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Fovant's village band actively participated in the annual meetings of the Fovant Friendly Society during the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, according to Dr. Clay's 'Notes on the History of Fovant' , documents relating to the band that had been kept in the Church Hall were destroyed when the hall was requisitioned by the Army during the 1939-45 War. However, certificates recording successes in Wessex Brass Band Association competitions survive from 1935, 1937 and 1944. The instruments used by the band in its later years were purchased at the time of the Jubilee celebrations of King George V. John Foyle, the last turnpike-keeper, was at one time bandmaster, while his brother, the bootmaker, was big drummer. This Drummer Foyle was apparently short and stout with a long black beard and a huge paunch on which he balanced the big drum.
Before the Second World War, Sid Wyatt senior, who ran the newsagent's shop next to what is now Latymer House in the High Street, was the bandmaster. Inevitably, the band's activities were curtailed during the war, but in 1945 the then bandmaster Harry Foyle, son of Drummer Foyle, visited the school and asked if any of the pupils, aged up to fourteen years old, wanted to join the band. About sixteen took up the challenge and after being allocated an instrument and learning the C scale, they were paired up with an adult who played the same instrument to learn from their expertise.
In 1948, although he continued to play in the band, Harry Foyle handed over the reins to Reginald Dicker, a Tisbury man of great musical knowledge and experience. Mr Dicker had been a musician in the Household Cavalry and had performed at the pantomimes put on at Buckingham Palace by the then Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. The band flourished under his leadership and many more certificates were obtained during 1948-51, at competition locations as varied as Chippenham, Poole, Southampton, Wimborne, Wincanton and Larmer Tree at Tollard Royal.
The band was in great demand to play at village fêtes, flower shows and other events all around the area, but in the 1960s membership began to dwindle as the era of television dawned. Reginald Dicker had already been asked to take over Shaftesbury Band and so, if either band was asked to perform at an event and had insufficient numbers, members from the other band would be asked to join in. This informal amalgamation became formal in the 1970s and Fovant Band ceased to exist, its instruments being handed to the village school to ensure continued musical learning. However, Shaftesbury Band is still going strong and the grandson of Roy Simper, one of those original schoolboy recruits from 1945, is among its members, making the third generation of performers from one Fovant family.
The band's influence continues through other post-1945 players, including Sid Wyatt junior, who only retired from Shaftesbury Band in May 2002 at the grand old age of 88, after 76 years of loyal service. Another band member, who was recruited after the war from the village school, was Bryan Lee, whose son Colin plays the Last Post from the top of St. George's Church tower and at the war memorial by the Village Hall each Remembrance Day. Colin's first playing of the Last Post was in 1968, when he was aged just twelve, and he has played for the village every year since then.
The First Band ?
Although the Salisbury and Winchester Journal of 1st June 1829 reports that the Fovant Club, a sick benefit club, 'met and proceeded to Church, accompanied by their honorary members and an excellent band of music' on the occasion of their anniversary, very little else is known of the early history of the band.
However, we do have some early photographs of the band. The bandsmen can be distinguished not only by their instruments but also by the fact that they are all wearing a 'uniform' cap the first recorded example of a uniform. Secondly, mixed in with the bandsmen are assorted other individuals, some of whom are holding staves/wands, two who have some sort of scarf tied round their hats and another who has a sash across his chest. Lastly, there is a group of young boys who are also holding staves/wands.
An educated guess is that is the occasion of the Fovant Club's annual walk to the church after their celebratory breakfast at the Cross Keys. Of this occasion Dr Clay states that 'each member carried a staff with a pinnacle-shaped head. The stewards had a small flag on their staves ... At the end of the day members gave their staves to the boys of the village to keep until next year. The boys were paid one penny each for this service'. All these elements are in the photograph, which was taken in front of The Old Rectory.
Other postcards and photographs fill in some of the gaps between then and 1939, but largely speaking the documentary evidence for the period is lost to us. However, records of the band from the mid-1950s onwards are now in our possession so this research is ongoing.