The Long Story – Part 2.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3,Part 4,Part 5,Part 6

17. The Emigration of the Malthouse Family

We know that from about 1878 Thomas Edward Bulch and George Allan had found themselves members of separate brass bands.  George stayed with Francis Dinsdale’s New Shildon Saxhorn Band and Thomas became a member of his uncle Edward Dinsdale’s New Shildon Temperance Band.

Thomas was joined in the new band by a number of family members and friends with whom he had graduated from the ranks of his uncle’s Juvenile Band.  Of his brothers, we know that older brother Francis, or ‘Frank’ was a bandsman, and from newspaper reports, we learn that J Bulch, which may have been John or Jeremiah, played the euphonium. These two were younger than Thomas however and whichever it was may not, by this point, have yet graduated from the Juvenile band.  Of Thomas’s bandsmen friends the new Temperance band drafted in Samuel Lewins, James Scarffe and Joseph Garbutt, among others, of whom we shall hear later; but also one of Thomas’s seemingly closest friends, John Malthouse.

John was one of four brothers, all of whom had learned to play a brass instrument under the tutelage of Edward Dinsdale, the others being Thomas, Robert and George.  Of these, it would be John who would prove to be a major influencer in the life and career of young Thomas Edward Bulch.

John Malthouse was born in April 1860 and was ten months old by the time of the 1861 census, making him over a year older than Thomas Bulch.  His parents, George Malthouse, born in 1839 and Ann Malthouse (nee Applegarth) born around 1836, were married at Heighington on 29th October 1859.  George, the son of a family of farm labourers, was born at Aycliffe, and after his rudimentary education learned the skills of boilersmithing in the railway engineering industry, and hence was drawn to New Shildon – whereas Ann originated from nearby Heighington.  George’s father had come to the area from Barton, Yorkshire.

John’s brother Thomas Malthouse came into the world in 1863, George in 1864 and Robert William in 1869.  Though Robert was a little younger the three older lads were very much contemporaries of both Thomas Edward Bulch and George Allan and all would have been educated together at the small British School on Station Street that had been founded by the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

As was so often the case in that age, though, the fragile integrity of family wasn’t to last.  George Malthouse senior died on 31st October 1870 leaving Ann a widow with four sons to raise.  The family had lived in Alma Road, but by In 1871 the family had moved to Soho Street and Ann as a widowed head of the household took in lodgers to help make ends meet.  This appears at the time to have been common, and not difficult as the demand for labour locally outstripped the availability of accommodation.  Most houses in this small clutch of streets that sprang up around the railway wagon works were small and overcrowded.  It would have been a difficult existence, particularly bearing in mind that a reliable supply of fresh water only came to the Shildons in 1868.  What’s somewhat strange in the 1871 census is that Ann’s son George Jr. isn’t living at New Shildon with his brothers but instead is living, aged 7, as a lodger with a family at Great Lumley where the head of the household was one John Cowens, a farmer.  It’s not clear why.

On the 26th April 1873, Ann Malthouse remarried.  This time to a John Abdale Gascoigne at New Shildon.  John, born in the nearby market town of Darlington had come to the town from Wolsingham, in Weardale, to work as a labourer.  His mother, like Ann, was a widow too.  He initially lodged with the Fleming family on Railway Terrace.  Joseph Fleming, an engine driver, had married Hannah, John’s sister, so John was effectively lodging with family.

John became stepfather to the Malthouse lads, but the boys retained the surname of their natural father.  They were all young bandsmen learning to play under the tutelage of Thomas Bulch’s uncle, Edward Dinsdale.  From what was to happen in the following years you get the sense that John Malthouse must have built up a strong camaraderie with the young Tom Bulch throughout this childhood.

For reasons that are obscured in the mists of time, the Malthouse family decided to seek their fortunes elsewhere.  There were opportunities to be had in Australia and the government of the day were keen to strengthen the British presence in that territory, but whether the Malthouses were incentivised is unclear. However, on 30 June 1879, John Gascoigne, his wife and the four sons all travelled to London where they boarded the steamer ‘City of London’ as steerage passengers to travel to Australia via Plymouth and St Vincent.

The steamer ‘City of London’ had been built in 1863 to be operated by the Inman Fleet to be part of the Liverpool and Philadelphia Steamship Company transporting passengers to the United States.  They had in 1853 been the first company to offer transport to steerage passengers (who initially were required to take their own food) at a cheaper rate. Steerage passengers made up 80% of the Inman line’s passengers.  The City of London weighed 2550 tons gross weight and was propelled by a three-bladed iron screw propeller.  The ship was mostly black with a single funnel and three masts in case she ran out of coal.  It was sold in 1878 to William Ross and Co. Thistle Line and fitted with new engines.  Though, it was listed in the Australian press as being a ship of the Orient Line.  This sale leading to being repurposed to transporting passengers and cattle to and from the US and Australia.

A report on the ship arriving into New York in the year it was launched describes the vessel in excellent detail.

“She is constructed on the most approved principles, with all the recent improvements as to both build and machinery, measuring 355 feet in length on deck, by a breadth of 40 feet 4 inches in beam, with a depth of 26 feet.  She is about 2,466 tons gross measurement, and is 1,678 tons register, and is propelled by engine, of 550- horse power, which can be worked up to 1,500.  The motive steam is raised by four boilers, heated by twenty furnaces, fitted athwart-ships from the centre, the furnace and engine-rooms being kept cool and sweet by an admirable system of ventilation.  It is calculated that these twenty furnaces will consume about sixty tons of coal per day, by which agency it expected that the vessel will attain a speed of about fourteen knots an hour.

The City of London is very strongly framed, and is divided into six water-tight compartments by five strong iron bulkheads, which extend from the keel up to the upper deck, thus receiving great additional strength, and being secured in a high degree from dangerous accident from either water or fire.  She is further strengthened by steel water-tight deck stringers, which extend in breadth from the bulwarks to the house on deck, throughout the whole length of the vessel; and besides this security, still greater firmness and tension are insured by her sheen strake being of double steel plates from stem to stern.

Besides her powerful propelling machinery, she is also fully equipped as a sailing vessel, having three tall masts, is ship-rigged, carrying large square as well as fore and aft sails.

On deck she has a wide and lofty house, which extends from the stem right aft to the stern, the roof of which forms a spacious and magnificent promenade deck.  To the extreme aft of this is the wheel-house.  Immediately in front of the wheel-house are the Captain’s cabin and first officer’s room, and between the officer’s rooms and the engine-room is the saloon or main cabin, an exceedingly elegant and beautiful apartment, sixty feet long by eighteen feet wide, very fully lighted and ventilated by side lights, and fitted up in a style of luxurious and tasteful elegance.

Directly forward of the saloon are the steward’s pantry and bar, which are furnished with a profusion of elegant and beautiful silver-plate, porcelain and crystal.

The staterooms for the saloon passengers, 52 in number, capable of accommodating 120 passengers, are under the main-deck – spacious, well lighted, and, like every other portion of the vessel, most carefully ventilated, by side openings and air shafts.  The portion on this deck, forward from the engine-room, is devoted to sleeping apartments and mess-rooms for the second and third-class passengers.  These apartments also are well lighted and admirably ventilated.  The closet and other sanitary appliances of the ship are ample and complete. The ship is supplied with eight life and other boats, two very large ones being fitted with Clifford’s lowering apparatus.  She has also numerous life-buoys and apparatus for preventing and extinguishing fires.”

It all sounds rather grand, though the 450 third class ‘steerage’ passengers including the Malthouses would have experienced little of the ships ‘finer points’ during their 54 days on board.

They arrived at Melbourne around midnight on 23rd August 1879 after what was reportedly an agreeable passage. Passengers were quarantined on arrival, during which period a number of cases of measles broke out.

Interesting to note the fate of the ship itself – which disappeared at sea in November 1881 along with 41 people, on her last journey back to London.

The Malthouse lads maintained their interest in brass music and between the age of 19 and 24, he had worked his way up to being bandmaster of the Kingston and Allendale band. Renowned Victorian band authority and historian Robert Pattie tells me a little bit about Allendale in those days. “It’s hard to imagine Allendale having a brass band as there is practically nothing there now but it was gold that brought hundreds of people to the area and there would have been hundreds of tents set up. A temporary city of thousands of people”.

And that city of tents and gold miners is where we leave the Malthouse family to settle in for the time being, though we shall return to them in due course.

18. The Rivalry Years

At some point before the taking of the 1881 census, when Thomas would be 18 years old, the whole Bulch family had moved to 40 Adelaide Street, New Shildon. Thomas senior and Margaret and the older children had been joined by Christopher (10 years younger), Sarah (12 years younger), Miney (14 years younger), Ada (16 years younger) and the 6-month-old infant Frederick.

When you look at what remains of Adelaide Street now it’s hard to imagine how each of the typically ‘two up, two down’ terraced houses there could contain so many people in peaceful co-existence under one roof.  At times it was possibly as far from peaceful as you could get, with the boys and young men of the family practising their music and the whole family, including the daughters, singing.  If you were to apply early twenty-first century standards to the situation, you might think that the Bulch family sound like what is often termed nowadays ‘neighbours from hell’.  But the 1880s were different days; days when families were close, moments of privacy a fleeting luxury, and homes and beds crowded.  Neighbours too were generally closer and likely to have an ‘open door’ policy where each freely visited the others house with little formality applied.  Looking at other census entries for the homes around 40 Adelaide Street the pattern of large families in small houses repeats at regular intervals.  High infant mortality, questionable life expectancy, and limited availability of birth control were certainly factors; though in an age without a welfare state or ‘care home’ culture, and where life was hard and work took its toll on the body, it’s easy to see how having a large family upon whom you may come to depend in later life might be an insurance policy of sorts for a married couple.

In this environment young Thomas Edward would, we are informed, not only learn to play every instrument in the brass band but also piano and violin. He would also sing and was reportedly a very good whistler.  For the six members of the family aged ten or under the crowded nature of 40 Adelaide Street might have seemed normal, and even fun, though for the eight adults and teenagers things may possibly have started to feel impractical and stressful.  In the summer of 1878 Thomas’s older sister Mary Jane had married William Summerbell of Richmond so had already moved out from the family home to live with her new husband and start a family of her own, having had two young children already.

For Thomas, however, being on an apprentice’s wage would mean that he’d need to stay at home a little longer.  The long working day, and working week, in the Victorian era, would afford him little time to spend on his musical compositions, or with the Temperance Band, but nonetheless, he managed this.  Perhaps, when he did have time to spend on music, being part of such a musical family, however crowded, helped rather than hindered him.

Though the Bulch family had moved to Adelaide Street during the 1870s, the Allans had moved away from there, where they had been resident since the 1860s, to number 23 Redworth Road, a house now long demolished at the foot of the hill upon which New Shildon’s All Saints Church was built.  The family were closely associated to the church; this demonstrated by the fact that by 1880, the master tailor and head of the household John James Allan had become one of the two churchwardens there, part-time volunteers taking responsibility to assist the clergy in the upkeep of the parish.  As with the Bulches, the Allans had expanded in numbers, with William, George and James having been joined by John Henry, in 1873, Ada, in 1875 and Ralph in 1879.  George’s older brother William had followed his father into tailoring, while George, not yet in employment at the wagon works, was working as a labourer.

In January of 1881, George Allan joined the Mechanics Institute, which was sited just next to Thomas and George’s old school on Station Street in New Shildon.  The institute building was built for the people of New Shildon in 1860 and contained reading rooms and a library of over 2,000 books by 1890 as well as a lecture theatre to seat 400, a recreation room and billiard room as well as a reading room stocked with magazines and newspapers.  The Mechanic’s Institute was founded in 1833 by the Stockton and Darlington Railway company, in the era of Timothy Hackworth’s influence, as a means of stimulating and cultivating that mechanical genius and talent of which Shildon thus became justly proud.  The facility had occupied a number of locations in various buildings around the railway company’s estate.  Initially the cellar of the Globe Inn, the waiting room of the Masons Arms Crossing Station, and buildings within the Works. the British School were also used for lectures.    Shildon’s homegrown but nationally renowned engineer Daniel Adamson was educated there – and visited in April 1876 to entertain members – having been unable to be present for the railway’s golden jubilee celebrations the previous year; the company’s inaugural passenger trip by rail had been in 1825.  

There were an Institute band and science and art departments as well as clubs participating in various games and pastimes.  Membership of the Institute would also be a gateway to participation in various excursions, and events ranging from lectures to galas held onsite and offsite.  The Institute had plenty to offer to the curious mind and would celebrate its anniversary each year usually by holding a commemorative tea event.  The institute would later, in 1913, be moved to new premises on Redworth Road, where it still stands as a social club. Older readers resident in Shildon may remember that the original 1860 building became the Essoldo Cinema following the transfer of the Mechanics Institute to Redworth Road, and it remained so up until its eventual demolition. As we learned previously Thomas Bulch and his older brother Frank had been members for a short while in 1876, and their grandfather Francis Dinsdale had also a previous briefly a member as was the local choirmaster that had encouraged George into the world of brass music, William Dodds, who remained a member for many years. A subscription to the Mechanic’s Institute cost 9 pence a quarter, and considering George would only have been about seventeen at the time it’s possible that this fee may have been paid from the wages of his first job as a labourer. He remained a member for the next two years; thereafter his membership was longstanding but not continuous.

The two brass bands of the town were now functioning separately to one another. The New Shildon Temperance Band, again, in spite of the long working hours of its membership, worked hard to improve and supplant the more established New Shildon Saxhorn Band as the darlings of the town. For their endeavours, they were rewarded with offers of engagements and put themselves forward for contests.

Furthermore, the band’s master, tutor and mentor, Edward Dinsdale, was by this year no longer living in New Shildon. Edward, and his wife Mary Ann, whom he had married in 1868 when they were both 18 years old, were now resident at Farrer Street in Stockton, with Edward working as a boilermaker there.  The enterprising Thomas Edward Bulch, despite his youth, and with a reputation now of having become a published composer, had assumed the post of bandmaster for the band.

Things didn’t always go smoothly.  The band had entered a contest at Loftus in Cleveland that took place on the 23rd June 1881.  For whatever reason on this occasion, they were reported afterwards as not having been able to attend.  In August of that year, however, there came a contest that even these young men of limited means were able to attend; the band contest at the annual Shildon Show. The band, presumably conducted by their new bandmaster, though this is not confirmed in the press, were placed fifth after the Meltham Mills Band, Black Dyke Band, Stockton Band and Linthwaite Band.  We are told that the young band were undeterred, and played a programme of music to entertain the attendees for the remainder of the evening.  Even in those days the Black Dyke Band and their ilk were considered to be among the best brass bands going, so there was something of the ‘David and Goliath’ about this contest.  This, of course, was a time before the formalised division of competing brass bands into ‘sections’ as is the case in the field of brass contesting today.  It would have been very difficult indeed for a relatively new band to have triumphed over such eminent opposition.  It does also tell us something as to how Shildon Show was regarded in that era.  It was a significant event on the region’s show calendar, being hosted in one of the North’s prospering industrial towns, sufficient to draw in large crowds and top class entertainment.

The early 1880s don’t see too many reports of activity of the New Shildon Saxhorn Band, it’s not clear whether the function of the band was affected in any way by the split of the town’s bandsmen into two groups through the influence of temperance.  We do however see in the Northern Echo that in April of 1882 “The brethren of the Rose of Sharon Lodge of the United Order of Oddfellows paraded the principal streets of the Shildons accompanied by the New Shildon Saxhorn Band, they afterwards dined at the Dun Cow Inn, Old Shildon.”

In June of that year, the Newcastle Courant reports on the New Shildon Temperance Band’s appearance at the grand band contest at the Newcastle Temperance Festival on the Town Moor where they competed, under the baton of Thomas Edward Bulch, in two classes of the four available.  Class 1 was open to Temperance Bands of Northumberland and Durham, and Class 2 was for Local Temperance bands.  In the first class, the band didn’t make it into the top placings; the came fifth behind the band of the 7th Lancashire Rifle Volunteers, Blackhill Teetotal, Boarshurst and Blair & Co Engine Works of Stockton. But in Class 2 New Shildon Temperance came second to the Blackhill band beating five other bands. The adjudicator on the day was the enormously respected Charles Godfrey, a composer of brass and military music and bandmaster of the Band of the Coldstream Guards.  The band earned a prize of £5, which doesn’t sound like a great deal when you think what five pounds are worth today but in terms of comparative purchasing power that amount might have bought, in 1882, roughly the same as you would get for about £425 in 2018.  This would have been a tremendous first contest success for the New Shildon bandsmen at a ‘respectable’ contest. This was just the beginning of what would be a relatively successful year for the Temperance Band.

At the end of July of 1882, we learn from the Durham County Advertiser that a South Durham Colliery Sports event was held at a field near Eldon Colliery east of the crest of the hill where Old Shildon is sited.  This brought together amateur sportsmen from the various collieries in the area to compete against each other for honours and to engage socially.  What is interesting is that, on this occasion, both the New Shildon Saxhorn Band and the New Shildon Temperance Band were engaged.  Though not a contest you can imagine that this would be an opportunity for the two bands to test their mettle against each other as each has entered the band contest at Shildon Show the following month.  That both were engaged for this friendly event implies very slightly that any rivalry between the bands may well have been amicable.  For the sake of the family ties involved it would be hoped so.  The report explains that the day started well enough, weather-wise, with events including a cricket match between South Durham Cricket Club and eleven members of the New Shildon Saxhorn Band, which may well have included George Allan though it is not stated.  In any case, both George Allan and Thomas Edward Bulch would have been present together.  As the day went on it was reportedly disrupted by torrents of rain, though both bands were completely undeterred and we are informed they both played a choice selection of music.

Saturday the 19th August 1882 saw these two bands competing on ‘home turf’ at a contest on the Vicarage Grounds as part of the Shildon Show yet again. Doubtless that for the two New Shildon Bands the stakes, in terms of local honours, would be high.  Unlike the previous year where the band had been competing against some of the North’s strongest brass bands, this year the organisers had, for the sake of fairness, split the bands into two classes, so that bands of comparable ability competed against each other.  Both the New Shildon Saxhorn and New Shildon Temperance had been assigned to the second class.  The organisers had also engaged, as with the Temperance Festival at Newcastle, Charles Godfrey to adjudicate.  Having recently impressed Godfrey the Temperance Band would surely have relished a chance to do so again; however, by the time the Class 2 contest, in which the band had been placed, began, Godfrey had not arrived, so Edwin Swift was drafted in quickly to adjudicate.  New Shildon Temperance came second in the class, behind Whitworth, earning them £10 (roughly equivalent to £850 spending power by 2018 standards)

The New Shildon Saxhorn Band, featuring George Allan and performing under the baton of Thomas Bulch’s grandfather finished fifth from five; they had been roundly bested.  For Francis Dinsdale, the grand old bandmaster of New Shildon one can only imagine and speculate upon possible, and definitely unreported, mixed feelings about the outcome.  A possible disappointment at having his Saxhorn band bested by the young upstarts that had been tutored by his own son Edward, and that the advocates of Temperance may well be proven right; but also perhaps an element of pride in how his young grandson was coming into his own and managing the band of which he was now master.  He could perhaps now be assured that his legacy was in safe hands through this young man’s hands.

In September of 1882, the New Shildon Temperance Band were employed to entertain at a truly unusual, and a quite eccentric sounding, event which is described in some detail in the Newcastle Journal of Friday 8th September 1882 as reproduced here.

“NOVEL GAME CHESS AT HEIGHINGTON. The Vicar of Heighington (the Rev C. C. Chevalier) hit upon novel mode of affording public entertainment and at the same time raising to provide bells for the parish church, by arranging for a game chess to be played in Redworth Park by living players who were dressed to represent the different pieces on the chess board.  The day was extremely fine and a large and fashionable company was yesterday attracted from Darlington, Bishop Auckland; and other parts of the district.  A tent had been erected providing refreshments, while the New Shildon Temperance Band played selections during the day.  The novel chess game, though played some years ago, it is stated, at Perth in the same manner, is quite new in this country, the only approach to it at all being that a game played by living players some years since in a Durham drawing room.  From this the enterprising vicar, the Rev. C. C. Chevalier took the idea which he embodied so successfully on Thursday by the aid of his parishioners, who lent themselves to the representation, and allowed themselves to be dressed in the most fantastic guise.  The game did not commence till nearly half-past four o’clock.  There was a considerable space of green-sward roped off in the Park, which was laid out in squares of grass, intersected with white material.  The band escorted the opposing forces, who marched in procession and presented most picturesque appearance in their 15th century costume.  The prevailing colour of the the costume of the players one side was green intersected of course with varicoloured hats, streamers, &c., and on the other red.  The pawns were dressed as pages of the the 15th century, with long pointed shoes and tights.  The castles were imitations of the castles known in chess, consisting of canvas in which four young ladies were enveloped.  The bishops appeared in bishops’ costumes, those red being the cardinals.  In the drawings for the costumes the Rev. C. C. Chevalier was assisted Mr Etton, of the Darlington School of Art, and Mr Thompson.  The coup d’oeul of the knights with the helmets and spears, the bishops and cardinals with their wands of office, and the highly coloured dresses, had quite a spectacular effect, and carried the mind back to scenes of the long ago.  The two gentlemen who directed the players were the Rev C. C. Chevalier and Mr Johnson of the Heighington School.  The moves were faultlessly made, showing that the players had been well drilled.  Afterwards, an impromptu game was undertaken the Rev W. H. G. Stephens and the Rev H. Spurrier.  Worthy of note that the existing bells of the parish church are years old, being of the date 1430.  They require repair, and besides this money is required to hang the three new bells presented by Mr H. E. Surtees, Mrs Tyzack and Miss Hodgson.  To-day there will be continuation of the proceedings.”

Such an unusual occasion to be part of, and reminiscent of Victorian eccentricity at its best.  The story was reported nationwide across England and Scotland with similar pieces featuring in the Yorkshire Gazette, Bury and Norwich Post, Berkshire Chronicle and Manchester Evening News to name but a few.  The Northern Echo also made mention of the New Shildon Temperance Band’s involvement as well as listing the great and the good that were present, including Mr T Fry M.P. and his wife. They suggested a repeat of the event, but that it be relocated to Darlington Cricket Field.  When the contest was re-staged again the following day the attendance was much reduced, perhaps the novelty effect had worn off.

As it happens the Heighington chess players did continue with the sport and in the following year made an appearance in Durham on the grounds occupied by the Archery Club there, though on that occasion the band was that of the 4th Durham Light Infantry.

On December the 18th 1882 George Allan, just a few days before Christmas, and a couple of weeks before Thomas Bulch’s twenty-first birthday, entered service for the North Eastern Railway as an apprentice.  The wages book from the railway wagon works explains the pay scale as set in 1879 for Apprentices at the works.  Apprentices were taken on from the age of 14 onwards, and an apprenticeship lasted 7 years.  The working week was 53 hours over 6 days – a commitment that would leave little time for banding.  It may account also for why George’s membership of the Mechanics institute lapsed in 1883, after he fell 9 pence in arrears, though he would later rejoin.  In the first year, an apprentice would earn 8 pence per day or 4 shillings for the week. This rose to 16 shillings a week by the end of the seventh year. George, however, was to be apprenticed as a Blacksmith’s Striker, being paid 3 shillings and sixpence per week.

A blacksmith’s striker would be an assistant, whose job it is to swing a large sledgehammer in heavy forging operations, as directed by the Blacksmith.  In practice, the blacksmith would use tongs to hold the hot iron at the anvil and show the striker where the iron is to be struck by tapping it with a smaller hammer.  The striker would then provide the heavier blow with the sledgehammer.  This would be hot physical labour, but while it would be pure conjecture but it is very easy to imagine young George, and Thomas, formulating tunes in his mind to accompany the rhythmic hammering his work must have involved.

In his fact-based novel for boys of 1871 entitled “The Iron Horse: or Life on the Line” the author R. M. Ballantyne describes a tour of a railway works of the day offered to Mrs Marrot, a locomotive driver’s wife, and her son Bob, who like George Allan was to enter service there, by Will Garvey a railway fireman. The tour includes an atmospheric vignette of the blacksmith’s shop which, though based upon the author’s experiences at Swindon and Glasgow, would have been as true of the facility at Shildon’s works as of any other. 

“Thus meditating, she was conducted into the smith’s department. here about 140 forges and 400 men were at work. Any one of these forges would have been a respectable “smiddy” in a country village. They stood as close to each other as space would allow,- so close that their showers of sparks intermingled, and kept the whole shed more or less in the condition of a chronic eruption of fireworks. To Bob’s young mind it conveyed the idea of a perpetual keeping of the Queen’s birthday. To his mother it was suggestive of singed garments and sudden loss of sight. the poor woman was much distressed in this department at first, but when she found, after five minutes or so, that her garments were unscathed and her sight still unimpaired she became reconciled to it.

In this place of busy Vulcans – each of whom was the beau-ideal of “the village blacksmith” all the smaller work of the railway was done. As a specimen of this work, Will Garvey drew Mrs Marrot’s attention to the fact that two Vulcans were engaged in twisting red-hot iron bolts an inch and a half thick into the form of hooks with as much apparent ease as if they had been hair-pins. These, he said, were hooks for couplings, the hooks by which railway carriages were attached together, and on the strength and unyielding rigidity of which the lives of hundreds of travellers might depend. 

The bending of them was accomplished by means of a powerful lever. It would be an endless business to detail all that was done in this workshop. Every piece of comparatively small iron-work used in the construction of railway engines, carriages, vans and trucks, from a door-hinge to a coupling chain, was forged in that smithy.”

A little further on in the tour the group reach the truck and van department where the relevance of the work seen in the blacksmith’s department becomes apparent. “Bob, whose mind was sharp as a needle, saw a good many pieces of mechanism, which formerly he had only seen in a transition state, now applied to their ultimate uses. The chiselled, sawn and drilled planks seen in the first department were here being fitted and bolted together in the form of trucks, while the uses of many strange pieces of iron, which had puzzled him in the blacksmith’s department, became obvious when fitted to their appropriate woodwork.”

Though a principal purpose of the works was to create new wagons to enter service on the North Eastern Railway, much of the work at New Shildon was also to repair existing broken ones in order to extend their service life. It would seem a never-ending occupation. 

Whilst it is possible that George Allan and Thomas Bulch may have worked side by side in the blacksmith’s shop of the railway works, we don’t know that for certain.  But we can be almost sure that throughout this and their involvement in the brass bands, they would have been very aware of each other whether they were friends or competitive rivals.

For George, 1883 also saw the birth of his youngest brother Edwin.  Their mother Hannah Allan was 43 years old at the time Edwin was born. It was also the year that the Soho Works, originally established by Timothy Hackworth to the east of the town, was finally closed down. There was a significant expansion of the newer railway works to the south of the town and we can be sure that from this point both George and Thomas would have been based there.

On 24th August 1883, the New Shildon Temperance Band took part in a contest at Tow Law as part of the annual show of the Tow Law Floral, Horticultural and Poultry Society.  The band were up against the Blackhill Band, Tanfield Lea, and Tow Law Model Band.  Results haven’t been published for that contest so we may never know where Thomas’s band were placed.  We do know that it was stiff competition as a few days later, on the 8th September New Shildon Temperance faced Blackhill and Tanfield Lea in yet another contest at Pelton Fell where a set of quadrilles and a march were the test pieces and those two bands were placed first and second respectively.  New Shildon Temperance finished somewhere among the other seven bands that took part, but again the exact scoring or placing is not recorded.  Another appearance of the Temperance Band in August 1883 was when they joined in a Friendly and Trades Societies Demonstration Gala in the Woodside Grounds in Darlington, along with other bands including Cockerton.

One thing that we do know about the band’s progress in 1883 is that their repertoire was beginning to include more and more of Thomas Edward Bulch’s own compositions and arrangements.  An article in the Northern Echo of 29th Sept 1883 shows a programme of music the band were due to play the following day in Stanhope Green Park, Darlington which included the march “Typhoon”, Bulch’s selection arrangement of “Reminiscences of Weber”, his solo polka “Tritone” and his arrangement of Waldtenfel’s “Homages aux Dames”.  Thomas’s style of conducting also gave him the opportunity to play solo cornet with the band, something you don’t tend to see with brass bands today. How many of these pieces were published at that time is uncertain, but as we know “Typhoon” had been published it seems likely that some of the others were also in print by that time.  The name of T. E. Bulch had commenced to impose itself within the brass community and through the performance of these pieces would begin to be known by bandsmen.

19. The Parting of the Ways

We previously mentioned the emigration of the Malthouse family to Australia.  Of these, it seems that John Malthouse was perhaps the closest to Thomas Edward Bulch.  We are told that after his emigration he maintained correspondence with Thomas Bulch by letter, the only option at the time.  This is quite remarkable when you think about it.  These days we can send an e-mail around the world in seconds.  A letter can be carried by plane quite quickly, but the mail in the early 1880s was carried by passenger ships (which also carried news of events in the world; when the Malthouses arrived in Adelaide years earlier the newspapers were buzzing with news from The Cape which had also arrived on the ship).  This meant that a letter might take about 60 days to arrive and the response might take just as long.  There would be a need for much patience.

Whatever John Malthouse said to Tom Bulch in those letters was enough to convince the young Thomas Bulch, and three of his fellow bandmates, that his future lay over the oceans.  We are told that John, perhaps knowing his own limitations as a bandmaster, and having great respect for the emerging talent of his childhood friend, offered Thomas his position in the Kingston and Allendale band. Tom’s grandson Eric Tomkins also suggests that there was something about the offer that Tom Bulch must have felt offered better prospects for his health; though whether Thomas had a medical condition is not recorded anywhere that we have seen so far.  Perhaps the lure was simply the promise of an adventure.

Whatever swayed his decision, Thomas Bulch made a commitment to make a new life in Australia.  Not only that but either he or John Malthouse perhaps persuaded three of his fellow bandsmen to join him in that journey.

These were Samuel Lewins, James Scarffe and Joseph Garbutt.

Samuel Lewins was born at New Shildon on December 30, 1861, meaning that, though he was a year older, he and Thomas Edward Bulch shared a birthday.  By the time of the in 1881 census, when he was a member of the New Shildon Temperance Band he was living with his widowed mother on Simpson Street. He had originally been a trombonist, but under Thomas Bulch’s direction as bandmaster, he switched to euphonium. According to the ship’s manifest he too, as with Thomas and George Allan, had been working at the railway works as a blacksmith.

James Scarffe had been born a little later than these two, in 1863, making him the youngest of the emigrants. He joined the Shildon Temperance Youth Band in 1874 and became a cornet player, like Thomas. By the time he emigrated his family were living at 5 East Street, Shildon. He was employed as a miller and was about 20 years old when he made the trip.  By ‘miller’ this would have been in the engineering sense as opposed to, say, a miller of flour.  His father worked at the brickworks in Shildon.

Joseph Garbutt, the oldest of the group, born on 20the Jan 1856, the son of David, a railway engine driver and his wife and Elizabeth Garbutt. Their family had once lived in Main Street in Old Shildon but had moved down to Station Street New Shildon by the 1880s. Joseph, as well as being a bandsman, worked as a railway fireman and may have shared a footplate with his father.  He had married Mary Jane Peverley on 4 Dec 1883, only months before the journey, yet on the ship’s manifest, he is shown to be travelling alone.  For whatever reason, he seems to have left his wife behind as Mary Jane is recorded as having attended a wedding in Auckland District during 1885.

How the four afforded to travel is uncertain. though from the evidence of others that emigrated it may be that their community raised funds to help fund the passage.  We’ll see more on that later.  However the journey was paid for, the four young men began their journey on the 22nd March 1884.  It’s quite clear though that these four young men were among the ‘darlings’ of the town, either for their work with the band, or otherwise good standing in the town.  This is supported by a report from the Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough of Monday 24th March 1884 which reads (though it misrepresents Sam Lewis’s name as ‘Lowes’, and Scarffe’s name as ‘Scott’, so I have corrected here to avoid confusion): “Departure of Shildon Residents for Sydney. – Between two and three thousand persons assembled at the Shildon Station on Saturday night to bid farewell to James Scarffe, Samuel Lewins, Thomas Bulch and Joseph Garbutt, all lately employed at the Shildon shops, and who have started for Sydney intending to make their homes in the colonies. They were all members of the Shildon Temperance Society, and much respected in their native place.”

When you visit Shildon Station now or even look at a photograph of it at the time, it would be hard to imagine between two and three thousand people being safely present; and equally hard to imagine such a number of persons bothering to see a neighbour off on the journey of a lifetime. Of course, there would have been an understanding that this would be the last time that they would see these four young sons of the first railway town.  It’s interesting that the article calls out Sydney as their destination though, for as far as we can tell, Melbourne was their debarkation point and the most logical for where they were heading.  As the reporter had misrepresented two of the surnames, perhaps this is another misrepresentation.

The group travelled, probably with very limited possessions but which included their musical instruments, by rail from Shildon to Darlington, and from there onwards to London.  There they had a couple of days to wait and prepare for the voyage.  They were scheduled to set sail on board the ship “Gulf of Venice”, a 2,923-ton iron steam screw brigantine that had been built the previous year in the shipyards at West Hartlepool by the shipbuilders W Gray and Co.

Each of the lads registered on the ship’s passenger manifest, giving their occupation as well as name. Thomas Bulch, at this time gave his occupation as ‘fitter’, which suggests that he may have switched his career path at the railway works.  As he boarded the ship, however, a future lifetime of fitting locomotive or wagon parts was certainly not what he had in mind.  He was already a composer, an experienced prize winning bandmaster and a multi-instrumental musician. He would know from the example of others, such as New Shildon’s original bandmaster Robert De Lacy, that a life devoted to music was a possibility; not in New Shildon, but in Australia it may just be possible.

Thomas and his friends would be travelling as unassisted migrants. These ‘unassisted’ passengers paid their own fares to Australia, or might occasionally have been privately sponsored.  Unassisted passengers travelled either in steerage or if they were more wealthy, cabins. Information recorded about a cabin or steerage passenger was usually very brief. Females, children, servants and steerage passengers were frequently left off the passenger lists. Some passengers were only listed under their surname, or the initials of their first name, or as part of a family group, for example, Mr Smith & family, Mr G Jones, Miss Begg.

The “Gulf of Venice” departed from the port at London on 25th March 1884, under the ship’s Master, David Swann. Thomas’s grandson, Eric Tomkins, in his family history recounts that Thomas later told his family members that the voyage was not pleasant.  The ship was hampered by heavy seas and during the 58-day voyage, the ship lost first one, and then another, of the blades from the propeller, reducing its speed and efficiency.  The speed of the ship was reduced from 12 knots to just 9 and it was necessary to consume more coal than usual to complete the distance.

Despite the unpleasant conditions Thomas, James, Samuel and Joseph would on occasion brighten matters for their fellow passengers, and the crew, by practising music together on board the ship.  Though many people played an instrument in those days before television and radio, it’s probably not too often that a small ensemble like this, and used to playing music together, would undertake a voyage together.

Eventually, the ship did make port, and when Thomas and his three travelling companions from New Shildon arrived at Melbourne, Australia on 21st May 1884 it was none other than John Malthouse that came to greet them. He had, as promised, arranged for Bulch, to take control of the Kingston and Allendale Brass Band, and he, and his brothers, would play a significant part in Thomas’s getting established in Australia.

20. Gold, Iron and Brass

John travelled with the four young bandsmen to their destination. For Thomas, this would initially be Creswick, some 18km north of the city of Ballarat.  The place had been founded in 1842, essentially as a sheep station, but had exploded into a small town during the 1850s Victorian gold rush during which its population had temporarily boomed to around 25,000.  Two years previous to Thomas’s arrival it had been the site of Australia’s worst mining disaster in which 22 men had drowned.  Though gold mining was still underway in the area, Thomas was not inclined to a life as a miner and sought other employment while he managed to establish himself.

With Thomas’s background as a blacksmith and fitter, he, and James Scarffe took jobs at the Phoenix Foundry in Ballarat.  This may have been with some sense of irony as there had also been a foundry in Old Shildon just up the hill from the place they had left, which had also, by some coincidence, been called the Phoenix Foundry.  This was sited in the vicinity of Foundry Street and Phoenix Place at the north-eastern edge of Old Shildon. The foundry in Ballarat, sited on Armstrong Street, where Central Square now stands, had commenced as a one-man operation in the 1850s by a Lancashire born engineer and blacksmith, George Threlfall, and had grown to become a partnership that emerged as one of the major industrial operators in the Ballarat area. They constructed, repaired and re-sold steam engines, boilers, stamp heads, quartz crushing machinery and pumping machinery principally to support the gold mining industry in the gold mining territory.  By the time James, and Thomas had arrived they had progressed into civil engineering projects, and a line of manufacture that both Thomas Bulch and James Scarffe would have been eminently familiar with; locomotive building.  Photographs of operations within the Phoenix Foundry reveal an environment very similar in appearance to the North Eastern Railway works at Shildon.

Both Thomas and James joined the Ironworker’s Assistants Union, and James, in particular, seems to have settled in at the foundry.  Neither Sam Lewins, nor Joseph Garbutt, worked at the Phoenix Foundry to the best of our knowledge, but we shall return to them later to explain what direction they took after their arrival in Australia.  The organisation had its own Phoenix Foundry Brass Band which seems to have sprung up in the year before Thomas and James arrived, but there is no documented evidence, at least, to prove that these two young bandsmen played any part in that particular brass band, though Thomas was asked, in addition to being master of the Allendale and Kingston Brass Band, to also serve as the bandmaster of the 3rd Battalion Militia Band. This force had evolved to a part-paid militia battalion from a volunteer regiment in November 1883, not long before Thomas had arrived in Ballarat.  Enlisting into the militia would thus ensure some additional income.  Though it would be a military, rather than brass, band it was nonetheless a task which Thomas felt he was equal to.

Either shortly after his arrival in Australia or possibly even before, Thomas added a new piece to his repertoire of compositions; a march entitled “Ballarat”.  It would be a logical enough conclusion to draw that he might have waited to see the city of Ballarat before composing a march by that name.  There is sufficient evidence to cast doubt on that, in that the march was published back in England, again by T. A. Haigh of Hull who had published his first march “The Typhoon”.  This raises the possibility that, perhaps with a Ballarat described by John Malthouse, in correspondence, in mind Thomas may have wanted to make his name quickly in Ballarat by coming fore-armed with music to show the citizens his tribute to Ballarat.  It may even have been that Thomas anticipated that the fee he would receive for the publishing of Ballarat might help assure his passage there.  Whether the piece was composed before or after his arrival there, it was certainly in the city of Ballarat that he would make his name.

Things got off to a good start quite quickly, as Thomas began to create an impression with the public, officials and press alike through his skill as a musician and instructor in brass music skills.  On Monday 24th November 1884 the Ballarat Star reports “The people in Sturt Street on Saturday evening received a musical treat of no mean order.  The Allendale and Kingston Brass band, under the able leadership of Mr T E Bulch, performed in the rotunda, to the delight of many hundreds of persons, who testified their approval by loud clapping of hands.  Mr Bulch, who is bandmaster to the Ballarat Militia, is a musician of a high order of merit, and like nearly all German artists, he possesses a wonderful command over the instrument on which he performs.  It is no matter for surprise then, that his Allendale and Kingston Band are so perfect, and it is little wonder that a number of musical critics should on Saturday night applaud them.” 

After outlining the programme, which included three pieces of Bulch’s own composition, the article continues “The march ‘Ballarat’ is to be performed at the Band Competitions at Christmas-time.  Mr T A Morrison, the Mayor of the City, at the conclusion of the performance, invited Mr Bulch and his musicians to refreshments at Lester’s hotel.  The Mayor proposed the health of ‘The Bandmaster and Band’.  In doing so he said that he was delighted with the musical treat which the boys from Allendale and Creswick had given that night at the rotunda, and he felt sure that every person in the large crowd that gathered around the band-stand was also highly pleased with the performance.  Mr Morrish replied on behalf of the bandmaster and band, and said that the efficiency of the musicianship was due to Mr Bulch’s ability as an instructor.”  The article further continues with the promise that with the permission of the City Council the band would, during the summer, give a number of Saturday night performances in Ballarat and a number of sacred performances in the Botanical Gardens on Sundays.

One point worth of not in there is the misconception of Thomas being a ‘German artist’ – it appears that the journalist has misperceived the origin of his surname, perhaps understandably, as being German. It’s certainly an unusual surname and as we can see from the censuses that outline Thomas’s ancestry it may have evolved.  At times it is shown as Bulshey, at others it has been recorded as Butch.  That it is a relatively rare surname has made it somewhat easier to look up and follow Thomas’s story, and that of his family, in records and newspapers.  That we have seen evidence of how it had ‘corrupted’ over only a small period of time implies that it is most likely to have been a corruption of another name.  The Dictionary of American Surnames suggests that it may be part of a group of surnames derived thus. Being from Middle English balch, belch ‘balk’, ‘beam’ (Old English bælc, balca), possibly denoting someone who lived in a house with a roof beam rather than in a simple hut; alternatively it may have been a nickname for a man built like a tree trunk, i.e. one of stocky, heavy build. English: nickname from Middle English balche, belche ‘swelling’ (Old English bælc(e)). This was probably chiefly given in the sense ‘swelling pride’, ‘overweening arrogance’, but it can also mean ‘eructation’, ‘belch’ and may therefore in some cases have been acquired by a man given to belching. Welsh: from the adjective balch, which has a range of meanings—‘fine’, ‘splendid’, ‘proud’, ‘arrogant’, ‘glad’.  The powerful capability of internet search engines retrieves only rare examples in terms of evidence of the name Bulch prior to it’s use by the Bulch family of Shildon, and it’s possible that they may be similar parallel corruptions of derivatives as listed above. On this supposition Thomas’s lineage would most likely be as British as ‘fish and chips’, or at least as British as any other resident of the country at the time given that the inhabitants of Great Britain are, even to this day, the product of a melting pot of cultural ingression that goes back to prehistoric times, with wave after wave of nomads, migrants and invaders stamping their genetic contribution onto each successive blueprint of perceived Britishness.  Whatever the truth behind the origins of the Bulch surname, however, there was something about the look and feel of the name that caused this particular journalist to assume German lineage.  For now the implication was perhaps only an implication of a foreign exoticness, which for many musicians might be perceived as a bonus.  Many Victorian composers used exotic sounding pseudonyms to help boost sales of their music, having found that a relatively humdrum British name often had the opposite effect.  In later life, though, this misunderstanding would cast shadows over Thomas’s success.

21. The First Victorian Band Contest and The Founder’s Fall

Back in New Shildon he closing phase of 1884 brought sadness.  In the Bulch household, on Adelaide Street, Thomas’s father Thomas senior and his wife Margaret saw their youngest daughter Emily Bulch die at only 6 weeks old. The infant, a sister Thomas Edward Bulch never knew, was buried at All Saints Church in New Shildon on the 28th August.  The tragedies of the year were not yet complete, however.

Life at the North Eastern Railway works continued for George Allan who was still living with his parents. The family continued, also, to be connected with the day to day running of All Saints Church. George’s father John James Allan is mentioned in the Northern Echo of 8 Oct 1884 co-running a ‘gentlemen’s stall’ at a bazaar at the national school in New Shildon to raise money for church repairs at All Saints, for repairs to the organ and to contribute money towards a day school, and mission room at the nearby village of Brusselton.

Later that year, as the residents of this corner of County Durham, were perhaps winding down in anticipation of Christmas and New Year celebrations, on 22nd December 1884 the Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough reported “The Bishop Auckland Free And Easies – On Saturday night the above Free and Easy was packed to the door. The New Shildon Temperance Band, accompanied by some friends, gave the programme. The entertainment concluded with a sketch, “Don’t spoil the piece.” Prizes were given, Mr G Allan first, Miss M Bulch second.”

This is quite revealing in terms of the possibilities regarding the relationship of those involved, though it explains nothing explicitly.  The ‘free and easy’ night, where amateur singers did ‘turns’ to, usually, piano accompaniment, was originally a forerunner to the Music Hall scene.  Another understanding of the term that fits the description in the article is that of an event almost like a talent contest where prizes would be offered, though the performances, on the whole, would be unpaid.  Sometimes, depending upon the prize offered, these events might attract singers from some distance. We know that the family Bulch were enthused musicians, and we know equally that George Allan sang, from his time as a choirboy at All Saints church; but it is heartening to see his name alongside that which we can safely presume to be of Thomas Bulch’s younger sister Margaret Bulch, so named after her mother.  We can eliminate the possibility of Thomas’s older sister Mary Jane for, as we explained earlier, by this time she was married and would be Mrs Summerbell.  Another possibility, though very improbable, would be Thomas’s even younger sister Miney who would only have been about 7 years old having been born in 1877.  Though the band of which George Allan was a member and the Temperance Band had gone their separate ways, it’s probable that George still had friends and former bandmates from his youth band days in that band.  You could imagine the proceedings to be quite jovial, and interwoven with festive goodwill, though probably within the spirit of temperance.

In Ballarat, Thomas Bulch had joined the ranks of the eventually 180 strong Ballarat Musical Union who has been preparing for a spectacular Christmas concert since the summer of that year. The Ballarat Star describes the build up over several instalments commencing on 20th August. “The Ballarat Musical Union is evidently determined to lose no time in catering for the musical taste of the public, arrangements having been made for the production of Haydn’s “Creation” on Christmas night, for which the Alfred Hall has been engaged. The society now numbers 120 performing members, of which 50 are male voices; while the orchestra, under, the leadership of Herr Braun, is receiving numerous additions, and already comprises many of -the leading musicians of Ballarat. Mr Fred Herbert has accepted the position of honorary pianist. Notwithstanding the unpropitious state of the weather on Monday night, there was a full rehearsal, over a hundred members being present; and the choruses were very successfully gone through with the band accompaniment.”

On Christmas Eve the Ballarat Star is used to issue a rallying call for the Ballarat Musical Union membership for a final rehearsal. “The members of the Ballarat Musical Union are requested to attend a full rehearsal at the Alfred Hall this evening, to commence at half-past 7.  Miss Bessie Pitts, who will arrive by the mid-day train to-day from Melbourne, and Signor Modini will be present.  As this will be the final rehearsal all the members are particularly requested to attend.”

Then on Christmas Day itself, the concert took place and was reported on the 27th December.  The performers comprised of 180 lady and gentlemen amateurs, putting aided by an orchestra of 26 performers among whom Thomas Bulch fulfilled the post of cornet player. The orchestral and choral performance, conducted by Mr W S Matthews, was enjoyed by an audience of around 2000. The report says that “All who had the pleasure of listening to the oratorio on Christmas Night augur well of the union’s future.”

Then on the following day, Boxing Day in the height of the Australian summer, Thomas Bulch was one of the persons responsible for a historic episode in the history of Victoria. Thomas’s Kingston and Allendale Brass Band had organised a brass band contest to take place on that day, reportedly the first to ever have taken place in the colony state. It was held at the Creswick Oval on account of there having been no equivalent recreation ground in the Kingston and Allendale area. 

As was the tradition back at home, the band contest was held in conjunction with athletic sports events. The organisers, among whom Thomas was undoubtedly key, had mustered prizes of £20, £10 and £5 for the three placed bands. As the contest had been organised at short notice and coincided with the festive celebrations only two of the bands invited took part; the Daylesford Borough Band, with twenty-eight members, and the Egerton Brass Band with its 12 personnel. In addition, the contest coincided with other events in Ballarat which had drawn the greater crowd. Despite these factors, the event was reportedly no failure.

To host the athletic events the band had teamed up with the Allendale Fire Brigade and a number of prominent citizens of the area, and after these, the attention of those gathered turned to the musical centrepiece of the contest. The test piece was Thomas’s march “Ballarat”, of which a reporter in the Allendale, Smeaton and Kingston Telegraph said “The piece is a somewhat heavy one, each prominent player being afforded an opportunity for exercising is ability. At the conclusion of the piece the public gave a hearty cheer.” There was a brief moment of chaos as part way through the Daylesford Band’s rendering of the test piece a strong wind passed through causing a number of the band to lose their music and places. Thomas acted as the adjudicator for the contest, listening to the bands from within a small tent placed within a few yards of the bandstand. having heard both bands he announced the winners despite their windy encounter to be the band from Daylesford, but paid tribute to the pluck of the band from Egerton for competing with their larger and more experienced opponents. He also awarded a sterling silver mouthpiece, offered by F Besson & Co. of London, as a special prize to Mr Scorer, the solo cornet player from the Daylesford Band. There was some small controversy as Mr Scorer was playing out of uniform leading some to believe that he wasn’t genuinely a member of the Daylesford Band, but these concerns were quashed as he was well known to many there and had clear associations to the band. In addition, the rules allowed for one ‘professional’ player or conductor with each band.

The declaration of the winners was followed by a demonstration of gentlemanly conduct, with the victors giving a rousing three-cheers to their bested opponents, who returned the tribute. Afterwards, the bandsmen and officials retired to a dining booth for celebratory toasts and speeches. Mr Jacobs of the Egerton Band proposed the health of the Daylesford Band while Mr Geo. Page of the latter responded with statements of credit to Egerton. He went on to Compliment the efforts of the Allendale and Kingston Band in initiating band contests in the colony. Mr John Gascoigne of Allendale and Kingston prophetically stated that he looked forward to the time when Victorian brass band contests would prove as attractive as they had in the mother country. 

How cruel, then, for a cloud of tragedy to cast its shadow over the Thomas Bulch, the bandsmen of New Shildon and beyond, in that on that same day, Boxing Day, 26th December 1884, Francis Dinsdale, bandmaster of the New Shildon Saxhorn Band and founder of a musical dynasty in the town, died at his home at 6 St John’s Road, Shildon.  The railway signalman was in his seventy-first year but had succumbed to the effects of chronic bronchitis.   According to the death certificate he had not been alone at the time of his death; he had at least his son-in-law Thomas Bulch senior at the end, and it’s highly probable that there were other family members present too.  How quick, or slow, Francis’s decline had been, and whether he was still active in running the band or not, is not explained, but his loss, after having so positively influenced and encouraged the lives and opportunities of so many within his community, must surely have been sorely felt.  Among those not only his own family and direct decedents but also George Allan and his fellow members of the now leaderless New Shildon Saxhorn Band.

Francis’s death was registered on the 27th December by Dr Robert Smeddle, and Joseph Jopling the registrar. On that very same day at the opposite end of the earth, Thomas Edward Bulch, heading into his birthday on 30th Dec, and looking forward to the start of a new year, was entirely unaware of the passing of his grandfather and one-time mentor.  We don’t know what correspondence was passed between him and his family back at home, but it would be several weeks before he could possibly have found out.

And yet there are signs that there was some correspondence between Thomas, out in Ballarat, and members of the Bulch family back in New Shildon.  We partly understand this through the knowledge that Thomas and his older brother Francis (or Frank) planned the emigration of the latter.  We can’t say how long this had been in the planning.  Perhaps it had always been something the brothers had in mind.  Or, perhaps it was after Thomas arrived in Victoria and saw the prospects that the territory offered his older brother as well as himself.  We can only speculate, but whatever the case we see that in February 1855, just over a month after the death of their grandfather, the plans were at an advanced stage and the community in New Shildon were rallying to help make it happen.  A newspaper story in the Northern Echo of 28th February 1885 reads, “the New Shildon Temperance Band, and others, gave a concert in Bishop Auckland Temperance Hall last evening, for the benefit of Mr F Bulch, who is going to Australia”.  One can’t help but wonder whether George Allan lent his voice to the cause, also, as one of the ‘others’ mentioned.

Frank Bulch had married on 7th June of 1884, not long after Thomas’s arrival in Australia.  He was a year older than Thomas and unlike his brother had chosen not to work at the North Eastern Railway works, but as a coal miner.  One of the reasons New Shildon was established as the point of origin of the locomotive-drawn leg of the Stockton and Darlington Railway was it’s proximity to a range of coal mines.  In close proximity, there were Eldon Colliery, the Black Boy Colliery, Coppy Crooks Colliery and Adelaide Colliery as well as two others locally and more only slightly further afield, so there was no shortage of coal mining employment available much of the time as long as the seams were productive.  His chosen wife was Isabella Dixon who has been born in Haughall, Durham, but whose father had moved the family to 6 Vaughan Street on the southeastern edge of  Old Shildon.

Frank and Isabelle bought passage to Australia on the SS Lusitania.  It’s important not to confuse this ship with the ill-fated White Star passenger liner that was torpedoed by the Germans during World War One. This particular ‘Lusitania’ was built in 1871 and transferred to the Orient Line, in 1877, from the Pacific Steam Navigation Company for which it had been built. She weighed 3,877 gross tons, was just under 380 feet in length, has one funnel and three masts (rigged for sail). Like the ‘Gulf of Venice’ that had transported Thomas Bulch she travelled at a speed of 12 knots. She could accommodate 84 first class, 100 second class and 270 third class passengers.  Though ships masters often did not record the names of infants or children travelling, we believe that Frank and Isabelle were also travelling with their infant son.

The ship left Plymouth on 10th March 1885 on a voyage via the Suez which it left on 20th March, and she arrived in Adelaide on the morning of the 16th April 1885; from there she sailed on to Hobson’s Bay, Melbourne where she arrived on the 18th April.

Once the voyage was complete a curious destiny awaited the ship. Following arrival in Australia in 1885, the SS Lusitania was commissioned and converted as an Armed Merchant Cruiser for six months in 1885 during the ‘Russian scare’, wherein South Australia feared it would come under attack from Russian warships as a consequence of hostilities between Britain and Russia over Afghanistan, but returned to her owners and re-engined in 1886. The Sydney Morning Herald of 23rd May 1885 describes the occasion of the Lusitania being taken out for trials in her new converted form as a ‘man-of-war’ and firing practice in which ‘she had acquitted herself as an armed cruiser’.  That, however, deviates from our story.

On arrival in Ballarat, Francis, like Thomas before him, took a job initially at the Phoenix Foundry in Ballarat and is recorded as having been a former worker there.  He would not be there for long.

On the 8th April 1885, while his brother Francis, and Isabelle, had been at sea en route to Australia, Thomas Edward Bulch had married Eliza Southey Paterson of Glendonald in the district of Creswick.  Eliza was the daughter of a manager at the Davies’ Junction Goldmine at Ballarat.  Thomas’s close friend John Malthouse was one of the witnesses to the marriage, further telling of the relationship between the two.  It is probably through the connection Thomas’s father-in-law that Frank Bulch was able to secure a job that better suited his mining background than work at the forge.  He became a worker at the gold mine.  In addition, having previously been, like his brother, a member of the New Shildon Temperance Band, he also joined the ranks of Thomas’s 3rd Militia Band  We learn also that how had involvement with the Phoenix Foundry Brass Band, which raises speculation that, perhaps, though it is undocumented, Thomas did too.

Thomas, meantime, had also been working on his compositions.  A report of 11th March 1885 in the Ballarat Star tells that, The Kingston and Allendale Brass Band (Mr T. E. Bulch, bandmaster) are to play the following programme on the balcony of the Unicorn Hotel this evening, commencing at half-past 7 o’clock Contest march, ” Ballarat,” T. E. Bulch; valse, “ Boccacio,”. Suppé; anthem (sacred), “Vital spark,”: Harwood; tonguing polka, “Mon Ami,” T. E. Bulch; selection, ‘ Notre. Chère Alsace,” Klug; Caledonians,“ Bobbie Burns,” T. H. Wright, contest march, “ Jumbo,” T. E. Bulch; National Anthem.”  We see there two pieces that we have not seen in previous reports; “Jumbo” and “Mon Ami”.

1885 was also the year in which Thomas and Eliza’s first daughter, Ethel, was born.  With Frank and Isabelle and their son safely arrived in Australia and now a daughter born, the Bulch family footprint in the colony was expanding, which must have been of comfort to Thomas, though both Thomas and Frank were bound to have been missed by relatives back in Shildon who feared they might never see the two young men again.

22. The Bulch and Malthouse Music Warehouse Opens for Business

1885 is also the year in which Thomas Edward Bulch ceased his brief employment at the Phoenix Foundry in pursuit of a venture that would enable him to fully make the transition to making a living from music.  This involved a partnership with, unsurprisingly perhaps, John Malthouse the fellow ex-New Shildonian who had persuaded him to come to these shores in the first place.  How long this new venture had been in the planning is, unfortunately, anyone’s guess; but it was quite a significant undertaking for a young man who only two years before had been a manual worker in the rail industry of the north-east of England.  It is a demonstration, perhaps of his intelligence, drive and determination that he achieved this so quickly, and that he could turn his hand to it with such relative ease.

On October 24th 1885 an announcement appears in the Ballarat Star “Music, Music, Music – Messrs BULCH and MALTHOUSE have great pleasure in announcing to the public at Ballarat and surrounding districts that they have opened a MUSIC WAREHOUSE in Bridge Street opposite the market. PIANOS, ORGANS and HARMONIUMS, and every description of Musical Instruments kept in stock. Sheet Music, Music Books, Tutors, &c. Note the address- BULCH AND MALTHOUSE, Music Warehouse, Bridge Street, Ballarat.”  The announcement is repeated in subsequent issues.

Thomas and John were now merchants in the bustling city of Ballarat. This was not the first music store to be opened in Ballarat. A Mr A. T Turner had a similar business on Sturt Street since at least 1866, as had J E Tepper at 119 Sturt Street.  By the mid-1870s J Harrison had a pianoforte and music warehouse at 137 Sturt Street, as had J Summerscales at no. 6 on the same street which by 1877 claimed to be the largest music store in the colony and which gradually extended to Bridge Street.  There was also Sutton and Co. at 39 Sturt Street and Ewins, a piano seller at 3 Sturt Street as well as Birtchnell’s elsewhere on that same street.  Competition for customers would be fierce, and another music warehouse in the city would hardly have been popular with the established store owners, but, with Thomas and John’s involvement, and connections, in the community of musicians through the brass bands and involvement with the Ballarat Musical Union they must surely have felt that they stood a good chance of thriving.

I’d wondered how the two raised the money to secure, and stock, a shop so quickly, and put this to Thomas’s grandson Eric to see if he had any insight. Eric replied that he hadn’t considered it previously but as he didn’t think there was any easy way to obtain funds in those days money may have been loaned Thomas by his wife’s father John Paterson.  Though this is just speculation it does seem plausible.

When John Paterson had emigrated, from Scotland, he went to Inglewood and the goldfields area in the North of Victoria.  Eric believed he had some success before coming south to settle in Creswick.  He seemed to be a man with some drive and was investing in the local gold mines as well as being made manager of one of the larger mines. Eric adds a footnote that when John Paterson died in 1899 he was wealthy and had set up a trust to manage his wife’s affairs.

Thomas’s wife Eliza had an interest in the music store business and in later years, when Thomas was away, Eliza would play a part in running the store. How John Malthouse financed his part in the business is also unclear.

Whatever the case, Thomas Edward Bulch was now a businessman in control of his own destiny and fulfilling his personal ambitions.  His life was becoming very much a model picture of Victorian aspiration and success through self-development.  You can only imagine how this news might be received through correspondence to his family back home and expect that his parents would be very proud of their enterprising and determined son.

23. Temperance and a Year of Tragedy and Grief

You may be feeling at this point that this story is all about Thomas Bulch, and wondering what of George Allan.  However, as Thomas was born over a year before George many of the major turns in his life were highly probably going to happen first.  There are other factors that lead mean that in the story of Thomas Bulch there is more to say.  For example, for Thomas to fulfil his destiny he had to go on a journey; George did not.  Be assured that we will catch up with George shortly.  For now, however, we must stay with Thomas Bulch and his family.

The year 1886 started well enough for Thomas in Ballarat, now master and conductor of multiple brass bands.  The Ballarat Star, detailed as ever in its reporting of daily life in the city, keeps us informed of events.  On 27th Feb 1886, it reports that “The Militia Band played a number of selections last evening in the Sturt street rotunda. A large crowd of persons assembled to listen to the music rendered by the hand, under Mr Bulch’s leadership, and an excellent treat was afforded.”

In April of 1886, we see that Thomas is instrumental in a bold attempt to reinvigorate a legacy that he had left back in New Shildon, a Temperance Brass Band, but this time in Ballarat.  This was brought to our attention in the writings of Australian brass historian Jack Greaves, but as with all of the Bulch story, the details endure in the local press.  The Ballarat Star of 13th April 1886 documents the founding moment.

“A meeting of persons desirous of forming a temperance brass band was held last evening in the Prince’s room, Alfred Hall. There was a large attendance. Mr S. Roberts was voted to the chair. The chairman, in opening the meeting, referred to its objects, and called upon Mr W. Porter, one of the conveners of the meeting, to say a few words regarding the band. Mr Porter, during the course of his remarks, referred at length to the desirability of forming a band, the more so as a number of young men were ready and willing to join the movement. After some discussion the following motion, moved by Mr J. Mole, – and seconded by Mr J. Harvey, -was carried unanimously— “That this meeting form itself into a band, to be named the Ballarat Temperance Brass Band.” It was also resolved to advertise for applications for an instructor. About 40 names were handed in of persons willing to become members of the band, 20 of whom have the necessary instruments. Nominations for officers were then taken and resulted in the following being elected:—Treasurer, Mr S. Roberts; hon. secretary, Mr W. Porter; committee— Messrs J. Scott, J. Mole, Crompton, Harvey, and John Dorem. The nominations which were received for patrons and president were held over till next meeting, which will take place in a fortnight’s time. A vote of thanks to the chairman terminated the proceedings.”

You’ll notice that Thomas is not named at that point, but you can be almost sure that at a convening of bandsmen with the principles of temperance at heart, a number of the former New Shildon Temperance bandmates would have been present.  It’s not long before Thomas’s involvement is confirmed. It should be noted that the notion of a Temperance Band in Ballarat was not something new.  In the late 1860s, decades before Thomas’s arrival in Australia, a similar project had started, but not endured.

First though, on 5th May 1886, we hear of an event involving Thomas’s other band. “The Allendale and Kingston Brass Band will (weather permitting) play the following programme to-night near the Post Office, Allendale, at 8 o’clock. Conductor, Mr T. E. Bulch: —Grand contest march, “Chef d’oeuvre,” by T. E. Bulch; waltzes (contest), “Mountain and Glen,” by H. Round; grand selection (operatic), “Gems from Weber,” by T. E. Bulch; solo tonguing polka, “Mon Ami,” by T. E. Bulch. Interval. Grand contest march, “Typhoon,” by T. E. Bulch; grand fantasia (descriptive), “Joan of Arc,” by H. Round; quadrilles (contest), “ Frost and Sun,” by Frost and Son; waltzes, “Boccacio,” by Von Suppe; National Anthem.”  Again there we see evidence of the expansion of his works of composition. Though “Chef D’Oeuvre” was written whilst back in Britain, and published again by T. A Haigh, the piece “Mon Ami” appears more recent.

Then, later that month on 25th May 1886 we hear that “The Militia Band performed the following programme at the International Fancy Fair. Grand march, “Glorie et Patrie” (Bogarde); valses, “Clarine” Karl Kaps; grand selection (on Irish airs), “ Pride of Ireland” (H. Round); tonguing polka, “Mon Ami ” (T. E. Bulch); lancers, “ United Kingdom” (Wright); valses from the ‘ opera “Boccaccio ”(Von Siippi); march, “Happy moments ” (T. E. Bulch).”

Again this is an early mention of another piece that seems to be relatively recent.  “Happy Moments.”  Thomas evidently displayed pride and confidence in being able to include his own works in the programmes of music played by his bands.

Overall, 1886 was, though, a year of few happy moments for the Bulch family, and many moments of sadness.  Again, it is to the Ballarat Star that we turn for a detailed account of the first episode of tragedy. The newspaper of 23rd July explains the event of the previous day:

“FATAL ACCIDENT AT THE DAVIES’ JUNCTION MINE. Our local correspondent yesterday writes: “A fatal accident happened at the Davies’ Junction Company’s shaft at noon today. Two men, respectively named William Bray and Frank Bulch, were working in a drive which was only two sets and a half from the main drive. The manager, about three quarters of an hour previous to the unfortunate accident, gave instructions for the drive to be stopped, on account of it being very poor, and the men were preparing to abandon it when, by some means, the timbers have slipped, and both men were thrown down in the drive. Bulch was killed almost instantaneously, but Bray lived a short time after the accident. Bray cried out for the men to lift the timber and dirt off his back, but before he could be released life was extinct. The ground was very firm, and only about 18 inches or 2 feet of stuff fell with the timber on the men. A miner named Thomas Reardon, hearing the noise of the fall, rushed to the mouth of the drive and found Bray lying with his face downwards the timber and dirt only covering him to about the middle of the back. Bulch was married and leaves a wife and one child. He is a brother of Mr T E Bulch, the esteemed leader of the Kingston and Allendale brass band. Bray who is advanced in years, has a brother in Clunes, and he is reported to be a nephew of Billy Bray, the famous Cornish preacher.”

As with other mining accidents of the day, the tragic incident was widely reported across the continent, including this brief report in Tasmania by the Launceston Examiner on Friday 23rd July 1886 “Wm. Bray and Frank Bulch were smothered shortly after noon to-day in a wash-dirt drive at the Davies’s Junction Company Mine in Creswick. The ground is reported to have been very heavy. The bodies have not yet been recovered. Bray is the nephew of Billy Bray, the famous preacher, and Bulch is a brother of Mr T E Bulch, the well known Ballarat bandmaster.” 

Setting aside for a moment the implication in that article, that already by that time Thomas Bulch was considered to be ‘well known’; Frank Bulch, Thomas’s only direct relation on the Australian continent; most likely persuaded by his younger brother to make his life there, had died in an accident at the gold mine managed by Thomas’s father-in-law.  How cruel a situation for a young man to bear.  To make matters worse,  Thomas’s grandson Eric explained to us that as Francis Bulch’s principal relative, Thomas had the task of arranging his brother’s funeral.

The Ballarat Star of 26th July explains the funerary proceedings. “Funeral at Creswick. The funerals of the late William Bray and Francis Bulch, the two men who were accidentally killed on Thursday while working in a wash-dirt drive at Davies’s Junction Company’s mine, took place (writes our correspondent) at the Creswick Cemetery on Saturday when, as two hearses were seen on the Clunes road in one procession, a large number of people were reminded of the time when 21 of the unfortunate miners who lost their lives in the Australian disaster in December, 1882, were borne along that road to the same burying ground. Young Bulch who was laid in the silent grave on the 25th anniversary of the date of his birthday, was a member of the band of the 3rd Battalion Militia, and about 100 rank and file of the B Company of that Battalion under Captain King, attended to pay a last tribute of respect to their deceased comrade. The hearse containing his corpse was preceded by a firing party of 12 men, who, after the solemnities at the grave, fired three volleys, and members of the Militia Band walked beside the hearse in the procession. The deceased, while residing in Ballarat, was connected with the Phoenix Brass Band, and at the time of his death he was a member of the Kingston and Allendale Brass Band, the members of both of which attended the funeral and played “The Dead March in Saul” with muffled drums. The burial service of the Church of England was conducted at the grave by Revs J Glover and J Harnson. Bray, who was 62 years of age, was buried in the Wesleyan ground, the Service being read by the Rev T Angwin. The proceedings were of a very impressive character. Both men were, of course, connected with the Miners’ Association, and a large number of miners walked in the procession. The usual levy will be made on the whole of the members of the association for the relatives of the deceased men. The Militiamen and Phoenix Band arrived at North Creswick by train at 4 pm, and returned to Ballarat by the evening train, leaving Creswick at 6:20. The works at the mine, suspended on Thursday, were resumed on Sunday (last) night.”

When Thomas’ grandfather, Francis Dinsdale, had died it was Thomas that had been made to wait while news, sluggishly, arrived from England.  This time Thomas was the one who had to bear the weight of being the only one of his family to know that Frank Bulch had perished until news arrived in Britain; he was unable to share that grief with his parents or brothers and sisters.  Eventually, the news did arrive back home and was duly reported in the Northern Echo there on 1st September 1886.  “A SHILDON MAN KILLED IN AUSTRALIA – Letters have been received at Shildon from Australia announcing the death of Francis Bulch, a native of New Shildon, and formerly a member of the Shildon Temperance Brass Band. It appears that Bulch was working at the gold mines near Ballarat, and was smothered along with his mate (Wm. Bray), by a fall of earth, on the 22nd of July. Deceased was almost 25 years of age.”

It must have been heartbreaking to the family in New Shildon to have learned that this happened weeks earlier and that since that time they had not known to grieve for their lost son and brother.

By September 1886 it appears that the Ballarat Temperance Band which had been initiated at the meeting in April was up and running. On 13th April we learn that “The Ballarat Temperance Brass Band, under the leadership of Mr T. E. Bulch, discoursed the programme as advertised by us yesterday, in front of Messrs I. and J. Roff’s tailoring establishment last evening. Crowds of people were present, who showed their appreciation by frequent rounds of applause. The band regretted having to finish the programme about 9 p.m. rather abruptly on account of the serious illness of the youngest son of Mrs E. Ingram, of the Royal Standard hotel. The band adjourned to Mr Mclntyre’s, Bridge street, where a repast was laid to the order of Mr Roff. After the repast, Mr Roff thanked the band for their services, which was responded to by Mr Roberts. The band sang “For he’s a jolly good fellow,” and then dispersed.”  The Ballarat Temperance Band played a number of other engagements in the city towards the end of the year including one on the 1st October on Sturt Street, “immediately opposite Messrs Horsley Bothers.”

The very next day, yet another tragedy was to befall the Bulch family, this time back at home in New Shildon.  On 2nd October 1886 Thomas’s mother, Margaret, the daughter of Francis Dinsdale, died at the family home of 40 Adelaide Street.  According to the death certificate, the cause of her death was an obstruction of the bowels.  Her son Jerry Bulch is recorded as having been present at her passing, but it is highly likely that many of her children, as well as her husband, would have been present at what must have been a terribly distressing and uncomfortable demise.  In current times, where state-provided healthcare is available in Britain, it’s hard to imagine now how helpless a family must have felt in witnessing the demise and loss of a loved one so potentially unnecessarily. In Victorian Britain it was a hard, and usually inescapable, fact of life.  Margaret Bulch was buried above the town, in the cemetery at All Saints Church on 5th October.  Yet again it would be weeks before this news would reach Thomas and he would again have to suffer the anguish of losing a loved one.

In 1886, Thomas would experience one moment of happiness, as, at Creswick, his wife Eliza gave birth to Thomas’s second child Adeline Maud Bulch, though it was also the year he lost his own firstborn, Ethel.

The end of October saw Thomas return to band contesting, this time with the 3rd Battalion Militia band. Jack Greaves tells us in his account of Thomas’s career, that to celebrate the eighth anniversary of the Creswick Miners Association on Oct 27th 1886, a public holiday was declared and a large sports meeting held during which a band contest took place. Bulch’s 3rd Battalion Band was one of four who competed and was awarded the first prize. Prout’s Band of Ballarat and two bands from Daylesford were the other entrants. The announcement of the result was greeted with much applause for both Bulch and the band itself were held in high esteem in the district.  This is believed to have been Thomas’s first band contest since arriving in Australia, and since his early competitive experiences in England, and marked a fine return.  The prize was placed in the window of Bulch and Malthouse’s Music Warehouse for all to see. Band contesting was to develop from here into another key aspect of his time in Australia.

We learn on the 18th of November, yet again in the Ballarat Star, that already his own band are working on preparations to host a contest of their own.  “We have received from Mr S. Jamieson, secretary of the Ballarat Temperance Brass Band, a programme of the brass band contest to be held in Ballarat on New Year’s Day, in connection with the above band and the Ballarat Cricket Club.’ It is the intention of the band to hold; such contests annually, believing that they will give a fresh impetus to brass bands in Ballarat and district, as the prizes will be of sufficient value to secure numerous entries and induce young men to devote more time to that useful and. intellectual study, viz, music. It may be: added that. the. first. prize amounts to £3O 16s, the second to £2O 10s, and the third to £l2 12s.”

The prize money, for a contest at the time, does appear to be quite a significant incentive.  A cricket match was arranged, to take place at the Eastern Oval, with a Ballarat team lining up against a South Australia side. To support the prize for the band contest donations were taken, and C. E Jones agreed to organise a fundraising lecture. On the 4th December, it was announced that the contest would be extended to include a category for drum and fife bands, and the range of prizes extended accordingly to accommodate this.

However, the idea of a New Year’s Day band contest wasn’t to everyone’s satisfaction and this letter signed by a “bandsman” appeared in the press on 8th Dec. “SIR, —I notice in your advertising columns that a band competition is to take place on New Year’s Day. I would respectfully suggest to the committee of the Temperance Band the advisability of holding the event on some more suitable date. On New Year’s Day thousands of our townspeople take a trip to Lai Lai or some other place of attraction, in fact there are a number of bandsmen who, to my knowledge, have: made arrangements already to go picnicking, shooting, and such like, and have actually engaged their traps and paid deposits on same. It is very questionable if a sufficient number of bandsmen will be in Ballarat that day to compete. For these reasons, the event, if held on New Year’s Day will in all likelihood be a failure. Were the committee to select a Friday half holiday there would not only be a full attendance of competitors, but I venture to predict there would be a largo muster of the public, who would gladly avail themselves of the pleasure of listening to the contest. Hoping the hint will be taken.”

An appearance of the band on Boxing Day was expected to be cancelled owing to absences of sufficient band members through other commitments, though members did convene to play carols throughout the town and city.

On New Year’s Day, the much-awaited band contest was due. The press advised that six fife and drum bands, with members numbering over 200 in total, would participate, playing pieces of their own choice.  The fife and drum bands did compete, but there were no brass bands participating that day – it seems those who agreed with the writer of the above letter had their way, and a compromise was reached.

The only mention of the Temperance Band is a report on the 22nd January of a Half Holiday Union Excursion at the Lal Lal racecourse at which the band were present and “Discoursed good music throughout the afternoon.” Thereafter I’ve only found two references in the press exist during 1888, but it seems Thomas’s involvement with the Ballarat Temperance Band was as good as over.

24. Bulch’s Model Band

On New Year’s Eve of 1886, which was Thomas’s birthday, Thomas’s 3rd Militia Band was to present a program of music in the battalion orderly room. However, a situation arose which would lead to a confrontation between Thomas Bulch and the commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion.  A raised platform, usually erected for such occasions for the bandsmen, was not in place on the evening in question and Bulch refused to allow the band to play. Whether he resigned or otherwise, he did cease at the beginning of 1887 to be the bandmaster of the 3rd Battalion Band.

Whether he had for some time had it in mind to do so, or whether it was simply an evolution of his Ballarat Temperance Band, caused through some dissatisfaction with arrangements with the committee there, Thomas Bulch created a new band as of the 10th January 1887.  Echoing a number of the bands that Thomas had been exposed to back in England, such as Leeds Model Band and Milburn’s Model Band, this new band was named Bulch’s Model Band.  By integrating his own name into the name of the band Thomas was arguably ‘nailing his flag to the mast’ in terms of stamping his authority on proceedings; it would be he that would dictate how the band was run; but also making it clear that his reputation and that of the bend would be intertwined.  To do that he’d have to be confident that he would be able to make this new band work, and work well enough to be worth risking his own standing.  It wasn’t so unusual a move, however, as Prout’s Ballarat Band were also named after their bandmaster.

Jack Greaves tells us that a contingent of the 3rd Militia Band resigned in support of their former bandmaster, and we see that they joined his model band. It’s highly probable that members of his Temperance Band also joined him in the new band; men such as the Malthouse brothers and James Scarffe whom we see hereafter as members of the Model Band.  Sam Lewins was not among them, as he had left Ballarat for the city of Bathurst in 1885, and we shall include his tale later.

By forming his own band, Thomas would have to find funding for uniforms, instruments, travel and all the sundries required to keep a band operational; but no time was wasted and the band was ‘contest ready’ by the time of the United Fire Brigades Jubilee Tournament on Friday 25th February at the Friendly Societies fields in Melbourne.  In the contest in association with that event, the band came second ahead of St Joseph’s and was beaten only by Launceston. Their prize was a silver plated cornet donated by Sutton’s music store.

In April of 1887, the Ballarat Star reports that A moonlight concert was given by Bulch’s Model Brass Band in the Eastern Oval last night in aid of the Bulli Explosion Relief Fund. Prior to the concert a grand torch light procession was held, and this formed a most attractive feature of the proceedings. It was headed by the Soldiers Hill Fife and Drum Band, after whom came the Ballarat Fire Brigade, the Ballarat East Fife and Drum Band, the Soldiers Hill Fire Brigade, Bulch’s Brass Baud, and the Ballarat City Fire Brigade, in the order named. There was an excellent muster of firemen and bandsmen, and the procession assumed huge proportions as it marched up and down Sturt street and thence to the Eastern Oval. A raised platform was there provided, and on this Bulch’s Band took their stand and went through the following programme.

  • Overture, “Knight Templar, ’ H Round,
  • March, “To Arms,” Newton,
  • Valses (contest), “Homage aux Dames,” Waldteufel,
  • Contest selection, “Gems from Weber,” T E Bulch,
  • Contest march, “The Typhoon,” T E Bulch,
  • Anthem “Daughter of Zion,” T Clark,
  • Valses, “Mountain and Glen,” H Round,
  • Trombone solo, “ Death of Nelson,” Braham,
  • “Dead march in Saul,” Handel
  • “God save the Queen”.

The band played in first-class style, proving the thoroughness of the instruction they receive, and their performance evidently pleased the large audience that had assembled There were between 2000 and 3000 persons present. There was £19 taken at the gates. The band expect to be able to hand over £40 to the fund.”

Away from the band, Thomas continued to compose piano compositions for sale to the general public. 1887, being the Jubilee of the coronation of Queen Victoria, afforded Thomas an opportunity to create a piece that he hoped might have wide appeal. The Ballarat Star reports on 6th Jun. We have received from Mr Thomas E. Bulch, leader of the Model Band, a copy of “The Jubilee March,” composed by himself in honour of Her Majesty’s Jubilee. Particulars regarding the production are advertised. The march is a skillfully written composition, bearing no traces of amateur workmanship, and as arranged for the pianoforte is easy of performance. We can confidently recommend it to pianoforte players as a “ new piece” of more than ordinary merit, and deserving of wide popularity.” Queen Victoria came to the throne on 20th June 1837 so this piece was to celebrate 50 years of her reign.” Another piece in the Argus of Melbourne on the 18 Jun 1887 reads “From Messrs Bulch & Malthouse, the publishers, Ballarat, we have received copies of “The Jubilee March,” composed Thomas E Bulch for band, and arranged in this form for pianoforte – a well marked measure in the key of C.”

It’s not known, for many reasons, some of which we will explain shortly, how many pieces for Piano that Thomas had created before that date.  The Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria was celebrated on 20th June 1887, and Bulch, with his Model Band, were keen to play their part.  This seems appropriate given that Ballarat was in a state of Australia named after the monarch.  On the day itself, and on the balcony of Messrs Bean, Son and Co. in Ballarat, the band played a suitably patriotic set commencing with Bulch’s own ‘Jubilee march’, with other pieces being ‘Patriotic’ and ‘England’s Queen’ by J Frost and ‘Victoria Regia’ by George Webb.

The Ballarat Star of 19 Jul 1887 promotes the band Bulch’s Model Band, of which Ballarat residents have reason to feel proud, have already distinguished themselves in musical contests, but during the approaching spring and summer weather they will, we hear, excel their best performances in the past. As a bandmaster Mr Bulch has displayed considerable ability, and as an organiser he is said to have few equals in this district. Twice, and sometimes three times a week, he has his men at practice, and among the selections rehearsed are new and choice pieces, as played by the leading operatic and military bands of Europe. When the fine weather sets in the public will frequently have an opportunity of hearing the Model Band in open air, and these recitals, together with those of other local bands of note, should be looked forward to with interest by lovers of good music. The performers under Mr Bulch are constant in their; practice, mainly with the view of winning further musical laurels in Victoria and elsewhere.”

Then, on 16th August 1887, the same newspaper includes a thinly veiled appeal for support for Bulch’s Model Band to travel to a contest in Adelaide. We understand that Bulch’s Model Brass Band intend journeying to Adelaide in order to compete at a band contest to be held in connection with the Jubilee Exhibition in that city in October. The members of the band, which carried off second honours at a recent competition, have been practising assiduously for some time, and are determined, if possible, to better the position they then gained. The band numbers about 30 members, and, as the expense of such a trip would so great, it has been suggested by an admirer of the band that it would be a graceful act on the part of the public to bear at least a portion of the burden. The members of the band have, since their organisation, been prominent in assisting charitable efforts, and have also treated the public to several first-class programmes of music gratis. As the honour of the city would, from a musical point of view, be at stake, no doubt the suggestion will be well responded to, and we presume the band would accept assistance that would be thus spontaneously offered.”

25. The Marriage of George Allan

It would be easy to wonder what, if anything, had been happening to George Allan in all the time that Thomas Bulch was undertaking this change from humble blacksmith’s apprentice to a celebrated figure of Ballarat and self-made businessman in charge of his own destiny.

In all fairness to George the long working day of a blacksmith’s striker at the North Eastern Railway works would have left him precious little time for composition and self-promotion, were those objectives even in his nature. His age, too, would have meant that he would always be slightly behind Thomas in developing his musical profile.

With Francis Dinsdale no longer in charge of the New Shildon Saxhorn Band, someone new had to take the baton.  We can’t be certain that George Allan was the first to do that, but there are no documented reports of anyone also having done so in this period.  It’s difficult to understand whether the continuity of the band was smooth after the death of Francis Dinsdale, and the rise to the Temperance Band to the status of being the town’s more favoured band.  Nor for that matter to we really understand how difficult it was for the Temperance Band to recover from losing their own bandmaster and a contingent of their principal players.  Both bands did continue, though neither are recorded as having entered a contest during the remainder of the eighteen-eighties, suggesting that it may not have been the easiest of times for either band.

We know that the new Shildon Temperance Band continued to be active, however, and have an example that on the 2nd August 1887 the band played a selection of music to celebrate the return to Shildon of the Rev H. Spurrier to the town from his seven-week honeymoon in the highlands of Scotland. He and his wife had been greeted by around five thousand parishioners with 50 girls dressed in white to meet them at the gates.

In matters personal, however, life was evolving for George Allan.  In the early 1880s he was courting a lady by the name of  Elizabeth Willoughby.  Elizabeth had been born in a house on Arthur Street, Billy Row near Crook, to William Willoughby and his wife Hannah. Her father, once a labourer, was, by the time George and Elizabeth met, a coke burner living at the village of Auckland Park, between Shildon and Bishop Auckland.  Like the Bulch family, and the Allans, the Willoughby family were a large family of thirteen, though by 1871 most of the children had grown up and moved out leaving only the parents with three sisters; Elizabeth, Ellen and Emma.

As the 1880s began, Elizabeth herself had found employment, as a domestic servant to the Rev. George Leighton BA, the Church of England Curate of Etherley.  This would have been a residential post wherein she would carry out domestic chores for the Curate and his wife Sarah, along with two other residents, Mary and Frances Kendall who were related to the Curate’s wife. It is believed that this employment probably ended around November 1881 when the curate and his family moved from Etherley to, the probably more prestigious, Morchard Bishop so that the Curate could accept a new post there.  Elizabeth returned to live with her parents.

How George Allan and met his sweetheart, Elizabeth, is a story lost in time.  It may have been at an engagement of the Saxhorn Band, or it may have been a chance meeting in Shildon, or at another social event.  We can only speculate.

The couple arranged a wedding for Tuesday 16th August 1887. This was not to be held, as we might expect, at All Saints Church in New Shildon, as we might have expected; given it was the church with which the Allan family had the closest connections.  Instead, the venue was set as being St Anne’s Church, located on the marketplace at Bishop Auckland.  One can assume that this preference might well have been that of Elizabeth or her family.  St Anne’s may well have been the church they attended; though, living at Auckland Park, they would have had other choices.

We know little of the wedding ceremony itself, and whether many or all of either family attended, or whether many people from Shildon; bandmates, workmates etc., made the short journey to Bishop Auckland.  The marriage certificate does record, however, that the ceremony was witnessed by William Addison Birkbeck, and Elizabeth’s sister Emma Willoughby.  These two may have already been sweethearts themselves at that point, but if not, something certainly emerged between them later as three years later they, too, were married.

A modest announcement appeared in the Northern Echo following George and Elizabeth’s wedding, on Thursday 19th August, under Marriages: “Allan-Willoughby – At St Anne’s Church, Bishop Auckland. George Allan of New Shildon, and Elizabeth Willoughby, of Auckland Park.”

It appears that, after the wedding, George moved in with his in-laws at Auckland Park for a time while the couple prepared their own arrangements for the future.  This would have entailed a far longer journey to work at the wagon works each day, so he would have spent some time planning how, on his blacksmith’s striker’s wage, in addition to any modest fee he might be receiving as bandmaster of the New Shildon Saxhorn Band, he might be able to take his wife back to Shildon.  During this period George also ended, for a time, his membership of the Mechanic’s Institute.  It may possibly have been on account of his absence from New Shildon, and the need to save for future plans.

George may well have secured a further source of income, for it is around this year that we start to see his first compositions published.  One of the very first of these is a march called ‘The Cyclone’ that was performed by such bands as the Crooke Brass Band,  The Northfleet Temperance Prize Band and the Black Dyke band over the years; however the first report we have seen of it being played was by the Band of the Sunderland Constabulary in Mowbray Park on 6th Sep 1887.  That Allan chose ‘The Cyclone’ as a title is interesting, as we know that Thomas Bulch also created a march called ‘Cyclone’ which was reportedly performed by the 3rd Glamorgan Rifle Volunteers band in 1888, suggesting that it may have been created before he left Britain.  Why would two composers create two marches of the same title?  The title itself feels almost like a sequel to Bulch’s ‘The Typhoon’; however, there are more references to ‘The Cyclone’ being attributed to George Allan.  It may be that the two decided to see which might create the better march and agreed to call them by the same title.  There is another possibility though, and I would stress that this theory is pure conjecture on my part and cannot be treated as fact.  We do know, though, that throughout his lifetime Thomas Bulch would help others to create compositions, and would often edit the works of others completing them on an uncredited basis.  Might it just be that ‘The Cyclone’ is an early example of that?  A collaboration in which Thomas Bulch helped the younger composer, George Allan, with an idea for a march that he had had to follow Bulch’s own ‘The Typhoon’; and that George Allan later had that published.  I am quite certain that were that the case it could not be seen as diminishing Allan’s eventual stature as a composer in his own right.

Whatever the truth behind ‘The Cyclone’, and whether is truly was George Allan’s debut in print, George continued to compose and be published. Other titles attributed to Allan start to be reported around this time, some of which we have not seen the printed music for yet. They include a march called ‘Silver King’ which again we know not to be an original title singularly attributed to Allan but we have seen often enough to be reasonably sure it’s not a misattribution.  Whatever fees might be acquired from a publisher would certainly be of help to George in setting up a life with his new wife.  

George even found inspiration for his composition through his wife. in 1888 Thomas Haigh, George’s publisher included a polka called “Willoughby” in the September 1888 issue of the Amateur Brass (& Military) Band Journal. Why else would George have used this name if not in tribute to his wife.

The story continues here….