Aldbourne Heritage Centre
Exploring the Village Story

Chapter 9 : 1919-1939

The long years of that incredibly barbaric engagement finally drew to an end on the 11th of November 1918. It left some nine million dead and the price had been high for Aldbourne with the brunt of the bill being paid with not only a death toll of ?? but also by the often forgotten wounded, with missing limbs, facial disfigurements, severe head injuries being just a few that have been mentioned in various articles. Thankfully our bandsmen were robust to the extreme and soon reformed their now defunct organisation. When the news of peace was announced the band members that had remained behind immediately gathered in the village centre “out playing patriotic airs” but it wasn’t till March 1919 that they band was up and running once again in earnest.

In 1919 it was announced that the Lockeridge band was to reform infact that year also saw the Beechingstoke band reform but in a later report the writer said “It was not the Band of the past, only a remnant”. The importance of resuming to normality was mentioned once or twice in odd articles and the village of Woodborough even went as far as holding a public meeting to discuss the reconstruction of not only their village’s life, but of their band as well.

All over the country bands did not reform, due not to a massive loss of life but simply because men were weary of being away from their homes and loved ones. Full of the horrors that they had had to endure, many just did not feel any desire to make music. Being away for so long meant for many that they simply wanted to sit down and rest and to enjoy the company of their wives and children, it was mostly as simple as that.

Here is a list of band engagements for the year of 1919, starting on March 16th the band paraded prior to a memorial service held in honour of the “returned soldiers” and headed a procession that included some “two hundred children”. March 22nd saw a supper for the returned soldiers during which “the band played selections of music”. In July the “Aldbourne silver band was in attendance at the Feast celebrations and proved a great attraction” and at a cricket match the “band came out and played patriotic airs”. Another report stated that they played each Saturday night somewhere in the village … “the instrumentalists play with great sympathy”. No contests,  or even concerts or any engagements outside the parish at this time but it was still early days. At least daily life had resumed its dull but safe monotony, dullness and safety must have been much needed by the returning “hero’s”.

The band’s president in the early twenties was Thomas Illingworth J.P. who lived in Rose Cottage in West Street. Kitty, his daughter married Capt William Brown of the Manor. The Illingworths originated from Halifax and owned a company that was involved in the production of photographic paper. He gave the band a huge silver cup that was used as first prize in the band contests held here during the twenties. It is of Irish silver and was stamped in Sheffield in 1921.(see photo). Another, for use in the six-a-side football matches, was donated by Sir James Currie of Upham but its whereabouts is unknown. The Illingworth’s eventually moved to live in Chalford, Glos but soon after in 1923 Thomas died. He can be seen on the 1922 photo.

Young players were encouraged to take part in both band and village concerts and before becoming full members, junior players would usually make their public debuts playing in quartets. Lads like of Bertie Palmer would join with Bobby Barnes, Eric and Vic Barrett, Bollo Braxton, Arthur and Cyril Palmer, going round to Joe Alders at Neals Farm for any final rehearsal needed. ( see photo).

Life in our village must never have been dull though it has been described as such on more than one occasion. Men were always out and about being involved in village life, much more probably than most of us are today. With any amount of things to do they still found time to serve their community.

In the Aldbourne Fire Brigade records (yes, they do survive and what wonderful reading they make) of the middle twenties is to be found the names of many of our bandsmen. They were George, Alfred, and Frank Jerram, Arthur and Henry Palmer, Fred Barnes, Jack Loveday, Fred Alder and last but not least Harry Wooton an ardent band supporter for many years. The brigade had been led for a couple of years by Capt Thynne but after an accident in 1926 he had decided to retire. Alfred Jerram followed him and became captain in 1927, and he was to be its leader for the next 21 years! Fred Jerram completed a total of 38 years (once asked if his father was ever at home his son Vin reply was in the negative) service and on December 28th 1945 he wrote in the brigades record book: “papers etc. handed over by A V Jerram being his last night of duty having presented his resignation to parent station one month previous. Same was accepted. W.H.C.Humphries appointed leader”.

During the second war Fred had been injured at a call out here in Aldbourne. On May 26th 1944, an army lorry had caught fire outside the petrol station in West street and whilst attending Fred was badly burned on his face, neck and hands, still suffering from shock the report of that incident was written in his own (slightly shaky) hand, but true to form by June 16th he was back on duty.

Tommy Liddiard once said that “even if you have the talent in your boys you still must have the foresight and fortitude that brings out the best in your students” and boy was he right. Luckily we have had such men, some locally bred others as paid tutors. Even the loss of Albert Stacey in 1922 doesn`t seem to have hit as hard as it might have and the band seems to have recovered quickly. Albert was replaced by Alfred Jerram who remained as the day to day bandmaster until early in 1929. Alfred of course worked along side the professional conductor Fred Dimmock, who first appeared in 1926 when he took the band to the Silchester contest. Rent a crowd was the order of the day and many of the village supported them and it was reported that they “tensley listened to the music that proved victorious”. That day Herbie Palmer won another of his many medals for his trombone playing it being described as “far and away ahead of the other trombone soloists”.

By 1927 the band was already recognising Dimmocks work in raising their musical standards when they presented him with an arm chair as he had “done much to bring them up to their present excellence”.

Dimmock liked it here in Aldbourne and his loyalty to them is shown with the length of time he continued to come here. In 1929 he said in his speech at the annual dinner that what he liked most about the Aldbourne mentality was “that whenever they went to a contest they went with a will to win”. Dimmock enjoyed winning and he would not have stayed so long if the band had not delivered the goods.

Band members had to each pay 6d a week to enable their band to be able to afford Dimmock as his charge was a heavy one of £3-00 a rehearsal. If all the prizes such as the £20 won at the Pewsey contest in 1925 were so lucrative then it was obviously worth the bands while. His worth was criticised by some in our village at that time but what ever his costs were they were insignificant for his teachings were to be repeated over and over again by his successors, from Joe Alder through to Bob Barnes. He instilled a will to win into not only the players that once sat in front of him but through his teachings into future bandsmen, money well spent?

When money of the past is mentioned it is often difficult to compare to today’s rate of exchange so if I tell you that a AGM report in 1926 told that they had won £48 at the three contests entered during the previous year and that the same carried an advert for a Citreon 3 seater coupé from the Slough factory costing £255 you still wouldn’t be any the wiser would you?, I’m not anyway. Sadly no actual records of the bands finances exist except for a couple of reports in the M.T. For the year of 1928 we had an income of £187-12s-9d and the grand sum of £13-14s in hand at that years end.

The very first contest Arthur Palmer attended was in 1926 and held at Newbury and although he didn’t play (well he was only ten) he did hold the music on the stand for Mr Dimmock as it was a windy day. This must have been the normal thing for the young members to do as Eric Barrett once said he had done the self same thing. For the Newbury contest the band would practice at Stockcross, with rehearsal facilities being arranged by former member Reg Penny, when he worked for the Sutton estate. A rehearsal held in a farm building is not such a peculiar place and I can personally remember one held in a farm yard and another held in Barnes coach depot. The majority of band contests were always held outside unless rain forced them into cramped village halls or under canvas and so the weather always took a major part in a days pleasantries.

When in the village Dimmock often stayed with Oliver Hawkins and his family. Oliver was one of our most eminent village statesmen, always a staunch supporter of anything Aldbourne and particularly the band. Oliver’s daughter Nancy well remembered Dimmock and described him as” a gentleman with a strict nature”. Members would turn up well before the required time to get themselves ready for the practice knowing that there would be trouble if they were late. Dimmock was a very popular band trainer in the London area and often conducted several bands at the same contest. A 1932 report probably sums him up best with him being described as “an instructor of proved worth”. Dimmock had a brother who conducted a band in Wales and he occasionally came and took rehearsals if Fred was busy elsewhere and his son Peter was once head of outside broadcasts for the BBC.

Concerts and contests are the only two outlets for a brass band to show it’s worth and over the years the band has performed many hundreds if not thousands though the majority of these being to audiences outside Aldbourne. 1927 saw a performance in Ramsbury for which they took advantage of Dimmocks presence for rehearsals for the coming Amesbury contest. The report interestingly tells us that he had presented Joe Alder jnr with his first medal at the age of twelve.

Dimmock was obviously well known to our bandsmen prior to his coming and his abillities had a well tested history for when it was decided to employ a professional conductor his name was the only one on their list. The years under Dimmocks guidance was to have a dramatic effect on the contest results (see list) and he continued to lead them to victories until 1939. The outbreak of the second world war meant the no contests for over five years and this was to be the end of a unprecedented relationship between Dimmock and the band.

Trouble once reared its ugly head at the rehearsal of another of our professional conductors. Mr Victor Brooks had made sarcastic remarks aimed at Bonnie Barrett, now Bonnie would have walked that day from Upham where he lived to band practice and would have been faced with the long haul back and the last thing he was going to tolerate was anything like that so he told Brooks in no uncertain terms what he thought of him and concluded with the threat that he would “wrap his trombone around his neck!”. I`m disappointed in not being able to tell what came of this but Brooks was not destined to become a well-known figure in the bandroom after that.

In 1936 Mr Jack Lennon was involved in a concert conducted by TA Palmer, in fact Jack performed some cornet solos. He played with them in the early thirties being a local man from Swindon and became another of our professional conductors but his reign too was but a short one, Lennon adjudicated at the 1936 Hungerford contest.

Professional conductors have been used many times in recent years but and after the last war William Scholles of the Rushden Temperence band was to be a prominent figure for several years and again the band had some considerable successes under him, he was here on and off from 1950 to 1958. Another was George Crossland (1952 – 1958) George conducted the Luton band but he also gave us many good results too. From 1953 to 1959 Joe Alder fronted the band at all contests and concerts and from 1959 to 1973 so too did Bob Barnes. Bobs time with the band as it’s conductor has to be seen as important an era as any, though not as long as some his contest results are quite unbelievable and much of the bands more recent prowess is down to his work.

 

A new tactic was employed in 1920 with the placing of an advert in the M.T.to attract engagements, flower shows, garden parties, sports days and dances was the type of engagement being sought.

 

In 1922 Fred Barnes was “tried out” by the Swindon football club, a special license having to be arranged as he did not live in the Swindon area. Although an extremely fine player, by village standards that is, it would seem that he was not destined to play for them.

 

ARTICLE DATED APRIL 1926 IN “MUSICAL PROGRESS”

“Aldbourne is a small village, lying far away “from the madding crowd,” and several miles away from a railway station, but, like many other English villages, it is possesses a band of fine players who have all been brought out “on the premises.”
We have not been given the name of the local bandmaster, but Mr Fred Dimmock, of London, is  the professional teacher, and the secretary Br T.D. Barnes, who has worked very hard in the interests of the bandsmen.
The band has had its ups and downs, and during the war was entirely disbanded because nearly every man went forth to “do his little bit” for the cause of the empire.
Since the reorganisation of the band at the conclusion of hostilities, and the purchase of their fine set of Hawkes Excelsior sonorous instruments, the band has made remarkable strides. Although it is difficult and expensive for the band to attend contests, as they are situated so far away from the scene of action, they never neglect that this means of improving their status, and last year they attended three competitions and were successful in winning no less than six first prizes and one third, with two challenge cups and soloist medals.   At one of those three contests the band won every prize there was to win in both sections!