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Dalton Town Band
By about 1870, the musical scene in Dalton seems to have been rich and varied with an incredible number of bands, orchestras, choirs and minstrel troupes all drawing on the same reservoir of talent. Of the bands in the town at this time, the names alone are worth recording. They included: The Scrap Band, The Volunteer Band, The Flute Band, The Bread and Treacle Band, Park Mines Band and several others. The story of the bands in Dalton at this time is complicated, fascinating, and at times very humorous, and would be an excellent subject for further research. Here we can do no more than give a brief outline.
The constantly changing pattern of the Dalton band scene makes it difficult to pin-point the precise beginning of the Town Band, but it seems to have been about 1870. From newspaper reports and a short anonymous chronicle in the town band's record book, it appears that in 1894, the two principal bands were the town band and the Salvation Army band, and that the Salvation Army band under the able leadership of Bandmaster Jim Coward who later emigrated to South Africa and became Mayor of Germiston in the Transvaal, was the more successful of the two. It included in its ranks several fine musicians; among them were Albert and Herbert Williams, brothers of Sir Thomas Melling-Williams, later according to an undated cutting from the Dalton News, of the British Air Command.
In January 1897 the annual meeting of the town band was held at the Wellington Hotel, and the following officers were elected: Mr. T. Deason as chairman; Mr. R. Atkinson as treasurer; Mr. W. Boundy as secretary; and Mr. H Baker as conductor. Very soon after this meeting had taken place, there was some disagreement among the members of the band, and, whatever the cause may have been, it was serious enough to make some of them terminate their association with the town band and start a band of their own. This was officially formed as the Amateur Brass Band at a meeting held in the Wellington Hotel in March 1897. Mr. H. Baker was appointed as conductor of the new band which survived for many years, and frequently performed at concerts, parades, etc.
Bob Atkinson remained loyal to the town band, and in the succeeding years established his reputation as a solo euphonium player. His fame spread rapidly, and it was not long before many of the leading bands of Lancashire and Yorkshire started making him tempting offers for his services. A well-known band of the time 'Besses o' th' Barn', almost succeeded in clinching the deal, but they never knew that his final refusal of their offer depended entirely on the toss of a coin.
One result of the difference of opinion between the two factions was that the town band was left in a sadly depleted condition and without a conductor. Fortunately for them, it was only a matter of a few weeks before they acquired the services of Mr. John H. Carter of Roose, a man who was destined to lead the band to a greater glory than they had ever known before. Under his inspired leadership, they entered and won competitions, and became known as the Dalton Town Prize Band. Mr. Carter resigned as conductor on 2 April 1913, and his place was taken by Mr. Atkinson, who because of ill health was unable to join the army when war broke out the following year. This, together with the fact that many of the members of the band were miners, who were exempt from military service and not required to work weekends, meant that during the war years Bob's Band, as it became known, was the only one in Furness that could meet and practise regularly. It was in constant demand to play at concerts, galas, etc., and raised a great deal of money for the war effort and charity.
Moving forward many years from the time of the First World War to the latter part of the century, the Dalton Town Band was once again in a state of decline. Numbers had dwindled alarmingly after the departure of its popular and successful conductor, Alan Fitzsimmons. Having sold their bandroom, the band then faced a dismal future without a home, players or conductor. Consequently as a result of hard work and determination by Sheana Bark and others, it rebuilt itself from the bottom up by starting a learners' class for children. The success of this was due in no small measure to the help given by a man with an undisputed reputation as one of the best brass band teachers in the North West - the late Mr. Norman Martin of Lindal. In 1993, ex-army bandsman, Bernard Northwood L.T.C.L., N.A.B.B.C., took over leadership of the band, and aided by an Arts Council Lottery Award for the purchase of new instruments in 1997, since then the standard of performance of the Dalton Town Band has steadily improved.