Tag Archives: brass band

Sportsmen for the Front Line

At the tail end of the suggested themes from Sepia Saturday this week was “posters”. And so I’ll start my ramble this week with a poster.

Poster WW1 b

When recruiting for the Australian Imperial Forces during the First World War  a theme was often used to appeal to certain members of the public.  And this time in 1917 it was the sportsmen who were targeted.  As the war progressed taking part in sport became frowned on so why shouldn’t one thousand of these fit and healthy young men go and help the soldiers at the front.  The promise was that they would be kept together from the day they enlisted until the day they came home again, at least for those able to come home.

The theme usually included a well known person as an added attraction.  This time it was Albert Jacka VC, the first Australian to win this honour in this conflict for his bravery at Gallipoli.    In the poster he is surrounded by men taking part in a variety of sports.

It was said that one of the reasons he was such a good soldier, and had such a fighting attitude, was that he had been a boxer before the war. The campaign to enlist sportsmen was fuelled by a strong belief that by playing sport young men developed specific skills and qualities that could be used on the battlefield –     The Age, March 10th, 1917

The Sportsmen’s Thousand Band played  regularly at recruiting rallies around the state,  In towns large and small the band members were billeted by local residents and then the local newspaper would report on the number of recruits.  One such visit on August 10th 1917 was to Castlemaine, which was later  to be the town where I grew up and  the visit was reported the next day in the Bendigo Advertiser.

Last night the Town Hall was packed on the occasion of the recruiting rally.   Stirring addresses were delivered by Mr. D. Mackinnon, Ex-Senator St. Leger. Lieutenant Bolton and Miss Martyn. The Mayor   (Cr. Cornish) presided and introduced the speakers, while the splendid band of the Sportsmen’s Thousand rendered valuable aid. Vocal items were contributed by Miss   Marjorie Eadie and Miss Macoboy, of Bendigo, the meeting was marked by great  enthusiasm.

This is the band .  They had only just been presented with their new instruments in July, according to  The Broadmeadows Camp Sentry. a weekly news publication  for the servicemen training at the Broadmeadows camp.

Sportsmen's Thousand AIF Band

Sportsmen’s Thousand AIF Band

It was this Sportsmen’s Thousand band photo on a postcard which brought me to the poster which introduced this post.  Some time ago  a friend in Geelong  allowed me to copy his postcard  which he had because  his grandfather was a member of the Band.  And there he is, H.E. Monk,  the big chap, seated second from the left.

By October 12th 1917 the soldiers were ready for a lunch time march through the city of Melbourne followed by lunch at the YMCA in St Kilda Rd.  A few days later  a detachment of them  were photographed marching along Alexandra Avenue as reported in “The Winner” on October 17th, 1917.

Sp thous Alexandra Pde March The Winner Oct 17 1917The Winner was a small sporting paper, published weekly. Then on November 14th it  showed some of the “boys”  on board  on their way to England.  This was the winning Tug of War team.   Boys of the Sp Thous 1917

The Australian TV mini-series “Anzacs” in 1985 gave us a fictional taste of how a recruiting rally may have been conducted

And perhaps for more posters, or carting coal , or horses and carts or anything vaguely connected with the afore-mentioned, then go to this week’s Sepia Saturday .

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A Letter from Welcombe

Grandpa Tom Tansey is turning out to be a good source of family stories, which is surprising because when he died his daughter found her mother busy tossing photos and papers into the incinerator  Fortunately she was able to rescue many of them.

Tom had migrated from Snitterfield in Warwickshire to Australia in 1888 as a 16 year old and came to Geelong to live with his aunt who had migrated many years before and married.  The next year he received the following letter.

Letter from Welcombe 1

Letter from Welcombe 2Letter from Welcombe 3

Welcombe   April 29 1889

Dear Sr

I was very glad to receive your letter of 19 March & find you were doing well.

Enclosed I send you a £5 note to help you on.

I send you a Stratford  paper with an account of a Sham fight here on Easter Monday –

Things are rather better here than when you left, there is more work as prices seem better and generally speaking everybody is more cheerful.

I shall be glad to hear how you get on. I trust you will keep your health which is very important.

I am truly Rob N Philips

The family story is that Tom was promised that £5 note if he wrote to Squire Philips to let him know how he was getting on in Australia.   But was he normally a good correspondent ?  Again the family story tells us that  after he was married it was his wife who was responsible for any correspondence with his mother.

Welcombe House was a  country mansion  near Snitterfield and Stratford upon Avon, built about 1835 by the Philips family. The Welcombe estate  included the village of Snitterfield.   It has some interesting associations.  Robert Philips was grandfather of the historian G.M.Trevelyan, and  a subsequent owner, Sir Archibald Flower, financed the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford  on Avon.  Welcombe  is now a hotel.

(c) Bury Art Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Robert Needham Philips in 1875, from the Bury Art Museum

But at the time of the letter Welcombe  was owned by Robert Philips.  He formally addresses Tom as “Sir”,  to someone who had just had his seventeenth birthday.  And he mentions sending a newspaper which reported on a “sham fight” at Welcombe on Easter Moday.

Now I promptly thought pugilists and fisticuffs but I was wrong.  I couldn’t find the Stratford newspaper he mentioned but I found plenty of others reporting on these sham fights taking place around the country over Easter, the manouevres being practised by the various regiments.  At Welcombe it was the 1st and 2nd Warwickshire Volunteers.  You can read the reports in the transcripts from the LEAMINGTON SPA COURIER Saturday 27th April 1889  and the Coventry Herald Sham fight.  They sound very like a setting for Midsomer Murders.

But it was this sham fight carried out at Welcombe which led me to the Worcester Cyclist Corps.  1889  .

Cyclists on Singer bikes

When you stop and think of the times, the use of bikes for reconnoitering  and passing on communications makes sense.  Most photos you can find show bicycles, not tricycles,  in use by the armies so I wonder how long the tricycle mentioned in 1889 lasted in use,

Singer tricycle 1889

The Singer Tricycle in 1889 from the Stilltime Collection

This Singer is not to be confused with the Singer of sewing machine fame.

After  the demonstration of military prowess suitably watched by the gentry there was the matter of some refreshments to be had.

Snitterfield band entertainedSo the Snitterfield Band “discoursed music”.  Tom had been a member of this band before he left for Australia. and perhaps he played for the Sham Fight at Welcombe the previous year or at one of the many other times the band played at Welcombe.  R,N,Philips  had given the village a full set of  instruments in 1883 so they could form a Brass Band. Tom would have been 11 then.  I wonder how old he was when he joined the band .

why not cycle for the kingMore letters can be found on this week’s Sepia Saturday

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A Cane Chair in Beechworth with a side serve of Brass Bands

Sepia Saturday has suggested cane chairs – or should I say wicker furniture – as a possible theme for this week.  Here is Amelia Tansey in 1931 nursing one of her four grandchildren while seated in a cane chair  at the side of her house in Camp St, Beechworth .

CampS7, , Beechworth  1931

So while wifie was at home cooking, cleaning, washing, sewing etc, etc,  what was hubby Bandmaster Tom doing?   If not at work he might have been at the State School training their brass band.

He would have been using his favourite teaching methods.  My cousin Larraine gave me a copy of his hand-written notes in his lovely  cursive script  This is the first page of three.

Tansey's Silly System 1Here is Tom at the centre of the State School Band playing in front of the school in 1931.

Beechworth School Band in front of school 1931And then again after playing at the hospital for Christmas in 1931. Some of the boys look quite old but some schools went up to  the 8th grade and the boys would be 14 or 15.

Beechworth School Band in front of the hospital 1931

At other times he might have been rehearsing  the Town Brass Band. or putting the band through their marching practice, this time in 1934

Beechworth Town Band 1934

Other  interpretations of this week’s  theme can be found at Sepia Saturday

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Concentric Circles

2013.08W.36Sepia Saturday says  ‘Some times you just need to be alone. You need space , space to think, space to breathe, space to contemplate your place in the great scheme of things’  Well there’s plenty of space in this photo which involves a visit to the river to escape the relentless heat.

Hay river 1924This boat  is  on  the  slowly moving  Murrumbidgee River  at Hay in south-western  New South Wales. In 2013  Hay recorded a maximum temperature of 47.7 °C (117.9 °F) but the average temperature for January, the hot month, is 33.0 °C (91.4 °F).  This family album photo was taken in  1924 and the people, protecting themselves from the sun with hats or scarves or towels aren’t identified but it could possibly be the two Rawnsley children with their parents But whoever they are  they are connected with Tom Tansey, the town-hopping bandmaster who brought a book on Shakespeare with him when he came from England in 1888.

Think of concentric  circles.  At the centre we have this drifting boat. The first circle is the Murumbidgee River, the second circle is the small town of Hay and the third circle covers  the agricultural district  near Hay and the wide open plains of the Riverina. It’s quite a long way from the bigger cities of Australia.

It is 1924, the year after Tom Tansey left Hay to move to Castlemaine. The First World War has been over for a few years but its effect is still felt in this district.

My interest in the photo comes from the fact that these people are living in a town which has had a town brass band since  1897 ,  and the unique place the town held  in World War I in Australia.  They had one of the highest losses in any community in Australia – from the 641 men who enlisted for service   one sixth of them were killed, over 100 young men missing from the post-war community.

This is shown in this brief film clip from Australian Screen, made in 1993.  I know that the big  award-winning brass bands are beautiful to listen to.  But I just love the small town brass bands, the mixture of young and old players, the variety of skills, the pleasure that they give to their listeners. The film clip then takes you back to the band farewelling the volunteers in 1914, sending them off in a train which doesn’t look as though it is usually used for  passengers, taking them off to fight a war on the other side of the world.

Enjoy Hay’s band in its wide brown space.

We will have music wherever we go.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

– Dorothea MacKellar, c1907

A Parting Gift

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What is precious, tattered, torn and handed down?

When my grandfather, Tom Tansey, landed in Geelong in 1888 as a sixteen year old he brought with him this copy of  WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AS HE LIVED   by Captain Curling.

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Shakespeare’s grandfather  had a farm at Tom’s home town of Snitterfield, just to the north of  Stratford on  Avon in Warwickshire.  So why had Grandpa brought this particular book with him?

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It was a farewell gift from Ben  Currier and his wife Ellen.  Ben was a farmer and much older than Tom but   Ben  and Tom were both members of the Snitterfield Town Band and this had been a parting gift and was one that Grandpa kept all his life.

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In the band photo Tom is the short chap fifth from the left in the back row while Ben is standing at the right hand end of the row, This photo was taken the previous year (1887) in front of the Red Lion in Stratford on Avon when the band led  the procession celebrating Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. Tom was 15 and Ben 32.

I was amazed to find that the book has been re-printed as a paperback but is also downloadable fron the Gutenberg Project, Monash Uni library, etc, etc.  This book was first published in 1853 but Curling was a prolific writer and the book had been published before under different titles.  It is described as a Romance and is based on fact with a lot of imagination thrown in !

It starts  –   “It was one morning, during the reign of Elizabeth, that a youth, clad in a grey cloth doublet and hose (the usual costume of the respectable country tradesman or apprentice in England), took his early morning stroll in the vicinity of a small town in Warwickshire…..”