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Brixham Town Band
The town of Brixham has a long history of brass and military style bands and not too long ago the Brixham Heritage Museum staff discovered that a Brass Band existed in the year 1896 and have a photo supporting this - this early band was named the Brixham Artillery band. Previous to this our earliest information about our band was of the Brixham Excelsior Band which existed in 1910 when a Mr. Cauley was the bandmaster. The earliest record in Brixham Heritage Museum of the Brixham British Legion Band must have been around the 1920s. There is a photographic record of the Brixham British Legion band playing outside the town hall in 1937 for the King George the sixth's coronation celebrations. Since 2002 when the band lost their involvement with and were no longer able to play at the Royal British Legion club premises, the band has been known as the Brixham Town Band.
1927 to 1937
The Brixham British Legion Band was first formed in 1927. Before this time there were two bands, firstly the Brixham Excelsior Band which existed previous to 1911, we have a photo taken during that year with names of members printed underneath. Secondly another band, of which we also have a photo, was the Brixham Military Subscription Band this was in existence in 1914, when this photo was taken. We believe that this band was the forerunner of the present Brixham Royal British Legion Band.
The Bandmaster of the Brixham Excelsior Band was at one time a Mr Cauley. A granddaughter of whom tells us that several of the family played in that band. The Military Subscription Band was conducted by another Brixham man called Bill Fletcher, who several of the retired members can remember.
We do not have many details of the early days of this band except for information given to us by older retired members and their relatives. One such member can recall joining the band in 1928 at the age of seven years. ln those days the band used to play outside the Town Hall on Saturday evenings and we are told by another member that the crowds used to form six deep around the Bolton Cross to listen to the band and chat about the Brixham Rugby and Brixham United matches which took place the same day.
Before the Second World War the British Legion Band used to rehearse in a room which we believe at one time was used as a trawlers sail loft and stores. These premises were situated near Bump Street on land now called Beach Approach. After their Saturday evening performance s at the Bolton Cross the band would carry their instruments back to the band room. The Bass Drum was then laid flat on the floor and the collection boxes were tipped out on the drum and the money was counted out. This same bass drum is now on view at Brixham Museum. The son of a tenor horn player, called Tom Tucker. tells us how as a boy he used to collect for the band and as a reward he used to be given the odd coppers for helping. Another young man now in his seventies can recall going in the Conservative Club with a collection box, he was always looked at suspiciously and was told by club members to keep his hands out of the box. Apparently they didn't trust him. this young man was Ernie Criddle.
1937 to 1957
Around 1937/1938 the band were asked to play at a garden fete at 'Wadeton Court' by a well known person namely Sir Hugh Goodson. The band were very pleased because this was then a prestigious occasion. After the fete Sir Hugh presented the band with a sizeable cheque which was to go towards new uniforms.
After this came the Second World War when many of the band were called up to the forces and the instruments were put in store.
After the War and De-mob the surviving members got together again. I am told by the ex secretary's son Mr Billy Kikkie that the restart of the band was decided in a room at the back of the Blue Anchor Pub at the bottom of Fore Street.
So the Brixham British Legion Band was reformed in 1947. We still have a copy of the rules which were drawn up and also copies of the Minutes of every AGM since 1947.
In 1996 we celebrated 50 years since restarting the band. Unfortunately the Minutes of the Bands meeting prior to the war years were either discarded or lost.
Between 1947 and 1948 the band began giving Summer concerts at the Quay side under the Fish Market. The market in those days had a corrugated iron roof with steel posts supporting it. Between the posts hung tarpaulin curtains which could be drawn across in bad weather and there were fish stores at each end of the market. Our local band supporters used to sit on the fish boxes during the concerts and there was always the smell of fish.
ln 1948 the band were offered the use of a room at the lce Factory in King Street for rehearsals, also storage of instruments and music. At times it was very cold and members had to play with overcoats on, but afterwards some of the band would retire to the Maritime lnn nearby for a drink and warm up.
ln 1952 the band entered for the South West Brass Band Association Contest and were placed third being only two points behind the winners of the third section. A shield was presented to the band on this occasion.
Around this time Mr Eric Jordain, a prominent businessman and member of the band, owned a Morris Commercial Furniture Van in which the band used to ride in to many engagements. This would not be allowed nowadays. There weren't many car owners in the band in those days and it saved a lot of expense of hiring a coach. Some time after this we invited a Mr Geddes of Burton Coaches to be Vice President. He was a good friend to the band and always gave a concession when hiring a coach and he did the same for many charities in the town.
Between 1945 and 1955 the bandmusical director was Mr Jock McManus a very efficient ex-military bandmaster but unfortunately he had to retire through ill health. He was succeeded by Mr George Halstaff a professional musician. During the summer of 1955 the band were asked to play on a pleasure boat, one of the Western Lady fleet owned then by Mr Ron Edhouse. Some of these ex navy MGBs are still in use today and during the summer months are used for the Brixham to Torquay ferry service and trips to the River Dart. One particular evening cruise was a great success. No one was sea sick, but several pieces of music were lost over board in the breeze. There was a bar on board so a good time was had by all.
1957 to 1966
During 1957 the band appointed Mr Ken Grainger as Bandmaster who managed to keep the moral and performance of the band to a high standard. Sadly Mr Jock McManus passed away that year and Mr Halstaff had retired due to ill health. lt was during 1957 that a Mr Ned Jordain retired, he was an honorary member that had trained many younger members to play. Mr Jordain's son Eric then carried on the good work.
lt was in 1959 that another bandmaster was appointed, this was a Mr White from Torquay. Mr Grainger had resigned because his work as a commercial traveller took him away from the area.
During the year 1960 Mr Douglas Hutchings joined us and he was made deputy bandmaster, he had moved to Brixham from Beaminster in Dorset were he had conducted the village band after retiring from the Royal Marines. Mr Hutchings gave a great boost to the Brixham band and was a loyal member for many years.
Up until this time all the bands equipment and chairs had been carried to the fish Market and back to the lce Factory in Eric Jordains Furniture van, but this year we had an offer from the landlord of the Rising Sun Pub opposite the Fish Market to keep our chairs and equipment at the back of the Pub. The landlords name was Mr Edward's and of course many of the band used to nip for a quick one at half time. The only trouble was that there were always two members of the band that seemed to hang on for an extra drink. Now these men were Scrumpy drinkers and this stuff seemed to be much stronger in those days. The band had to strike up before they came out of the Pub and the music never seemed to sound as sweet for the second half of the programme. These two members were Enoch Wills (Trombone) and Bill Pople (Bb Bass). l don't think they ever washed their instruments out and rough cider does not agree with brass instruments.
ln 1962 Duggie Hutchings was elected bandmaster and the bands performances improved to a much better standard. lt was realised the condition of most of the band instruments had deteriorated so it was decided that all members would make a donation towards repairs and to gradually replace the worse ones. The music was also in a bad state so all members donated five shillings from their honorarium to replace and buy new music. A set of marches for the band would have cost about E1.00 compared with over E10.00 in 1962.
instruments were also much cheaper in those days. One member bought his own second hand cornet in 1956 for twenty five pounds. Nowadays a » similar instrument would cost around E250.00 or even more for a brand new one.
ln 1964 an offer came from the Harbour Master Capt. Goule (who incidentally was a member of the band) to keep our chairs and equipment in a fisherman's store on the quay, which we gladly accepted. lt was very convenient having such important people in the band.
During the summer months the band used to play for Community singing on the quay. The idea came from concerts which took place annually, when the singing was conducted by Sir Arthur Cager and Howell James of Wembley Cup final fame, the concerts were sponsored by the Daily Express who also provided the song sheets.
1966 to 1975
ln 1966 the band moved to Bakers Hill H.Q. of the Brixham Branch of the British Legion. The premises were much more comfortable than the old ice factory. That year the band advertised for more cornet players as we were getting rather short in number. Cornetists are a problem for most bands and they are a most important section of any band.
lt was about 1969 that we decided on a new style of uniforms. We changed from button up to the neck Royal Marine style tunics to a more casual Blazer style with the Legion Badge and maroon ties. At the AGM of 1969 our long serving secretary retired. Bill Kikkie had given 23 years of loyal service to the band, he was a window cleaner in the town and was a founder member at the start in 1946.
During 1970 the band entered the South West Bras Band Association Contest at Paignton and won fourth prize in the third section.
ln 1971 Mr Arty Braund decided to retire. He had played in the band before the War. His instrument was the Eb Bass. Another ex Royal Marine bands man joined in 1971 and he was Mr Lionel Tatton who was very welcome. lt was also about this time that a few Woodwind players joined us and as we were short in the Cornet section the Clarinets were very useful. Duggie Hutchings stood down from Bandmaster to play principal cornet and Mr Tatton took over the Baton.
ln 1972 Mr Sam Little was appointed Hon, Secretary and later proved to be a big asset to the band. Sam and Ted Thomas a long standing member. decided to start a youth band and with a few senior members it became a success. Many young members were trained and went on to join the Senior band which was the whole idea. Without these young players the band would not be so successful today. Several of the youth band went on to join the Forces as Bands men. One of these members was Robert Thomas who joined the band as a seven year old in 1964 and went on to join the Band of the Light Dragoons. He was made redundant from the Army a few years ago after 19 years as a musician. At this time he was our principal cornet and Deputy Musical Director of our band. He in turn, is now training the Youth Section. Also in 1972 the band decided that the title of Musical director be implemented and that position would be given to Duggie Hutchings. The Bandmaster title would still be kept by Lionel Tatton.
During the Summer of 1973 the band gained another important member who had just retired as a Military Bandmaster. This was a Mr John Pope, a Brixham man with ARCM qualifications. Mr John Pope took over as Musical Director of the Senior and Youth Bands and we became very busy, playing at school fetes and concerts, as well as our Summer engagements on the Quay side.
The band have played under the old fish market since 1947 during the summer months. Without the collections from these concerts the band could not have survived financially. A band of about 30 instruments must be kept in good repair and this costs a lot of money. We just cannot afford to buy many new instruments so the next best thing is to purchase good second hand ones, and these also have to be insured. New music has to be bought each year to try and keep up with the times.
The Brixham Royal British Legion Band received no help at this time from the Torbay Borough Council although we play at least 25 concerts at the Quay side every year. We even have to pay our own car parking expenses whilst playing on the Quay. We pride ourselves on providing free entertainment for local people and visitors on the Quay side on Mondays and Thursdays throughout the summer season. Our volunteer collectors are always on hand if you wish to help out the band funds! These collections are our bread and butter.
Almost since the restart of the band in 1946 our president had been Mr George Braddick, he was a town councillor and was also the Chairman of the Brixham branch of the now Royal British Legion for many years. This year (1973) he resigned as President and became patron of the band. Mr Alf Vincent had now become our President and he and his wife Joyce helped us in many ways.
1975 to 1980
During 1975 it was decided to renew our uniform, this time to be a little different with blue lapels on navy blue jackets with navy blue trousers. lt was about this time that a few ladies joined the band (it must have been the new uniforms !) and in 1976 Elizabeth Burnell became our Secretary. The cost of our new uniforms then was £720.75. A lot of money for us to raise at that time. lt gives the public a better image to look smart and also is a morale booster to the band.
At the end of 1976 we held a Dinner and Dance at the Northcliffe Hotel, a very enjoyable occasion. These social gatherings are a good time to give the bands mens wives and families a little treat for putting up with the times when we are absent from them during rehearsals and playouts. lt was during 1976 that Eddy Phillips our very proficient percussionist retired from the band to take over as Musical director of Brixham Orpheous Male Voice Choir. His place was taken by Mr Reg Young.
Youth band members were now beginning filter to the Senior Band and we were very proud of them. As Mr Pope was teaching music in the local schools he has encouraged many young people to join us. and previous young members who had joined the Forces used to play whilst home on Leave.
On one occasion when attending a Royal British Legion Rally at Taunton with the band, Robert Thomas was congratulated by a Brigadier for his rendering of the Last Post and Reveille. Also in 1976 we played at the Festival Theatre in Paignton for the Christmas Noel Concert which was a great honour for the band. This year five member s of the band were presented with frame certificates for over 25 years of service to the band. The members Eric Jordain, Bob Loram, John Stapleton, Bill Kikkie and Arty Braund, most of whom were members since 1946.
One member of the band can recall a few funny moments of the past such as the time when the band marched around the town publicising a visiting Circus. An Elephant was leading the parade of animals and Clowns and the band were marching behind them. Elephants are not fussy where they relieve themselves, so we had to try to avoid the miniature steaming mountains which were deposited on the roads in front of us to say nothing of the odour.
There was another incident when one member who unfortunately had an artificial right eye, was marching up front on the left side of the band playing his trombone, when we turned right at the bottom of Middle Street into the Strand you might guess what happened. Yes, he marched straight on for several yards before he realised what was happening.
Around this time the majority of the band were getting on in years so we has to discontinue marching for a while but we still continued to support the Legions activities such as the annual visit to the Cenotaph Berry Head Road and various concerts during November.
Highlights of 1975 were — British Legion Rally at Newton Abbot Racecourse. Three concerts for Mencap. Two fetes for Rotary charities, Church fetes at Paignton and Churston and two events at Dartmouth the most important engagement for us was the occasion of naming the new Torbay Lifeboat by the Duke of Kent. the band has also played several inauguration ceremonies since that.
Over the next few years, attempts were made to contact any band in Torbay's twin town of Hamelin in Germany, with a view to a twinning association but this failed to materialise.
During 1978 a student at the "Decca Navigation College" in Brixham joined us for 3 months. He was a Norwegian and he returned on holiday a few years afterwards. lt was his wish that we twin with a band from his home town of Egersund. Unfortunately this also had to be abandoned because of our financial situation.
lt was also during 1978 that another founder member passed away this was our ex-secretary and percussionist Bill Kikkie a sad loss to us all.
1980 to 1988
At the AGM in 1980 we were sorry to receive resignation of John Pope through illness, he was an excellent Musical Director. Mr Duggie Hutchings was again asked to take the baton with Lionel Tatton and Sam Little in support. lt was early May in 1980 when we lost another four musicians through having to leave the area to attend college and University, but we soldiered on and did several charity concerts, including two at the Brixham Theatre. This same year we lost one of our very supportive Vice Presidéints. Mr Gordon Hodges was held in high esteem both locally and nationally in the Royal British Legion.
Mr Sam Little took over again as Youth Band Leader with the help of a few senior members. A new set of drums were purchased and the band started marching again, although it was hard work. Marching along and playing an instrument at the same time takes a lot of skill and concentration. Not only do the instruments seem to jump up and down but one has to read the music, march in a straight line and keep equal distance between players. We were now beginning to reap the benefits of having a Youth Band in support as we had lost a few musicians this year mostly from the cornet section.
During 1981 we gave concerts at Torquay Town Hall and Oldway Mansion a lovely venue to perform in. ln 1982 another founder member of 1948 passed away. Mr Bob Loram l hardly missed a rehearsal or concert during his unstinting service to the l band. He was originally a brilliant cornetist who had served in the Royal Marines during the war. He changed to playing the Bb Bass in later years. Bob had held posts of Secretary. Assistant Bandmaster, Treasurer and Librarian during his long service to the band.
lt was during 1982 that a Mr Bill Wallace passed away he had been Vice President for many years.
Until recently we had kept our chairs and equipment for our Quay concerts at various places such as Ernie Cudds store and the Rising Sun Pub run by Mr and Mrs George Shepherd all of whom were very supportive to the band. We now had the offer to store our band equipment at the Brixham Aquarium through the great kindness of Mrs Silley who was the owner of the premises. We still use it to this day. lt is right opposite the fish market where we perform our summer concerts and we are extremely grateful to Mrs Silley for this facility.
ln 1983 a Mr Jim Davis agreed to being our President. He was very interested in the band and rarely missed a concert or even rehearsal. Mr Alf Vincent and his wife had just retired because of failing health problems. They had given many hours of support to the band for many years. Lionel Tatton again took the baton so that Duggie Hutchings could lead the cornet section once more. This shows dedication to the band when someone of his calibre and ability does this for the well being of the band. lt is also a boon to have versatile players that are willing to move from one section to another. One such person was David Philips (our MD at this time) who shortly had to move from the area because of work commitments. He was also our Vice Chairman at the time.
During 1985 the band performed 21 concerts at the quayside and 21 engagements such as the 40th anniversary of "D Day", Remembrance services, Royal British Legion Rally at Lympstone, summer concert at Ugbrooke House for the R.B.L., Brixham Carnival, O.A.P's concert, as well as Stover Polish Camp, Chesire Home, St. Kildas old peoples home, Mencap, Brixham Hospital, Soroptimists, Rugby Club, Police Club and so on. Rather a busy year you might say but there was more to come and even the Youth Band, led by Sam Little became very busy.
ln 1986 Eric Jordain resigned a s Chairman after many years in the position. Duggie Hutchings took over the chair and Sam Little became Vice chairman. The lovely lady collectors had a record year that year, during our 25 performances on the quay.
The youth Band had a very good following that year, sometimes there was as many as 50 at rehearsals including senior members who helped to train recruits. The Senior band decided on new uniforms this year but it was to be ordinary navy Blue blazers with the badge of the Royal British Legion, and Grey trousers, with skirts for the ladies. Also the grey R.B.L. tie was worn. Although this uniform was simple it; was in keeping with the R.B.L. colours and was also easy to replace or add to.
The cost of uniforms for the whole band at the time was £1,399.75 and were to be used until 1996. David Philips returned to work close to home and we welcomed him back, because the cornet section consisted mainly of younger players who, although doing well were not experienced.
lt was a great disappointment to the band when in 1988 Duggie Hutchinfgs resigned from the band. He felt that he wasn't receiving the full commitment from a few younger members. Every band has a few ups and downs and unless everyone supports the band as much as possible something has to deteriorate a little. So this was one of our less popular times. Lionel Tatton once more took over the Baton and we soldiered on.
1988 to 1996
Sam and helpers kept the Youth Band going and we acquired red pullovers for the youngsters, with grey ties and they looked very smart on their engagements. With the help of Senior members we turned out for two carnivals, Brixham Hospital League of Friends and Cowtown, both great successes. For many years the band has supported local charities but there comes a time we need to help ourselves with the cost of replacement uniforms and new music. Some of our instruments have lasted over fifty years with T.L.C. but in time they wear out completely. We are constantly trying to improve on everything, but it is a struggle. At the AGM of 1991 Elizabeth Burnell resigned after many years of faithful service , she felt it was time to give a younger member a chance. Her successor was Mr Peter Robinson who remained Hon. Sec. for some years to come. Our Secretaries over the years have given up many hours of their free time and sometimes take a lot of hassle. It is not a job that anyone can take to so volunteers are few and far between.
lt was during 1992 that our solo Euphonium player, President and founder member Eric Jordain became ill and was very frustrated that he could not attend band functions. At one time he was one of the best players in the West Country and was congratulated by the great Harry Mortimer. Sam Little resigned as Chairman and Dave Phillips took over. Sam had been chairman since 1988 and had certainly helped the band immensely. The resignation of Lionel Tatton at the start of the season on the Quay took the band by surprise. Lionel had been a stalwart for many years. A letter of appreciation was sent to him for his valuable work with the band. Sadly he died. not long afterwards.
Sam Little stood in and ably carried the band through the season. David Phillips was elected MD at the AGM of 1993 and has instilled an enthusiasm into the band.
1994 was a very busy year and the bands performances improved wonderfully. One of our best engagements this year was to give a concert to the National over 60's Club run by the Salvation Army at the Festival Theatre in Paignton. lt was a privilege to perform in this theatre and our attendance was much appreciated by the audience.
1994 was a special year and we attended many parades for "D Day" celebrations, these included Brixham, Dartmouth and Buckfastleigh. The occasion at Dartmouth was especially exciting as we marched proudly from Kingswear on to the Ferry playing during the river crossing and through the streets of Dartmouth to the Bandstand. We took part in the commemoration service which was also attended by the Royal Marine Band of Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth. Afterwards we marched back to the ferry and returned to Kingswear playing all the way back to the quayside.
We also played at Torcross near Slapton, where many American Servicemen trained during the 1939 — 1945 war. We have played at the Tank Memorial several times in the past in memory of the Americans that lost their lives whilst training during Exercise Tiger. We always feel proud to be asked to take part in these special occasions for Ex—Service organisations.
Also during 1994 we performed a special concert with the Brixham Orpheous Male Voice Choir at St. Mary's Church. During the AGM that year a discussion took place about the future of the Youth Band. Uncle Sam Little, as he was affectionately known, with the help of a few other senior band members had done an excellent job over the years since 1972. We had been supported by parents and friends throughout these years and we appreciate all their help, without which our band may not be so successful today, but the declining numbers of young people joining the band was causing concern. lt was decided to combine the two bands and start a youth section within the Senior band. This could be achieved by Robert Thomas training them on Wednesday evenings before the rehearsal of the rest of the band. This has turned out to be a great success as the young people can sit in with the main band as they progress and then they feel they are really part of the band.
During 1995 we were extremely busy again with parades and services to commemorate the end of the war in Europe, V.E. Day! We were asked to perform all around the area. Altogether in 1995 we attended over 50 engagements including our regular concerts on the Quay.
The year of 1996 was our Special 50th anniversary of the Restart of the band in 1946. We celebrated with a concert in the Brixham Theatre during May and all local dignitaries were invited. We were very pleased with our performance. Another proud concert this year was at the Torbay Remembrance Festival on November 8th at the Festival Theatre in Paignton. We have had many admirable comments about our performance and are looking forward to being asked again.
Our band is very proud of our last 50 years of entertaining the people of Brixham and visitors to the area and our Service to the Brixham Branch Of the Royal British Legion and we look forward to continuing to do so. Most of the items included in the 50 year History of the Band have been taken from the Minutes of our A.G.M's and other meetings. I would like to thank retired members and their families for information freely given. I have also included a I few of my own memories and tried to make interesting reading. Also to Sarah my niece for editing and typing same.
1996 to present day (2012)
It was in the year 2001 that the band lost its affiliation to the Brixham Royal British Legion club and along with this its use of the clubs premises for band room and rehearsals. The band was suitably renamed the BRIXHAM TOWN BAND and continued with its community support commitments, numerous concert engagements and weekly concerts on the quayside during the summer season.