Batley Old Band 
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Batley Old Band

(an account from 1893)

In giving a sketch of the Batley Old Band, it is a matter for regret that no record of its foundation and early history is in existence. There is, however, the fact, on good authority, that there was a band in Batley some 50 years ago, but of the instrumentation, number and names of the members, there is no token. As regards contesting it is recorded that Batley Band were awarded a prize at the Belle Vue Contest, Manchester, in 1856.

Richard Smith, founder of the Champion Brass Band Journal, was connected with the band for several years, and under his direction they obtained numerous prizes. Some time during the sixties the band was enrolled in the Volunteer force, and under various leaders, notably the late Mr. Ben Hirst, and Mr. Frank Auty, contested with good results. In 1872, the connection with the Volunteers was severed, and shortly afterwards Mr. Auty resigned owing to ill health, several of the members following his example, but from different motives. From 1872 to 1882 the band was in a very poor state, owing to the scarcity of brass instrumentalists. For three or four years it lived as a brass and reed band, the reeds being introduced to make up for the scarcity of cornet players. These, however, did not quite fill the vacancy, and ultimately they had to return to all brass.

Towards the end of 1881 arrangements were made for the engagement of Mr. B.D. Jackson, as conductor, an office which he has fulfilled up to the present time with great credit to himself and the band. Soon after Mr. Jackson's acquisition a great improvement was manifested in the band's performances, and in June, 1882, the Committee decided to purchase a new set of instruments, in order to place the band in a position for contesting. To detail all the various successes of the band would entail an amount of labour and time we have not at our disposal, and we must therefore touch only upon the most important events since 1882. The first contest attended, under the present constitution, was at Bradford, near Manchester, in July, 1883, and the result was nil. The band was awarded its first premier position at Gainsborough in May, 1884, for the march contest. During 1884 and 1885 thirteen contests were attended and nine prizes obtained, which included one first prize at an open contest. That these successes encouraged the members to greater effort there will be no doubt; and when it is considered that the majority of contests held in those days were open to all England, it will be obvious that the band must have been in good form to gain a prize. Very few were the contests such as one can see now-a-days; whatever condition a band was in it had to face the best if it competed.

The season of 1885 proved more successful than its predecessor; and owing to the secession of some of the principal soloists the season of 1887 only contained three events. Dame fortune, however, seems to have come back in 1888, for it is recorded that eleven contests were attended, and nine prizes obtained, including three firsts. In October, 1888, the band competed at a contest held at the Irish Exhibition, London. The test-piece was "Joan of Arc" (Wright and Round), which had then been published a year or two, Most of the bands had practised the piece for other contests, and others had played it in programmes. The Batley Old Band had neither seen nor heard it, with the exception of one member. The piece was received in Batley on a Sunday morning, ten days before the contest. It was decided to make every effort towards a successful result, and no less than 14 practices were held in the ten days. The judges' award of the third prize was eminently satisfactory, when the status of some of the bands competing was taken into account. With the intention of effecting further improvement in the band, the committee deemed it desirable to engage Mr. J. Gladney, of Manchester, as teacher. The first appearance of the band under Mr. Gladney's direction was at Elland Contest, in May, 1889. The result was nil, the band being held responsible for delaying the contest. The judge, in giving his decision, said that those bands who had been to blame for the delay would have to suffer. And it was afterwards found out that the Batley Old Band had to suffer, quite innocently. In the July contest at Belle Vue the band obtained the third prize, nearly 33 years after a prize had been awarded to Batley Band at the same place.

The season of 1890 was the most brilliant ever experienced by this band. Competing at the Belle Vue July Contest, they were awarded the first prize. Stimulated to further effort by this success, every effort was made to prepare for the September contest, and as soon as the piece came to hand, hard and resolute practice was the order of the day. The decision of the judges on that occasion amply repaid the members, and it also showed what perseverance and energy could do. It may be added that at the date of this contest no member of the band received payment in any way whatsoever for his services, with the exception of the conductor. That to obtain a first prize at either the July or September Belle Vue contests is held to be no mean accomplishment by any band. is well known, and the members and friends of the Batley Old Band have good reason to be proud of their success in securing both first prizes in one year a record that has never yet been equalled by any band.

During the same year the band fulfilled two or three engagements at the Leeds International Exhibition. A very pleasing feature in connection with these engagements was the fact that the Exhibition authorities awarded a Diploma and Gold Medal to the Band "for excellence of performances." This award was all the more gratifying because it was quite unexpected. As several of the best amateur bands in the North had fulfilled engagements at the Exhibition, but without any recognition so far as is known, it is obvious that the Batley Old Band must have been in fine form. The successes obtained at Belle Vue raised the band to the front rank, a position very difficult to attain, but still more difficult to retain; and notwithstanding the brilliant record of 1890, we find the band taking a back seat during the season of 1891. This may be accounted for by the fact that the small measure of support accorded to the band was found to be insufficient to meet the requirements, and consequently the Committee were compelled, to dispense with many lessons from Mr. Gladney. The year 1892 opened very dismally with respect to the services of that gentleman, and he only attended one contest with the band. They had, however, Mr. Jackson's services, and were able to record one of the most successful seasons. The following shows the number of contests attended since 1882, and the results:

1883 1               1
1884 5 1 1           3
1885 8 1 1 3 2       1
1886 10   2 2 5     1  
1887 3   1         1 2
1888 11 3   5 1       2
1889 10 5 2 1 2        
1890 8 4 1       1 2 2
1891 7   3 2 1       2
1892 9 3 2     1 1   2
Totals 72 17 13 13 13 11 1 2 15

Of the 72 contests attended, 33 of them were "open," and 30 "test-pieces." The total value of prizes won is upwards of 700. We must not forget to mention that valuable assistance has been rendered to the band for nearly 30 years by the Trustees, Messrs. Robert Heppleston, James Bromley, and C. Coward, who have always evinced considerable interest in everything tending to Improve the band.

The band is composed of the following: - Soprano - T. E. Stubley. Solo cornet W. Pitts, S. Blackburn, H. Broadhead, Solo flugel horn W. Crossley, 2nd flugel horn W. Barber, Repiano J. Clough, 2nd Cornet W.D. Walker, 3rd Cornet W. Scafe, H. Haley, Solo horn J. Eaton, 2nd horn T. Charlesworth, 3rd horn W. Hobson, 1st baritone J. Walker, 2nd baritone J.W. Simpson, Solo euphonium T.R. Preston, 2nd euphonium H. Jackson, Solo Trombone C. Ridgwick, 2nd trombone J. Allerton, Bass trombone R. Overend, Eb bass E. Smith, J. Wilson, Bb bass E. Jennnings, Monstre bass W. Garner, Bass drum H. Kemp, Librarian J.A. Skelton, Conductor B.D. Jackson.