Aldbourne Heritage Centre



JANET:         That’s right.

PETER:        They went up that track there. That was the camp meeting meadow.

JANET:         That’s it. I remember that.

PETER:        But that was…it got so steep and they were all getting older and older and they couldn’t get up there, so they moved it round to the pond and we used to have camp meetings around the pond while the fair was setting up, ready for…

JANET:         Yes.

PETER:        …Aldbourne Fete.

JANET:         I think I can remember that.

ANDREA:      Those camp meetings used to be awful.

PETER:        And I’ve been to…Filkins we used to go to.

JANET:         There was one at Baydon, wasn’t there?

PETER:        Ashbury.

JANET:         Ashbury, I remember Ashbury. ‘Cause I wasn’t playing…

ANDREA:      They used to go on and on…

JANET:         I know.

ANDREA:      I know. I used to sit with Sheila Hobbs and I used to sit and I used to giggle.

JANET:         I used to like the teas.

PETER:        I know, those…

JANET:         That’s all I used to go for, ‘cause…

PETER:        That was a wonderful, wonderful interval, wasn’t it, the teas? I loved that.

JANET:         I can remember one of the guys – I think he was a Salvation Army chap – and he used to be really quite interesting, and he’d speak more to the kids.

PETER:        Bill Alan.

JANET:         Bill Alan, that’s it. And he used to have this handkerchief that you’d put in a thing of water with all stains on…

PETER:        That’s…yeah.

JANET:         …then he’d pull it out and it’d be all clean.

PETER:        Yeah.

JANET:         I remember that, yeah!

PETER:        And there was Bramwell Hill, wasn’t there?

JANET:         I don’t remember…

PETER:        Big Bramwell. He had pinstriped trousers that were half-mast and…

ANDREA:      And you didn’t want…

PETER:        …he used to shake hands and it was like a handful of wet sausages, you know?

ANDREA:      [WHISPERING] He was one for the ladies!


PETER:        And there was that lovely foreign Dom Thomas, farm manager for…

JANET:         Bill Sampson.

PETER:        Bill Sampson. Bill Sampson was like Larry the Lamb: [BLEATING] ‘My dear friends!’


ANDREA:      [LAUGHING] I used to…every Sunday we used to go to these…

PETER:        I enjoyed them, though. And another time when we had a big band, we used to play in the Town Gardens.

ANDREA:      Oh yeah, in Swindon. That was okay.

PETER:        That was with horn band and we used to go and have tea with Mary on Ferndale Road and…

ANDREA:      Oh yes.

PETER:        So that was in between, ‘cause…

JANET:         Yes, of course. ‘Cause we lived in Ferndale Road, on the other side of the road from her.

PETER:        ‘Cause she moved…

JANET:         When we were first married.

PETER:        Mary moved from 330 to 200-and-something.

ANDREA:      There’s one thing I must say. My dad was in the band a really long time, apart from the war, and the band was doing a concert at the Wyvern and I can’t remember who the conductor would have been at that point, whether it was Bob Barnes…’cause you were there and he’d obviously stopped playing with the band, so…

PETER:        It was in the seventies.

JANET:         The Wyvern opened in the seventies, ‘cause our band, one I play with in Swindon, we opened it. We were at the opening thing.

ANDREA:      Well my dad was presented on stage by Eric Ball.

JANET:         Right, yeah.

PETER:        With a long-service medal, wasn’t it?

ANDREA:      With a long-service medal.

JANET:         Wow.

ANDREA:      And my mum was…they’d bought a bouquet of flowers up to my mum that…my dad was over the moon, ‘cause he loved music, good music.

PETER:        He wasn’t very emotional, your dad, though.

ANDREA:      But he’d cry over a good piece of music.

JANET:         Mmm.

ANDREA:      And he’d listen to…I mean, he thought all the modern music was absolute rubbish. But he’d sit there and listen to brass band music, good playing. He’d love to hear that now. He really would. He really would.

JANET:         Mmm.

ANDREA:      But he was so proud that night to be presented by Eric Ball.

JANET:         Wow.

ANDREA:      Yeah. I’ll never forget that concert.

JANET:         That must have been Dom.

PETER:        You know, I’ve got a feeling it was Dom.

JANET:         I think it was Dom, ‘cause I can only remember Dom…

PETER:        Because I’d packed in and I wasn’t playing but we went down and sat in the audience. It was Dom.

JANET:         ‘Cause my earliest memories of Aldbourne was with him.

PETER:        Yeah.

JANET:         Although no, I do remember Bob Barnes, ‘cause he used to come and help at Ramsbury sometimes.

PETER:        But Bob and his wife Stella, they were very good singers. They used to sing duets, didn’t they?

ANDREA:      That was my mum’s best friend, wasn’t it, Stella?

PETER:        Bob’s first wife. Sandra, his second wife, is still alive now. She’s…

JANET:         Right.

PETER:        She was a lot younger, wasn’t she? Stella? Sandra.

ANDREA:      Sandra.

PETER:        Yeah. Stella died years ago.

ANDREA:      But really, another thing that was always funny was Christmas Eve. Because my mum would always go to the midnight service but my dad and my brother, off they’d go to band, carolling.

JANET:         Mmm.

ANDREA:      They’d come in at goodness knows what time, she’d go out to go to the midnight service, come home, they’d all get up again at four o’clock and Christmas Day they were all so tired.


ANDREA:      And they used to get back into bed absolutely freezing cold, you know? But that was always quite…

PETER:        Some of them didn’t go to bed on Christmas Eve.

JANET:         That’s what they still do, isn’t it?

PETER:        They used to go in the Crown. And it’s very interesting, Janet, ‘cause one year Ivy House, which is the house by the car park and library – the big house there – we were invited in there to play carols and they had hot punch that came around and I took a sip of it and I thought, ‘This is awful,’ and tipped it in the flower bed. But several of them, Cyril Barrett included, decided they’d drink it and they were too ill next morning to turn out!


PETER:        It was about the only year that Cyril, I think, had ever missed Christmas morning carols. And then Lionel’s mum, Nellie, they used to live on the corner of Barn’s Yard there, when we used to get to there, Nellie was always up and we had tea there, which would break Christmas morning carols up, and then we’d carry on around the village and end up about six o’clock. ‘Cause the bells start then.

JANET:         Right.

PETER:        Except for a few – Rick Mendel [0:20:08.3] and a few – would climb the church tower and start playing carols from right at the top of the church tower.

JANET:         Were there any street lights on or was it just…

PETER:        Yes, yeah.

ANDREA:      ‘Cause they always play outside our bedroom, don’t they? When Dolly was conducting, I always got the carols that I wanted but they didn’t even play there last, did they? Or was it the year before?

PETER:        They missed one year.

ANDREA:      Christmas morning they missed…

PETER:        No, last year they were okay.

ANDREA:      That was the first morning in all those years they’ve never played out there.

JANET:         Mmm.

PETER:        We were in The Crown playing carols and there was an old gamekeeper from Axford called Albert Springet [0:20:47.3]. He lived on the bad bend as you go into Axford from Ramsbury, the right-hand bend. There’s a place there…

JANET:         I don’t know the road very well. I know Axford but I wouldn’t know…

PETER:        Called Muddygate, anyway.

JANET:         Yeah.

PETER:        He was a cockney, Albert Springet [0:21:01.0] and he used to love a tipple. And we were in The Crown playing carols and Albert had had a few and he said to Donnie, he said, ‘I’ll give you a fiver,’ he said, ‘If I can conduct a carol,’ and Donnie said, ‘You give us twenty quid, you can conduct a bloody overture!’


ANDREA:      [LAUGHING] There’s some of these things looking back…we used to go all the way to Brighton to contest. And that was an awful journey…

JANET:         Mmm.

ANDREA:      …because the buses were, like…they were the first to…there were…

PETER:        Sue and Bob were the two drivers.

ANDREA:      Sue and Bob were…Bob was…

JANET:         Right.

ANDREA:      Bob and the conductor and he drove one and Sue drove the other. They only had two buses, didn’t they?

PETER:        We used to stop at Max Café [0:21:47.3] on the A4 for breakfast at about six in the morning.

ANDREA:      You’d be up by four. Ooh, that was a long day. Coming home you didn’t know where to get…you couldn’t go to sleep…

JANET:         No.

ANDREA:      …’cause the seats never went like that. They were up like that.


ANDREA:      Oh, that was awful, wasn’t it? It was a long way to go in those days, to Brighton.

PETER:        Yeah, yeah. Belle Vue. We went to Belle Vue once and…we stayed overnight which was…took our families and had two hotels there, didn’t we, split up between the…

ANDREA:      Yeah. Sarah sleepwalked.

PETER:        Yeah, our daughter sleepwalked! [LAUGHING]

ANDREA:      Got out and was wandering about. Oh! Those were the days!

JANET:         What was the best concert you ever played in? The most fulfilling concert?

PETER:        I used to enjoy so many, Janet. I guess one of the nicest things we did is either Reading or Oxford – we used to contest there every year…

JANET:         Mmm.

PETER:        …and, um…

JANET:         Is that Reading Town Hall?

PETER:        Yeah. And I think…I think it was Reading we had massed bands and we played under Eric Ball, which was good. So after the contest was over, we rehearsed with Eric Ball and then in the evening we played the massed bands in concert.

JANET:         Wow.

PETER:        So that was probably quite a highlight. And obviously coming second for me. I didn’t play for me when the band went in the Albert Hall – I’d left then – but when we came second at Kensington Town Hall, that was great. We went up the West End, didn’t we? And…

ANDREA:      That was my dad’s ambition, to play in the Albert Hall.

JANET:         Did he?

PETER:        I think he played there in the end.

ANDREA:      Did he?

PETER:        I think so. That was wonderful. Didn’t get, though. I’d retired then.

ANDREA:      We went to Bristol to the Colston Hall, didn’t we?

PETER:        Yeah, the Colston Hall.

ANDREA:      It was a good concert too, with Evelyn Glennie, wasn’t it? A few years ago.

PETER:        Well, to listen. We went down to listen to Evelyn Glennie play.

ANDREA:      A bit high-brow but…

JANET:         So did the band used to get in professional conductors for concerts?

PETER:        We always used to have…the only one that I played under was George Crossland. I suppose Joey felt that he needed someone else to come in. I mean, like in recent times, up until David came in, we had…what’s his name? Sykes and there was…

JANET:         Yeah.

PETER:        …Dave…there was another Dave, wasn’t there? We had about three…

JANET:         Williams.

PETER:        Williams. We had about three different conductors came in at different times. But now luckily with David, long may he last, obviously, ‘cause he puts them in their place, which is a bit like the training band musical director!

JANET:         [LAUGHING] I’ve got some other questions here that I don’t know whether you’d have thought about. How do you think the band contributes to village life? It’s quite a difficult one.

PETER:        No, I think they contribute a lot. I think…I think perhaps things have changed slightly because when I was in the band, everyone in the band was a village person.

JANET:         Yeah, yeah.

PETER:        Or a village person who just left the village and lived in Chiseldon or somewhere. I mean, it’s all Barnes, Barretts, Palmers and so on. And there was brothers and uncles and everything in there. And then we had one or two join from the Salvation Army – Jesse Jones, Bill Marsh. And then we had one or two come come from British Railway, so we started to get an influx from outside. Obviously there’s a lot of competition between Aldbourne and British Railways and that, and whether they came to us from different…you sometimes change bands for different reasons. Obviously the quality of the band is much higher now than it’s ever been and the standard of play is much higher. But I still think although there’s not so many local people in the band, they still do a lot for the village.

JANET:         Mmm, mmm.

PETER:        I mean, they’re always there, they turn out the Pond Concerts and that.

ANDREA:      I agree.

PETER:        I know they do collections but they’re very good, and there’s this concert on Friday.

ANDREA:      That was the only thing I thought. Perhaps…

PETER:        I think the band do play an important part in the village.

ANDREA:      Yeah, and they do the carnival.

JANET:         Christmas carols around the pond.

ANDREA:      Carols and things like that. And they’re playing at this concert on Friday evening.

JANET:         Yes, at the Memorial Hall.

ANDREA:      Yeah, we’re going, aren’t we?

PETER:        Yeah.

ANDREA:      That should be good. I’m looking forward to that.

PETER:        They play for golden weddings, don’t they Janet, as well?

JANET:         That’s right, yeah. [LAUGHING]

ANDREA:      What’s that?

JANET:         For golden weddings.

PETER:        I said they play for golden weddings. And Janet conducted for that.

ANDREA:      No, I think the band do the village proud. I think people are proud of them. I’m proud.

JANET:         Yeah.

ANDREA:      Very proud, really.

PETER:        I think this is…it’s gradually drifted away from bringing your own people on because they’ve had such an influx of good-quality players from outside…

JANET:         Mmm.

PETER:        …whereas it’s good now to see the training band coming along and if one, two or three or a dozen or more you’ve got make it into the main band, that in itself will be an achievement.

JANET:         Yeah.

PETER:        ‘Cause Ian Comley had the last training band, I suppose, didn’t he? He brought on…

JANET:         I’m hoping to interview him as well.

PETER:        Ian?

JANET:         Yeah. ‘Cause he was a player when I was a player and I can remember him at contests and…

PETER:        Well Ian was brought on by Jeremy Alder, like Donnie Keene and several others, and without a doubt he was a very good trainer of musicians and that, and I think it was nothing to have a clip around the ear if you hadn’t…


PETER:        He could tell if you hadn’t been practising and he’d let you know! But I think if you could stick to it, you ended up as a good-quality musician. And Ian was a good soprano player – never let us down. But he was playing soprano when he was only in his very early teens. And I know we went to a contest in Devizes, in the Corn Exchange, and we won first prize and somehow the got him drunk and he lived…his parents lived up past The Blue Boar, up round the corner there, and he crawled home ‘cause he was so ill!

JANET:         What were the high points of when you were playing in the band?

PETER:        Well without a doubt the highest point – it might not be very high now – but coming second in the…

JANET:         Yeah.

PETER:        That was a real high point. We were on a real high. ‘Cause we did win it…I suppose I could say me and Andrew, but that was with Ramsbury Band!

ANDREA:      I was going to say, ‘Watch it!’ Um…

PETER:        Yeah, that was a high point. But we used to win and get placed well down at Bristol, the Colston Hall.

JANET:         Mmm, mmm.

PETER:        So I suppose at any of the big contests that you play where you got placed, it was very rewarding.

JANET:         Mmm.

PETER:        But you did…even then you used to get the times where you got off a platform and felt you played really well and you find you’re nowhere in it.

JANET:         Yeah.

PETER:        And the adjudicator didn’t like the way you did it. I remember once, and I can’t remember where it was we went, and Bob Barnes was conducting, and we were well-rehearsed on whatever piece it was, but Bob listened to a few of the bands, and he came to the conclusion that we were playing one section of it too slow compared to everyone else. So he decided to change the tempo as we got on the platform. So you can imagine what chaos that was!


PETER:        ‘Cause Bob had a very…I call it a ‘choral’ beat. Not a positive beat, it was one of those beats. Where does beat one end and beat…you know, that sort of thing.

ANDREA:      He used to conduct the…the choir.

PETER:        That’s what I say. He was a choral…he was very good but it was very like that and…

JANET:         Mmm.

PETER:        …you need to know where the bottom of the beat is, don’t you, you know? So we weren’t too pleased about that!

JANET:         So any low points? You tend to forget things like that, don’t you? You remember the good things, really.

ANDREA:      There were disappointment, weren’t there, at times, when you thought you’d done well and you hadn’t, but I don’t know if…

PETER:        Well yeah, the converse. The thinking you’ve done well and losing thinking you haven’t done well and winning, but…no, I…

JANET:         ‘Cause the band has been sustained all these years, hasn’t it? You’ve never been in risk of falling apart?

ANDREA:      No, never.

PETER:        I don’t think so.

JANET:         Never.

ANDREA:      Not that I can remember.

PETER:        I mean there are times…it probably wouldn’t happen now but, I mean, I’ve been to band practice where I’ve been the only solo cornet. And…

ANDREA:      We would get Harry.

PETER:        Well Harry’d been harvesting.

ANDREA:      And I mean, he’s the same for everything. He was always late for everything, ‘cause he was in the football team out here and I was born along the road and I used to hop out and go across, and he’d come running down about ten minutes after the match had started in his…

PETER:        Football gear.

ANDREA:      …football gear and his boots, running down from right up on the Marlborough Road where his farm was. He was always late, wasn’t he?


ANDREA:      But…I don’t know what I was saying now! I’ve gone off the track!

PETER:        No, well because I was sometimes…sometimes I’d get there and I was the only cornet ‘cause he was harvesting. But again, you see, it shows the different standards of musicians because Harry could go harvesting for six weeks, he’d come back to practice, he’d get his cornet out – the one that I’ve got now – and the valves were seized up and he could spit on the valves and he could sit down and he could play anything. And yet other people, me included, would have to practice hours and hours to even maintain it.

JANET:         Mmm.

PETER:        And yet Harry could…he was just naturally gifted. Naturally gifted. But he was only telling us on Saturday that technically Harry used to say to Donnie, ‘You play that,’ ‘cause he couldn’t read…he couldn’t necessarily read the music properly. And once Donnie played it, Harry’d say, ‘I’ve got it now,’ so he used to pass the buck onto Donnie!


PETER:        ‘Cause Donnie was technically very good. In the blues and all that as well.

ANDREA:      One thing I used to get fed up with all the fetes they did.

JANET:         I think that’s still the case.

ANDREA:      I mean, I enjoy the church fete, ‘cause it’s people you know and the cream teas and the garden and that kind of thing, but you went dragging around to all these fetes and oh, it was so boring!


ANDREA:      Sarah used to…put her off the band for ever, didn’t it?

PETER:        Andy’s dad was Secretary for years and he didn’t like typing or writing letters, so it was always me – I was Assistant Secretary to him. And Tony Beatty was a very good cornet player and he played with Kennett Vale…

ANDREA:      Oh yeah.

JANET:         Was he dark-haired…big shock of dark hair?

ANDREA:      No…

JANET:         No, no, there’s another Tony…

PETER:        Anyway, there was a chap that played…soprano cornet – Jack Watts, his name was, for Kennett Vale and Jack used to help Ramsbury at different times, a stocky bloke…and I think he worked for the council. But some…I don’t know whether UNCLEAR [0:32:47.3]’s dad was instrumental in it…Tony was a very good cornet player and I think he’d been in an army band. And Eric and his dad poached Tony for Aldbourne Band, ‘cause we needed him, and Jack Watts threatened to run Eric over in his council role for pinching his star cornet player!


ANDREA:      [LAUGHING] And was I not sat next to him at that concert in…

PETER:        Yeah.

ANDREA:      …Wootton Bassett when they did that concert in…

PETER:        I think that was him there.

ANDREA:      That was the man, wasn’t it? And I thought…

PETER:        No, that was his son.

ANDREA:      That was his son. That’s right, ‘cause he would have been older, yeah.

PETER:        Yeah, Jack wouldn’t be around now, I shouldn’t think. But no, him and your dad were not the best of friends!

JANET:         So when did your dad join the band? How old would he have been?

ANDREA:      Oh, he must have been a young…

PETER:        He was only in his very early teens.

ANDREA:      A lad. ‘Cause my brother was in the band before he left school, wasn’t he?

PETER:        Mmm. Tim was…he had to be forced a bit. I mean, as it is now, he lives in Minehead and I had to email him remarks and everything and he came up St John’s concert right the way from Minehead.

ANDREA:      Well he is a whatsit of the band, isn’t he? A Friend?

PETER:        No, he’s a…

ANDREA:      He’s a Friend but he’s…not President…

PETER:        No. Like a Vice-President.

JANET:         Yeah, yeah. Patron or something?

ANDREA:      And he played in the band for a long time, didn’t he?

PETER:        But he didn’t want to play. He had to be forced to play.

JANET:         Mmm.

PETER:        And there’s a chap called Herbie Palmer who was a solo trombone player in the village, in the band. He lived in Chiltern Foliat and Andrea’s dad used to take him along to Herbie to learn the trombone. But then Tim got enthusiastic and he was solo trombone.

ANDREA:      So my dad must have…he died and he was how old?

PETER:        He died in ’95. I think he’d been in the band 60 years when Eric Ball presented him with that.

ANDREA:      Yeah, yeah. So he must have started really early ‘cause he’s been dead now twenty years. Twenty, isn’t it?

PETER:        ’94. Yeah, coming up twenty. So you’ve got another one. That lad that sits next to me. Jerram. Barney, I should say. His dad…his grandad, Paul Jerram, used to play cornet on the back row with me, and his…Paul’s dad, Jebby Jerram, was solo trombone player for years. But Barney’s got a lot of support there.

JANET:         Mmm.

PETER:        And it could be in the genes a bit, which is good. So I think we’ve got someone there that…

JANET:         Mmm.

PETER:        And the same as Noah, ‘cause Kate’s obviously a very good musician and that, and he’ll get…