A Means Of Enlivening The Community
Chapter 10 - Crescendos and Diminuendos
The Band's register for the start of 1980 showed a membership of 26 and evenly spread amongst the various sections of the Band. Charitable status was granted in this year and the replacement of the old instruments was going well apart from one area --- the basses, the most expensive to renew. After consulting with various instrument dealers the Band came back to Reynolds who offered 2 good second hand basses at a good price --- £900 each. The only problem with this offer was money --- or the lack of it. The Band's funds stood at approximately £500 --- only £1300 short! It was agreed that Reynolds offer was a good one and it would be a pity to miss it, but where was the extra money to come from? John Wooff and John Cowking went to see the Band's bankers who whilst sympathetic were not too keen on giving the Band a loan. On reporting back to the Band a suggestion was made that perhaps individual members could offer interest free loans and after a few days the £1300 was loaned from 6 members and the basses were purchased. Not only had the generosity of the members helped the Band's finances but it also meant that each section of the Band's instrumentation had been replaced and the 70 year old instruments could be given a well-earned retirement.
By October of 1981 the loans had been paid back to all donors, with grateful thanks to all concerned. One of these basses was being put to good use by a new member, William Carter, who began to show great talent on the instrument and often gave solo items in concerts. When William left the Band in 1983 he briefly took up a musical career in the army before taking a degree course at the Salford Brass Band College and then joined the Leyland Daf Band, one of Britain's finest brass bands with whom he toured all over the world. Slaidburn was rather proud of having given William his first experience of brass banding.
In 1982 the Band was invited to present a concert at Clitheroe Civic Hall as part of a Ribble Valley Music Festival. A traditional programme was given and the night was a great success. For the Band however the night was a sad one. John Cowking had learnt just before the concert that John Wooff had died in hospital after a long illness. The Band had lost its solo Euphonium player, the one playing member who had links with the "old band" and who had done much to encourage the revival of the Band in recent years.
The Band continued to take part in the Hardrow Scar contest with variable results but some members were not happy about the carefree way other players approached the rehearsals and preparations before the day and this unease had simmered for a number of years. This finally boiled over at the 1983 contest when at the last minute a number of players announced they could not take part. In the weeks following the contest 3 or 4 players made it known that they were considering joining a band who would "take things more seriously" and leaving Slaidburn. The tension and unease was increased by the fact that the Band already knew that some members were leaving anyway to continue full time education or moving away from the district. By July the atmosphere was tense as the players considering moving to another band had made no move and giving no indication of their intentions. The Band Committee met and decided an ultimatum must be given and so John Cowking was "elected" to do it! The players were simply told "shut up or go". They decided to go. From a membership of 25 at the start of the year the figure dropped to 17 by the end of July. The Band in theory could still continue with this number, but unfortunately because key players had left, the Band had basically no members to "play the tune", only the accompaniment. At the first rehearsal after the departures some radical changes were made. As the Band had no remaining experienced cornet players left, the relatively inexperienced "back row" cornet players were promoted to the "front row" in order to provide the melody line. This rapid promotion was not without its difficulties as the players had no experience of solo cornet pressures and would not be able to cope with this for some months. A decision was therefore taken to cancel all the remaining engagements for the year and concentrate on re-building the cornet section.
When news of the Band's withdrawal from engagements reached the local press the reaction was quite surprising. Many members found themselves receiving messages of encouragement from local folk who hoped the Band would soon be performing again, and, more importantly an appeal for new members in the press reports found an influx of keen learners joining the band to boost the membership. By the time of the Remembrance Sunday Service and Parade the Band was confident enough to turn out and fulfil its duties and in December of 1983 was able to present a Christmas concert at Newton Village Hall to hear the "re-built" Band and close the year on a happy note.
During the next few years the Band worked at improving its musical ability and by 1985 was getting itchy feet again and decided to visit Belgium in September of that year, hoping that Border and Customs control were better organised than last time! The trip was a great success particularly for two notable events: On arrival at Ypres to hold a short wreath laying ceremony at the Menin Gate the party found they had arrived on "Liberation Day" when the Town of Ypres marked its freedom at the end of the Great War. When Town officials discovered that the Band party also included the Mayor of the Ribble Valley, Coun. Joyce Lilburn, and a clergyman, Rev'd Arthur Higginson, the entire party were invited to join the main gathering at the Menin Gate. What was to have been a short simple ceremony for the folk from the Hodder Valley turned into a service and march along with the townspeople and dignitaries from Ypres itself with musical accompaniment from the Slaidburn Band and the Ypres Town Band. Another highlight of the weekend was a hastily arranged concert on the magnificent flower bedecked bandstand in the central square of Ostend. Although the Band only played for an hour, the pavement cafes around the bandstand rapidly filled up with appreciative listeners, much to the delight of the Band, and no doubt, to the proprietors of the various cafes.
Research into the Band's history had been started by the author back in 1975 and it was realised that 1988 would be the 90th Anniversary of the Band and it was decided to mark the year with a number of special events and hopefully to boost funds enough to buy 2 new basses and therefore complete the replacement of the old instruments. Amongst the numerous events held throughout the year were a formal concert at Clitheroe Civic Hall, a Garden Party at Hill House Farm, home of Band Vice-Presidents Ted and Marjory Pinder, a "Blow By Blow" around the villages of the Hodder and Ribble Valleys presenting a short concert in each village, but for most people the most ambitious event was the sponsored march from Slaidburn to Clitheroe over Waddington Fell --- a distance of 9 miles! On St. George's Day, 23rd April the Band was given "marching orders" by its President, John King-Wilkinson, in Slaidburn at 9.45am and was greeted at Clitheroe by the Mayor, Coun Leslie Nevett at 2.30pm that afternoon. As if marching and playing along the road wasn't enough, the band also found time to stop off at Hill House and the Moorcock Inn to play "Happy Birthday" for two birthday boys, Vice-President Ted Pinder, and mine host at the Moorcock, Peter Fillary. The sponsorship received from this was some £1500 which went a long way towards paying for the basses, and in fact by August the basses had been purchased and paid for --- a remarkable achievement. At the annual Christmas concert in that year the event started with a special buffet supper, including a special birthday cake cut by youngest member Mark Beverley, and oldest member Ernest Cowking who was retiring that night after 20 years of service with the Band. All the members received a commemorative medal and a new trophy donated by the President was first presented. The Band trustees decided that the Trophy should be presented annually to a member of the Band who has made a significant contribution to the activities of the Band in the last 12 months. The first recipient was Bill Worswick whose contribution to not only the last 12 months, but over many years was noted. Another surprise that night was a message of congratulations from H.M.The Queen to the Band followed by the loyal toast to "The Queen, Duke Of Lancaster". Little did the Band know what would happen in 1989 when that toast would be heard again in the presence of certain members of the Royal Family.
The main topic of conversation at the bandroom in early 1989 was the planning of another trip across the Channel for a musical tour of Germany. However, a phone call from the Duchy of Lancaster's Estate Office was to change all that. Would the Band be available to play at Dunsop Bridge in early August for a gathering of Duchy of Lancaster Tenants to meet their Landlord who also happens to be The Queen?! Needless to say the Band accepted the engagement! 1989 was certainly going to be different as the Band also found itself involved in another unusual request. In March of 1989 Rosie Twigg, one of the elderly residents of Slaidburn, died and in her will asked that the Slaidburn Band play at her funeral. The Band led the cortege through the village and played music for the hymns at the funeral service.
Royal visits to an area involve a great deal of forward planning, site visits, mountains of correspondence and fanatical timing! Dunsop Bridge was no exception. Individual farm visits were planned and The Queen was to meet her tenants at Holmehead, Dunsop Bridge for lunch on Monday 7th August and this was where the Band was to play. Security was paramount and some concern was expressed by both Duchy and Palace officials when John Cowking informed them that one of the members of the Band held a licence to handle explosives! Security checks gave the member concerned the "all clear"! The Band was required to play from 10.30am until 3.00pm during the arrival of guests, the arrival of the Royal Party, the lunch and departure. A total of 40 musical items were required plus a special fanfare composed by the Conductor for the arrival of the Queen and, of course, the National Anthem. At the last minute an arrangement of a military march was rehearsed for the Queen's departure entitled "John O'Gaunt" reflecting the title of "Duke of Lancaster". During the proceedings the Conductor was introduced to Her Majesty who, on looking into the Band's marquee, commented on the number of cameras that suddenly appeared from within uniforms! At the end of the afternoon the Band was entertained to a champagne lunch with Duchy of Lancaster officials rounding off a memorable day for the Hodder Valley and the Band.
In September the Band did a brief tour of the Rhine and Moselle Valleys staying at the small village of Briedel on the banks of the Moselle where our hosts laid on an evenings entertainment in the village square when the local choir sang, the village children danced in traditional costume and the Slaidburn Band gave a concert and helped to drink the previous years wine supply! The wonderful atmosphere of that night was especially significant as it was almost 50 years ago to the day since the declaration of war between Britain and Germany. Thankfully past events did not overshadow that weekend.
Many players in the Band were travelling a considerable distance to attend rehearsals and at a Band meeting towards the end of 1989 it was decided to move rehearsals to Clitheroe for a trial period in 1990 to and find a more central point for members and to try and encourage new members who may find the journey over Waddington Fell a little too much, particularly in winter. This decision caused some dismay in Slaidburn and the rumour began that the Band was actually in danger of "folding up" and at the annual concert in December the Conductor had to announce that the Band was alive and well and had no intentions of disbanding now or in the near future!