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Appleton-le-Moors Brass Band

The big drum is silent now, and hangs in retirement in the front room of a cottage in Appleton-le-Moors. In its heyday 50 years ago it was the centre of one of the best village bands in North Yorkshire. The drum, nearly 2 ft in diameter, has a magnificent coat of arms emboldened on the rim. It was bought partly by members of the band, and Mrs Shepherd, wife of Captain Shepherd, who lived at the Hall, volunteered to pay half of whatever sum was needed for the purchase of a really good instrument befitting the high quality of the players. Started in 1870 by John Tomlinson, grandfather of Miss Tomlinson, in whose house the drum now hangs, the band continued to play in the area for over 80 years. But attitudes to village entertainment changed, and through lack of support the band was forced to give up in the early 1930's. Mr Tomlinson and his four sons, James. Frank, George and John, Messrs George Forth, Tom Gray, Fred Cole, William Richardson, Dick Barker, Edward Harding, Tom Strickland and Ralph Richardson were the core of the band for many years. Tom Strickland joined them at the age of 12, and played for 24 years.

PRIVILEGE

Mr Forth had the privilege of playing the drum. The other instruments, the trumpets, cornets, euphonium and big horn were all the property of the players, each having bought his own. At a time when the village employed two shoe-makers. two carpenters, a blacksmith, a shoesmith, and a tailor for its 270 odd inhabitants, the band consisted of between nine and 12 players. Individuals practised in back bedrooms and front sitting rooms, and then the band would get together and rehearse in the carpenter's or blacksmith's shop. At one time a vacant cottage was used, and this became so popular that it became known as the Band Room. There was no electricity at that time and all the rehearsals were carried out by the light of oil lamps and candles at least twice a week, throughout the year, and more often when engagements loomed. At village dances church fetes, at Sinnington Club Feast, and at Christmas the band played regularly. No village function was complete without its music punctuated by the rhythmic beat of its great drum. It was at Christmas that the band reached the height of its annual programme and each year, for over 30 years, the frosty moorland air carried the notes of music clearly over a great distance. Starting at one end of the village at midnight the notes of "Christmas Awake" announced that it was Christmas Day. "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" and other carols followed as the band proceeded down the village. At the halfway Mark, Mr Tomlinson's house, all members received refreshments in the form of cakes, mincepies and whatever drink they fancied. Revitalised, they set off again to play to the rest of the village. At the end they would gather at the home of Mr Gray another keen bandsman, and ended the night with Christmas cake and wine.

SNOWSTORM

But that's not the end of the year's activities for the band, it was the beginning. The week following Christmas was a busy one for the bandsmen for that was the time when they took their music to the surrounding villages. Carrying their brass instruments, and the big drum. the men would walk the distance, setting off for a different village each day. Frequently they had just set out when a violent snowstorm would overtake them. But unperturbed, they would press on to give the promised enjoyment to all who heard their music. Such was the enthusiasm, that young talent was introduced into the band at the age of 12. The result was that it continued its existence well into the 20th century, thus becoming a way of life with the villagers, one of whom, recalling those early days, says "Christmas is not the same without a band." But attitudes and outlook change, and with the passing of time the end came in sight. These strong and robust Yorkshire bandsmen grew older, and when no new blood came forward to carry on the tradition interest began to wane. The end finally came when Dick Barker, one of the last stalwarts was taken ill and forced to retire in the early 1930s. Since then the drum has been silent. Hanging in a place of honour in the front sitting room of Miss Tomlinson's house, away from dampness, and suspended from the ceiling beams in an attempts to foil nibbling mice who show a particular interest in vellum, the drum, in perfect condition, awaits the hand of the next worthy drummer.