Four unknowns to puzzle over

Perhaps the bandsman’s version of Where’s Wally? Spot the bandsmen in the crowd. It reminds me of the crush, trying to play a static piece at the Durham Miners’ Gala, on the return journey particularly, when the crowds throng the streets, and the bands are surrounded by ‘happy’ audiences. This is an unknown location, but obviously a great celebration of some sort.

Excelsior, a Latin word often translated as ‘higher’, ‘excellent’, or ‘upwards’. In the case of bands, it implied they were a notch better than the ‘ordinary’ bands. Many British bands have given themselves the ‘Excelsior’ name (some 325 at the latest count). The earliest of these is Okehampton Excelsior, which dates from 1828, but it did not gain the Excelsior tag until much later (perhaps the 1880’s). The actual earliest known is the Dundee Excelsior Band in 1859. Of course, the later tags of ‘Silver’ and ‘Prize’ became more popular in the succeeding years. ‘Silver’ from 1872, and ‘Prize’ – unknown, but certainly not long after contests took off seriously in the 1860’s. This band is an Excelsior Band, but no other clues to its identity.

An unknown ‘Blue Ribbon Mission’ brass band. I can’t make out enough detail on the drum to match to any known band (particularly, any of the 420 ‘mission’ bands or 45 ‘Blue Ribbon’ bands that I have records of). Many of the temperance bands were associated with the various temperance organisations in the 19th century, of which the Blue Ribbon Army was one, and the bands often did not state in their name the particular group they were linked to.

This one is a puzzle. Three photos of a band, probably from the 1950’s. Obviously well turned out in full uniforms, with a large proportion of young players. No other clues to their identity.

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