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Gislingham Silver Band
The Gislingham Silver Band was formed in 1885 as the Foresters Friendly Society Brass Band. Despite many ups and downs, reduced at one point to just six players,
This enthusiastic band came back from the brink of extinction around 1920. It was revitalised by four stalwarts, Harry Southgate, Percy Ellinor, Ted Steggall and trombone player Cecil Carter
After the First World War it became the "Gislingham Brass Band". During 1932 the band were donated a side drum and a bass drum and subsequently became "The Gislingham British Legion Band" playing for rallies and parades (a tradition that continues to this day.)
In the late 1960's it assumed its present title of the Gislingham Silver Band.
The band used to practice every Monday night in the old "Free" School in Mill Street, a thatched building that had become redundant after the building of the new school in 1870, it was not in the best state of repair and very cold in winter. The first player to arrive at band practice had the job of lighting the fire. The 'Free School' building was put up for sale in 1959 but local shopkeeper Tom Fisher, who owned the old redundant Baptist Mission Hut, let the band use that as their headquarters rent free. The hut had no electricity so it was lit by paraffin lamps even in 1969.
The first record found of the band is the Diss Express newspaper dated Friday 29th May 1885 when the band paraded through the village on Whit Monday.
One person who was the backbone of the Band for over seventy years was Cecil Carter – a local farmer. Without Cecil's generosity, perseverance, tenacity and determination the band would have folded on several occasions.
Cecil joined the Gislingham Brass Band in 1929 at the age of 16 because there was nothing to do in the village of an evening and he was keen on Lily Ruffles whose father, Joseph, and her brother 'Puffer', were both members of the village brass band.
Cecil was earning ten shillings a week and he saved up three pounds and ten shillings to buy his first trombone, by mail order, from Boosey and Hawkes of London.
Nobody else in the Band had ever played a trombone so he had to teach himself to play.
In 1932, at the age of 19, Cecil became the band secretary – a post he was to hold for nearly seventy years!
The band were donated a side drum and a bass drum and became The Gislingham British Legion Band playing for rallies and parades (a tradition that continues to this day.)
Cecil Carter was in West Suffolk Hospital for his 90th birthday. The band was given permission to play on the ward for him.
Cecil did not return home and died on the 25th May 2003.
The band met in the Old 'Free' School in Mill Street for over thirty years.
The 'Free' School was sold in 1959 and the band moved to The Mission Hut in Mill Street that had been redundant for several years.
Originally the Mission Hut was a First World War army hut. After the war it had been purchased by Mr Edmund Broadbent of Oak House to be used for missionary meetings and services. Later it was sold to Tom Fisher who kindly allowed the band to use the hut rent free.
Tom Fisher died in 1976 and his wife two years later and in 1982, Eric Fisher, the vendor, sold the Mission Hut to the Trustees of the Gislingham Silver Band for £1. The conveyance relating to the drive and car parking area to the rear of the hut was completed in 1989 – purchase price £1.
The band were becoming restless being tied to the British Legion and dictated to as to what they could and couldn't do so they broke away and became the Gislingham Silver Band as most of the instruments were silver plated.
Ron Wright joined the band in 1983 as musical director. Ron had played as a lad in the Markham Main Colliery Band and joined the senior band at the age of twelve. After doing his National Service in the Army he went to Bretton Hall College, at the age of twenty-six, where he specialised in music. He took up a teaching post, at Eye Secondary Modern School, as Head of the Music Department in 1970. Here he encouraged many pupils to take up an instrument and join the School Band. Later many of these pupils were to become Gislingham Silver Band members. Ron retired as the band's musical director in Sept 2010. David Cawdell has taken over the baton.
To anyone entering the band hut it is like entering a time warp. The walls are lined with photographs of the band performing over the years.
Anyone interested in social history would enjoy the book 'Cecil Carter and The Gislingham Silver Band' that details Cecils life and how he managed to keep the Gislingham Silver Band going. Copies of the book are available from Peter Lucas for £12.95. (plus p&p)