Aldbourne Heritage Centre
Exploring the Village Story

Chapter 13 : Christian Awake!

Well, my attempts at raking out the past from piles of dusty papers, books, faint images on micro fiche screens, cassette tapes etc. etc, have nearly come to an end but since starting out on my pursuit for information and sat down at my computer tapping away, I have tried, with no luck, to find a space to talk about the most famous of Aldbourne band’s traditions, what else but that of the Christmas morning jaunt around our village streets.

The only theory I have come across to date that seems to make any sense at all is that some bandsmen were also bell ringers it simply wasn’t worth them going to bed after finishing their Christmas Eve carol playing just to get up again a few hours later. This seems to me a most realistic explanation but like many other episodes in any history we will probably never really know the exact truth. Arthur Palmer stated that as young boys of the late twenties they would often go down to the band room to practice of an evening just for something to do, and while there would talk to the old bandsmen about times gone bye. According to him even then nobody new much about those early days. I find this odd as most happenings are recorded by our reporters and it would seem definite that the custom did not start until the turn of this century.

The earliest written mention is in a report of 1903 that stated that “at 5am the inhabitants were enlivened by strains of music by the Aldbourne brass band”. I am sure though that if this had been happening for any amount of years before this it would have mentioned and therefore I am forced to conclude that it had not. Another report in 1910 said that on the Thursday prior to Christmas day that the band visited “principle residences and inns playing in “first class style” and that the next morning we “played with our usual good taste so as not to break the slumber, but rather make it more peaceful”. In 1912 the report said that “one felt sorry to hear the last sounds dying away in the distance” and in 1913 we are described as “playing sweet music on Christmas morning.

The January 1920 report has this to say: ” AWAKENED BY THE SWEET STRAINS OF OUR BAND. THEY WERE TOO CHARRY  OF THEIR MUSIC, PLAYING JUST ENOUGH TO MAKE PEOPLE LONG FOR MORE”, what cordial  words.  Apart from the pleasure given to many of our villagers over the years many folk have also enjoyed doing the rounds, bandsmen or no, occasionally the worse for wear, sober, mad or sane?

A wonderful report was written by Mr H. Canning of Marlborough to the Marlborough Times in 1951 telling of the morning he and his wife spent with the band and how much they enjoyed it. Another year a professor of church music from Loiseville, Kentucky, joined us on our rounds before flying home to America later that day.  Back in the thirties and forties the band would call at the Rectory and have yet another glass of wine and a mince pie, courtesy of houseman Mr grunt and his wife. Eric Barrett once said that the band members were often worse for wear after an evenings caroling. (please note that I have cleaned this up).

Only an hour or so before they had already been entertained to tea by Tommy Barnes and his wife Ada. This welcome break is still very much part of this tradition and Nelly his daughter in law still gets up and gives us a huge spread. I think a public “thank you” to Nelly has to be in order.

Tales also abound about the Christmas excursions, like the morning that the two men threw the contents of their night pot at them. They missed!  Another morning one of the chaps had declined to come out some of the band walked a little out of their way to “serenade the failed bandsman”.

One morning Jesse Jones failed to arrive so it was decided that a wake up call was in order so a call was made from Jim Barnes`s and a carol was played.

The money collected during the couple of weeks build up is of great importance to the band and it would surely struggle if it didn’t collect as much as it does. Interestingly for a few years the money was split between the bandsmen themselves. It was worked on a share system, the more times you turned out the more shares you acquired. One year one of the lads, was taken seriously ill so the band decided to donate all of that years collection to him and his family.

If the intentions of this work achieves what it is intended to do, then our band will “break the slumber so as to make it more peaceful” for many years to come, I thank you for the interest you have shown.