Tag Archives: Town band

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 Fishy Tale in Traralgon – More Treasure from Trove

In February 1916 the fishing in the river at Traralgon in Gippsland was going well and was reported in the Gippsland Farmer’s Journal on February 8th, mentioning   Bandmaster Tom Tansey and two of the bandsmen.

Feb 1916 fishing Traralgon 1But lthe following year  it was a completely different story.

In the Australian song Waltzing Matilda the trooper comes riding down on his thoroughbred  to the billabong and asks the swagman to show him the  stolen Jumbuck (sheep) that he has stowed in his tuckerbag

In this story the policeman rode down to the riverbank and asks the fisherman to show him the undersized trout that he has stowed in his tuckerbag. On Feb 27th 1917 the Traralgon Record screamed the heading

Heading feb 27 1917The local resident  in question was the town’s Bandmaster,  Tom Tansey, one of the local “fisher folk”  who “betook themselves” to  the banks of the Traralgon Creek to fish but not observing the regulations as to size.

Even the Bairnsdale Advertiser on March 3rd, 1917, gave a full report.

… and there espied John T. Tansey dangling a rod and line in the placid waters of that stream near Koornalla. The inspectors approached the fisherman and the constable remarked. “Hullo, got any fish. Mr Tansey, ?” The   angler confessed that he had “one:” and on being asked to produce it for inspection he fumbled about his bag and then presented one about 14 or 15 inches long. That’s well  over the size,”said the Constable     “You’ve got some more there, let’s see them.” The sportsman demurred  but on being pressed  produced  another fish, ..

Gradually more and more fish were produced from the bag, all of them undersized, i.e. less than 11 inches long. The Constable took possession of the fish and  promptly took them to the local butter factory so they could later be presented in court in a nice fresh state as evidence of Tom’s naughty deed.   He was brought to court in front of three local magisgrates, and was fined  £2 plus costs.

What the newspaper doesn’t say is that Tom and at least one of the magistrates knew each other.  Dr McLean was President of the Town Band, of which Tom was bandmaster, and may have played a part in bringing Tom to Traralgon.  Dr MacLean had come to the town in 1904. as  a young doctor, fresh from the Geelong Hospital and was the only doctor in Traralgon during the years of the First World War.    He had also played football for.Geelong

So he had been  living in Geelong at the same time as Tom, when Tom was well known for his skill as a brass instrument player.  Tom had been winiing medals for his solo performances at the National Band Championships at the beginning of C20th,  a time when the bandsmen were revered in the same way that pop idols are nowadays.  When the Geelong Town Band was leaving for competitons crowds would follow them as they marched up the street to the railway station and  greet them on their return.

Here they are in the same photo when the Traralgon Band and Members made a presentation to Dr McLean. with Dr McLean in the centre, Tom with his medals to the left and a young Hilda Tansey at the top.

McLean PresentationIt is interesting to wonder if the news of Tom’s fishing trip made it back to his mother, in  England, or to his younger brother William.   At the time William was Gamekeeper at Cotterstock House in Northhamptonshire.   Tom and William, oppposite ends of a spectrum but half a world apart.  What would William have done if he had been inspecting the creek and had come across Tom fishing ! And as a bit of trivia, Cotterstock House is where the movie Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe was filmed.

Transcript from the Bairnsdale Advertiser and Tambo and Omeo  Chronicle, Saturday, March 3rd, 1917

UNDERSIZED FISH.
TRARALGON RESIDENT PROSECUTED
For some time past, says the Record, there has been a suspicion amongst members of the Traralgon, Fish and Game Protection Society that all the “fisher folk” Who betook themselves to the banks of the creek for the ostensible purpose of fishing for trout were not observing the regulations as to size ,of the fish they took from the creek. During last month Constable Lineen, an inspector of the Fisheries Department, and Christian Stammers, an honorary Inspector, paid a visit to the upper reaches of the Traralgon Creek and there espied John T. Tansey dangling a rod and line in the placid waters of that stream near Koornalla. The inspectors approached the fisherman and the constable remarked. “Hullo, got any fish. Mr Tansey, The angler confessed that he had “one:” and on being asked to produce it for inspection he fumbled about his bag and then presented one about 14 or 15 inches long. That’s well over the size,”s aid the Constable “‘You’ve got some more there, let’s see them.” The sportsman demurred but on being pressed, produced another fish. “That seems to be undersized remarked the constable. “Have you any more ?” “Uh, no” replied the fisherman “only a salmon trout”. “Well, let’s see it” persisted the policeman. A trout, somewhat smaller than the other one was produced. The constable informed the angler that he would have to take possession of the fish. He measured them in the angler’s presence, one measuring 10 inches and the other 9 ½ inches in length and both were cleaned and ready for cooking. In explanation of having these fish in his possession the fisherman said he had caught several smaller ones and had thrown them back, but the two in question were so badly hooked that they died when the hook was extracted and he put them in his bag. Such was the summary of the evidence given at the petty sessions when Tansey was called upon to answer to a charge of being in possession of certain fish of a less length than that prescribed by section 28  of the Fisheries Act, the said fish being indigenous to Victoria. Defendant was fined £2 with £14/- costs.

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