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Penmaenmawr Silver Prize Band

Extract out of the scrap book of The Town Band


The History of the establishment of the Band by Mr William Hughes "Isfryn" Penmaenmawr

Here follows a rambling history of the establishment of the "Penmaenmawr Town Band " and the various events that followed and of which I had the privilege of being one of its founders and also a playing member for close on twenty years.

After very many discussions at the Quarries and elsewhere :

In the year 1894 a group of young men met together to consider the possibility of forming a "Brass Band" which would be the means of education and entertainment.

It should be realised that young people had to be content at this period on what they could produce locally for their entertainment as the facilities for travelling from place to place were very different, in fact, almost non-existent in those days.

Entertainment consisted of vocal Concerts at the Oxford Hall, small competitive meetings, tonic sol-ffa classes and the like. A play at the Oxford Hall each Christmas given by the Darbishire family and friends was a very popular and enjoyable event.

It was arranged, under the chairmanship of Mr.J.S.Coverley, to canvas from house to house for subscriptions to form a fund. The canvas was a success and at this stage officials and trustees were appointed. Mr.J.S.Coverley was appointment Bandmaster and Twenty four members were enrolled, the entrance fee being £1.1.0.a

An account was opened with the Bank and arrangements wore made for a loan to purchase a set of second hand re-conditioned brass instruments form Messrs.Beeson & Co., London. The Instruments on delivery were handed to the members and practices were held in stable lamps hung from the roof.

We were all raw recruits with no experience of actual playing brass wind instruments and without any knowledge of reading music from the staff notation. The only people with any knowledge were the Bandmaster,, a cornet player and a B.flat bass player who had previously played with a band, others of us were versed in Tonic Sol-ffa which proved to be of some little help.

Our first trainer was a Mr.Corrison, Bandmaster with the R.W.F. Caernarvon. He paid us weekly visits for some time and we made a levy of 1/- per month per member towards tuition. Gradually we made some progress and were able to produce tone, play various scales and a few short pieces of music from an Elementary Tutor Book.

Arrangements were then made for the use of a room at Pen-Cae School for practices and it was from that room that we made our first public performance in marching through the town t the "Coate Hotel" and back with rests at various points. A large crowd enjoyed and were delighted with Two Quick Steps, "men of Harlech" and the familiar "No.8" from a tutor book (which contained about thirty two bars which were repeated over and over again)

Our first contest was held at the Oxford Hall - three bands competed i.e. Bagillt, Penmaenmawr & Llanfairfechan. the test piece was a waltz "butter cups & Daises" and a march of our own choice which was to be played along the "pant y Afon". The adjudicator was Dafydd Owen of Rhyl ( an authority on brass Band playing at this time). The bands were placed in order of merit as before mentioned.

aWe continued to preserve and eventually were able to play various selections which were greatly appreciated by visitors and inhabitants alike and who contributed to our collections. At this stage we all took much keener interest in our practice and we engaged some of the best trainers to coach us for different contests. trainers such as : Mr. Brady of the Gossages Band, Mr. Valentine of Manchester and Mr.J.A.Greenwood of Birkenhead (then a young man and a noted cornet player, and is today one of the veterans of the brass band movement as a composer and trainer). Mr.Alex. Owen, conductor of the famous "besses-o'-the-barn" band also kept appointment with us for several years.

It was now felt that a better set of instruments was deserved and a meeting of the trustees was therefore called. Arrangements were made with the bank for a further loan with which to secure a new set of silver plated instruments.
Terms were arranged with Messrs.Bensson & co. of London for a set of twenty four instruments with a monogram of the "British Crown" embossed thereon and the date 1837-97 engraved in gilt on each instrument - the total cost was about £350. when the instruments arrived they were displayed in a certain shop window in the town and were greatly admired by all.

aAt this juncture the band made good progress and took part in various contests, winning several prizes and trophies under the coaching of Mr.Alex. Owen. a Two-day bazaar was held at the drill hall and several Ladies & Gentlemen took a great interest, inspired by Capt.C.H.Darbishire who took a very active part in the Bazaar and secured it's success - the result was that the debt at the bank for instruments was paid off and a handsome sum of money was paid into the credit of our account at the bank.a

Our practice room was now at the National school and here again it was felt that it would benefit the band and members to be in a more central position for the convenience of band practice etc. It was from these room that the band made it's best progress.

At this period the band joined (en bloc the F.Co.of the 6th Battalion R.W.F. and under the command of Capt. C.H.Darbishire; we were issued with uniforms for the first time - consisted of scarlet tunics with white piping, navy trousers with red seams, and forage caps. Busbys were also issued for ceremonial parades.

Some drills and the annual firing classes at the rifle range had to be attended but band practices counted for the remainder of the drills. We served as the battalion band at various training camps among them being Conwy Morfa, Fleetwood, towyn, Blackpool, Scarborough and Salisbury plain, we also had the honour of playing in the presence of royalty at Bangor at the laying of the foundation stone of Bangor University, during this time we played : In the grounds of old bishop's palace in the presence of Prince Edward of Wales accompanied by Princess Alexandra (during lunch time and the inspection of the Guard of honour). At castle square, Caernarfon in the presence of Prince George accompanied by Princess Mary (then Duke and Duchess of York) at an inspection parade of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. We also played at a grand march past on Salisbury plain when thousands of troops took part - each battalion headed by their own band with Lord Robert, accompanied by his staff, taking salute.

The following engagements were under taken at various towns and villages :

Diamond Jubilee Celebration, Memorial Services, Coronation Celebrations, wedding parties, church and chapel parades, torchlight procession (to celebrate the relief of mafeking), welcome home parades (local men who were returning from the south African war), Annual demonstrations at various lodges of friendly societies - including the Odd fellows, Forresters etc. when they used to parade the streets of the towns and villages in their full regalia headed by a brass band.
invariably at the end of each day we were invited to a feast of slated boiled beef, mashed potatoes, split pease and plenty of ale with other beverages.

Several contests took place at this time and we competed against several leading bands in North Wales such as - Natlle Vale, Royal Oakly, Rhos, Holywell, Llanddulas, Colwyn, Gresford, Wrexham borough and others. These contests proved to be of great advantage as means of better attendance to practices for the correct reading of music and better production of tone (for which we were often complimented by different adjudicators) several prizes were gained from these contests.aaa

Following the death of Mr. J. S. Coverley his son Mr. R. T. Coverley was appointed bandmaster but the 1914-1918 war had broken out and several of the bandsmen were called to the forces, all that could be done meantime was occasional practices by the other members and the enrolling of recruits.

Immediately after the war the band restarted in earnest. the instruments were re-conditioned and a few new ones added (with the support of the local authority which still continues). we once again entered for competitions and Eisteddfodau, winning several more prizes.

aMr. R. T. Coverley retired from the position of band master and Mr. W. T. Davies was appointed. he was very popular and energetic and through his endeavours raised the band to a high standard amongst the north Wales bands winning prizes at the national eisteddfod and other places. under his tuition the promenade bandstand concerts flourished and were a source of attraction and pleasure to visitors and the local inhabitants.
Mr. Davies, however, left the district becoming bandmaster to the Deiniolin band and at this juncture Mr. J. H. Hughes took over the band master position - he again kept up the high standard of the band and their performances at concerts and other functions were always complimented. It was under the training of Mr. J. H. Hughes, Preston that the band advanced to a stage of efficiency which enabled them to compete against some of the noted English bands, bringing credit to Penmaenmawr and North Wales in general.

As an ex-bandsman I feel very proud of adding this testimony to the band and their officials for their efforts through the years in keeping the band together thought some very trying years also to the inhabitants of Penmaenmawr for their loyal support.

"Wishing the band further successes in the future with the familiar motto "Practice makes Prefect"


P.S. I may also add that during the period 1872-82 a brass band of twelve or fourteen players existed in the town - of which as a young boy I have only a faint recollection. I was told that owing to lack of funds and poor condition of the instruments (which were held together by soap and string) they had no alternative but to disband. I have in my possession a certain part of one of the instruments of that period.