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The band has been a part of the social life of the village for ten decades at the time of writing. Since its inception it is estimated that more than 150 local people, mostly men but also some girls in the last few years have played in the band. This is an attempt to gather together some facts so that we may know how it was formed, some of the personnel involved, and incidents which have occurred along the way.
Minutes of a meeting held on the 4th of May 1909 state that:-
“It was resolved to form a club in connection with a band.”
“It was resolved that it be called the Flookburgh Village Hall Brass Band.”
“That no member be allowed to put less than 6d per night into the club.”
“That the first payment to start on the 8th of May 1909.”
“That no-one be allowed to enter the band unless he is a member of the Flookburgh Village Hall or intending to become one.”
“That anyone blowing an instrument in the street will be fined 2/6 or forfeit their instrument.”
“That each man pay 16/- before he is a full member.”
“That every member pay their 16/- before March 4th 1910”
Here had been set out the ground rules.
A book of rules appeared in January 1912 and every member had to sign to say that they agreed to abide by them and also had to sign over a sixpenny stamp, an official receipt, on being given an instrument.
The first man to sign this book was Peter Butler who was a blacksmith and, later, caretaker and steward of the billiards room in the Village Hall for many years and indeed remained the caretaker until the demise of the billiards and snooker room in the 1950s. For over thirty years now it has been the bandroom.
The second man was John (Jack) Wilson who was the uncle of Edward Wilson of Sandgate Farm and the longest and only surviving member of the original band. In about 1980 it was arranged to have a photograph of him with the band in front of the Market Cross just as the first photograph of the band had been
On the 4th of May 1909 thirty names were listed as joining and on that day 25 of those paid either 1/- or 6d and thereafter, weekly amounts varying from 6d to 4/-. Twenty-one men are subsequently shown to have paid their 16/- which made them full members. Each member then had to pay 3d per week into a practice fund.
All the members were local men, a good percentage being fishermen. There were a few who were not players but served on the committee as President, Chairman, Secretary or Treasurer etc.
There is a documentary report of a concert given by the band in 1910 when; “Lord Richard Cavendish never flinched from his place on the platform even when it's playing was most powerful.” Lord Richard was elected president on the 28th of August 1925.
H.M.Manning is first mentioned in the minutes of a meeting on 18th of May 1925 but under his previous name of H.Butler when he seconded a proposition that the band offer their services to Holker Club for their fete in Holker Park. Harold played with the band for about forty-six years, several of those years as principal cornet and later as bandmaster.
It is recorded in an almanac for November 1909 that, “The members of Flookburgh band were most energetic, diligently practicing at all possible times and in all available places to the untold delight of the inhabitants -- some of whom would leave their warm cottages and gather outside The Hall to listen in silent admiration to the music of “Our Band.” We heard of one dear old lady who was almost moved to tears on the 14th when it was playing near Sandgate. She had never heard anything so beautiful before, it was nearly like Heaven.”
The name Flookburgh Silver Band first appears in minutes dated 28th of December 1937 but the minutes of a meeting on the 31st of January read :- “Moved by J.Wright and seconded by W. Dickinson and carried,that the name of the band be changed from Flookburgh Village Hall Brass Band to Flookburgh Silver Band.”
The secretary then was Fred Metcalfe, Treasurer; G. Bowker, Chairman Joe Moyle and Bandmaster was J.Cropper.
October 18th 1938 “That 100 letters of appeal be sent out on behalf of the uniform fund.”
The first new uniforms were ordered in 1939, therefore would only be worn once or twice before the war. On Tuesday the 7th of February 1939 a Mr. Evans of Beaver & Co. Ltd. came to a meeting in the Hope and Anchor Hotel to discuss styles and material etc. Arrangements were made for Mr. Evans to take measurements on Sunday February 29th. The uniforms chosen were a sort of Airforce Blue with red or perhaps nearer pink trimming, the tunics having a row of gold buttons down the front and high collars which fastened at the front with two hooks and eyes, as army uniforms were at that time. There was also a webbing type belt which had a 3” square gold plate with a gold button inset. On the back of the plate were again, two hooks with which to fasten the belt. After having written this, it was noticed that at a meeting on the 14th of February it was carried, “That the Airforce Material be chosen for the uniforms.” There was a special Bandmaster's uniform and one for a boy, namely Jim Dickinson. After the war this boy's uniform was inherited by Jack Manning and altered to fit him by the then chairman Mr. Joe Moyle and his wife and was proudly worn by him on his first engagement with the band on Remembrance Sunday 1946.
There were many Whist Drive / Dances at which the admission was usually about 1/- for each of the events i.e. 1/- Whist drive and 1/- or sometimes 6d for the dance. On one occasion in October 1939 it was carried that; “The secretary order 100 paper hats and 1000 streamers for the dance. The band organized the catering for supper and the cost per person was ls:3d (61/2p). Raffle tickets for a cake and a bottle of port were 1d each (1/2p).
Just before the war, the bandroom was a large room above the Hope and Anchor and indeed was so until about 1947 and we know it was only from 1939 because it is stated in a minute of February 2nd 1939 that; “Mr. Moyle and Mr. Cropper should interview Mr. T.Bailey (Landlord of the Hope & Anchor) with a view to obtaining full use of the bandroom.” It is assumed that the upper room of the Hope & Anchor had been used for some time but now it was the official bandroom. A minute of a meeting held in the bandroom at the Hope & Anchor on the 11th of February 1947 says that; “The present bandroom at the Hope & Anchor should be retained at the fee of 2/6 weekly”, although the school was used for the classes through the Education Authority while the old bandroom was still retained.
By April 1940 it was becoming obvious that the band was having difficulties due to the fact that many of the players had gone into the armed services. A meeting was called for the 9th of April in the Village Hall to discuss the situation. There is no account of the outcome of that meeting. The last recorded meeting before the break because of war war took place on the 10th of June 1940.
Throughout the Second World War there was no band as most of the players were away in the various armed forces but as soon as they began to trickle back, in 1945, it was reformed.
The first meeting after the war was on July 25th 1946 but the band had been rehearsing, albeit with only about nine players, for some months or perhaps a year before that date. Joe Moyle was again elected chairman, Fred Benson secretary and bandmaster Septimus Benson. Mr. J.B. Smalley was elected President and Mrs. Smalley one of the vice presidents. The annual subscription was set at 2/6 for adults and 1/- for the under 16s.
The principal cornet player from the time that the band was reformed was Sydney Bland, an excellent musician who remained in that position for about twenty years. For fifteen of those years the line-up of first comets was Sydney Bland, Jack Manning and Leslie Moyle, the latter being a hard working stalwart of the band and secretary for many years. Sydney had played with Arnside Band before the war and by the standards of the band at that time he was outstanding. Having said that, he would probably have made an excellent dance band trumpeter as he had a natural flair for free playing. He could double and triple tongue which was rare then and in fact only he and Bill Dickinson could do this. With the standard of music played now it is essential for all players, even Basses, to at least double tongue. Syd had a good ear and could busk well but was always terribly nervous at contests which he dreaded.
Barrow Steelworks Band offered to give a concert in aid of funds for Flookburgh Band. This was accepted and it was held in the Village Hall on the 6th of October 1946. Two vocalists offered their services on that evening, those being Mrs. J. Rainford and Alfred Couperthwaite. It is not
After 1947 the infants' school became the bandroom. The rehearsals were then run as night classes through the education system and Jack Jacobs came from Barrow as conductor and teacher. He started off with a class of about twenty boys out of which came three players, two of whom stayed for just a few years then after perhaps the mid-1950s only Jack Manning, who at the present time has been in the band for fifty years, remained.
Septimus Benson or Sep as he was always known, was a fisherman who was what would now be called “a character”, about whom many stories have been told. He was the principal cornet player before the war but did not play after it. He conducted for a while and started to teach a class of youngsters. Sep used to hang a cornet on a string from a beam and his pupils were expected to be able to produce notes from the instrument without touching it. This was to demonstrate that one did not need to use pressure on the lip to be able to play a brass instrument.
Sep was a very stiff, stocky man with a round face and bull neck. He walked or sat perfectly erect and blinked a lot. He was a broad spoken and outspoken man who always used the local dialect with some choice Anglo-Saxon expressions thrown in. On one particular evening he had been fishing and consequently arrived a little late at the rehearsal. As he approached the room the band was in full flow and he obviously didn't like what he heard. On arrival into the room he said: “That was awful, Y' want to ga outside an' lissen to yersels.” On another occasion when he was conducting a slow legato piece of music he was not satisfied with the way the music was going, so to demonstrate what he wanted he said; “Y' want to ga t't church an' lissen t't horgin.” Of course the phrases would be smoother on the organ - it doesn't have to breathe.
On one occasion when he mis-read a piece of music he said; “Nay it's our Lizzie's glasses, it's time she gat some new 'uns”. He obviously wore his sister's spectacles.
He always wore ankle length lace-up boots as did most men at that time, and at the back of each was a tab through which one could put a finger to facilitate pulling them on. Written on these tabs on Seps boots were the words “Little Gent” and as he conducted he lifted his left foot from the floor and tapped to the time of the music whereon the Little Gent flapped up and down, much to the amusement of the players.
There appears to have been difficulty about a bandroom around this time as there is mention of the possibility of a room at the Power Station (Flookburgh Farm, now called Stockdale Farm) and at the Station Hotel where the garage was vacant. There was also a proposition in January 1951 that the secretary should write to the council about permission to erect a hut on the bowling green.
Mr. Robert Bowker who lived at 94 Main Street, Flookburgh, which was then the “Dole Office”, was treasurer for the band for many years. His name appears as far back as 1924 and he may even have been treasurer before that. On his resignation in January 1949 he was made an Honorary Life Member and so far as can be seen he was the first person to be awarded this honour.
In 1952, Mr. Herbert Sutcliffe, who was at the time the conductor of Barrow Shipyard Band, was appointed Musical Director. Herbert started his working life as a coal miner and played cornet for several bands in east and south Lancashire but made his name with Irwell Springs band. He was noticed by the famous conductor and trainer William Halliwell who took him as principal cornet player on national tours and summer seasons. It was in this way that Herbert escaped from what would almost certainly otherwise have been a whole working life as a collier. He moved from Lancashire to be principal cornet for Workington Town but when their conductor was indisposed Herbert took the band to a contest and his days as a player were finished.
He moved to Barrow as conductor of the Shipyard Band where he stayed until his retirement when he moved to Inside but continued to conduct Flookburgh. Halliwell conducted winning bands at Belle Vue, Manchester, seventeen times between 1910 and 1936.
From the time that Mr. Sutcliffe came to Flookburgh Band in 1952 there was a different attitude. Here was a man who commanded respect even though he was a quiet, mild-mannered gentleman with obviously very little formal musical education but a real feeling for music. He was always addressed as “Mr. Sutcliffe” and didn't mix socially with the band. This probably sounds as though he was unfriendly or unsociable which he certainly was not. The band under his direction went from strength to strength at a time when there were very few good players and many who, to put it kindly, were mediocre. For fifteen years or so from the mid 1950s the band won many contests in the fourth section and were seldom out of the prizes He took the band to the national finals in London on two occasions, the first being in 1960, the second in 1973.
Promotion to the third section followed but with little success during the late 1970s so the band was again relegated to the fourth section. A celebration concert with Flookburgh and Vickers band was held in the Cumbria Grand Hotel to mark his 80th birthday. Mr. Sutcliffe, who died in 1983 or 84, was with the band for over thirty years and is very affectionately remembered by all who knew him. In 1985 the band donated the Herbert Sutcliffe Memorial Trophy to Cumbria Brass Band Association.
On the first trip to the National Finals in London, on the 15th of October 1960, only bandsmen were allowed to go and an application was made for 30 tickets for the fourth section contest and 30 for the Albert Hall concert. This number would include a few non-playing committee members. Each member was given an allowance of 5/- for meals in London. The fee for the coach on that occasion was £137-5-6.
In May 1963 the band played for Mr. Hugh Cavendish's twenty-first birthday which was a three day event, each day being for a different class of guests. Food and wine, provided by a firm of caterers from Manchester, was magnificent and unlimited. These, both lunches and teas, were laid out formally in a large marquee with the band playing several sessions each day.
On June 3rd 1967 the band played at a Conservatives Garden Fete at Graythwaite Hall which was attended by Margaret Thatcher who came round and spoke quite casually to members of the band. She was then either Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ted Heath or Education Secretary in his government. The occupant of Graythwaite Hall was Mr. Alfred Hall-Davies, who was then the M.P. for Morecambe and Lonsdale.
Throughout the 1960s the regular fee for almost every event was £15 and remained so until 1971 when it was raised to £18.
Annual dinners for the band were commenced in about 1967, the first one being at the Crown Hotel Grange, then at least two at the Commodore Hotel and in 1973 at the Netherwood. These continued for several years and were a great success and very popular. They gradually faded away and were replaced by discos.
In January 1968, thirty stacking chairs were bought at a cost of £61-10-0 which was from the proceeds of the 1967 Christmas Caroling. These are still in use after 28 years, and are very practical, but the seats, being bare plywood, are cold in winter. There has now been a proposition that new, more comfortable ones be purchased.
In the early days, brass bands were in what was generally known as high pitch but were subsequently changed to concert pitch so that they could play with other instruments such as organs and orchestral instruments. Flookburgh Band changed to concert in 1970. At first all the existing instruments were sent away to be altered and of course when new ones were acquired they were in low pitch.
Flookburgh Band has always been great at fund raising for local charities, numerous events were held through the 70s & 80s such as raft racing & cross-bay walks.
In 1984 it was decided that the band should hold a raft race on Sandgate shore to raise funds. Advertisements were placed in newspapers and posters were distributed over a wide area. Arrangements were made for refreshments and a bar, these being served inside marquees. There were various stalls and the usual raffles, tombola and other money making events. The whole thing depended on the weather being fine. When the day arrived the weather was beautiful and the tide just the right height, that is with the beck full but not over on the grass.
Crowds started to roll up about an hour before the designated starting time. The car parking field was full and all the refreshments sold out by the time it was due to start. There had never been anything like it in the village for numbers of spectators. The people in charge of refreshments had completely underestimated the numbers attending in spite of being told to expect thousands -- they simply could not believe that those numbers would turn up.
The day was still a huge success, something like £2000 being raised, half of which was donated to a charity. The following year, because of the experience gained, everything was better prepared and a few hundred pounds more than in the first year were made. Over the next few
years donations were made to St. Mary's Hospice, Hawcoat Handicapped Peoples' Home at Barrow and about £800 was set aside for the building of a children's playground in Flookburgh which, due to the unavailability of land for the project, did not come to fruition for seven or eight years but is now installed on the school field. When the time came to hand over the money it was agreed by the band to give £1600. The first meeting at the school, when it was agreed that the project should go ahead on the school field, was held on September 24th 1991. The scheme was taken over by a committee from the community and moneys were raised from other sources, but it was the initial move by the band which started the ball rolling...
At a meeting on the 2nd of February 1977, all members present agreed to loan the band £5 to assist in the purchase of new uniforms "rather than borrow from the bank at 17%".
At the A.G.M. held on the 31st of January 1979 Mr. (Johnny) Wright was appointed Hon. Life President after 59 years of service to the band, many of those as chairman. Mr. Wright, being a regular user of snuff, was later presented with a silver snuff box as a parting gift. At the same meeting Mr. Leslie Moyle retired as secretary after 25 years in that office and was subsequently presented with a silver tray as a parting gift. Four life-memberships were awarded at the A.G.M. of January 1984. They were L.Stephenson, W.Dickinson, A.Couperthwaite and F.Benson.
On the 2nd of May 1992 the band went to a hamlet near Shap village to make a tape recording which proved to be very successful financially. The conductor was Alan Lewis. It was reported at the A.G.M. on the 8th of February 1993 that the profit from the tape was £1200.
From the very outset there were strong family connections within the band but something of a record was set when 11 of the Rowlandson/Manning family competed in the family class at South Lakeland Musical Festival in April 1998. The players were all descendants of Mrs. Ellen Manning who was in the audience to see the performance. They won by a margin of several points.
At the A.G.M. on the 8th of February 1993, Jack Manning was made a life-member and later a vice-president. On the 9th of November 1996 at a concert in Flookburgh Church he was honoured for fifty years of service to the band and presented with a cut-glass decanter and two whisky glasses, all suitably engraved. Mr. Derek Atkinson travelled from South Lancashire to present two citations from the N.W.B.B.A. "Certificate of Merit, For meritorious service to the brass band movement" and "Diploma of Honour, for 50 years of service to the Brass Band movement".
Also in 1987, presentations were made to Messrs Derek Dawson and Alfred Cowperthwaite on their retirement after long service in the band Mr. Dawson later returned to the band, and, having played trombone for all of his previous thirty-odd years, gave sterling service as percussionist and as chairman of the band.
In 1987 a trophy was donated to South Lakeland Musical Festival inscribed The Flookburgh Band Trophy. In the same year the band qualified for the National Finals in London and played in Westminster Hall. The conductor was Boyd Purser.
On the 12th and 13th of September 1998 the band went to Cartmel school to make a recording which came out on tapes and C.D.s. In this, the experience of Mr. Iveson was invaluable. He, having been involved in many recordings with orchestras and with soloists, was familiar with the procedures and was able to produce the recording to a high standard, travelling to the studio in Manchester several times to complete the work. The end product certainly justified all the hard work by all involved.
The band, being self-supporting, has always had some restraints on what it could do or buy, but the support from local people has been tremendous throughout the years and Flookburgh Band has probably fared better than most un-sponsored bands. Having said that, the necessity to continually raise money has been a spur to take as many engagements as possible and to organize events. The situation took a turn for the better when, in October 1997, the band was allocated almost £37,000 from the National Lottery.
Flookburgh Village Hall Band 1910
Members: G. Hill, W. Benson, T. Fielding, T. Wilson, F. Robinson, R. Burrow, J. Wilson, H. Benson, W. Cowperthwaite, A. Robinson, J. Benson, T. Shaw, J. Butler, V. Slater, P. Butler, A. Hill, J. Gardner, R. Howson, C. Stephenson, W. Dickinson
Flookburgh Silver Band 1938
Members: E. Wilson, W.J. Nickson, G.S. Bellas, J.L. Moyle, T.M.Robinson, H.M. Manning, T. Wilson, H. Wilson, H. Wilson, J.C. Davis, A. Couperthwaite, A. butler, S. Benson, W. Stephenson, L.C. Stephenson, W. Dickinson, W. Dickinson, Junior
Flookburgh Silver Band 1950s
Members: S.Bland, L.Moyle, J.Manning, R.Metcalfe, W.Nickson, J.Fogg, R.Butler, H.Garnett, Middle J.Wright (chairman), J.Dickinson, W.Bland, Unknown (Barrow), H.Sutcliffe, C.Robinson, H.Wilson (Ted), F.Butler, M.Robinson, W.Dikinson, H.Manning, A.Cowperthwaite, F.Benson, T.Wilson, L.Stephenson.