A Means Of Enlivening The Community
Chapter 3 - Steady, Sober Men
By what financial means the Slaidburn Brass Band got its first set of instruments we do not at present know, but its title at least tells us the type of instruments in use. Brass instruments were the only ones available in the late 1800s and early 1900s as electro plating of instruments to give a "silver-plate" finish was in its infancy. The term "Brass Band" has stuck to this day as a general description of the Band Movement, but some people do get a little hot under the collar when their band's title does not mention the word "brass" in it!
The Rector of Slaidburn at the turn of the century was the Rev'd. James Garnett, who filled his Parish Magazine with news of many village activities, including the Band and he took a particular interest in its musical activities and welfare during his time as Rector of the Parish. The first mention of the newly re-formed Band is made in a lengthy report on the Whit Monday Festival of June 1899:
“Then came the Slaidburn Brass Band under the leadership of Mr. William Turner. This band made every promise of attaining to a high state of efficiency, and the selections played must have given satisfaction to the inhabitants and the numerous visitors who lined the route of the procession.”
The Whit Monday Festival was, and still is, one of the highlights of the year in the Hodder Valley. In its old format described by Rector Garnett, the event began at 9.30am with a procession around the village via Whiteholme (then the home of the King-Wilkinson family) and return to the Parish Church for the service. Milk and buns were afterwards provided at lunch for the children of the Parish and the event continued into the afternoon with sports and entertainment for the children and musical interludes from the band. This timetable was maintained until the 1970s when the creation of the Spring Bank Holiday and changes in the format resulted in its truncation to an afternoon event and its re-naming as the "May Queen Festival and Sports", but thankfully many of the traditional parts of the day, begun in the last century, are still continued.
However, back in 1899, a surprise awaited the Band:
“In Chapel Street the Weslyan Sunday Scholars joined and the whole procession proceeded to Whiteholme. Here the procession numbered over 400 and were met by Mr. W. King-Wilkinson, Esq. and family. The Band played a selection of music in front of the hall, whilst the children marched round the grounds and every person present received a sixpence from the generous hearted donor - W. King-Wilkinson, who then announced that it would be a great pleasure to him to present the Band with new instruments and uniforms - an announcement that was received with loud cheers. Mr. W. Turner replied, expressing the thanks of the whole parish for Mr. King-Wilkinson's open hearted kindness and generosity.”
Quite a surprise! The new equipment was not long in arriving. A formal presentation was made at Whiteholme in August of 1899 and seen by the public at Newton Sports a couple of days later:
“The Band arrayed in their handsome new uniforms of navy blue with red facings and peaked caps. ...great credit is due to Mr. W. Turner, tailor of Slaidburn, for the success of the uniforms which were made for him by Mssrs. Porter & Dowd of London.”
Another name also appears at this time which may result in Slaidburn being put into brass band legend. In his report on the presentation of the instruments and uniforms at Whiteholme the Rev'd Garnett writes:
“After the ceremony the Band played a couple of selections under the conductorship of Mr. R. H. Aldridge of Southport.”
This gentleman was well known in the area as a reputable musician and piano tuner who often took holidays in the area combining business with pleasure and also tuning the pianos of the local people. It is thought that this is the man who recommended Slaidburn as a holiday venue to William Rimmer who was to immortalise the name of "Slaidburn" into one of the most popular brass band marches ever written - but more of that later.
Towards the end of this eventful year and century the band held its 1st Anniversary Supper in October 1899:
“On Saturday evening October 28th the members of the Slaidburn Brass Band celebrated the anniversary of the band's formation in November 1898 with a potato pie supper and social evening. The bandmaster, Mr. W. Turner, commented on the difference between the commencement of the old band and the new, in many ways, and urged on individual effort.”
This report at least clarifies the date of the re-forming of the Band in November 1898, but unfortunately does not expand on Bandmaster Turner's comments on the comparisons between the "old band and the new."