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Old Silkstone Band
In 1861, civil war broke out in America, serfdom was abolished in Russia, Prince Albert died in England, and Coniah Stringer founded Old Silkstone Band.
Coniah Stringer was the then choirmaster at All Saints Church, Silkstone. At this time the Church possessed a harmonium, which, accompanied by a few string instruments, led the singing of the choir. When a pipe organ was acquired the stringed instruments were dispensed with and Coniah promptly bought himself a cornet. By raising local subscriptions, he also bought another six brass instruments. Thus, Old Silkstone Band was born.
Coniah was the band's first conductor and continued to be so up to 1894. During his time as conductor, the band purchased its first set of uniforms; military in style, the predominant feature of which was the helmets. Each playing member wore a helmet with a white tassel, the conductor wearing a helmet with a 'bloodred' tassel.
However, after wearing the uniform on only a couple of occasions the government recalled it. They had, goodness knows how, discovered that Old Silkstone had the same uniform as the Household Cavalry band, so the band had to hand in all its finery to avoid any confusion. The government did, in fairness, replace the uniforms with a new set, this one being notably distinguished from the first set by the substitution of Kepis for helmets. Coniah in the 1901 Census is shown as being the landlord of the Lord Nelson, Shambles Street, Barnsley, but there are no records to show whether he was still involved with Old Silkstone Band.
Coniah died 12th November 1917 and his gravestone can be found in the graveyard at Silkstone Parish Church.
In 1893 the band played at Ms. Fullerton's (from Noblethorpe Hall) Wedding, the band stood twelve either side of Church walk. The married couple passed through while the band played the Wedding March, afterwards attending the reception at Noblethorpe Hall.
In 1894 the position of conductor passed to Dennis 'Wag' Bailey who conducted the band on and off for twenty-four years. The solo cornet player at that time was Joe Bottom, a fine musician, as was Dennis Bailey. Dennis was, however, quite 'a temperamental man' and if things did not work out quite as he wanted them to, he would leave the band, which would then cease to function for a period. Joe Bottom would then rally round the players and take up the conductor's post.
Joe conducted the band from 1896 until 1901 when Dennis Bailey resumed the position.
It was around 1901 that Old Silkstone Band began contesting, their first contest being at Hull. This contest was in two halves, the band having to play both a march and a selection. They gained themselves first prize in the march and second prize in the selection. The band continued contesting and in 1906 entered two contests on the same day, the first one being at Mapplewell. After playing there, they quickly left, on horse drawn waggonettes, to compete at the Cawthorne contest. A man who had stayed to hear the results at the Mapplewell contest was asked, when he arrived at Cawthorne, who had won. He replied 'that band wi mucky instruments,' that band being Old Silkstone.
The contesting record of the band at this time was excellent and in 1909, they qualified to attend the national contest at the Crystal Palace, London. On this occasion Angus Holding, who frequently gave the band lessons, assisted Dennis Bailey. They returned home successful, having gained second prize out of 24 bands.
Dennis retained the baton until 1918; it was during that time, while the Durham Light Infantry had a camp just outside the village, Walter Bailey caused havoc with one of the instruments. The band used to lead church parades and, on an occasion when the regular drummer was not available, Walt offered to take his place . 'Dunt gu too fast and gi drum some bloody hammer' advised Dennis. Walt took Dennis's advice too literally and on his first beat put the drumstick straight through the skin.
In 1918, Ellis Bailey, Dennis's son, took over the position of conductor but the band had entered a difficult time. Many of the youngsters had been killed in the First World War, there was no one left to replace dying or retiring older members and membership eventually slumped to just seven.
They, however, continued to lead the Armistice Day Parade and provide hymn music in the Parish Church. Ellis eventually managed to turn the tide by giving music classes to the youngsters of the village. After the First World War, the band altered its venue from the Parish Church to the Silkstone Working Men's Club.
Funds were raised from engagements such as garden parties and galas but money was always scarce. Probably due to the fact that money earned on engagements was usually shared up and probably spent over the bar in the Working Men's Club after the band practice. However, in 1936 some of the younger bandsmen worked hard to save enough money to purchase a new uniform. This consisted of a ' pork pie hat' and was blue in colour with a white belt.
Around this time, the band was asked to play at the funeral of a former bandsman, Albert Dalton. The conductor, Dennis Bailey, was unable to conduct the band and Blob's Morris, a Dod'erther, was asked to conduct the band. Thinking that the band already knew the required funeral march Blob's decided, with inevitable consequences, that no rehearsals were required. 'If yer play at my funeral like yer did at Albert Dalton's' Dennis later told the band, 'Al stand up in 't' coffin and conduct yer mi bloody sen'. In fact, the band gave an impeccable performance at Dennis's funeral.
In order to keep the band funded, each working member of the village paid a penny a week into the band funds.
The band in the 1940's-50's, due to their small numbers and lack of finance had stopped contesting. It was not until 1961 that they again began to enter contests. The conductor at this time was George Edward Mann, who served the band for fifty-five years, twenty-four of them as conductor. By this time, the band was much more substantial and financially better off. They had moved into their own bandroom, a short distance from the Working Men's Club.
The new bandroom was built on land kindly provided by the club and out of materials acquired by Mr George Yarwood the clubs architect. The cost of all the materials came to around £10.00, but whilst clearing the site with a tractor borrowed from Bingley Helliwell a local farmer from Hoylandswaine, the band were blamed for damaging the tractors radiator. The cost for a new radiator being £20.00 double that of the bandroom.
On June 10 th 1961, the band again purchased another new uniform, this time it consisted of peaked caps and black blazers with blue lapels. The bands engagements were much the same as before, parades, garden parties and galas, also on occasions giving concerts for the old people of Silkstone and Silkstone Common and a concert on Christmas Day night in Silkstone Working Men's Club.
Around 1968, illness forced George Edward Mann to pass his baton to Stanley O' Connor. Stan was a proficient cornet player, playing solo cornet at a very early age for Dodworth Silver Prize Band. Then moving on to play with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band on second principal cornet before being asked to conduct Dodworth, after Oswald Naylor died in 1954.
Stan was still conductor of Dodworth when asked to help Old Silkstone, managing to fit conducting both bands until 1978, when he retired as Musical Director at Dodworth to be Musical Director of Old Silkstone Band. It was about this time that the band again changed it's uniform, this time moving away from the military style to a burgundy blazer and grey trousers.
During Stan's reign, even the first contest he took them to, winning first prize at Sheffield NCB contest, on the Test Piece: ' Glastonbury', the band built up quite a successful record at local contests. Its best period being late 1970's early 1980's when the band won prizes at nearly every contest entered. At one NCB contest in Sheffield Drake Rimmer, the composer of the Test Piece: 'Spirit of Progress' was sat in the audience listening the bands play. After Silkstone had played, he asked to see the conductor of Old Silkstone Band. He told Stan that he took the Test Piece just how he wanted it to be played. Unfortunately the composer forgot to tell the adjudicator on the day and Old Silkstone were awarded second prize.
However, in 1981 Stan himself was awarded a trophy for being best conductor of the day at the Huddersfield and District Brass Band Contest.
In 1980, the band undertook its largest and most expensive venture. Due to the condition of the bandroom, they decided to build a new, more substantial one. Many fund raising events were organised one of the most successful being a ' sponsoredblow', the band members being sponsored to sit and play for an eight-hour period. The finances for the new bandroom were eventually raised and the building was erected very close to the site of the old bandroom. The band now practice in what could be described as one of the best band rooms in South Yorkshire. To signify the opening of the new bandroom a commemorative plate was made.
The members of the band have always enjoyed socialising as a team and in 1983 they toured Germany and Austria. The first place of call staying in Schwabisch Gmund, Barnsley's twin town in Germany, the second place of call was a small village in Austria called Obdach. As well as being the highlight in many of the bandsmen's musical careers it was certainly the highlight in the bands social career, this being the first tour ever undertaken by the Old Silkstone Band.
For this occasion, the band again purchased a new set of uniforms, this time moving back towards the military style. These are the uniforms currently being worn by the band and are royal blue with black lapels, trimmed with gold braid.
The band was well received throughout the tour but especially when they played for the school children in Obdach, Austria. The schoolmaster was pointing out various instruments to the children and then the band member stood up and played a few notes for them. Brian Bentley, trombone player, and a noted strong blower, leaned over and whispered to one of the bass players, 'wait while it's ma turn A'l mak it rattle Ra'nd t'Hills'. If you go to Austria, you can still probably hear the sound flying round the Alps.
In 1985, Stan retired from the conductors' position. He continued to serve the band playing various instruments, and started to conduct Silkstone Junior Band, which is hoped, will provide young players to join and help keep the senior band running for many years to come.
In 1986, the band appointed John Hopkinson as its new musical director. Success was almost immediate with the band gaining first prize at the West Yorkshire Contest and a few months later second prize at an entertainment contest at Nostell Priory. In the next 12 months the band gained many prizes and John's reputation as a Musical Director grew. In July 1987 John left Old Silkstone to conduct Barrow Colliery Band.
The next 2 years saw the band appoint several conductors including, John Kendel, Andrew Armstrong and Frank Hoyland. At this period of time the band was having great difficulties in keeping the band functioning, at one point talking about bringing in the Trustees to fold up the band. However, it was left up to the bandmaster at this period in time, Peter Hopkinson, to hold things together. The only major success during this period was winning First Prize at the last City of Leeds contest, under the baton of John Grinnell.
In September 1989 the band reappointed John Hopkinson as Musical Director and since then gained promotion from the Fourth Section to the Third Section.
Ian Askey, Mick Fieldsend, Stuart O'Connor and a few like minded individuals then decided that it was time to 'make or break' and put in place new ideas for the future that have suceeded in the change of fortune the band is now currently enjoying.
The greatest influence on the band has been the musical direction of Norman Law who in 2000 accepted the position of musical director and the challenge to teach the band and take them into the first section within five years. Much sucess followed and in 2003 the band were Pontins 2nd section Champions, Northern Open Brass Band 2nd Section Champions, Tameside 2nd Section Open Brass Festival Champions and 2nd Section Yorkshire Area Champions.
The band gainied promotion to the championship section in 2005, and after two years of playing alongside the likes of Grimethorpe and Black Dyke they returned to the first section in 2007, with Alan Exley taking over at the front, and with good finishes in the 2008 and 2009 First Section championships, 2010 will once again see the band return to the top flight in time for their 150th anniversary in 2011.