bandmaster, in his ceremonial poncho, still wields his ritual baton (shillelagh).


[Sadly this is actually a picture of an unknown band, from an undated postcard – so if anyone recognises the location…?)

Seriously though, the first sentence above is only too true. I have previously posted about the Wylam Colliery Band, Stand Band and Dodworth’s Band School rules here, in June 2019, but I couldn’t resist this image and the “story” it conjured up!

There are many tales of bandsmen and their escapades and the resulting consequences, ranging from fines to expulsion to court cases (even death in one case when a brawl got out of hand). The rules were there to protect the band and its members (even from themselves) from inadvertent, careless or malicious acts. However I have not encountered any “punishment” meted out for bad playing!


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