Learners' Band

Early Years 1890s - 1930s

Post War

The Band in its Third Century


(This is a transcript of a letter written by Mr E A Harrison to the Amesbury Massachusetts Association in 1968.)


  At first I am writing of information I received from my parents as I was not born until many years later. The first band was started by my father when he was a young man, approximately 100 years ago. It was a Drum and Fife band. Here I must tell you my father's name was Edward George Harrison, the Bandmaster. The band played from memory to collect funds for a drum. At length they bought a drum for £5. The frame of the drum was 3ft long by 20 inches across the heads. It was called the Long Drum. My father was Bandmaster.

       After several years the band changed to the Amesbury Town Brass Band. This was the time when my father retired from the band and another Bandmaster took charge of the band to be succeeded by another by the name of Mr Truckle. It was a few years later when I was born, in the year of 1881. Eight years later another Drum and Fife band was started. I was a schoolboy at the time and this band was started by Mr Kenneth Flower who taught night school to working lads and men some of whom were up to the age of 24 years. I was asked by my teacher if I would like to join the band, and I accepted. It was here that I started to learn music from the blackboard.

      This band consisted of 32 members. After 4 years this band broke up and some of them joined the Amesbury Town Brass Band. Two years later at the age of 14 years, 1895, I joined the Brass Band. Mr Truckle was still Bandmaster. We played at Fetes, Flower Shows, Garden Parties etc. We paraded the streets on the Relief of Kimberly and Lady Smith during the African Boer War and when Lord Roberts passed through Amesbury our Band played the tune of "See the Conquering Hero comes". The town was gaily decorated with bunting, the schools had a day off and everybody stopped work. The school children lined the pavements waving little Union Jacks and other flags.

  The Band continued under their Bandmaster until the year 1903 and then the Band began to lose interest and the Bandmaster started in business for himself and told the Band he would not be able to give so much of his time. So he gave up his position as Bandmaster but still took an active part by playing in the Band whenever possible and I was voted in as Bandmaster. After I took charge Mr Truckle played Euphonium under me until 1914 but I must now go back to the year of 1905 when another band was formed.

       It was Amesbury Temperance Brass Band but they did not make much progress and in 1906 they approached me and asked me if I would take charge of the Band which I did. The other Band was still lacking in interest and in the meantime I taught the Temperance Band and got them out on parades and engagements. In the year of 1912 I amalgamated the two bands and made one decent Band until 1914 when the World War started.

     It was bad for the Band as conscription started and most of my lads had to join up in the armed forces and the Band was inactive until the end of the war. When it was over and got a bit settled again, I called the Band together and found we had lost half of the members by losses in the war. Some were killed and others did not want to return to the Band but we carried on with what members we had.

     Now I must digress a little. At the end of the war a memorial hut was built by Mrs Tennant, the wife of Sir Edward Tennant who later took the title of Lord and Lady Clenconner. At first it was called "The Tennant Hut". The hut which was large was handed over to the Old Comrades and it became their Headquarters and then the name was changed to "'the Old Comrades Hut". This is where I return to the Band.

      I retired from the post as Bandmaster and the Band was reformed and taken over by the Old Comrades. Sometime later, a matter of about 3 or 4 months, Mr Fred Cooper took charge of the band as Bandmaster and after a year or two, the Old Comrades with the Band were changed to the British Legion Hut and it is still the British Legion Hut to this day. Mr Cooper carried on with the Band for several years until his health began to deteriorate, ending with his sudden death.

      The Band carried on for a time without a proper leader, and then a man named Mr Fowler took over with the baton. He was an ex-marine Band Sergeant and went on enlistment as a boy to the Naval College of Music from where he passed out with Honours and a certificate stamped with the Royal Seal. He served full time in the marines before he came to Amesbury. He joined the Band as Conductor only, and this is where the Band broke away from the British Legion and joined the Wes6ex Brass Band Association and decided to get a new set of instruments, silver plated. All old instruments were called in ,and exchanged in part payment for the new ones with 3 years set to pay off the rest in cash.

      It was at this point that I was invited to join the Band again and I accepted and played Repiano Cornet for a time until I took over the Euphonium. We had many successes in the contest fields. We traveled all over the Wessex area in the South of England to contests, concerts, parades and visit towns in the summer on Sunday evenings and give musical concerts from 7 o'clock to 9 o'clock. If wet we played in the Town Halls and if the weather was dry we would play in the recreation grounds. We would get permission from the town we wanted to visit and then send along Bills to be posted up. We did this for several years and enjoyed it very much. Also we visited Stonehenge to take part in the Druid ceremony and then we would give a concert to the visiting crowds. Stonehenge is only 2 miles from Amesbury. This event was held on a Sunday nearest, the longest day of 21st June. We did this for many years.

     We also held our own Carnival and Band Concert at Midsummer with the aid of supporters under Wessex contest rules. All the Bands were from the Wessex Association. Amesbury Band did not take part in playing. Our duties were that each man take part in the management and running of it. We carried this on right up till the Second World War of 1939. But I must now go back to Mr Fowler, our conductor. After a large number of years with us he retired from the Band because he had so many other commitments. The Baton was taken over by Mr Louis Hunt who played Solo Cornet.

      I forgot to mention that my son joined the Band about the year 1930 and then my Grandson joined at the age of 8 years, in 1937. He played the Soprano Cornet. Two years later the 1939 war started and all the instruments were called in and put into store until after the war. They were examined and kept in order by some of us every few months by agreement with those who were not called to the colours. After the war we started the Band again with Mr Fowler on the Baton but he was declining in health and about the year of 1950 he finally retired.

      Mr Louis Hunt took over the Baton again and carried on until the year 1955, when my Grandson took over. We still had many successes in the contest field until the year of 1963 when the Band began to lose members and could not replace them. Pop music was coming to the top and now I am wondering, "will the Band rise or will it be the end of the AMESBURY TOWN SILVER PRIZE BAND?” And from reports I heard it seemed that many Bands were affected in the same way. Now if I may, I would like to write a few words about myself.

      I had a serious internal operation in 1958 which caused me to retire from the Band. Nineteen years ago in the year of 1949 I became an Honorary Member of the National Brass Band Association. I was presented with a certificate by virtue of having given over 50 years of continuous service to Brass Bands in fact it was over 59 years. Well I think this is about all now, hoping you can read my scrawl as my hand is very shaky. I am 81 years of age and the oldest Native Male inhabitant of Amesbury and my sister is the oldest Native Female inhabitant at the age of 89 years. I will close wishing the Best of Luck to AMESBURY - MASS - USA from the AME3BURY TOWN SILVER PRIZE BAND, Amesbury, Wiltshire, England. Goodbye

This history was written by me at the request of the Amesburyband now in existance.