Royal Buckley Town Band
contributed by Dave Davies
In the early years 19th century a group of local musicians would gather together and for their own entertainment play and develop their musical interests. Later these people would begin to play for religious services, and it is from these humble beginnings that the Buckley Band was formed.
Firstly, it was definitely a Brass and Reed Ensemble, and members would, because of their musical ability, be very respected in the neighbourhood. Of course, many could not read or write, and it is therefore not surprising that early records were not kept.
The evidence points to the fact that the first signs of the emergence of a Band, as such, was in the early 1820's , and although in a local Historians (Alderman Dennis Griffiths) book 'Out of this Clay' he states that the Buckley Band was formed in 1820 he later agreed that it was probably nearer 1822 before the group of musicians were regarded as a Band. This does in fact tie in with a Jubilee publication of 1902 where it states that the Buckley Royal Town Band was 'set on foot' 80 years ago.
In 1822 a local Band of musicians was present in the parade from Hawarden to Buckley for the laying of the foundation stone of St. Matthew's Church. While there is no evidence to state categorically that it was the 'Buckley Band', certainly it seems to be a reasonable assumption, since there is no indication of the existence of any other group of musicians at that time.
During its early years the Band was very short of instrumentalists and they attended few, if any public engagements, although they most certainly carried on playing for the local religious services.
However in 1853 a well-know local Choirmaster, Mr Edward Griffiths, encouraged a number of local people to purchase their own instruments, and under his direction and tutorship the Band took on a new lease of life, this time the ensemble being entirely of brass instruments.
Because of the number of members of the Griffiths family in the Band, the Band became know as the 'Griffiths Band', and the newly acquired Bass drum was suitably decorated. Mr Edward Griffiths died in 1867 at the early age of 38 and his place was taken by his nephew.
Mr. James Griffiths, the new Bandmaster, encouraged the Band and more people became interested, and it was around this time the Trombone first made its appearance in Buckley. Although in reality no member of the Band could play this instrument, this did not deter Mr. Griffiths who persevered and quite soon a member of the Band was proudly presented to the people of Buckley as their first Trombonist.
Mr. Griffiths remained Bandmaster until well into the twentieth century, and during his leadership of the Buckley Band other Bands were started in Buckley. In 1880 the Buckley Engineers Volunteer Brass Band was formed, locally called the 'Mill Band' and later the 'Denbighshire Hussars Imperial Yeomanry Band', locally called the 'Slaughterhouse Band'.
The next Bandmaster was Mr. 'Jimmie' Griffiths and thus the last of the Griffiths line took charge of the Band revitalised by Mr. Edward Griffiths. By this time Brass Band Contests were held, and in 1923 at the Mold Eisteddfod the Band gained third prize. This photo being the oldest photograph of the Town Band that can be traced. Several of the members in the photo include Bill Sharp, Sammy Collins, Bill Davies, John Smallwood, Arthur Bellis, men who were young at the time but played a large part in seeing the Band flourished.
In 1958 only a few months before his death. Mr. Wilcock led the Band to victory in the Llangefni Contest, and in October of that year we took three third prizes at the N.W.B.B.A.'s Rally held in Conway. This was easily our best year to date, and the untimely death of Mr. Harold Wilcock was a bitter blow to our hopes. His place was taken by his brother Mr. Len Wilcock who only remained with the Band for two years before taking a Bandmastership with another local Band.
In 1960 Mr. 'Joss' Lloyd took over as Bandmaster, and under his baton we gained our first ever prize in the Belle Vue Spring Brass Band Festival - being placed third in the Junior Trophy Section.
In 1965 the Band again gained three second prizes in the N.W.B.B.A.'s Rally, and in 1967 and 1968 gained fifth and sixth places in the Senior trophy Section - at last the Band seemed to be going places.
In 1970, we engaged a Professional Tutor, and Mr. James McDean, a member of the famous Fodens Band, came to take us for Contests and in December, 1971, under his direction the Band gained entry into the final of the W.D. & H.O. Wills National Brass Band Championships. It was the first time in the Band's history and it was a very proud bunch of lads who took the platform in London on April 22 1972. Our reward was seventh place out of twenty Bands, and the Band can feel justly proud of this achievement.
In 1973 Mr Glyn Smith took over as Bandmaster. Under his direction the band went on to win many contests. Glyn is in fact the longest serving Bandmaster from 1973 until 1993.
How the Band got its ROYAL title
The Royal Buckley Town Band is one of the oldest known brass band's in Great Britain having been formed in 1822. It is one of only four brass bands to proudly have and indeed be allowed to use the "Royal" title the others being Royal Oakeley from Blaenau Ffestiniog, Nantlle Vale Royal and Royal Doulton from the Potteries. All three Welsh bands have had the "Royal title bestowed on them by Royalty whereas Royal Doulton is the factory's name which the band took when it formed.
We are very proud of our "Royal" title, although with the passing of time the actual date when it was bestowed to the band cannot be pin pointed exactly. It is certain that we held the title in 1894, and it was probably around the 1889-1890 period that permission was given, just after the Band had played in Hawarden Castle before the Prince and Princess of Wales (later to become King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra). We are, however assured by the Home Office that we are to continue with our "Royal" title.
During the period 1870-1900 the Band was in great demand, especially at Hawarden Castle where the Band would be summoned to attend by the 'Grand Old Man' as Mr Gladstone was affectionately called. Several old Bandsmen have made a great point of passing down stories about the good times they had playing at Hawarden Castle and about how the children would all be waiting for the return of the Bandsmen to hear of the success of these very important engagements, which always culminated in the Band being thanked personally by Prime Minister Gladstone for their services.
In 1969 we had the very great pleasure of playing for the present Prince of Wales when he visited the Shire Hall in Mold, and indeed then he spoke to the Bandmaster enquiring after our "Royal" title. The Band again played for His Royal Highness when he visited Ruthin in 2002. The Band have also played before Prince Charles's Sister Princess Anne when she visited the Buckley Jubilee in 1972.
As well as being a registered Charity the Band play at many Concerts, Fetes, Galas, Contest/Civic Sundays and many charity events and have even played at Rugby and football International games. They are also seasoned travellers having toured Europe on five occasions between 1971-1996 and also have very strong ties with the Cerveny Kostelec band in the Czech Rebublic.
In 1985 the Band purchased the "Old Fire Station" in Buckley and converted it into a purpose built Bandroom consisting of Rehearsal Room, Music Library, Storerooms, Function Room for fund-raising events, Disabled Toilets and Garage.
If you are interested in the History of Buckley as well as that of the Band two excellent sites to visit are: