Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Dave Reynolds, the website administrator.
How the Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon came into being is a long(ish) story and one certainly too long to recount in a single blog post, however I will attempt to summarise. I’d been intrigued for a few years about George Allan. My ‘better half’ (for want of a better expression) is a one-time member of Shildon Town Band (which disbanded in the mid 1990s) and had told me about George, which set me wondering why as a community we don’t do more to recognise his life and achievements. George wrote brilliant marches, some of which still win prizes for bands at contest to this very day – and his music has been played all over the world. Finding out about George isn’t an easy thing to do. He was, it seems, something of a modest man and led a quiet lifestyle. Other than his musical legacy (of which the ‘tip of a great big iceberg’ still protrudes above the water line to this day) he left very little in terms of an easily accessible footprint.
In September 2017, to start finding out more about George, I contacted a gentleman by the name of Steve Robson who, my initial research told me, had previously researched the man, and his music, for a project at the beginning of the millennium that resulted in the recording of a CD of a number of known marches and some freshly discovered George Allan ‘classic’ marches recovered from the attic of the old band room in Shildon. Steve immediately became something of a hero to me and indispensable to my understanding of George Allan. He also directed me towards other Allan enthusiasts and former researchers to whom I am also indebted (and whom, with their permission I may, mention in future posts – or indeed they may find the opportunity to introduce themselves)
What I didn’t expect though, was to quickly discover the George Allan story is only part of the tale of New Shildon’s contribution to the world (literally) of brass band music. Another huge part of that legacy was realised through the life of Thomas Edward Bulch, born just fifteen months before George Allan and within (if you’ll forgive me) ‘spitting distance’.
T. E. Bulch appears to have faded more from the memory of Shildon folklore, possibly on account of the fact that he emigrated to Australia with a handful of other Shildon bandsmen while he was in his twenties, though there is still much about his story that ties him back to the community from which he originates.
The evidence suggests that George and Thomas started out under the tutelage of the same family of Shildon bandsmen. It also suggests that they played music alongside each other initially, that they may have worked side by side at the railway wagon works for which Shildon is so famed. They highly probably could have been friends, or rivals. They both became bandmasters and composers of great note in a similar time frame, and were skilled and respected for their work as contest adjudicators. What they achieved in their respective lifetimes, from opposite end of the earth, was remarkable. Perhaps more remarkable was that there is evidence that their compositions were often played on the same programme of music alongside each other, probably without the performing band or audience being aware that the two composers had such common roots.
In looking up the details of the life of Thomas Edward Bulch I have been fortunate enough to have been introduced to a remarkable descendent of his, who himself had spent much time researching the facts about the life of his grandfather. That person being Eric Stanley Tomkins in Australia, someone to whom I, and the group are again hugely indebted and cannot be thanked enough for his kindness in kick-starting my understanding of T. E. Bulch.
Once it became apparent how great a collective story lies behind these two men, and how important it was to make it, and the music, available – it made sense to get organised, agree what was to be done, and become a group dedicated to fulfilling that purpose to the best of our abilities.
No we’re at a point where we know what we know, and some of what we don’t know, and know also that there will be things out there that we don’t yet know we don’t know. But we do know that we want to build the best understanding we can and share that. Where we are is definitely a very exciting place to be.