Earby Brass Band
The Village Brass Band
An account from 1922
One of the oldest members of the band informed me that he can well remember on a Sunday afternoon after he had been to Sunday School , he saw a few men who had been at Jack at Vargis's Farm for a practice. Among the party there there were Farm hands - Joe o' Dave's from Dodgson's Farm. Brown Smith, William Sephton and Wilson Clough. These parties continued to meet numbering seven or eight persons, and went in for a few up-to-date instruments. About 1865 the first Mechanics Institute was formed in the Old Baptist Chapel, and the members of the band were allowed to practice in the singing pew under the tuition of James Bailey, bandmaster. Adding to their numbers and becoming more ambitious, the band secured the services of the late Mr. William Rushworth, of Black Dyke Mills, as professional conductor.
Rivalry between the neighboring villages became very keen and in 1868 a contest was arranged for local brass bands, which took place at Salterforth . There were four entries including two bands from Barnoldswick (The Model and The Ribblesdale), Kelbrook and Earby. The test piece was Zoberflote. Practically all the inhabitants from the three villages swarmed to Salterforth, which was a convenient center, and the lusty villagers loudly cheered the performance of their respective bands. It was the custom in those days, so I have been informed by a Barnoldswick friend, when a Barlick band began to play, they made a great demonstration of applause to impress the judges and they were certainly very much in evidence that day. But Barlick suffered from being divided into two parties, and the coveted first prize was carried off by the Earby Band.
In the same year An open Contest was held at Colne, and the Earby Band was fortunate in being placed third against such contestants as Matlock, Wednesbury, Darwen Rifles and others. There are three members of the band at this time still living, to one of whom I am indebted for my information.
The Names of the Old Band and the instruments they played are as follows: William Rushworth (Cornet), James Bailey (soprano), James Dodgson (solo cornet), Anthony Clough (solo cornet), Wilson Clough (First cornet), James Hartley (second cornet), John Cowgill (third cornet), William Sephton (tenor horn), James Whittaker (tenor horn), John Wilkinson (tenor horn), William Hartley (baritone), Henry Bailey (Euphonium), William Gawthrop (bass Eb), Henry Rushton (bass Eb), Edmund Wilkinson (bass Bb), James Rushton (tenor trombone), Henry Wormwell (bass trombone).
A very close friendship was established between Mr. Rushworth and the Earby people. Mr Rushworth was the manager of the wool department at Foster's Black Dyke Mill, and he later began business on his own account and became very wealthy. But he never lost his interest in the Earby Band, nor his regard for his old friends.
For a time the band rested on its laurels and did little contesting, but after the New Mechanics (the Victoria Institute) was built, some young players were drawn in. The assembly room at the Institute was a fine practicing chamber for the Band, and it was their headquarters for the best period of its existence. The Band always used to play for the Baptist School at Earby Feast and when they obtained their first uniform they were photographed on the steps in front of the Chapel. I have seen a copy of this group and the Band at this time, (in about 1885) was composed of the following men:- Will Rushton (conductor), Squire Firth, James Wormwell, James Smith, Chas. Wilkinson, Thomas Lowcock, John Cowgill, Wm. Waddington, Wm Duxbury, Joe Sephton, Wm. Holmes, Wm. Sephton, John Wilkinson, Fred Wright, Henry Bailey, Richard Bailey, Stephen Bailey, Wm. Cowgill, Jas. Rowley, Hartley King, Thomas Turner, Joseph Broughton.
An eager spirit now pressed the Band and they began to compete in the best open contests in all parts of the country. No record has been kept but my informant can remember the following list:- London (3 times), Belle Vue (3 times), Kirkaldy - fourth prize, Whitby - first prize, Maton - second prize, Bowness - second prize, Black Dyke - two firsts, Ovenden - first prize. A notable feature of the Kirkaldy contest was the placing of Earby before Leeds Forge, when the famous Leeds Band was at its best.
The Band was fortunate in being able to secure the best tuition, and the professional conductors engaged during this period include Fred Birkenshaw (solo cornet of the great Meltham and Dyke Bands). E, Swift, John Gladney, Alex Owen, W. Heap, John Paley and Peter Fairhurst.
During its career the Band has been led by Jas. Bailey, Jas. Whitaker, W. Rushton, S. Firth, F. Pawson, A. Simpson and Harry Turner. The introduction of Squire Firth to the Earby Band is one of the romances of the musical world. Coming as a youth to play with a party of "buskers" he attracted attention and work was found for him at Bracewells Shed, so that he could be retained. For several years Squire played with Earby Band as solo cornet, and then removed to Skipton, where he became conductor of the Town Band. He married a sister of one of the Earby bandsmen and some of their children achieved notable musical honours.
Of those who have been associated with the local band who have attained to fame, Edwin Firth is surely entitled to pride of place. He was secured by Fodens Engineering Works to be solo cornet in their band, and during his connection with them he was one of the premier cornet players in the country. Unfortunately the war cut short a career of great merit and greater promise.
Arthur Laycock went from Earby to St. Hilda's Colliery, in Durham and he has been awarded the highest honours in the Brass Band world. Some of his cornet solo productions have been recorded for the gramophone, as have those of Edwin Firth. Frank Pawson has for many years been solo cornet for the Barrow Shipyard Band at Vicker's works. The men who made Earby Band what it was we do well to honour them, for they were greater than they ever knew. To two men now gone hence we pay special tribute, for it was by their plodding, persistent efforts that the Band got so well established, and these men are William Sephton and Henry Bailey (Keb as everybody in Earby called him.) They were always at the practices, always ready to help young players and to get the Band on in every possible way. That is the spirit that is needed to make the band flourish again as in the palmy days gone by. The war disorganised many local institutions and the Band sustained heavy losses. To those who went to the call of their country and especially to those who will never return, we pay grateful homage to their memory.
For more than twenty years the Band has had headquarters of its own, first in Stoney Bank Road, and more recently in the commodious club and Institute which derives its name from the Band, which are situated in New Road. One thing needs to be born in mind, that a good band cannot be made in a month or a year. No one used to impress this fact upon the bands that he instructed more that Mr. Alec Owen, and no professional conductor is remembered with greater pleasure by Earby Bandsmen than Mr. Owen. He is remembered not so much for his expert skill as a musician, but as a perfect gentleman; as one who always tried to get the best out of others, and whose influence for good upon the men will always abide. To ensure real success what Mr. Owen amplified is ever needed. Good equipment is not everything. A spirit of self sacrifice, a determination always to do the best possible., and the motive to serve the community to which they belong - these qualities I trust, will continue to actuate the bandsmen and make its future career as worthy as its past has been.
"The Pioneer", Friday September 22nd, 1922
The contest at Salterforth in 1868
A hand bill has been preserved by a Salterforth man, Mr. Crabtree, which announced that "A grand brass band contest will take place in the Aqueduct Field, Salterforth, on Saturday, May 9th, 1868. Prizes to be awarded: First prize. £4 4s and one "Star Jupiter" cornet, value £9 9s., of the highest class fabrication of the celebrated manufacturer, F. Besson, London, presented by the committee. Second Prize, £3 3s. : solo prize, £1 1s., for B flat cornets.
The programme gave the names of the bands in the following order (but the order of playing was to be decided by drawing lots on the field at 3-30, the contest to commence at 4 o'clock punctually): -
Barnoldswick Ribblesdale Band. Conductor, William Rushforth
Earby Band (17 performers). Conductor, William Rushforth
Barnoldswick Model Band (18 performers) Conductor, John Lord
Kelbrook Band (18 performers). Conductor, W. Jasper.
The test piece selected by the committee was "Zauberflote," by Mozart : but each band could select another piece, the first two choosing "Torquato Tasso" by Donizetti, and the last two "Semiramide," by Rossini.
For the solo prize, on B flat cornets, the test piece was " The Last Rose of Summer" (with variations) and the contestants were :
Joseph Windle, Ribblesdale Band
James Bailey, Earby Band
Thomas Whittaker, Model Band
John Wilkinson, Kelbrook Band.
The handbill contained at the foot the names of John Widdup, Thomas Turner, and Henry Edmondson, on behalf of the promoters of the contest. At the conclusion of the contest, prior to the decision of the judge, the united bands were instructed to play "God Save the Queen," and "any band refusing to join shall forfeit the prize which otherwise might be due."
The whole community for miles around was worked up to intense enthusiasm for the famous event, and there was an amazing crowd, considering the size of the population. The Barnoldswick people were divided into two hostile camps ( and in addition to their local favourites, the Ribblesdale followers always "backed" Black Dyke and the Model supporters "backed" Bacup). The Earby Band was undoubtedly the winner of the coveted first prize, the Model came next, followed by Ribblesdale and Kelbrook. The Kelbrook solo cornet player was awarded the prize in that class.