Tag Archives: 1938

Hilda and the Sydney Ladies’ Brass Band

2014.11W.10This week’s theme for Sepia Saturday shows swans and carriages for a  ball at Grace Bros , a department store in Sydney in 1930. There was another department store in Sydney called Farmer’s  and through this contrived link we will find Hilda Tansey, daughter of Bandmaster Tom, working there in that same era.


She was a cunning poker player, loved her budgie, had a great sense of humour and she was my aunt. She was also a fine player of brass instruments, conductor and teacher, and the first lady conductor of a brass band in Australia..

Hilda Traralgon

Hilda sitting with her father in a photo of the Traralgon Town Band

Her father began teaching Hilda when she was 6 years old and had to stand on a box to see the music on the music stand . She gave her first public performance in 1909 in Murtoa, playing a cornet solo at a school concert – “Songs we sing at School”, which had been especially arranged for her. Soon she was playing with the band, and then with the Traralgon Brass Band, where she became first collector, then Secretary at age 15.



However by the early 1930s she was living in Sydney.   The Sydney Ladies’ Band had been formed in the early 1930s but by April 1934 the band was practically insolvent with debts of 107 pounds for uniforms and instruments.


Hilda Tansey 1934

Hilda and ten other women  players took over the debt and formed a new organization, the Sydney Ladies’ Brass Band, with Hilda as honorary conductor and teacher. She was working at Farmers at the time and hired a room at the bottom of George St near the Quay for practice at five shillings a week. Other women joined until they had 29 members.  Not all of them could read music when they started, or even play an instrument.  Not a man in sight – all previous women bands had men involved in the training etc.

With the exception of some bass instruments and drums, each girl bought her own instrument, and they made their first appearance in a grand pageant on Gala Day, November 22, 1934.

During their initial preparation and training period they raised 65 pounds through social functions, and by adding  £35  from engagements and the remainder from the members’ contributions of one shilling per week, they had paid off the debt with which they started within four months of accepting engagements.


Sydney Ladies Brass Band 1934

As a comment on their success, the Australasian Band and Orchestra News of July 26, 1935 says “Here is a practical illustration to many male bands of the saying “Never have your wishbone where your backbone ought to be”.”

band leading nurses march 1938

Sydney Ladies’ Brass Band leading a march of Red Cross Nurses in 1938



They were very busy ladies. In April 1938 they led a parade of Red Cross Nurses through the city for the laying of the foundation stone of the building in Jamieson St which was to become the home of the NSW Division of the Red Cross Society.


They played at the official opening of the Velodrome at Canterbury in 1936 and appeared regularly at Mark Foy’s store on Friday nights, as well as playing on beautifully decorated floats during parades and at garden parties.

Float1In their spare time Hilda and some of the others played in a ladies’ dance band at the Trocadero or as a filler between bouts at the Wrestling.


Playing at the Trocadero. Hilda, back left.

During the War years the band used to play for the troops at Liverpool and Ingleburn, and at the Showground. Unfortunately the R.S.L. refused to let the band march on Anzac Day in 1945, and this was just one of the contributing factors to the members’ decision to disband.

More swans and carriages, serious and frivolous interpretations os this week’s theme can be found through the links at Sepia Saturday

Not your Everyday Clothing

No fans, and no national costumes among my family memories to match this week’s theme in Sepia Saturday.   After all this is Australia and we have no national costume.  All we have is embarrassment at some of the outfits worn by the  Australian finalists in the Miss Universe or Miss World competitions when all the young ladies turn  out in their national costume.

National costume mostly means something different to your usual everyday dress, some form of dressing up,  and so I turn to other forms of dressing up at Castlemaine High School (Central Victoria)  in 1946.  The occasion was either the mid year Concert or the end of year Speech Night, both of which took place in the Castlemaine Town Hall.

Chs 1946 speech night play b

From left to right, Margaret Bearlin, Barbara Fricke, Joy Cooper, Norma Woodward, Leonie Bryson

When I went searching for this photo I had thought the young lady was holding a fan, but no, she is just clutching her skirt.

Those were the days when, although it was a co-educational High School, it wasn’t thought proper to have both boys and girls in the same play.  The girls had their one act play and the boys had theirs.

Prior to that c1938 , once again in Castlemaine,  it was a case of dressing up as Grumpy (a bit of type-casting there) not long after the movie Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs came out.  I don’t know what the occasion was.

Sniow White and The Seven Dwarves Castlemaine c 1938

Or you could go back to about 1910 at Murtoa when Vera and Hilda Tansey were all dressed up.  I can’t  explain why they were wearing  these costumes.

Vera & Hilda 1911 Murtoa Fancy DressHilda on the right wears a sash saying M.B.B .for Murtoa Brass Band  and is holding her father’s baton.  She also has her father’s South Street medals pinned on her bodice.    Vera on the left  is  wearing   ????? .  I think perhaps  she is dressed as a flower, possibly a daffodil, with that frilly skirt.  A lot of effort had gone into both costumes – i don’t think they came from any hire shop.  And of course the dog had to be in the photo too.  They were a doggie family.



And for more flirting with fans, national costumes or other forms of dressing go to the links on this week’s Sepia Saturday.



A Merry Sepian Christmas from Down Under

Christmas at Glen, Avon, Apollo Bay, 1938??????????????Christmas at my grandparent’s farm, Glen Avon, Apollo Bay

on the south coast of Victoria

in 1938

complete with gum tree Christmas tree

And how different times were when a new handkerchief pinned to the tree was to be treasured..  This year’s new addition to the family was given a doll and there were some crackers for the dinner table, all displayed on a gum tree branch from down the paddock.

We didn’t know that day that less than 3 weeks later, on Black Friday, January 13th 1939, we would spend the night on the beach watching the smoke and sparks billow from behind the distant headland each time a house in Lorne caught fire. We had come down from the farm with Grandma’s glory box strapped onto the luggage rack at the back of the car.  the car was always known as “Susie”

smoke on horizonThis photo of fire on the horizon came form Jack Jones oral history of this fire in the Otways.  Jack was 18 at the time.

But this happy  Aussie Christmas song didn’t come until later.

And a very  Merry Christmas to you all.

And for more Christmas writings from the sepians go to Sepia Saturday