48. King Edward, the Stand-in and the Painting of Wagons Begins
George Allan’s first band contest of 1902 was on Whit Monday, the 19th of May. This was at the village of Howden-le-Wear near the market town of Crook, in County Durham. George had arrived with a full complement of his New Shildon Saxhorn Band, ready to compete. Prize money of £24 and 10s had been put up by the organises, and that had proved sufficient to attract twelve bands from across the north. The Spennymoor and Sunderland Temperance Bands were there, as were Hebburn Colliery, Charlton’s Star of Hope Band, Willington, Cornsay Institute, Butterknowle, Auckland Park, Consett Ironworks, Albert Hill and Hamsteel’s. One person who was not present however was Mr Albert Whipp, the noted contest judge and one-time conductor of the Shaw, Rochdale Old and Glodwick Bands. Two telegrams arrived from him advising the organisers that he had missed his train from Lancashire at two junctions. This was potentially a catastrophe for the committee; twelve bands and an anticipating audience, but no judge. What good fortune then that one of the conductors present also had a reputation as an experienced contest adjudicator; step forward George Allan. Arrangements were agreed and the New Shildon Saxhorn Band, bandsmen from which were probably quite disappointed, having set aside their day and borne the expense of travel from Shildon, forfeited their opportunity to take part in the contest.
The contest required each of the competing bands to make their best attempt at one from a choice of three selections. These were “Euryanthe”, “Songs of Other Days” or “Songs of Shakespeare”. Only Sunderland Temperance chose the latter piece; the other bands elected to play one of the first two. George awarded the first prize of £10 to Hebburn Colliery, with Charlton’s and Willington taking joint second place and Cornsay and Spennymoor fourth and fifth respectively. In addition, he had prizes to award to the best euphonium player, which went to Charlton’s Star of Hope, the best horn went to Hebburn Colliery, best trombone player was from the Sunderland Temperance band and best cornet was awarded to a player from Cornsay. It hadn’t turned out to be the day that George and his band had anticipated, but it seems that he had saved the day by standing in as the best man on the spot to ensure that the contest could go ahead satisfactorily. Incidentally, Mr Whipp did get his opportunity to judge at the Howden-le-Wear band contest the following years; 1903, 1904 and 1905. It would have been nice to think the organisers might have considered George for the task again, but that committee stuck to their original conviction that Albert Whipp was the best man for the job. Though George had experience and an increasing reputation as a composer, Whipp’s record as a contest-winning conductor in his own right was better; perhaps that was a factor. Perhaps it was his regular advertisements in Wright and Round’s Brass Band News.
Despite this, George had a busy year in 1902. His next engagement was on the 17th of May, a short train journey away in the market town of Barnard Castle in Teesdale for a small contest there. Only four brass bands were taking part in this contest, which was being held as part of a series by the Teesside Brass Band League. The five contests in the series were held with the objective of winning a silver cup which if won two years in succession, or three times would become the property of the band. With the contest being on a Saturday there was a large crowd gathered in the grounds of the vacant castle itself to see each of the bands perform a march and then a set of waltzes. George awarded the prizes for the march to the band from the village of Butterknowle followed by St Helen’s and Barnard Castle respectively. For the waltzes, Middleton-in-Teesdale were victorious.
Next, on Saturday the 17th June, George made another short trip to Middlestone Moor near Spennymoor, where he had been requested to adjudicate at a contest arranged by the Middlestone Moor Literary Institute. The contest was held, along with a sporting event, on a field conveniently sited adjacent to the Institute building. The weather on this occasion proved ‘inauspicious for a sporting event’ and consequently, the attendance was poor despite the £45 offered in prizes across all events. Of this £15 had been offered for the band contest, attracting six bands. As usual, there was a test piece, being William Rimmer’s coronation themed selection “Sons of Brittania”, and also a quickstep contest. On the announcement of the points scoring, and consequent winners, George had awarded the £8 first prize for the selection to the Cornsay band and their conductor Benjamin Gordon, who were also triumphant in the quickstep. George also awarded their euphonium player a silver medal for best euphonium player. Willington came second in the test piece, and the third prize was divided between Spennymoor Temperance and Darlington Temperance. the band from Browney were unplaced.
In the summer of that year, George Allan’s occupation changed from that of blacksmith’s striker to become a wagon painter at the North Eastern Railway wagon works at New Shildon. We cannot know whether this was his choice, perhaps an opportunity that had presented itself, or whether the change in job was imposed upon him by the management at the works. According to the wages books from the works, his role changed on the 5th of July when he’d have been 38 years old, so would still have had the strength needed to continue to be a striker in the blacksmith’s shop. His pay dropped slightly to a rate of four shillings and fourpence. It would be nice to think that George had been doing well as a composer of brass band music with enough money from that supplementing his wage as to make it a viable choice for him.
One thing we do know for certain though in relation to this career change is that it was highly probably related to a large scale reorganisation of the North Eastern Railway’s workforce that was announced in May of 1902. The company had three major works sites conducting building and repairs of rolling stock. Darlington, York and Shildon. On the 8th of May, it was announced in the press that the work was to be reorganised so that it applied across only two sites. The building and maintenance work at Darlington would cease, with the buildings there being converted to locomotive running sheds of sufficient size to hold 100 engines. All workers from Darlington that had been involved in the building and repair of carriages would be transferred to the York works. Those that had been engaged in the repair and building of wagons would go to Shildon. This would increase activity and workforce at Shildon, and most probably result in the redesignation of some of the workers to new roles; this probably included George, but as we said, whether he had any choice in the matter is unknown.
If George Allan had hoped that his overture for the nation’s new monarch would be timely, with an impending Coronation to be celebrated, he was to be somewhat disappointed. Edward’s Coronation was originally scheduled for 26th June. Committees across the land were frantically planning the royal celebration of a lifetime ahead of this date. On 24th of July however, the King was diagnosed with appendicitis and the ceremony postponed. Everywhere, plans were put on ice as the nation waited to see what would happen next.
In the interim, George had yet another contest to attend to; this time heading east to Eston just south of the industrial town of Middlesborough. The contest took place on Saturday the 2nd of August. Little is available on the proceedings, but it sounds a disappointing affair with only three bands having competed, Cleveland Steel Works, Charlton’s Star of Hope and Cockerton. The first of these were winners with the other two tied in second place.
Two weeks after King Edward VII was declared ill with appendicitis he was said to be sitting up in bed again smoking a cigar and declared to be out of danger. The long-awaited Coronation was re-scheduled for 9th August 1902, and the fervent planning of celebrations re-commenced. It would be nice to be able to state how many copies of George’s “King Edward” overture had been sold through the Standard Brass Band Journal, but alas it’s a statistic that eludes us. He wasn’t the only composer to have created a coronation composition, the competition was strong. Not only that but as a marketing ploy it may not have been the greatest, with interest in the piece being quite short lived due to it being very much ‘of the moment’. We do know of some bands that played it around that time, however. In June the Birstwith Brass Band played “King Edward” at the Sunday School Festival and Anniversary event that took place at Shaw Mills, and the Band of the Ashburton Company 5th Volunteer BDR performed it at a cottage garden show at Broadhempston. We don’t know if it was played in the Shildons.
A grand celebration was held in the Shildons, though, with temporary triumphal arches being erected at the end of a number of the principal streets dedicated to the King and his wife Alexandra. A number of photographs of these still exist showing the streets decorated appropriately, though we’ve not seen any accounts of how the day was celebrated. At some point around this time, King Edward Street and Alexandra Street in Old Shildon were named.
At the beginning of September, the annual Brandon Colliery Exhibition was held, once again on the fields adjacent to the colliery. The weather was perfect, and, under blue skies, thousands reportedly flocked to the “rich, unique and most extensive exhibition.”. The reporter from the Durham County Advertiser went on to say that “the attractions were of a varied character, for in addition to the usual display of flowers, fruits and vegetables, there was a band contest in which the best bands not only locally, but from a considerable distance, were engaged. A rich feast of music was thus provided, and which it is needless to say, was duly appreciated by the many hundreds of people gathered around the bandstand.” Ten bands competed that day, and in the selection, George’s scoring saw the Cleveland band take the prize followed by Cockerton and Willington. For the march contest, he found in favour of the Cleveland Band again, followed by Cockerton
Reported appearances of the New Shildon Saxhorn Band are few and far between by this time. It’s highly probable that they were involved in the Coronation day celebrations, but nothing has been found documented to prove this. Given the advertisement from 1900 for a new bandmaster and the time George was spending composing and judging at contests, the band may have been losing momentum. But there is one engagement that we do know of which took place in October of 1902 and begins with a sad occurrence at Eldon Colliery. A boy had been killed in an accident in the pit, and tradition was held in those days that when there had been a death the pit was not worked for the remainder of that day. On this occasion, the management had not followed the custom, possibly on account of the accident taking place late in the afternoon. This upset the men of the mine and the next day they, as one, did not turn in for work. The management disputed the workers right to do this and issued a court summons over all 400 men. The summons was returnable at Bishop Auckland Petty Sessions on the morning of the 30th of October. wanting to make a show of it the miners arranged a demonstration of their solidarity in the matter and engaged George Allan and the New Shildon Saxhorn Band.
On the day of the demonstration, the men assembled in Shildon and marched all the way to Bishop Auckland, a distance of about 3 miles, with the band at the head of the procession. They arrived at Bishop Auckland at about half past ten in the morning where the streets were lined with thousands of people; some in support, others simply curious. When the procession reached the main trading centre of Newgate Street the band began to play the “Dead March” from Saul. There was an element of sombre theatrics to the occasion as it was headed by a number of pit lads wearing white cloaks, and the band was followed by the men, mostly dressed in black. The Miner’s Association Lodge banner for the pit was paraded draped in black, as was the custom whenever there had been a fatality at the mine. The vicinity of the courthouse was crowded throughout the hearing. The miners were represented by a Mr E Shortt, barrister-at-law, most likely funded by the Durham Miner’s Association. The judge agreed that rather than try all 400 men individually to try the first and apply the ruling to all the defendants. Following that first case the Bench, naturally, found in favour of the mine management and fined each m
49. Adelaide, the Wolf at the Door and Emergency Measures.
We mentioned earlier in this account that the results of the ballot of bandmasters to see who would judge at the New Zealand North Island band contest were to be announced in early January of 1902. Thomas Bulch lost out on this occasion by 2 votes to the Wellington-based judge J. Otto Schwartz, who secured the votes of 7 of the New Zealand bandmasters. Despite this Thomas was in for a busy year.
On the 25th January 1902 the Australian Natives Association Band Contest and Sports Carnival commenced in Adelaide, South Australia. It was announced as early as the fourth of that month how the bands would assemble at Victoria Square on the first day of this two-day event, which would be punctuated by a free Sunday, and march to the Jubilee Oval, the site of the contest. The planned grand finale for the event was an intention to have the competing bands mass as one and play Thomas Edward Bulch’s “Hopetoun” march. This contest was planned to follow a similar format to the Ballarat contest at the end of the previous year, with bands playing the test selection and own choice pieces on alternate days, to maintain interest from the public over the full three days of the contest. Thomas would also be judging, a point that secretary made clear as a strength of the contest in the Adelaide press in response to criticisms of previous arrangements.
On Thursday the 16th January, there was a parade of the 3rd Battalion in Ballarat, after which the battalion retired to the Buck’s Head Hotel to present a group of photographs of the band to Drum Major Thornton as a mark of gratitude for his services during the South Street Competitions and throughout his 16 years service with the band. To round off the evening there was singing from a number of members of the company, each accompanied by Thomas Bulch on the piano.
On the day before the ANA Adelaide contest, Thomas arrived in Adelaide via the Melbourne express train. Having once been a resident of Adelaide Street in Shildon, he had arrived once again at its far better known cousin. His expected arrival was announced in advance by the local press. The next day proceedings began at 2:00 pm in the Victoria Hall with a contest concentrating on trombone solos and cornet solos. Of the fifteen cornet players that entered, only ten gave their performance. Similarly of the ten trombone players only five actually took part. The test piece for the cornet solo was Balfe’s “When Other Lips”, while the trombonists were tested with “The Artist”.
The contest for full band took place in the evening from 8:00 pm; the afternoons were reserved for the accompanying sporting events such as bicycle and foot racing. Concerned over the condition of the lighting at the venue the committee had organised for the placement of three acetylene lamps to ensure that the fading evening light would not spoil the spectacle. They had also placed an extra 1,000 seats in front of the bandstand in anticipation of an exceptionally large crowd. At the appointed time, the bands, as planned, gathered at the statue of Queen Victoria at Victoria Square. They then, preceded by the ANA Corps, marched at three-minute intervals to the Jubilee Exhibition Gardens. Six bands had entered, but only five were represented, those being Rigg’s Gawler Band, The Adelaide Military Band, Moonta Mines Model Band, Port Adelaide City Band and the Central Mission Band. The Advertiser of Adelaide picks up the description of the scene. “The streets were lined with people, who gave the bandsmen a hearty reception as they marched past playing a martial air, and the Exhibition Gardens and terraces were crowded in anticipation of the novel and interesting competition. The pavilion in the centre of the gardens had been enlarged for the accommodation of the bandsmen, and on the east side at a distance of about 25 yards was placed a small tent, from which the judge listened to the music without being able to see the players. Notices were prominently placed requesting those present to remain quiet during the playing of the various selections and also asking them not to mention the name of the band performing in the hearing of the judge.”
Riggs’s Gawler Band was the first to perform and chose a selection by Verdi, the bands having the right in this part of the competition to play any composition they desired. The Military Band was the second to appear with a selection from Verdi’s “II Trovatore”. The Central Mission Band played third and selected “Atilla”. The Port Adelaide City Band next with a selection from Wagner’s “Tannhauser” followed by the Moonta Mines Model Band and another Verdi selection. After that part of the competition had closed, and while Thomas was summarising his point scorings, each of the bands contributed a march. There had been an expectation from the organisers that Thomas would then set out the points scored so far on a blackboard for all to see,
On Monday afternoon, there were contests for Euphonium solo and brass quartettes, before the bands yet again met at the Queen’s statue on Victoria Square to make parade en route to the Exhibition Gardens at the Oval. This time the bands would play the test piece, which was an overture entitled “Dramatique” based upon the work of Alberto Zelman, but arranged especially for the contest by Thomas Bulch himself. A commentator in the Adelaide Evening Journal declared it to be “a melodious and agreeable piece of music which while of no great intrinsic value is evidently a severe and thorough test of the capabilities of a modern wind band and the powers of its principal soloists. Indeed so difficult is this composition that even its interpretation by the prizewinners, meritorious as it was, came a good way short of perfection.” After the test pieces had been offered by each band, and in the build-up to the announcement of the winners, the bands played Bulch’s Hopetoun march. Thomas’s scoring of the bands’ efforts was popular with the gathered audience as they agreed with him that the Rigg’s Gawler Band deserved to come top of the group again, meaning that over the two selection sittings their combined points total clearly made them overall winners of the £50 top prize. The South Australian Military Band finished in second place, Central Mission Band third, Port Adelaide fourth and Moonta Mines narrowly bottom of the pile. Proceedings were closed with 120 of the bandsmen playing the National Anthem, as was the tradition, under the baton of G H Williams, the bandmaster of the Moonta Mones Band
Afterwards, both The Express and Telegraph, and The Advertiser, printed a brief interview with Thomas Bulch about the proceedings, which is a rare opportunity to hear ‘in his own voice’ as it were albeit interpreted by a reporter. This being such a rare opportunity, it is included here in its entirety.
“A CHAT WITH MR BULCH. Mr T E Bulch, the well-known regimental bandmaster and composer of Ballarat, who acted as judge in connection with the band contest promoted by the metropolitan committee of the Australian Natives’ Association, left Adelaide for Ballarat on Tuesday afternoon. Speaking to a representative of “The Advertiser” before his departure, Mr. Bulch said: “Of course I have yet to send in my official report to the committee, but I may say that the contest
Do you think these contests do good? ‘”I am sure of it,” was Mr Bulch’s reply, “and it is owing to the competitions held in Ballarat and Melbourne that many excellent bands which previously were very weak and unsatisfactory have been brought forward. With regard to your local organisations, I think Riggs’s Gawler Band has improved quite 100 per cent since it entered the lists in Ballarat. The Military Band is also very good, but I look upon the Central Mission as the coming band in South Australia.”
And what about the playing of the testpiece? “Well,” replied Mr Bulch, “I fancy some of the bands thought they had a soft thing’ in Zelman’s overture ‘Dramatique,’ but they were greatly mistaken, as it was specially written as a catch piece. None of the bands
“With reference to the solo work,” added Mr Bulch, in answer to a question, “the cornet and trombone solos were very good, the former particularly so, but only two or three of the euphonium solos passed muster. The brass quartets were also excellent. Of course,” said Mr. Bulch in conclusion, “the position of a judge is a very unpleasant one, and he cannot give universal satisfaction, but I have been acting in that capacity in all the States – Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and now South Australia, as well as in New Zealand-and so I take little notice of adverse criticism, being conscious that my judgments are thoroughly impartial, and as strictly fair and correct as my capacity admits.”
After the event, as he usually would, Thomas collated his final comments on the performances of the bands and submitted them to the committee. They were published in a number of the Adelaide newspapers from the 17th February onwards for all to read.
In the Ballarat Star of the 13th March 1902, we see relatively rare evidence of Thomas composing in a slightly different format. We know that Thomas played the violin, but in terms of his composed output, much of it appears to focus on brass or the piano. There is a notice in this newspaper that declares, however, that he had composed an arrangement for string band entitled “Star of the Season: Dolly Grey” which was specifically created for a Ballarat drapery and clothing company called James Tyler and Co. That particular company had in that month arranged a show to exhibit the new goods for the Australian autumn and winter season, including material, millinery, hats, furs and jackets. To brighten up the event Tyler’s had engaged McNamara’s String Band during the show in their arcade, and this special composition for the company was one of the many pieces played.
Throughout early 1902, and probably much to the annoyance of the band itself, and their leader James Scarff, the Ballarat Star still on occasion referred to the renamed Ballarat City Band as being Bulch’s Model Band. Perhaps with it having been so for such a long time, members of the public would too, and it may have proven a difficult habit to break.
On Thursday the 17th April the 3rd Battalion Band, and their bandmaster Thomas, had the unfortunate duty to attend the funeral of one Mt James Parkinson, who had been a member of A Company of the Battalion. He had met, it is said, with an unfortunate, and fatal, accident the Monday before. As was customary the band played the “Dead March” on the way to the cemetery where addresses were given before a firing party fired three volleys over the grave.
In May 1902 the last of the Boers holding out against the British Empire forces surrendered and on the 31st of that month, the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed, with the British offering relatively generous peace terms to the Boers. The South African Republic and Orange Free State were now no longer independent republics and instead officially became part of the Union of South Africa.
When the news of this reached Ballarat the President of the Ballarat Exhibition Commissioners gave ‘an entertainment’ at the Exhibition Buildings in honour of the declaration of peace, to which Thomas Bulch was one of a number of named invitees, along with the commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion Militia. A number of toasts were proposed throughout the proceedings, including “The British Empire and her Dependencies”, “The 3rd Battalion”, which had of course seen the sacrifice of a number of its sons of the city in the name of this particular war, and “the Chairman” of the Exhibition Committee for his part in organising the tribute. Across the city, various societies separately contributed to the peace celebrations in a broad variety of ways, under streets draped
Despite his continued relative high standing socially, and continued strong sales of his compositions, as well as his return to Ballarat as bandmaster of the 3rd Battalion Militia, which would have earned him some payment, Thomas Edward Bulch still wasn’t experiencing ‘plain sailing’ financially. On the 24th of June. the Ballarat Star once again published a small piece that may have caused Thomas some, not insignificant, embarrassment. “A case of some interest engaged the attention of the magistrates at the City Court yesterday morning. It was an application under the Fraudulent Debtors’ Act, in which Mr J. Carthew was the judgment creditor, and Mr Thomas Bulch the judgment debtor. The latter was proceeded against in order to ascertain whether he had not been in a position to satisfy an order of the court, made some time ago, for £11 13s, only £2 of which had been paid, leaving £9 13s still due. Eventually, after the chairman had expressed the opinion that there had been no extravagance on the part of the judgment debtor, an order was made for the payment of the amount by easy instalments.”
A further article in the same issue adds to the potential
There are a number of interesting aspects to this aside from the detailed understanding this gives us of Thomas’s income during this period. For example that his wife Eliza is the possessor of the furniture; a sensible measure in that by separating the ownership and isolating them from Thomas’s liabilities, these home comforts have been protected. Another is the involvement of Mr Shoppee who we know from much earlier newspaper reports to have been an official with a supporting interest in Bulch’s Model Band, so perhaps was disposed to offer Thomas some sympathy. A third interesting aspect of this legislative interview is the sense that we get from what Thomas has said that as a respectable contest judge he has to maintain a certain image which involves among other things staying in the kind of accommodation that people that have engaged you would expect you to use, and certainly not a ‘sixpenny hash shop’.
On the 26th of June, we see that Thomas, probably seeking out a new source of income in order to make the instalment payments on his outstanding debt, has started a new venture in Ballarat in the form of an Operatic Band; excluding, of course, the possibility that he had invited his former Operatic band from Prahran into Ballarat to perform. We’re advised that this band offered a programme of music on that date at 8:00 pm from the balcony of the Commonwealth Hotel on Post Office Place in Ballarat. Then around a month later, we see a notice in the Ballarat Star regarding yet another band that Thomas was taking under his wing. “The Railway Band, which has been in recess for some time, will meet again this week to resume practice. At the meeting, the appointment of Mr T. Bulch, as bandmaster, will be confirmed, and it is intended that the band will appear more often in public than it has previously done.” One does wonder how one person could have the energy to accommodate all this work without jeopardising any one of these projects by having spread their own resource too sparsely. In addition to this, he continued to compose and we see new pieces for brass band emerging throughout this period such as the selection, possibly inspired by the end of the Boer War, entitled “The Empire”; a piece that was quickly picked up by bands such as the Maclean Brass Band and the ever faithful Sam Lewin’s Bathurst District Brass Bad who included the composition in the programme for their concert to celebrate the Coronation of King Edward VII.
Despite just having revived the Ballarat Railway Band, or perhaps because of it, Thomas appears keen to have them work hard to test their mettle at a band contest, so submitted an entry for the next band contest in Ballarat, where they would be pitching themselves against the abilities of the Queenstown (Tasmania) Band, Hobart Garrison, Launceston City, Code’s Melbourne Brass, Geelong Town, Geelong Orphanage, Hopetoun, Ballarat City, Lord Nelson, Soldier’s Hill, Prouts, Benalla, Newcastle City, Loco Band, Gawler, Boulder City and Invercargill bands. This was as stellar a field of Australian bands as you could have hoped to experience at that time, and to do well in such a contest would be a serious mountain to climb in the short time that Thomas had been in charge of such a hitherto dormant brass band as the Ballarat Railway Band. It would definitely require some hard work on the part of his bandsmen.
Before that took place, though, Thomas had another contest to attend as a judge. The 8th of October 1902 saw the first day of the Benalla Band Contest as part of the Benalla Show. We are informed by the press of the day that the contest, along with the ‘hunter’s trials’ were the two eye-catching aspects of the show overall even though only three of the four bands that had originally entered turned up to take part. The Albury Town Band being the noted absence on the day. This show sounds far more like the kind of band contests that George Allan had been engaged to adjudicate over in Britain. Of the three competing bands, the Benalla Mechanics Band, Wangaratta and Border United Corowa Band, the latter chose to play Thomas’s own “Chef D’Ouevre” in the march contest, which may have worked against them given that he knew the piece inside out and, in his scoring notes, he criticised the playing of the bass horn section in the opening bars. Apparently, they made the same mistake in each of the three occasions in the playing of the piece where these musical phrases appeared, earning scorn from the judge and composer. Overall when both march and selection were taken into account, the Benalla Band came out best, taking away a top prize of £30.
After Thomas’s scoring notes were publicly published it would seem that the Wangaratta Band particularly were hit hard by his criticisms, and a letter quickly appeared in the Benalla Standard of the 17th October 1902.
“The Late Band Contest.— A correspondent, signing himself ‘Tempo,’ thus writes to the ‘ Wangaratta Chronicle’ in reference to Mr Bulch’s remarks on the late band contest: — ‘ To those of us who take an interest in our band, and who thought the bandsmen were making fair, if not rapid, progress (first under the teaching of Mr Webber, and, more recently and up to the present, under Mr Lupp), the biting and crushingly adverse criticism of the judge at the above contest (Mr. Bulch, of Ballarat) comes as a severe disappointment. If after such a long tuition on the newest and best of instruments found by our public, added to the steady drain on our public for maintenance, the sum total of progress amounts (even in a measure) to such a summing up by the judge as ‘ out of tune’,’out of time’, ‘not properly understood’, ‘tamely played, ‘amateurish’, ‘scramble to finish’, etc., is it not time the band committee met with a determination to discover and sit down hard on any cause or causes that tend to retard the advancement of our band?”
A few days after this letter appeared another correspondent wrote to the same newspaper in defence of the besieged Wangaratta band and implying that Thomas’s critique of the band had more to do with a personal rebuff at some point in time prior to the contest.
“THE LATE BAND CONTEST. In reply to the letter signed ‘Tempo” commenting upon the performance of the Wangaratta band at the recent contest, ‘Enthusiast’ contributes the following to the last issue of ‘The Chronicle.’ Noticing a letter by ‘Tempo’ in your Wednesday’s issue, I think it is only fair to Mr, Lupp and his bandsmen to offer an explanation. Being a musical enthusiast and supporter of the band, I visited Benalla and heard the various bands play, and the general opinion among those present was that there were very few points between the three bands; in fact, the rendering of the march by the Wangaratta band made them favourites for that piece. The judge’s remarks are very misleading and would lead one to believe that the performance of the Wangaratta band was bad and out of tune throughout. This is as absurd as it is annoying. The general performance was almost void of errors, and the tone of the band was considered even better than the winning band. The leading cornet of the latter band was so much out of tune that he had to change his instrument during the performance of the selection. Such remarks as ‘tame’, ‘out of tune’, ‘amateurish’, etc., are not exactly mistakes or blunders, and therefore can be referred to without fear of challenge. Any thoughtful person will immediately notice that the judge’s remarks are not in a friendly strain, and are not given with the idea of instruction, as they should be; and I unhesitatingly say that they display some spitefulness. To give reasons for this would be rather personal, but I understand Mr Bulch s application for the position of bandmaster to the Wangaratta band was rejected in favour of Mr Lupp. The remarks on the performance of the march by Wangaratta band ran thus: ‘Nice, clean, crisp style of playing’. It seems incredible to me that these good points should vanish so suddenly in the performance of the selection, where I presume the band would be able to show with better advantage. It may be news to your readers that the judge was well aware of what pieces the bands intended playing. I have procured a copy of the Wangaratta selection, and find on comparing same with judge’s remarks that several movements have not been referred to. I have called on the bandmaster and asked him for information re this. He informs me, smilingly, that they were well-played movements. It is strange that these movements should not have been dealt with by the judge, and this gives room for further thought. In conclusion, I must add that notwithstanding the adverse remarks of the judge I am of the opinion that our band is better than ever, and should like to see the members try their luck at Sydney contest in December next. In reference to the above statement concerning the exchange of cornets, Mr Pleloung explains that it was not due, as stated, to the cornet being out of tune, but owing to the valves of the instrument sticking. He handed the instrument to one of the bandsmen, and after a few bars, it having been made alright, he took it again and finished playing with that instrument, which goes to show that it was not out of tune.”
The incident continued to spark further correspondence, this time in support of Thomas and his capability and integrity as a contest adjudicator. I’ve included these here not just in the interest of balance, but because they reveal a little more about the process of contest judging and explain the nature of the judge’s scoring remarks. “TO THE EDITOR. Sir.— In your last issue, you give publicity to a letter by ‘Enthusiast’, from the Wangaratta Chronicle, dealing with the Judge’s decision in the above contest. As steward for the band contest, there are several statements contained that I must, in fairness to the local band, the judge and the society, under whose auspices the contest was held, endeavour to refute. I take objection, first, to the statement that “the judge was well aware what pieces the bands intended playing”. Certainly, the full scores for the four selections and the four marches were forwarded to the judge some days before the contest, but he did not know the selection or march that any individual band played. As steward, I met Mr Bulch at the station, took him to my own home, to his hotel and into the tent provided for his use, before any of the bands commenced their performance, and before the draw took place for places. He was quite unaware that only three bands were competing until the third march had been played, so much so that when I called for the No. 1 band for the selection he rang for the fourth march to be played first, showing to any fair-minded individual conclusively that ‘Enthusiast’s’ statement is
From events taking place in October, we learn more about the Ballarat Railway band, specifically that it had been reinvigorated as a Military Band, rather like the 3rd Battalion Band, as opposed to what we think of as a brass band. In the contests in Australia at the time, military and brass bands were able to compete alongside each other, and Thomas was perfectly comfortable composing for, or tutoring, either format of band. On the 17th October, Thomas set up his Ballarat Railway Military Band on the Rotunda on Barkly Street East in front of the Town Hall where from 8:00 pm onwards they gave the public a programme that featured favourites from Thomas’s own repertoire quite heavily. They included “The Commanding Officer’s Parade”, “Elsinore”, “Sandhurst” and “Royal Irish”, as well as the still relatively new selection “The Empire”. These Friday evening concerts became something of a regular engagement for the band, offering much welcome entertainment as well as raising the public profile of the band and giving them valuable performance experience.
In October, the South Street Competitions were once again in full sway, with a wide variety of musical, literary and artistic skills being on display. In this year the adjudicator for the band contest was to be Mr James Ord Hume, a contemporary of both Thomas Bulch and George Allan, who had been born in Edinburgh in 1864. He had made his name around the British brass band scene, as a bandmaster of many bands including the 3rd Durham Light Infantry and the Aldershot and Farnham Institute Brass Band, as a prize-winning band conductor-for-hire and would also through his lifetime compose and arrange something like 1,000 pieces. Like Thomas Bulch and George Allan, James Ord Hume was also a cornet player, and he was every bit as eminent as Thomas Bulch at this time but enjoyed the extra celebrated quality of being a visitor from the mother country.
In the build-up to the South Street Band Contest the correspondent ‘Musicus’ in the Adelaide Register, in providing some gossip of the proceedings, mentioned that while Prout’s Band had been practising their military marching at the Ballarat Eastern Oval, Thomas Bulch’s Ballarat Railways Band had been espied at the Railway Sheds “putting in some solid work at their contest piece”. The line up of the Railway Band for this contest saw Thomas teaming up once again with two of the Malthouse brothers that had been part of his Model Band, and had shared his town of birth. Youngest brother George Malthouse had the B flat bass, whilst former cornet player Robert Malthouse now played the euphonium in the Railway Band. Something we also see here for the first time is that Thomas’s eldest son, Thomas Edward Bulch Jr., who would have been about fourteen years of age, would play 3rd cornet in the band at the upcoming contest.
On Thursday the 30th of October, the bands, as had become the tradition, massed in the Prince of Wales Square opposite the Ballarat Star office, and collectively played a piece entitled “The Emperor” before following the traditional parade route to the Eastern Oval, each band being preceded by a boy holding a placard to tell the onlookers which band was which.
For the first day of the contest, the Railway Band was drawn third to play their version of the test piece, Harry Round’s arrangement of “
That evening they played their own choice test piece, they, “Essayed the splendid “Lohengrin” overture, but can hardly be said to have been successful. The selection is an ambitious one for a young band to take in hand and while in some parts they were fairly successful, in others they were eminently the reverse, and again they failed to realise the conception of the author, who produced what is one of the most classical of all classics. There are opportunities in the piece for some of the finest effects that a band is capable of producing, and without being too severe, it might be said at once that they were not produced.”
On the next day of the contest the band played their own choice selection, an arrangement of the works of Rossini, which was far better received, with comments including “a very well rendered selection in both tone and precision”, and “The timbre of this band is good and the soloists are very good indeed”. Later that day their rendering of the march “The Commanding Officer’s Parade” was more scornful. “This band is the most untuneful yet.” Very much out of tune indeed, a very poor attempt.”
At the conclusion of the contest, James Ord-Hume was evidently impressed, assuming that his comments were not a form of flattery. He said in the Ballarat Star, “I thoroughly endorse the idea of this quickstep contest, as I am of opinion that brass bands, when marching, should always be spirited, and also neat and uniform in the ranks. the music should always be of a bright and military nature, and, indeed the band should always prove, by its marching in public, its standard of excellence. A good marching band should prove a “cue” to the programme that has to follow. This is the very best competition I have ever judged, during my experience throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, and I sincerely believe that no other competition exists in which such uniformity is so excellent in quick march competition; also I note the very excellent drill to which each band is subject. Truly, Ballarat is an example to us all in the matter of educational competitions, both to bandsmen and audience. Win or loss we have all learned something, and I sincerely hope that England will copy a little at a time from this great event at Ballarat in vast and far-off Australia.”
Assuming these words of praise to be sincere, and we have no reason to doubt them to be so, then Thomas Edward Bulch must surely be regarded as one of the key influencers on the band contesting scene, particularly in Ballarat, which had caused his peer to refer to the quality of the South Street Band Contest in such glowing terms. Alas, the Ballarat Railway Band didn’t earn a prize in either the selections or the quickstep; they came 9th in the latter and in the selections contest were spared the last place only by James Scarff’s Ballarat City Band. We can be certain that, with his personal reputation at stake, Thomas would not have been at all happy about that outcome.
In early November Thomas found himself in Maryborough judging brass solo contests at the annual musical and elocutionary competitions of the Maryborough branch of the Australian Natives Association. One can only wonder whether he spent time with, or was even engaged through his long-standing friendship with, John Malthouse who was resident there. The contests he judged whilst there were for cornet solo, euphonium, tenor horn and trombone, and concluded on the 6th November. On the 8th Thomas was in Melbourne for a band contest that took place in Northcote Park. Five bands had entered, but one, The St Augustine’s Orphanage, was prevented from taking part on account of
On the 15th of November, the Ballarat Railway Band gave a selection of pieces from the Rotunda in front of the Ballarat East Town Hall. Though the press declared it thoroughly enjoyable it was an occasion of little other note. The band were also announced as engaged for the Windermere Australian Natives Association Sports Gathering that was scheduled to take place on New Year’s Day at Burrumbeet Park Racecourse. The Ballarat Star of the 23rd of December 1902 reveals something of Thomas’s mindset following the recent poor performances at the South Street Contest. It says, “The Ballarat Railway Brass Band is making rapid progress under the leadership of Mr T E Bulch. During the recent excursion to Bendigo, the band played a programme of music, and the performance elicited highly favourable comment. The band has entered for the South Street Competition, and assiduous practice is now being indulged in. In addition to the big competition, an entry has also been made for several other events.” It seems Thomas was very keen to have his band re-enter the ring at the South Streets and show he wasn’t finished yet as a bandmaster or conductor. The band ended the year at the annual races of the Springdallah and Linton Relief Fund Racing Club which took place on the 29th December and at which they reportedly performed to the satisfaction of all present.
50. A ‘Harmonious’ Year and the Passing of T A Haigh
The winter months at the beginning of 1903 were, in terms of reports of activity, typically quiet for George Allan, but by the spring matters, in their seasonal way, adjudicating engagements began to blossom once more.
The April and May issues of Wright and Round’s Brass Band News start to see a commentator, Harmonious, on the Mid Durham District making contributions that generally included a tit-bit of news on the new Shildon Saxhorn Band. For whatever reason Harmonious, whose true identity as with all such correspondents, remained anonymous, only provided updates on the Mid-Durham area for that year and ceases to contribute early the following year, but nonetheless it gives us an extra insight into the goings on at the New Shildon Saxhorn Band during that period. In April the report reads “Shidon Saxhorn are quiet at present. Join the association Mr Allan,” while in May “Shildon Saxhorn are you working on the quiet? as I expect to see you turn up at Howden. I hope we haven’t to wait so long this year before there is a judge to put in the tent at Howden as the appointed judge did not turn up in time for staring the contest last year.”
On Saturday the 23rd of May 1903, George Allan acted as the judge at a band contest at Hebburn Colliery. The event was promoted by the Hebburn Colliery Prize Silver Band as part of the Hebburn Athletic Sports which took place during the afternoon in a field near Hebburn Railway Station. Eight bands had entered the contest but only seven competed. George awarded the first prize for the march to Murton Colliery, which came with the grand sum of £1, but which also saw them receive the Deuchar Challenge Cup. Second prize was divided between Spencer’s Steel Works and Felling Colliery. The test piece was the selection ‘Le Domino Noir’ by Daniel Amber for which the first prize of £10 was awarded, by George, to the Cockerton Prize Band. Second and third prizes of £5 and £3 were divided between Spencer’s Steel Works and Backworth Institute. Murton was the fourth and Felling the fifth-placed band. George awarded the euphonium player from the Cockerton band the special prize for best euphonium player. All of this was reported in the Shields Daily Gazette of the following Monday. The Jarrow Express also reported on the occasion but in a journalistic blunder misrepresented George Allan’s hometown as ‘Shields’ – probably having misheard. The contest had been limited to bands that were members of the Durham and Northumberland Association.
On Saturday the 4th of July it was off to the Poultry Show and Band Contest at Hetton-le-Hole, once again in his capacity as a brass band contest adjudicator. The event, hosted by the Hetton-le-Hole Livestock and Sports Society took place in the Hetton Hall grounds, and as was often the case with such shows, comprised exhibitions of poultry, pigeons and rabbits. The band contest was limited so that only bands that had not won a prize exceeding £7 during 1902 were eligible to enter. This was a common restriction at band contests during this era and presumably introduced to assure bands that might enter that they would stand a chance of winning something through the knowledge that bands that had previously proved themselves were excluded; an interesting principle. George’s scoring for the Selection and Quickstep competitions was the top prizes in both categories go to the band from Felling Colliery. 5 bands competed, with the test piece being “Scottish Memories”. A total of £14 in prizes was offered with the top prize for the selection contest being £7. Spennymoor came second and Jarrow third. Though the band from Willington only came fourth they did win a £1 prize for the best rendering of a march that day.
By coincidence, the home-town of the winning band was George’s next destination as a contest judge. On 11th July George travelled to Felling, for a contest being held under the auspices of the Felling Colliery Band. Their contest committee had raised £16 in prize money, and there was also a cup on offer. Six bands entered, representing Blyth, Willington, South Shields, Hebburn, Jarrow and Spennymoor. As usual, there was a selection test piece, this time being chosen by the bands from a list, as well as a march contest for a comparatively minor prize. Of the selections available to choose to play, four of the bands chose “Le Domino Noir”, while Willington Silver and the Blyth and District Band elected to play Godfrey’s arrangement of “Don Sebastiano”. When the points scored were announced, it was, on this occasion, the Hebburn Temperance Band under their conductor George Hawkins, that claimed the £8 top prize as well as the cup. One interesting point of note is that the Hebburn Temperance Band competed at two contests that same day; the other being at the village of Philadelphia near Hetton-le-Hole where the adjudicator, a Mr J Brier, of Bradford, awarded
That same edition of Brass Band News also contains interesting information, courtesy of a correspondent named Harmonious, who was providing an update on bands from the Mid Durham area. He writes that of Shildon’s two bands at that time, “Shildon Saxhorn are contenting themselves with giving sacred concerts. Come, Mr Allan, are you not going to have a try at a contest before the season is over? You have a few contests near home for August; try your luck. Shildon Temperance also giving concerts. I expect you will soon have a good band out of your young players, and I wish you success with your plated instruments. Glad to hear you have cleared the debt off.” One wonders whether the suggestion that George try his luck at a contest might be as much of a ‘challenge’ as a suggestion, given that he was at this time more active as a judge of bands than a high-achieving bandmaster in his own right.
On the 25th of July 1903, George Allan headed eastward to Eston, just south of Middlesborough to be the contest adjudicator at a contest there which featured five entering bands; Charlton’s Star of Hope, Skelton Old, Dorman Long, South Bank Old and the Middlesborough Trades Band. As always the contest comprised a selection test, being on this occasion a composition entitled “Scottish Memories”, and a march. When the points totals were calculated, Charlton’s Star of Hope tied with Skelton Old Band for first place. South Band were placed third. Charlton’s Band took the prize for the best performance of a march.
Then on Saturday the 22 of August 1903, George took a trip to Willington’s Annual Flower Show which, naturally, included a band contest. The event was reported as being of “fur and feather in full coat and plumage, and produce at the highest state of maturity.” The day was reportedly clear and bright, and with the town being well placed centrally in the district by both road and rail, the event drew a reportedly enormous crowd from the surrounding coal mining towns and villages. One particular excursion train depositing its travellers onto the streets of Willington had come in from South Shields on the coast, which would itself have been an attraction on as fine a day. The large marquee for horticultural exhibits, central to the event, was filled with the sweet fragrance of the exhibited flowers and plants. Elsewhere there were industrial and mechanical displays, which included model making and taxidermy, as well as a display of entries of fine art, poultry and livestock. The band contest, at which the selection test piece was once again “Scottish Memories”, drew a strong field of twelve bands from which it was once again George’s task to choose a winner for both selection and march. He awarded the first prize to the Hetton Colliery Band who also picked up soprano and euphonium medals, followed by Felling, who also earned the medal for best trombone performance and South Moor came third and also received the medal for best cornet.
On Saturday the 29th August 1903, the Marquess of Londonderry, in his capacity as the President of the Board of Education, paid a visit to the Shildons (by this time simply being referred to in the press as Shildon, singular) in order to formally open new extensions to the National Schools there. The rapid expansion in coal mining activity in the area had seen an increase in the residency of the town and there had been concerns that the schools were struggling to accommodate the additional children coming into the town. The town’s National Schools, under the direction of the, now Rev. Canon, H Spurrier, had been enlarged. This was a significant achievement for a school run by the church as, of course, Shildon comprised of townspeople of all denominations, yet there was enough about the way Spurrier ran the schools that met the approval of even the ‘nonconformists’. Lord Londonderry arrived, from
Lord Londonderry waxed lyrical about last having visited Shildon 30 years previous as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for South Durham, and his pleasure in the fact that no child had even been withdrawn from religious instruction at the school. In true Conservative spirit he expressed his pleasure in the fact that by taking funding from private industries locally, without mentioning probable additional fundraising by the church itself, such Voluntary Schools were saving the nation money. At the end of the speeches, Lord Barnard reminded those present how fortunate and honoured the people were to have had Lord Londonderry visit the town, after which three cheers were proposed for Canon Spurrier before everyone retired to enjoy sporting events between the children. Present at the ceremony were George Allan and his New Shildon Saxhorn Band, who played selections of music at intervals; so we can see that though little appears in the press about them at this time they continued to be active.
In the September Brass Band News, Harmonious tells us “Shildon Saxhorn have also been engaged in several places, but never had a try at a contest this year. I hope you are not faint-hearted, as I hear performances on the contest field which I think you could beat.”
The 12th Sep 1903 was the date of the seventh Annual Langley Park Show, of the Langley Park Floral, Industrial and LIvestock Society; yet another of the region’s agricultural and horticultural shows to feature, among other attractions, a band contest. As well as the usual exhibitions of flowers, vegetables, dogs, industrial items, poultry, pigeons, rabbits and cats there were a handful of entertainments engaged especially to provide a little added glamour to the event. These included “Trumpeter C Daly (late of the 9th Lancers) trumpeter to Lord Roberts on the great march from
The weather had not been kind to the organisers on the day, with several heavy showers of rain arriving during the afternoon, which rendered the show field in a “very miry state, and in a more or less degree affecting the gate.”Despite
The morning of 23rd of September brought a sad occasion that would have been of significance to both George Allan and Thomas Edward Bulch; the death, in his sixtieth year, of the music publisher Thomas Albert Haigh. Haigh had, of course, been the man to have placed enough faith in the young Thomas Bulch’s first march composition to have published it in his popular Amateur Brass and Military Band Journal. This wasn’t the only journal he published though. He also produced Haigh’s String Band Journal, which once featured George Allan’s composition “The Sunbeam” and Haigh’s Fife and Drum Band Journal. He was also one of the main publishers of George Allan’s work at this time; so George would have felt the loss more profoundly. Haigh had been born on the 19th November 1843 at Upper Mill, Saddleworth in Yorkshire. He was married, at the parish church at Dobcross, on 6th Feb 1871 to Eleanor (Ellen) (nee Stephens) an Irish woman born in Dundalk by which time he was working as a warden in an asylum. Ellen was the daughter of a shoemaker.
According to Roy Newsome, Haigh had been an examiner for the Tonic Sol-Fa College during his lifetime, and in his obituary, in Wright and Round’s Brass Band News, it was explained that he had been a bandsman himself from a very early age and was a first-class baritone and euphonium player in his youth. Like Robert De Lacy he is reputed to have been a teacher of bands in various parts of the country before settling in Hull in 1877 to start his printing and bookseller’s business, also publishing music for brass bands.
Also, in the 1880s, Haigh had embarked upon a journey into Freemasonry, being initiated into the Alexandra Lodge on 17th June 1885 and being ‘passed’ on 15th July, then ‘raised’ on 19th of August of that same year. He received his certificates on 5th October and continued on a path that would see him become Worshipful Master of that Lodge as well as a member of the Lodge Mark Master Masons No 182, and Alexandra Royal Arch Chapter, No. 1,511. He had also been a member of the Hull Musical Union, having joined that institution when it was first established.
By 1891 the family were living at Belgrave House 3 Anlaby Road Hull with his wife and her widowed mother and prior to that was living at 1 Cranbourne Villas, Kingston Upon Hull. By 1901 he had opened a Music warehouse at 32 Albert Avenue which intersected with Anlaby Road. The couple did not have any children but regularly advertised to employ youngsters in the Hull area to work at the family shop and print works, delivering errands or writing addresses on the envelopes for delivery by post. Haigh also advertised his business in both White’s Directory of Hull of 1882, and the 1893 and 1899 editions of Kelly’s Directory of Hull and its Neighbourhood.
Though Thomas Haigh had passed away, the family business in Hull appears to have continued after his death, possibly being run by his wife and other employees. They continued to advertise for staff until as late as 1907. It’s not certain whether Haigh’s death effectively ended the publication of his band journal and a limiting of the nature of the business, but we have observed that the journals were no longer advertised in publications such as Brass Band News. Many of the journals operated a subscription model where bands would be encouraged to re-subscribe annually, but would still be expected to advertise to attract new business. Whatever exactly happened to the journal we have not seen any pieces by George Allan published by it after this date. With Haigh’s journal being one of George’s main outlets for his compositions, the death of his publisher may have forced George to re-think how and where to have his work published.
Then in October, Harmonious reports in Brass Band News, that “No news from Shildon, but I saw a few Shildon players playing for other bands at Langley Park. I would rather have seen you with your own bands at the contest.” in the same update regarding the small handful of bands from the Mid-Durham area he offers an explanation as to why a good few of the bands in that area are struggling. “I am sorry to hear in our district of very bad attendances at the band practices. Some excuse themselves through the bad weather which we have had lately in the north. The biggest evil is the bandsman who goes off his head through football, who sometimes misses practice week after week. What a band should do is to understand whether they have a band or a football team, as bands are better off without such men who have to run off to every football match within a radius of twenty to thirty miles. Weed them out, you are better off without them, as it is very disappointing for two-thirds of a band to meet for practice to find the other third gone off to the match. These men are in general the grumblers at the contests when not in the prizes. If you have any heart at all in your band, don’t neglect it for the least trifling thing that crosses your path.”
There may definitely have been some truth to this in the noticeable decline in activity of the New Shildon brass bands. Shildon’s football club, still going today, was established in 1890, and eventually moved to the site of the cycling track at Dean Street in the Old Shildon area. In 1907 they joined the North Eastern League and eventually the Northern Leauge which was founded in 1889. League football in the North-East of England quickly became a huge sensation with rival towns taking to the pitch for local honours week in, week out in front of large enthusiastic crowds. Was George Allan struggling to keep his band active and together for this reason, or was the other point made by Harmonious an equally important factor? By this, I mean the fact that members of the Shildon bands had been seen competing with bands from other towns at the region’s contests. If that was the case it has been part of a problem that has blighted brass bands since the improvements in public transport in the late nineteenth century, which is that better brass players, if they have the means to travel, will go off to play with bands that they deem to offer them either better money or better prospects of success and recognition. In such an environment the emphasis shifts from one of community pride to one on personal performance and esteem. Even today, the remaining bands can be seen to struggle increasingly when many of the players they trained and brought through feel they have outgrown the limitations of the local band and go seeking seats with better, or more lucrative, bands. Whatever the cause, the correspondent for Brass Band News bemoaned the fact that he had heard nothing from the Shildon bands throughout October and November.
George and Ralph continued Mechanics Institute membership though Ralph ended his in this year
51. The Bandmaster of Soldier’s Hill and The Bombardment of Port Arthur
Around ten and a half thousand miles away in Ballarat, Thomas Bulch’s first reported engagement of 1903 was as part of a bazaar to raise funds for the Sebastopol Fire Brigade in Ballarat on Weds the 11th of February. Thomas and the Ballarat Railway Band paraded the streets of that borough prior to offering a programme of music outside the Town Hall to encourage attendance at the event. To enable their participation the Railway Band members had been transported to the even free of charge at the order of Mr Gummow, the manager of the Tramway Company. At around that time in February, Thomas resigned his post as bandmaster of the 3rd Battalion Infantry Band. No explanation is reported, but we do know that he was replaced by Private Arthur Francis Prout of the 3rd Battalion Infantry Band, the youngest son of Samuel Prout, the bandmaster of Prout’s Ballarat Brass Band which Ballarat based brass band historian Robert Pattie tells us, in his history of that band, was one of the earliest band in Ballarat as well as possibly being one of the oldest civilian bands in Australia as well as being the first private band in the colony of Victoria.
On Sunday the 2nd of March, Prout’s Ballarat Band, the Ballarat City Brass Band and the Ballarat Railway Band teamed up to present a concert at the Eastern Oval to raise funds to keep Prout’s band going. Thomas’s Railway band played along the way to the Eastern Oval whilst Prout’s band with their renditions of “True as Steel”, “Herald”, and “Silver Trumpet” and James Scarff’s Ballarat City Band playing “Mercandante” and “William Tell” were the entertainments given at the site. A “satisfactory sum” was collected, but this was also a great display of the collaborative spirit and camaraderie among the bands of Ballarat at this time that they would combine to support one of the bands.
At the beginning of May, the Glen Innes Examiner and general advertiser reports that Thomas Bulch was in contention as the prospective judge for yet another band contest intended for that year at Lismore. “A movement is now on foot with the view of getting a brass band contest in Lismore at the end of this year, under the patronage of the Caledonian Society, with minimum aggregate prizes of £300. The first prize will run as high as £150. The scheme is not a dream or a castle -in-the-air, it is all but decided. It is not a question of money (the money will be found right enough when required), but a question of minor details. The judgeship will be offered either to Mr Bulch, or Mr Bates, who are the two fairest brass band judges in Australia. Lismore people want to have the decision of the contest above suspicion so that they should make it an annual affair. In fact, the local brass band is willing to debar itself from the contest, should any objection bo found by any of the competing bands.” This is another example of the high regard in the brass community for Thomas Bulch’s perceived integrity in the brass contesting process, that he should be one of the names cites as the two fairest judges in the country.
In the summer of 1903, Sutton’s Proprietary Ltd. Issued two new pieces – a waltz named “Florina” by Henri Laski, and a song entitled “Home Visions” composed for piano by T E Bulch. They were reviewed together by the Punch of Melbourne on the 30th of July, with the writer naturally, by design, being ignorant of the fact that the composers were one and the same. The former earned the comment that “this waltz is very tuneful, and will become very popular, being easy to play.” Of “Home Visions” the writer said it “is an exquisite little item, full of melody, and has a beautiful sentiment.” On the 29th of July that particular song had been played at an entertainment held held for the benefit of the St Patrick’s branch of the League of the Cross at the St Patrick’s Hall in Ballarat with the reporter from the Ballarat Star pointing out proudly that it had been written by a ‘Ballarat old boy, Mr T E Bulch.” The Advocate newspaper of Melbourne explains that on that occasion it had been sung by Miss Alice Myers, but interestingly adds that its writer is “formerly of Ballarat” which would give the reader a suggestion that Thomas Bulch may once again have been on the move this year, which wasn’t yet the case.
On the 8th of August Suttons were advertising “Home Visions” in the Age newspaper of Melbourne as being available from their Melbourne, Ballarat and Bendigo stores as “charmingly pretty” for the price of 2 shillings, with a further penny to be paid to have it delivered by post.
Notes on a meeting of the Victorian Band Association published on 23rd September 1903 tell us that Thomas’s name was one of four suggested by that association to the Ararat Athletic Club as a suitable contest judge for a second class band contest they intended to hold on New Year’s Day. The Athletic Club had been applying for the patronage of the V.B.A. for the planned event, which was duly granted at the meeting.
On the 10th October 1903, the Ballarat Star reveals how Thomas by that point, had become bandmaster of the Soldier’s Hill Brass Band. Soldier’s Hill is a district to the north of Ballarat. The band, on that date, had played a programme of music on a square that was sited between Ascot Street and Windermere Street in the city. Our next news of Thomas is that he was conducting the same band on the balcony of the Robin Hood Hotel from 8 o’clock on the 5th of December; which incidentally is the last reported news of him in that year. The mooted band contest at the Caledonian Society’s show in Lismore, for which Thomas had been suggested as an ideal man of integrity as a judge, did not, in the end, occur. The event took place on Boxing Day, but the only music involved in this gathering of Australians with Scots heritage was that of the highland bagpipes.
Overall the year seems to have been one of modest opportunity for Thomas and his family, and possibly not an easy one. When I have enquired of Thomas’s fortunes to his grandson Eric Tomkins, highlighting the moments when Thomas was reported in the press as being in financial difficulties I was told that Eric had heard from his parents generation that Thomas was often short of money, which I suppose is something that those who seek a living from music even today will often tell you. There are times when he seems to have been doing well, and times when things go less smoothly, with fortunes changing according to circumstances. The newspapers of 1903 are still filled with many many accounts of Thomas’s music being played by bands across the antipodes, but that does not necessarily mean that Thomas was benefitting greatly from sales of the pieces, particularly if in times of hardship he had to relinquish or sell the rights to any of them in order to settle with his creditors. Of course, many of the mentions of Bulch’s pieces being played by bands are also of pieces that were written, and probably also bought, many years previous. Old favourites like “Chef D’Oeuvre” even, which had been created in the times before he had arrived in Australia and published by the man who had died that very year. To keep making a living from sales of band, and piano, music Thomas would have to keep that creativity flowing and stay abreast of the needs of bands and trends in music.
On Friday 22nd of January a Water Carnival, to benefit a number of
At 8 o’clock on the 30th of January, the Soldier’s Hill Brass Band were once again entertaining the people of the area from the balcony of the Robin Hood Hotel. The band seem to have tried to commit to these Saturday evening performances and which may have earned the band small but regular amounts. On Saturday the 6th of February an article in the Ballarat Star reveals announces that as well as making their appearance in the square between Raglan and Lyons streets that evening they were also appealing for donations from the public to help them fund a journey to Geelong in March to compete there. The announcement points out that the process of attending band contests was an expensive one, which might account for why Thomas and neither the Railway Band nor the Soldier’s Hill Band was not involved in contests the previous year. Thomas, as we know from the evidence we have seen, though, was a great believer in the pressure from a forthcoming contest being a great incentive for a brass band to focus on improving its quality of playing. It is probable that having taken on this bend he would have been on the look-out for an appropriate contest, at a suitable level, at which to have his band try out their skill, and see if they could attain the kind of developmental standard Thomas would expect of them. To achieve some success at contest would not only boost the band’s pride and self-esteem but might also do something to boost Thomas’s reputation for improving a band.
On Sunday the 31st the Soldier’s Hill Band, with their bandmaster Thomas Bulch, played selections of music in front of the Trades Hall ahead of a P.S.A. meeting held by the Ballarat Labour League. The Labour Movement in Australia had a long tradition but at this point in time was undergoing a revival. The speaker at the event was a Mr Tunnicliffe, who gave a speech on “Social Ideals” tracing the evolution of social ideals up to the utopian and scientific stage, claiming that modern socialism had a definite scientific basis. Whether Thomas or his bandsmen had any party affiliation or stayed to watch the speech, we don’t really know.
In 1904 we also begin to see a little more revealed of the life of Thomas’s eldest son, also called Thomas Edward. Throughout the Australian story so far, barring a few mentions of Thomas junior appearing as a bandsman in his father’s band, all the reports have otherwise been of Thomas senior. Of how his wife, Eliza, and the five surviving children have fared, or how they spent their time, little is known. However we see in a report of a cricket match that took place on 13th February 1906, we see the beginnings of evidence of the young Thomas Edward junior being a keen sportsman as a young man. The first report we see tells of his role as
At the meeting of the Victorian Band Association on the evening of Thursday the 18th February, those present received correspondence that Thomas Bulch had been appointed a judge for the Stawell Band Contest to take place later that year. One can only assume that the Association had to be notified to ensure that the arrangements for the contest met with their approval if the contest were to, perhaps, be held under their auspices and by their rules.
In the Age of Melbourne dated 27th of February 1904, we see an advertisement for Sutton’s Brass Band Journal (with Reeds) which states that it is being edited by T E Bulch. This suggests that at this time Thomas was again in the employment of Sutton’s which had a branch in Ballarat as well as Melbourne, Geelong and Bendigo. We had supposed that Thomas’s earlier insolvency had seen him relinquish, and even sell, his own brass journal; so now we see he was the editor of Sutton’s journal. The issue that had been made available was mainly made up of Thomas’s own compositions, and though it was just published that year not all of the pieces were newly composed. For example “The Commanding Officer’s Parade” had been around some time. The issue also included his arrangement of Flotow’s “Indra” and his solo tonguing polka “The Tripod”. The issue also contained pieces under known pseudonyms of Bulch, such as Henri Laski’s “Bright Eyed Nancy” and Godfrey Parker’s “Trixie” and “Breathe Not Of Parting”. There are also a couple of pieces that could well be by Bulch pseudonyms but which are somewhat insensitively titled by today’s standards; “The Coon’s Patrol” by Pat Cooney, and “King of the Coons” by Arthur Kingsbury. Looking at the combination of names used in conjunction with the titles of the compositions one gets more than a hint that these might well be made up names. We have no proof to this though.
Published at the same time we see adverts for Sutton’s Musical Magazine, which includes piano renditions of some of the same pieces, also most likely created by Thomas Bulch. “The Coon’s Patrol” is described as “a melody that sets you on the go as soon as you have heard it”; and “King of the Coons”, “when once heard you cannot help whistling it.”. “The Commanding Officer’s Parade” also makes an appearance alongside some old Godfrey Parker, Eugene Lacosta and Henri Laski pieces from previous years that may be being republished for piano, or rendered from band format by Thomas. Laski’s waltz “Nada” for example has first been found being played by bands as early as 1898; and “Adeline” by Godfrey Parker, written by Bulch under that pen-name of course and taking the name of Bulch’s daughter, was first heard being played by bands in 1892.
Thomas’s election to the post of bandmaster of the Soldier’s Hill Brass Band was only formally announced in the Ballarat Star towards the end of March 1904, so he may have been in an ‘acting’ position in that role up to that point, or the band may just have been late in announcing it. At the same time the band announced that, as we have seen, they would support the Labour League’s Sunday meetings, and take any fine weather engagements for which donations might be received. The committee running the band also announced that the band would start rehearsing for the next South Street Band Contest; Thomas was clearly keen to test the abilities of his band against the best the contest could attract.
In April of 1904 Suttons commenced advertisement of a new publication; Sutton’s Cornet Tutor, of course, written by Thomas Bulch. The book was touted as “the easiest to learn from, the simplest to understand.” and proclaimed itself to be equally applicable for tenor horn, baritone, trombone and euphonium. It was available for one shilling and sixpence with a surcharge of two pence if the buyer wanted it
On the evening of Tuesday the 26th of April, the Soldier’s Hill Brass Band assembled outside the Australian Natives Association Hall to render selections of music ahead of a benefit concert in aid of the Soldier’s Hill Cricket Club. The band played for the attending audience as they arrived, a useful indicator for anyone in the area that didn’t know that there was something taking place at the hall that night. The programme of the event included a section of ballads, of which one was “Adeline”, being sung by Mr Naylor and accompanied upon the piano by the song’s composer, Thomas Bulch.
During this year Thomas had been working upon another piano piece, and this time a less sentimental one. In fact, it would be something more akin to his descriptive fantasia “The Young Recruit” from around ten years earlier which was still popular with bands at this time. His inspiration was an event that had happened in that very year. In the late nineteenth century, Japan had been undergoing a transformation into a modernised industrial state with a desire to be recognised as being equal in stature to the dominant Western powers of the day. In 1894 they had waged a territorial war with neighbouring Korea. The Koreans were supported in that conflict by Chinese forces, which the Japanese forced into a rout. This and a significant naval victory of the Japanese navy enabled them to not only occupy Korea but also the Liaodong Peninsula, a province of China. China and Japan signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ceded the Peninsula to the Japanese, but this was a short-lived occupation. In subsequent events Russia, Germany and France intervened to force the Japanese, not yet confident that they could defeat combined forces of those powers, to withdraw from the Liaodong Peninsula. In 1897 the Russians constructed a fortress at Port Arthur to act as a base for their Pacific Fleet. This action was taken by the Russians as an opportunity to counter the British occupation of Wei-hai-Wei, but to the Japanese, it was perceived more as a move directed against themselves. In December of 1897 a Russian Fleet appeared in the vicinity of Port Arthur and the following year the Chinese formally leased the land there, as well as the surrounding waters, to Russia. Having fortified Port Arthur, Russian engineers then, in 1899, proceeded to connect it by rail to Harbin and the South Manchurian Railroad. At the same time, they began to encroach upon Korea acquiring mining and forestry concessions by the Yalu and Tumen rivers.
By 1903 the Russians had strengthened their position in Manchuria, having 100,000 troops stationed there. In the meantime, Japan had signed the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902, in effect also making Australia an ally of Japan. The basis of the alliance was that if any other nation intervened to assist Russia in any conflict then Britain would enter the conflict on the side of Japan. This lessened the probability of Russia receiving assistance from Germany or France. It also, interestingly, provided a warning with regard to growing tensions between world powers at that time and the dark clouds that would arrive in the following decade. Diplomatic negotiations were opened and an agreement for Russia to withdraw her troops from Manchuria was agreed in principle. This was expected to have happened by the 8th of April 1903; yet Russia did not withdraw the forces. Diplomatic measures continued unsuccessfully until January of 1904.
On the 8th February, 1904, Japan, having lost patience and faith in diplomacy, and with their terms not having been met, declared war on Russia. Three hours before the Russians received the declaration, the Japanese fleet attacked the Russian Far East Fleet at Port Arthur, leaving the Russian Tsar incredulous. Their next objective was the neutralisation of the Russian Fleet at Port Arthur. The same evening they declared war, they launched a torpedo boat attack on the fleet in port, damaging the heaviest ships of the Russian fleet, yet the attack was indecisive. The Japanese then tried to blockade the port by sinking ships filled with concrete in the mouth to the port, but the waters were too deep for this to be effective. The Russians then tried to break a small number of ships out from the port, but they were damaged by Japanese mines with the Petropavlovsk being sunk. The Russians learned from this encounter and were soon deploying mines of their own.
In April 1904 the siege of Port Arthur commenced. The opening of this assault was the inspiration for Thomas Bulch’s piano descriptive composition, “The Bombardment of Port Arthur” which was presumably being based upon newspaper reports and accounts of the battles. The Japanese made many subsequent attempts to capture strategic hilltops surrounding Port Arthur by making frontal assaults by land forces, at the cost of many men. It was only later that year in December 1904 that they were able to capture a hilltop that enabled them to shell the fleet down in the waters below leading to a victory.
The movements of Thomas’s
The piece was reviewed in the Ballarat Star on 25th April 1904 which said “Something very much up to date is “The Bombardment of Port Arthur,” a realistic piece of descriptive music setting for the piano composed by Mr T E Bulch and published by Suttons. It is a very stirring bit of writing, and no better indication of it
The Soldier’s Hill Band continued their engagements, which included an appearance at Mr E Beacham’s Hotel on Grant Street on the evening of Saturday the 7th of May. Then on Monday the 13th of June 1904 it was the turn of Thomas Edward junior to take the stage, as part of a brass quartette making a contribution to the programme of music at the Federal Hall on Sturt Street, for an event that had been arranged by the Newington branch of the Australian Natives Association.
On 29th June, an article in the Ballarat Star tells us more of Thomas Edward’s sporting nature, albeit not in a manner that might earn a lad a good reputation in the neighbourhood. It reads “STREET FOOTBALL. Three lads, named respectively Thomas Bulch, George Heed, and John Shackles, were charged with playing football in the Haymarket. The evidence of Constable Carey was to the effect that the lads took possession of the place on
On the 16th of July 1904 we hear in the Age newspaper of Melbourne that despite his recent appointment to the bandmaster’s position of Soldier’s Hill Brass Band, Thomas had been one of sixteen applicants for the bandmaster’s post of a new brass band being formed at Sale, which is perhaps 100km east of Melbourne. Thomas had been successful in his application and was declared the new bandmaster. The Gippsland Times tells us that he was appointed with a salary of £1 10s per week, and mentions that his son is also a cornet player, perhaps with the assumption that his son would be joining the newly formed band. In that same issue on 18th July 1904, the Secretary of the band, Mr A Allan, invites applications from people wanting to join the
Of what specifically tempted Thomas to leave Ballarat for a second time we can’t be certain. It may have been the prospect of earning an improved regular weekly salary as a starting point upon which to build additional earnings; however, we do know that Suttons did not have a branch in Sale at that point so it’s not clear whether Thomas’s relationship with his employer was affected, or whether he was able to continue his work for Sutton’s remotely.
The Daily Telegraph of Launceston on 23rd July 1904, assuming it is correct, gives away yet another of Thomas Bulch’s pseudonyms, though this time a lesser known one. It explains how the St Joseph’s Band had been rehearsing the test piece for the next South Street Contest in Ballarat for which a test piece was “Lucretia Borgia” which it attributes to Paul Vallianare to which it appends the comment “(otherwise, T E Bulch)” adding that “this selection is full of beautiful solos and duets, and, as usual with the old Italian masters, is melodious in the extreme.” Now, “Lucrezia Borgia” was a published composition by Gaetano Donizetti from around 1834, suggesting that the reported piece was an arrangement for brass, but given that Thomas arranged other such operatic works under his own name it’s not clear why, if he did create this arrangement, as announced, he would choose to do so under another pseudonym. One theory would be that if it were created for that contest, and if Thomas had intended to enter a band into the contest, it might distract from criticism of him performing his own test piece. But then given how it had been claimed in a newspaper already, how common knowledge might it be already that Bulch was supposedly Vallianare?
On Friday the 5th of August 1904, the Sale branch of the Australian Natives Association held an Anniversary Smoke Night at the Old Mechanic’s Institute in Sale. This was a gentlemen’s evening of speeches and toasts at which around 80 of the noted members of the district were present. The main theme was one of unity and harmony of the Australian peoples of all territories as a single nation, and that despite the international flavours of the colonisation of the land that the country should remain loyal to the British Empire by which it was founded. During, and at the end of, the proceedings instrumental selections were rendered with recitations, the music being provided by a compact six-piece orchestra which included both Thomas senior and Thomas junior on cornet. Such events as this suggest a closeness between Thomas and his son, at least when it came to matters musical.
By the 23rd October, we see that a brass band arrangement of “The Bombardment of Port Arthur” has become available and one of the first bands reported to be playing it was the Hannan’s Federal Brass Band of Western Australia when they included it in their instrumental concert set at the Carrington Grounds, Kalgoorlie that evening. At that occasion, it was announced that it was the first time that the new piece had been played in Australia.
On Thursday the 26th of October, Thomas had returned to Ballarat to take the baton with the Soldier’s Hill Brass Band as planned at the grand brass band contest at the South Street Competitions. Joining his brass band were fellow Shildonians Robert and George Malthouse, two of the four brothers who had been instrumental in tempting Thomas Bulch to Australia in the first place. The weather for the event, held as always at the Eastern Oval, was described by the Ballarat Star as “royal” which we assume to be more representative of glorious than “reigning”. Their rendering of the test piece “Lucrecia Borgia” was described by a spectator, rather than the judge, as follows “This was the first band to appear. It opened with a fair volume of sound, but somewhat blatant. The allegro movement was taken with a fair amount of precision and animation. In the largo movement, the opening euphonium solo was fairly taken, but in the cornet solo following there were one or two slips. The accompaniment was supplied with subdued volume by the basses. The lower G was only fairly taken by the cornet. The change to allegro vivace was well marked, and in the largo following a euphonium solo was taken in fair tone and with nice flowing rhythm, but intonation was not quite certain at one point, and, at the close, there was a suspicion of blurring. The moderato was well taken and with very fair volume and not bad balance. In the tenor solo, which was very fairly taken, there were one or two trips on notes, but the tone was good; intonation in the cornet duet towards the close was not all that could be desired. The allegro vivace was not badly taken, but the band lacked balance, and tone might have been improved. The andante formed an excellent change, in which, once again, the cornet figured largely and satisfactorily. The vivace movement succeeding might have been taken with a little more fire, and the conclusion was only moderately effective.” There were thirteen further bands competing, each of which took their tune at either the test piece or their own choice selection. The remainder of the pieces for each band would be played when the contest continued the next day whereupon the Soldier’s Hill Brass Band played their interpretation of the selection “Gems of Verdi”. Overall the Soldier’s Hill Brass Band came twelfth from thirteen, a result of which Thomas would not have been proud. In the Quickstep competition the band fared almost as badly, coming eleventh. Though he would certainly have hoped to do better, given the relatively short time that Thomas had to shape and model the band it’s interesting to consider whether these short tenures of band in his charge as opposed to his comparatively long influence on Bulch’s Model Band some years earlier, had begun to detrimentally impact Thomas’s reputation as a bandmaster, or even a contest judge.
The Gippsland Times of 27th October 1904 announced that Thomas Bulch has resigned from his post as the bandmaster of the Sale Brass Band. Something very clearly had gone wrong. perhaps either the numbers of or calibre of, band members recruited had not been as expected. perhaps there had been a falling out over other arrangements. The Bulch family’s next stop appears to have been Howlong near Albury, as on 28th October when it is reported that one of Thomas’s sons had again been in a spot of bother. “A serious mishap occurred to a lad, the son of Mr Bulch. He was playing with another boy, and whilst so engaged fell and sustained a fracture of the collar bone. the patient’s injuries were attended to by Dr Kearney.”
Thomas doesn’t seem to have given up on the town of Sale, however, and we see an advertisement in the Gippsland Times on the 24th November 1904 as follows “Bulch’s Brass Band, Sale. All desirous of joining above band are requested to register their names at
It sounds very much as though Thomas had to do a considerable amount of travelling in this period to take charge of the various bands. Geelong was on the coast across the bay west of Melbourne, whereas Sale was quite a distance to the East. Whilst it would be true to say that transport around Australia would have improved since his arrival in the country some twenty years earlier it would also have been time-consuming and doubtless consumed expense. It’s also unlikely that Eliza and the Bulch children would have travelled with him, though the family do seem to have stayed for a tiem at least in Sale. We hear more of Thomas’s preparations for the Ballarat contest in the Geelong Advertiser of Friday the 9th of December, “arrangements have been completed by the Town Band for the running of a special train to the Ballarat B grade band contest on Boxing Day at reduced fares that should ensure good booking. The band is shaping well on the contest pieces, and Mr T E Bulch, who has been appointed conductor for the contest will take the members in hand on Thursday next. He will give the band nine days hard practice before the contest.” It’s not clear whether in doing this Thomas was attempting to set himself up not so much as a bandmaster as a contest conductor in the mould of William Holdsworth who had, despite not being resident in Shildon, become the contest conductor of the New Shildon Temperance Band among many others. Holdsworth in the early years of the twentieth century would advertise, in the Brass Band News, his achievements in terms of the quantity of contest wins with the various bands that he conducted; he became very much a contest specialist. If that were to be the case though Thomas’s own track record since the turn of the century would more than likely make selling that idea difficult. We don’t know that this was his aim though, perhaps it was simply that the Albury Town Band had been in a spot and requested his help.
Whatever the reason, it was, for that year at least, in vain. On the 12th December 1904, the Ballarat Star announced that the second class band contest in Ballarat, due, as announced, to take place on Boxing Day, had been abandoned by the Victorian Band Association officially at their meeting on Friday the 9th December. Some of its members felt that though the Association was formed to supervise and structure the contests, it was not their job to put them on themselves and find funding etc for the prizes. The preference of those members was that the running of contests should be left to the South Street Society who were better equipped and set up to manage such events, though it was noted that the South Street Society made no provision for second class bands at their major event which had taken place only a few months previously. It is understood from a later report also that a number of the bands due to compete had begun to pull out of the contest, leaving its viability open to question. There were disagreements on many factors of the contest including the venue, and ultimately the will to run the event ran out. Naturally, the competing bands weren’t happy at all. Consider for example that the Geelong Town Band, having made arrangements with the rail company to run a special excursion train, would need to break those arrangements. There was speculation that the Band Association’s very existence was in threat as a result of the debacle, with a number of bands threatening to withdraw their membership.
From there Thomas seems to have spent a quiet few months in Sale working out his next move. It looks unlikely that he made any headway with starting his own band in Sale. By mid-May, it seems that he had decided that his family’s future lay elsewhere in Albury just across the border between the state of Victoria and the territory of New South Wales. The Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times explained what had happened in this article of 17th May 1905 “ALBURY TOWN BAND. NEW BANDMASTER APPOINTED. Mr W J Lester, secretary of the Albury Town Band, has informed us that Mr T E Bulch, of Sale (Victoria), has been appointed bandmaster in place of Captain Drury, resigned. Mr Bulch had a conversation with Mr Harold D Griffith, a member of the committee of management, at Sale some weeks back and recognised in Mr Griffith a playing member of the Albury Town Band which he had once conducted at the Druids’ Contest in Melbourne, Mr Griffith mentioned that the Albury Band required a conductor and from this conversation the appointment arose. Mr Bulch will receive the same remuneration as the ex-conductor, £180 per annum, and an agreement will probably be entered into on the new conductor’s arrival early next week. Mr Bulch in an accomplished cornet player and will be accompanied by his son, who plays a soprano cornet. Amongst the new bandmaster’s qualifications is his ability both compose and arrange band music. The range of his compositions may be indicated by mentioning the marches ‘Typhoon”, ‘Battle of Eureka”, “Antipodes” and”South Street: He is also known as having arranged Weber’s “Grand Reminisces”. Mr Bulch, like Mr Pogson, a former Albury bandmaster and Mr Barkel (Newcastle Band) comes from Yorkshire, whereof hail many accomplished band musicians. Mr Bulch has also had experience as a judge at band contests throughout New Zealand and many of the States of the Commonwealth and is the author of several contest pieces. It might be of interest to mention that the Albury Band at the Druids’ Contest, under the leadership of Mr Bulch, secured fifth place out of eight competitors; only 4 points separated them from the winners, who tied with 89 points. The new conductor will, it is expected, take over the band early next week.”
We shall return to Thomas Bulch’s time in Albury soon, but
52. New Shildon Saxhorn Band in the Wear Valley Band League
The year 1904 began with an update once again from ‘Harmonious’ in Wright and Round’s Brass Band News. It was to be his last. For whatever reason, ‘Harmonious’ ceased his contributions on the ‘mid-Durham Area’ band to that publication from February onwards, and nobody else picked up the task. In fact from this point onward we see the beginning of a general a decline in regional update contributions telling of the achievements and fortunes of bands right across the Durham area, almost as if it’s importance to the scene was in decline. Of George and his band ‘Harmonious’ writes, “Shildon Saxhorn have had a grand concert, and it was a great success both musically and financially. I expect you will be making some of the bands take a back seat when you are out again”. We’ve not been able to find out anything else about this concert, but presumably, it would have taken place in December of 1903 and been, in part at least, a fundraiser for the band.
The band may well need some additional funding this year, for a decision had been made to take part in the Wear Valley Band League series of contests along with the Peases West band from Crook, the Willington Silver Band, Frosterley, Wolsingham Steelworks Band and Stanhope Saxhorn Band. As with most league systems, the idea was that each of the competing towns would hold its own contest throughout the contesting season, to which each of the league member bands would endeavour to attend to compete. There were prizes for each contest and then a trophy awarded to the band that performed best throughout the whole season. Even though the distances between these competing towns and villages were relatively modest, in an era where wages for working-class men were meagre and little leisure time was afforded them, it was still quite a commitment for a band without industrial sponsorship to make. Another thing we can’t be certain of is why the band chose to enter the league, though as we have seen the taunts from ‘Harmonious’ throughout 1903 may have played their part. We know that George would later advertise in the Brass Band News so he may well have been a reader. If not him, then possibly one or two of his bandsmen, or there may well have been other influencing factors.
Another small piece of news in this year is that on the 7th of January, Mr J Greenwood of South Shields, who had published some of George’s compositions in his Northern Brass Band and Military Journal, passed away after a short illness. Though Greenwood had not published many of George’s pieces, and this particular journal was one of the minor ones of the time, it would have struck George particularly following the prior death of one his other main publishers of choice, T A Haigh, the previous year that outlets for his compositions were becoming increasingly limited. Up to now he still had Fred Richardson’s “Cornet” journal as an outlet, but he may well at around this time begun to consider a new approach.
On Saturday 4th June 1904 George conducted his Shildon Saxhorn band at a contest organised by the Wear Valley Band League at Lister’s Field. Crook. Co Durham where the band came 4th from 6. The adjudicator was James Brier and the test piece Beatrice di Tenda by Vincenzo Cellini as published by Wright and Round. Peases West, Willington and Frosterley came 1st 2nd and 3rd. There was also a march contest which was won by the Willington band.
In the July issue of Wright and Round’s Brass Band
If we bear in mind that the purpose of the judge’s narrative, as we have had explained to us in the context of Thomas Bulch’s judging comments, is to explain the reasons why points were deducted on the occasion, this makes for interesting reading. One aspect of it
The Brass Band News of September 1904 describes how George Allan and the New Shildon Saxhorn band got on at the Wear Valley Band League Frosterley Contest which was held in Rogerley Park on the 13th August. It proved a popular event with the attendance being up to that point a record for any contest held by that association; this in spite of the weather threatening rain all day. Mr J H White, a composer and adjudicator from Manchester, was the occupant of the judge’s tent. The other entrants were, of course, the other five bands from that league; the Willington Silver Band, Frosterley Band, Stanhope Saxhorn Band, Wolsingham Steelworks Band and the Peases West Silver Band. The judge’s comments on the performance by the New Shildon Saxhorn Band, who played their rendering of the test selection “Anna Bolena” third were as follows. “(Shildon Saxhorn; conductor Geo. Allan). Allo vivace – Unison not precise, plu bars very fair; letter A, cornets and horns, etc., are good; letter B, not in tune; soprano at letter C is good, cornet and euphonium very well together, basses have good tone, ff. very good indeed. Larghetto – Cornet entrance rather too stiff, accompaniments not precise; soprano at letter F is out of tune, cornet very fair, arpeggios moderate, trombones very fair, euphonium at bar 14 moderate, rall. And morceau too forced; cadenza moderately rendered. Allegro – Triplets very fair; horns etc. very much out of tune, band from bar 12 very fair; letter H to end only moderately rendered; piu mosso too wild; cadenza very fair. Larghetto – Accompaniments not together, flugel has a fair tone and style, basses at bar 9 not together, euphonium moderate, soprano with responses is too forced; interlude at bars 25 to 29 is very loose. Quartette – From bar 30 soprano has good tone, but forces his notes; the under parts are not well balanced, and the accompaniments are too loud. Allegro, Entrance for trombones good, cornet and euphonium not in tune, soprano and horns very fair; letter M moderately played; a good finish is made. This band has the makings of a good soprano player, if he will only strive to keep his tome under control. (4th Prize).” The band from Wolsingham Steelworks emerged as winners of the contest followed by Frosterley and Peases West the latter of whom also carried off the prize for the best march.
On Saturday the 4th of September 1903 the New Shildon Saxhorn Band hosted their Wear Valley Band League contest, and all six of the league’s bands took part. The event was to be a huge success for the Willington Silver Band as they took first prize for both march and test piece as well
The Durham County Advertiser of 16 September 1904 reports that on the 10th of that month George was the judge at the Brass Band Contest held as part of the Langley Park Floral, Industrial and Live Stock Society’s eighth annual exhibition on the preceding weekend. Six bands entered the contest which was conducted under the rules of the Durham and Northumberland Brass Band Association. The test pieces were “La Favorita” and “Songs of Schubert”. Special encouragement was given for the best solo baritone and best solo cornet. As often happened the newspaper’s misprinted George’s surname as Allen, but clearly stated New Shildon as his home town. The event was blessed with “beautiful weather and a great crowd of people” to explore the five giant marquees erected to exhibit the creatures and produce from across the region. There is no record however of which bands George Allan adjudged to be best on the day.
On the 15th October 1904, the six bands of the Wear Valley Brass Band League convened at Stanhope for the contest organised by the Stanhope Saxhorn Band. The adjudicator on this occasion was Mr George Wadsworth who did not favour the Shildon Saxhorn Band’s rendering of either test piece or march to be sufficiently good to see them placed in the top four on points. The form band of the year, the Peases West Band won the top prize for the test piece, and the hosting band from Stanhope were best in the
Of what occurred at the Willington and Wolsingham contests, there is nothing published that we have been able to find which tells us. However, we do know what the outcome of the contest season was for that league. In the November 1904 Brass Band News, the New Shildon Band are included in updates on the Bishop Auckland District as submitted by correspondent The Rover. Peases West look to have won the Wear Valley Band League Cup that season, but are reminded that they have to win it three times in a row to keep it, and also to remember to invite the other bandmasters from the league, including George Allan, to the presentation ceremony. Of the Shildon Saxhorn
53. Mysterious Disappearance of the Saxhorn Band
Far from being the beginning of a fresh attempt at winning the Wear Valley Band League, the beginning of the year 1905 saw the mysterious disappearance of the New Shildon Saxhorn Band. When the bands that made up the Wear Valley Band League for the year 1905 were announced, the Shildon band was not one of them. There is no explanation published anywhere specifically for this. We can speculate that one of a number of things may have happened. Perhaps, with all the new distractions that the turn of the century had introduced for the working classes, interest in brass banding in the town of Shildon had declined to the extent that the task of filling all the seats across two full bands was no longer viable.
In his centenary retrospective of the publication British Bandsman, a social history of brass bands, the write, Alf Hailstone, points out that the year 1905 was a year of economic depression in Britain and that this was a contributing factor in the demise of a number of bands. This had put pressure on the band contesting scene as bands scrabbled over what contest prize money was available. Allegations of corruption abounded in the band contest scene, whilst the erstwhile typical fee of £3 10s for a contest adjudicator dropped to typically just 15 shillings.
Publications like the British Bandsman looked out upon a banding community struggling to deal with desperate times, sufficiently so for the editor to write “Keep together lads. Trade is slack at the moment but who knows what a prayer and good fellowship might bring.” Not enough to keep the New Shildon Saxhorn Band in the game it appeared.
Maybe members of the Saxhorn Band that remained interested, united with the remaining members of the New Shildon Temperance Band to keep that band going. Perhaps the band had become frustrated with the lack of success in the band
Whatever the reason, the brass band scene in Shildon slipped into something of a slumber. It looked as though the brass legacy started decades earlier by Francis Dinsdale in the town of New Shildon might be in grave danger of disappearing altogether.
The dimming embers of the Shildon Temperance Band do appear to have smouldered away for a few years, to as late as 1911, when on Thursday the 22nd of June the nation would celebrate the coronation of King George V, and the Shildon Temperance Band would take part in a parade through the town. This date is also where we see the first mention of a Shildon Wesleyan Band which may have started before then but of which nothing had been written before that point. Though there is the odd rare report of a band, not necessarily a Shildon based one, appearing in Shildon during those years, there is nothing suggesting it was connected with those two bands. So for example when in 1907 a demonstration by the Labour movement was held in the town in relation to a rail crisis that was building by October of that year, there was mention of a procession headed by “a brass band” anonymous. In 1908 there is one brief mention of an Old Shildon Workingmen’s Club Orchestral Band, under Mr J Beard. An advertisement in the Darlington and Stockton Times of 12th August 1911 proclaims that the Heighington Show will feature the ‘Shildon Band’ which suggests that in the minds of the organisers at least there was only one worth mentioning, the implication being that is was unnecessary to be specific as to which for that reason. The Temperance Band even stood in for the band of the Band of the Grenadier Guards at the Shildon Show that year when the former cancelled their appearance. The band was, at this occasion, conducted by Harry Gibbon, despite his ill health causing him to have resigned as director of the Shildon Choral Society earlier that year. He kept that band going throughout the war of 1914-1918 during which it finally dropped the ‘Temperance’ label to become the New Shildon Silver Band, a name it retained up until 1937 after which it was sponsored by the London and North Eastern Railway, or LNER, Brass Band right through until the 1970s. So though there was something of a lull, the lineage of the bands founded by the Dinsdale family would continue, and what was once the Temperance Band would return to contesting at which it would have success once again.
But in terms of our story, all of that is still in the future; besides which, none of the ventures looks to have had any involvement from George Allan. It’s unlikely that he had any hand in the running of the briefly mentioned Wesleyan Band, though it’s possible that some of his bandsmen may have found a musical home there. Yet despite George no longer being a bandmaster, he still had much to achieve, and was yet to compose the march for which he is best known today, so we’ll continue with his story after a further trip to the far side of the globe.
54. Settling into Albury and Hack Racing.
When we left Thomas Bulch he had just joined the Albury Town Band in mid-May as their new bandmaster. This occasion was particularly broadly reported across the region, with notices appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age in Melbourne, the Wodonga and Towong Sentinel, Wagga Wagga Express, Gippsland Times, Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, Australian Town and Country Journal, and Yackandandah Times. It seems that someone, possibly Thomas himself, wanted the world to know that he wasn’t quite done yet.
On the 24th of May, he arrived in Albury, and the events that followed were captured by a reporter from the Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times. It read “Mr T E Bulch, the newly appointed bandmaster to the Albury Town Band arrived last evening by the express. He was met at the train by members of the committee of management and bandsmen. Ou reaching the Albion Hotel an informal welcome was tendered to Mr Bulch by the president, committee and bandsmen. There were present, Messrs Blake (chair), Harold D Griffith, Laughton, Ashby, Louhes, Carter, Walling, Schneider, Burton, Doughty, Oddie and M’Culloch. Thopresldont in a few words of welcome proposed the toast of the bandmaster and trusted that their relations would be harmonious. The committee wished the baud to be in keeping with the importance of the town and were extremely anxious for its success. Mr Ashby supported ‘the foregoing remarks. Mr Bulch replied, and in the course of his remarks deprecated the fact that bandsmen were on the committee of management. This he had found previously to be subversive of proper control, The committeemen referred to were personal friends of his, but this did not alter the principle. Mr Bulch concluded by hinting that he would do his best to make the band worthy of the town.”
So straight away we can see that expectations in Albury were high, and equally that Thomas was quite prepared to assert himself from the very outset by levelling a critique at the band over the way they were run. No gentle approach to making changes over time. Thomas set straight to work with his new band.
At the beginning of June, Thomas was announced as one of eleven possible judges on a long list for the upcoming band contest at Gympie in Queensland. All the prospective judges would receive a letter requesting their terms for engagement, and each, assuming they were interested in the engagement would duly respond to the committee in a letter by post which would consider each at a future meeting. When Thomas received the request for terms the matter was very soon reported in the Albury Banner. It would have provided Thomas with a ripe opportunity to make those citizens of Albury, that might have had any doubts, aware as to just how well regarded he was across the banding fraternity.
On Sunday the 18th of June 1905 Thomas gave his new band their first public airing under his baton. On a ‘perfect’ afternoon, in the Albury Botanic
On the morning of the 15th July 1905 the readers of the Albany Advertiser in Western Australia were informed as they perused the pages of their daily paper that as part of the preparations for the Albany Band Contest and Eisteddfod, a march was being composed by Thomas Bulch, especially for that event. It appears then that Thomas was not inclined to rest his talent for composition whilst bringing his new latest band up to speed. That evening, in Albury, passers-by were able to enjoy a performance by the band that was staged on a balcony opposite Messrs W S Norman and Co’s premises. Thomas had ensured that the programme highlighted a number of his pieces of the moment. The listener could enjoy his march “Light Artillery”, his arrangement of Verdi’s works, his march (penned under the pseudonym Eugene Lacosta) “Flying Squadron”, a novel concept in that era, his quadrille “Melodique” and galop, “Carbine”. The band announced after that weekend that they would be requesting tenders for companies to provide the band’s new uniforms which were described as being of navy blue serge, with black braid and navy trousers with a wide red stripe. This with a navy cap featuring a turned down peak and broad band of black braid.
Returning briefly to the matter of the Gympie band contest, we learned from the Gympie Times of 3 August 1905 that of the eleven nominations for contest adjudicator received, those from Messrs Barkell, Bulch and Wade had been shortlisted. Thomas had requested a fee of £35 which was to cover all his expenses. This was significantly more than many of the other candidates, but
Wednesday the 23rd of August 1905 saw Albury celebrating Arbor Day. A number of trees had been supplied by the Victorian Government for planting, and to see to this a large number of people assembled on grounds near the Albury Train Station. With the town’s Mayor unavoidably absent, Alderman Brink presided over the proceedings and planted the first tree. Thomas Bulch and the Albury Town Band provided entertainment at an afternoon tea, held immediately after the planting, for all involved.
From the 12th to the 14th of September Thomas and the Albury Town Band were present over the three days of the Albury Show to provide selections of music to those in attendance at points over the three-day event. The band were proudly resplendent in their new band uniform for the first time at this event. And then on Sunday the 15th of October the band joined the Albury Citizens Band and the Albury Choral Society at the Albury District Hospital Annual Demonstration. The event, which took place on the Albury Showground, was held to raise funds for the hospital, and it turned out to be the perfect day for it too, being both warm and bright. There were reportedly around 1,500 people present for the musical spectacle and sports at the showground; men in their Sunday-best and ladies having donned their finest millinery. A vocal ensemble comprising in excess of 150 vocalists, stood on the tiered grandstand for their performances, while the Choral Society, Citizens Band and of course the Albury Town Band took turns to render fine pieces of music and song including a Bulch arrangement of Wagner’s works. In all, it was estimated that about £70 had been taken for the hospital once collections from the various Albury churches had also been taken into account.
On the 29th of October the Albury Town Band, under Thomas Bulch, Made good upon their promise to entertain at the Newtown Orphanage. On November the 8th and 9th a monster Floral Fete, Carnival and Sports was held in Albury; a spectacle that included cricket, cycling, quoits, a motor car exhibition, racing of various sorts including a “Gretna Green Race” with dressed up brides and grooms, a “cigar race” and log chopping. The evenings were given to torchlight processions, the first of which would be accompanied by the Albury Citizens Band, and the second evening by Thomas and the Albury Town Band. These were followed by masked parades and fairy dances by artificial light, the ascent of a mammoth fire balloon, and fireworks. Wherever there was a spectacle like this in his lifetime you know that Thomas Bulch was never going to be far away. Both of the bands of the town gave selections at intervals throughout.
As Christmas approached, though Thomas was no longer present in Ballarat the bands there made sure he was not forgotten though their playing of his works. Prout’s Ballarat Brass Band gave a rendering of a specially arranged selection of carols by Bulch at their concert on Christmas Eve at the Eastern Oval in Ballarat. Then, in Albury, Christmas Night, Thomas Bulch conducted his own band through a sacred open-air concert on the Sports Ground at Albury that also included a vocal segment.
Then, on New Year’s Day we see a suggestion of a side to Thomas’s life that we’ve not seen before in any of the other places he’d lived. At the Jindera Races which took place very near Albury, we see that in the Handicap Hack Race, for a prize of £2 over 7 furlongs, the second placed horse “Gambil” is attributed to an owner named Bulch. This is almost certainly something to do with Thomas and his family. We oughtn’t to be too surprised that Thomas might have taken an interest in racing, after all, there are some clues in the titles of some of his pieces such as “Final Flutter”, but this is the first indication that we see that he may have been involved in horse ownership. In equestrianism, the term ‘hack’ is used to indicate either riding a horse for light exercise or else exhibition or show horses where the quality and manners of the horse were important.
55. Over the Border, and the “Popular Brass Band Journal”
With, as it would seem, no band to tutor and mentor, on the face of it 1905 comes across as having been a very quiet one for George Allan. There are no references of him conducting to be had, and few references to his involvement in contests. However, it does appear that the period from 1904 onward is a pivotal one for him and that he had made a decision that will take him upon a path towards arguably his greatest achievements.
In considering this we should perhaps bear in mind that unlike Thomas, who had chosen to give over as much of his working life to music as was
To some extent, this could well have been prompted by other changes that meant that he was no longer connected to a network of people that in the past had taken the burden of publishing his music from him. We have seen already that both Thomas Albert Haigh and J Greenwood had passed away. Though we are not entirely sure when, we know that Fred Richardson of Sibsey, near Boston, who had also published George’s works in his “Cornet” band journal, had gradually increasingly suffered ill health and been forced to retire, selling his business to Wright and Round. It doesn’t appear as though George contributed many works directly to Messrs Wright and Round’s own catalogue of publications, though there are some later examples such as “The Belle of Bohemia”, so it would appear that most of those pieces which today are available through the Wright and Round archive catalogue would have been those to which the rights were acquired upon purchase of Richardson’s “Cornet” business. The dates of such pieces, including “King Edward” and “The New Century” support this view. Wright and Round probably did not require George’s services; they already turned out band music in great volumes, principally through the pen of Henry Round; though he too was to pass away in 1905, an event after which opinion has it that the company became somewhat less pioneering in their output. If George were to continue to provide music to the banding community he would need to find a new outlet, and we think this is why he chose to chance his arm at publishing.
The venture seems to have begun with the publishing of the march “Battle Abbey” in 1904. This was most likely the first of a collection of pieces to have been printed under the banner of the “Popular Brass Band Journal” under which appeared his publishing address, 2 Pears Terrace, New Shildon. It seems that the ‘journal’ was less so in the traditional sense as he seems to have published each piece individually, but for the bands buying the music, it certainly looked the part. As regards printing the music, these early self-published pieces were lithographic prints, requiring that somebody, presumably not George, transcribed his handwritten manuscript to sheets of a lead and tin alloy by a careful process of etching using specialist tools designed for the very purpose: a five-clawed tool to etch the parallel lines of the stave, punches to represent the clefs and notes and gouging tools to add lines to the notes etc. It was a very particular skill set and required careful attention to detail, though corrections could be made if the proof-reading of any of the parts revealed a mistake.
George promoted his works for sale by taking out small personal advertisements in the music press of the day. It’s probable that he also touted his work to his own network of contacts across County Durham. The February issue of Wright and Round’s Brass Band News contained the following small advertisement that ran issue by issue until July. “SOMETHING GOOD! Bands wanting good CONTEST MARCHES send for “Battle Abbey,” winner of many contests in 1904; also my two new marches for 1905 contests. “La Maestro,” a splendid thing for good bands, sure to win, and “Bravura,” just the march for 2nd class contests, very effective and will suit any and every band. Price 1/3 nett per march. Extras 1d. each – Postal Orders to GEO ALLAN, Music Publisher, New Shildon, Co Durham.”
Though the Popular Brass Band Journal was not a journal in the same sense as many of those published by the top brass music publishers of the day wherein multiple pieces by various composers would be included and the publication would be at a fixed frequency, the ‘journal’ format certainly made the music ‘look the part’ and gave his self-published work a collective identity. George may well have intended at the outset to have published new pieces regularly, but the reality would prove somewhat intermittent. The Popular Brass Band Journal differed from others also in the sense that George would sell his pieces individually, and from what we can tell it was not a ‘subscription’ journal where bands would usually commit up front to buying all issues throughout a year. This meant that unlike the publishers of those subscription journals he would need to work harder to establish a reputation for good music to make bands want to keep buying the next one.
The commencement fo George’s self-publishing venture does, however, appear to mark the beginning of a ‘golden era’ in George’s career as a composer; a period during which many of the enduring marches that would earn him the nickname, in banding circles, of “The March King”. Up until this point many who would have perhaps known both George and
To the researcher this kind of advertisement, small though it is, is a thing of beauty as it carries something of the personality of its creator, words that they used to describe their own pieces and an expression of the creator’s intent. We see that George isn’t just trying to churn marches out here; he is looking to create contest winners, marches that show his skill in bringing out the best in a band. Yet, as we see with “Bravura” he’s not only trying to accommodate the best bands but making provision for bands at different levels. This we see also in Thomas Bulch’s approach to composition work; if you want to make some money from selling you need to impress enough to have a reputation but also have enough to appeal to a wide market. On George’s declaration of “Battle Abbey”
On Saturday the 4th of February 1905, George Allan was once again applying his musical wisdom and experience in the capacity of a contest judge; only this time it was a slightly different style of contest to those we have become, by this point, quite used to him being involved in. The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer provides more of an explanation. “The Stockton Druids Silver Band held a quartet and solo contest in the Borough Hall, Stockton, on Saturday. Mr George Allan, of Shildon, was the judge. For the solo contest 23 entries were received, and of these 20 competitors took part. Result:- 1, A Howarth, Brotton, who played a selected piece; 2, A. Mann, a cornet player, whose piece was “Carnival Di Venice.” In the quartet contest it was expected eight bands would have taken part, but one of these, Hebburn Temperance No 3, was compelled to leave in order to catch their train. Seven bands competed, the result being:- 1, Milburn’s Model; 2, South Bank Silver Prize Quartet; and 3, Guisborough Priory No. 1.”
On the 2nd of September 1905, an open brass band contest took place at Middleton-in-Teesdale as part of the 39th annual show of the Middleton-in-Teesdale Agricultural Society, with George Allan occupying the adjudicator’s tent. The show itself was reported to have had a particularly fine set of classes of shorthorn cattle, drawing comment from Lord Barnard, who was in attendance in his capacity as president of the society. The contest looked to have been a popular draw for bands, with twelve entering, but as so often happened, for some reason two of the bands had to withdraw leaving only ten to compete. For this particular contest, the bands were given the opportunity to choose their own test piece rather than play a set composition. Other than the contest’s home band, Middleton-in-Teesdale, the other participating bands were largely from the towns and villages of the South-Durham area though entries were attracted from as far away as the North-East coast through the Hartlepool Borough Band and Redcar Steelworks. After the judges scoring was revealed, it was one of George’s fellow conductors from the 1904 Wear Valley Band League, J B Wright and his Willington Silver Band that were rewarded for being the best band on the day. The band from West Auckland came second and the prizes for third and fourth were split evenly between Auckland Park and Hartlepool Borough. The Willington Silver Band had also excelled in the
Later that same month, on Saturday the 16th of September, we learn in the pages of the Leeds Mercury that George was engaged as the judge for a brass band contest at Dodworth, near Barnsley. This may well have been the furthest south that George travelled for a band contest, and it certainly gave him the opportunity to hear bands that he would have been unfamiliar with. The Dodworth Old Brass Band who promoted the contest were not competing, but other entries came from ten other places including Mexborough and Rotherham. Of the outcome, the newspaper tells us that, “The Dodworth Brass Band also promoted a contest which was held in the grounds adjoining The Grove, lent my Mr H. A Allport JP. Mr George Allan, New Shildon, Durham, was the judge, his awards being as under:- Selection – 1, Holme; 2, Thurlstone; 3, Parkgate; 4, Dannemora. Quickstep – 1, Holme; 2, Dannemora. The medal for trombone solo was also won by Holme.” The test piece was “Le Pre aux Clercs” by Ferdinand Herold arranged by Charles Godfrey Jnr. Naturally, a march contest was also run on the day, in which the bands from Holme and Dannemora came first and second. One can’t help but wonder whether George used these opportunities to network and promote his own composition and journal.
During 1905 we know that George Allan, as well as brothers Thomas and Ralph, continued their membership of the New Shildon Mechanics’ Institute, though Ralph and Thomas ceased their membership as the year went on. Remembering that the Mechanics Institute was just a short walk over a railway footbridge from George’s house it’s tempting to think of it as a quiet retreat for him from the hustle and bustle of home life, with it’s reading rooms and various resources.
As we move into 1906 we learn that getting the message out to the buying public about the music that you have created, and wish to sell, and trying to do so on a working man’s tight budget, wasn’t always a straightforward matter. George generally limited his advertising to the ‘personal adverts’ column of the brass band press; small discrete adverts that tended to appear towards the rear of the papers. When you consider that one of the main purposes of Wright and Round’s Brass Band News, for example, was to extol the virtues of buying from their own catalogue of music, it was unlikely that an independent seller would be offered a prominent spot without paying a premium for being in competition with the publisher. We see also at the beginning of this year that even having submitted an advertisement you weren’t necessarily guaranteed it would appear as intended. The January 1906 issue of Brass Band News, for example, included this brief notice. “We offer our apologies to Mr GEO. ALLAN, of New Shildon, for leaving out his advertisement last month. It came at the last moment and got mislaid. Very sorry.” Most likely a genuine mistake, but one which may have cost George a small sum in potential sales.
If George submitted any payment with that request to advertise, he wasn’t to see any value from it until the April issue of the same paper, where the following advertisement appears. “Contesting Bands should get the following Marches:- “La Maestro”, “Battle Abbey”, “Bravura”, “The Gale” and “Senator”. Five well known Good Things, money-getters, not
On Saturday the 2nd of June 1906 George was engaged to adjudicate a band contest probably as far north as he had ever travelled on such duties. This was the sixteenth such contest held at Bo’ness in Linlithgowshire, Scotland by the Kinniel Reed Band who had offered a total of £66 in prize money across the two classes of band competing on the day. This prize money, and the reputation of the
As with his trip to Dodworth the previous year this contest gave George the opportunity to hear bands he most likely would not have heard before. The second class bands, playing their own choice test pieces, represented such places as Falkirk, Kinnaird, Townhill and Laurieston. The ten bands in the first class included those four places as well as others such as Kelty, Dykehead, Musselburgh, Kirkaldy and Bo’ness itself.
This contest is one of the rare occasions where George’s comments on the bands were preserved by being published in the Fife Free Press and Kirkaldy Guardian of the 9th of June that year. They are quite detailed and, as can be seen through the adjudicator’s notes produced by Thomas Bulch that we have included already, are of quite a technical nature. However, they include a little of George’s character too so it feels as though to include here, perhaps, his comments on the first placed band, and one of the ‘also ran’s’ from the first class contest might be a way to offer a little insight.
As had become the tradition in navigating a contest test piece’s musical score, that being the document that tells the conductor what all parts of the band should be playing at any moment throughout, and perhaps partly to help the judge place his comments and annotations on each performance, the entire piece is divided into sections between markers labelled by letters of the alphabet. hence why you’ll see phrases such as “nicely in tune solo bars at S” and “cornet not certain at T”. For the average newspaper reader without the musical score in front of them, of course, this would mean very little, though an overall impression of the performance can be gained. For the band’s conductor, hoping for a critique of where they did
Top band on the day were the brass band from Polton Mills, of whom George commented on their selection of “Beethoven” as follows. “Opens sostenuto ma con troppo; a good toned band; continues well up to letter C; letter D fugue fine.
The band from Laurieston finished among the unplaced bands with their rendering of a Rossini selection, earning the following commentary. “Opens very nice indeed; effect spoiled just before entering next movement; too harsh top
After the points awarded by George had been calculated, the top five bands in the first class contest were Polton Mills, Musselburgh, Kirkaldy Trades, Bo’ness and Townhill. In the second class
It had been a long day for George Allan, for the bandsmen and for the audience. This had not gone unnoticed by one particular commentator in the same newspaper writing under the pseudonym ‘Saxhorn’ who appears to have some connection with the Kirkaldy Trades band, and levelled criticism at the contest organisers thus: “The Trades had a long wait before they performed, and mounted the contest stand after nine o’clock had struck. The band had but finished when out popped the judge from his wigwam and briefly addressed his very much tired and worn out audience in the following strain -“That he did not know if his awards would give general satisfaction.” On the face of it those contest committees who this season have taken to running on lines that combine the first and second section bands taking part, cannot be too strongly condemned. The great length of time that the judge has got to sit and listen to a mixture of good, bad, and indifferent music is quite enough to give him a fit of the blues. It is only next to a miracle should he not lose his head. Besides the long wait on before the last drawn bands perform tends to upset the bandsmen, to say nothing of the hurry-scurry that many of the bands have to experience to catch their home going train. Such faulty arrangement on the part of committees in running band contests, who, for a prize money draw, prolong the contest into a late hour, hold out no inducement for first section bands to compete. band contests in the open-air should be finished not later in the evening than 7:30.”
Naturally, this opinion is but one, and we could never be sure whether it is a view that George would endorse. We can’t be sure what his own travel arrangements were for that weekend. Having a regular job to attend to on the normal working days of the week it’s possible that he had a very start to travel up to Bo’ness from Shildon by train. One would like to think he
The 3rd of August 1906 brought with it the 107th annual show of the long-running Barnard Castle Agricultural Society, which naturally aligned with a band contest. George had been engaged by the committee there to take his place in the adjudicator’s tent. Nearby the gathered throng, under fine blue skies, admired the sheep, horses and cattle submitted for the various livestock prize categories; these included a number belonging to Lord Barnard himself, who as well as presenting prizes, along with the Marquess of Zetland, would receive some himself.
The bands that took part in this particular contest were ones that George knew relatively well; those being Hunkick, Evenwood, Willington Silver, West Auckland and the home band for the day Barnard Castle. In George’s trusted opinion it was the Willington Silver Band, one-time fellow competitors of George’s own Saxhorn Band in the Wear Valley Band League, that played the best rendition of the test piece “Beauty’s Bower” earning themselves the £8 first prize money. They also pipped the band from West Auckland to the prize in the separate march contest.
56. The Contest Successes of the Albury Town Band
Returning to happenings in Australia, on the 8th January 1906, the committee of the Albury Town Band met at the town’s Council Chambers to discuss the year ahead. Thomas Bulch was present, by invitation. After the formal business necessary to keep the band operating the committee asked Thomas whether he considered that the band under his charge were capable of competition success at the forthcoming band contest in Geelong that would take place on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of February that year. With the travel and accommodation expense of sending a whole band all the way to Geelong, this was not deemed by the committee to be a trivial decision. “Mr Bulch replied,” explained the Albury Banner, “that he considered the band a high-class organisation capable of holding its own in any company, and its chances of competing successfully at Geelong was as bright as that of any band of which he knew. It would, he felt sure, do credit to its supporters and to the town of Albury if the opportunity was afforded.”
Swayed in part, no doubt, by Thomas’s testimony of faith in his bandsmen the committee approved the decision to enter the band into the contest and immediately set about the matter of fundraising measures to help towards meeting the cost of contest expenses. They agreed that a fundraising concert on the Albury Sports Ground was the way to get the ball rolling. Thomas, who had already arranged the standard pre-selected test piece for the concert, “Verdi’s Works”, would also create a programme of special band selections for that particular fundraising concert. One of these would be the band’s own choice test piece for the same concert which was an arrangement of “Weber’s Works”. Thomas’s confidence had once again put his personal reputation, as well as that of the band, on the line, and he would know that he would have to work hard with the players to achieve the best outcome possible. He had already started rehearsing the band in separate sections, as was, and still is, customary to make sure that each section of the band knows its role in the test piece before bringing the whole band together.
Fundraising arrangements carried on throughout January culminating in a bazaar being arranged to provide a new uniform for the band members expected to be ready not for the Geelong contest, but certainly before another contest that had been arranged for Easter. On Saturday the 3rd of February the band gave a programme of music from the balcony of Ebbesen’s Town Hall Hotel in Albury which included a number of Bulch’s own pieces including “Sambo’s Birthday”, “Dainty Daisy”, “Little Dark Eyes” and his first published composition from his days back in New Shildon, “The Typhoon”. Then, the next day, the band spent the entire day practising marching and then the test selections on the Albury Show Ground.
On the 6th and 7th of February, a fundraising gymkhana for the building fund of the local Catholic Church took place, with the Albury Town Band first leading a procession from the Albury Post Office to the Show Ground before leading a grand procession around the show ring, to the delight of onlookers. Taking part in that procession was one of Thomas’s daughters dressed as one of a number of penguins drawing a carriage of mermaids. Then followed a Grand Medieval Tournament, featuring various combat scenes, further accompanied by the Town Band. This was followed by a musical ride with mounted ladies and gentlemen in uniform attire executing a number of tricky manoeuvers to the music of the band; an ‘all nations’ football match; a ladies race, for men in costume; a concert and a ‘First Aid Race” as well as numerous sideshows. The entertainment continued until well after eleven o’clock.
The 14th of February saw the promised fundraising concert on the Sports Ground at Albury, where the band teamed up with a handful of singers to deliver a programme that included not only the test selections from the forthcoming contest but songs too. The day previous the committee of the band had met and committed the band to two further appearances to take place at the Mechanics Institute on the 29th for the Choral Society Concert and in the local gardens at Geelong on Sunday the 25th, the day following the conclusion of the Interstate Band Contest at Geelong, subject to permission from the Mayor of Geelong.
The band travelled to Geelong, at first by land to Melbourne and then across Port Philip Bay aboard the S S Courier, arriving in Geelong on the afternoon of Thursday 22nd February where they were met at the wharf by the president and secretary of the Competitions Committee and the St Augustine’s and Daylesford Brass Bands, who accompanied the Albury band, musically, to their quarters at the Orient and Queen’s Head Hotels. In the evening the Mayor of Geelong addressed all the competing bands in the Market Square before the bands all marched off to the park, with the Albury Band being second in the procession. At the park, the rush to enter the contesting ground was too much for the small gates to handle, and some men took to leaping the fence to avoid the crush. Some 2,000 paying members of the public attended that first session of the contest, with many more content to listen for free from outside the park fence. The judge, Mr John Robson, like Thomas a former bandmaster of the Ballarat 3rd Battalion Militia, entered his judging tent, accompanied by his shorthand writer for the occasion, and a representative of the Victorian Bands Association, to ensure fair play, who proved to be none other than Thomas’s fellow ex-Shildonite and Ballarat bandmaster, James Scarff. The first task was to play the standard test piece, Bulch’s “Verdi’s Works”. The Albury Town Band were last onto the rotunda to play; by this time Thomas was no longer conducting whilst also contributing solo cornet; the solo cornet was contributed by his son Thomas Edward Bulch junior, implying that Thomas junior had become a fine cornet player in his own right. A commentator stated that whilst the Albury Band’s rendering was “brighter and more agreeable to the audience, though the performance was not free from fault.”
The competition continued in like manner for the next two days, with the own choice test piece being the next session and then finally the quickstep contest. As part of the arrangements for the Geelong Contest it was agreed that on the final day, after the contest renditions had been concluded, but before the results were announced, the bands would mass under the conductorship of Thomas to play music accompanying a
Following that spectacle, the results of the contest were announced. For their rendering of the test piece, as well as their own choice selection from the second night, the Albury band had earned second place, being only four points behind the winners, though the difference in prize money was substantial with the winners picking up £100 and Albury only £20. In the quickstep contest the band had fared less well coming fourth, though it was the selection contest that was the more desirable achievement and Thomas would doubtless be reluctantly content with such a good result against such bands as the Geelong Artillery and Geelong Town Bands and selection test winners Daylesford, who had finished below Albury in the quickstep. It was certainly a good enough result to satisfy the commentator from the Border Morning Mail, a newspaper local to Albury, who said as much in its 26th February edition. The Albury Banner also congratulated the band on the “manner in which they acquitted themselves.”
Far away on the other side of the world, Thomas’s father Thomas Bulch senior had either come to a decision, or else been driven to a decision, that it was time for him to retire from his post as the timekeeper at the North Eastern Railway wagon works at New Shildon at the end of the month of February. His employers were demonstrably appreciative of his services as explained by this brief notice in the Northern Echo from the 2nd of March 1906. “Mr Thomas Bulch,
For Thomas Bulch senior that support network took two forms. Firstly there
On Sunday the 18th of March the Albury Band gave a sacred concert in the Botanic Gardens, taking a collection of voluntary donations at the gates toward the running costs of the band; this raised £4 2s 7d. The programme of music included the test piece from the Geelong contest as well as a number of other Bulch compositions and arrangements including “The Young Recruit” and “Baby Elephant”, a recent creation. Friday the 29th saw the band performing on the balcony of Miss Moore’s Railway Hotel, Wodonga. Sunday the 1st of April saw the band visit Rutherglen to contribute music to a benefit for resident Arthur Warren in co-operation with the Rutherglen Town Band. They then gave a further fundraising sacred concert on the 8th of April where they aired the three contest numbers that they would be playing at the Albury Musical Competitions that were to take place at Easter. By this point, the band were well practised and in fine form and being tipped in the press as contenders to win the Albury contest.
Monday 16th April, Easter Monday, saw the conclusion of the Albury Musical Competitions, as part of the Albury Musical and Literary Festival, of which the jewel in the crown was the band competition. The Albury Town Band were up against the Wagga Citizens Band, Albury Citizens Band, Corrowa and Wangaratta bands. The judge was Henri Stael of Sydney.
Once again with Thomas’s son Thomas Edward junior providing solo cornet, the Albury Town Band, drawn to play first, gave their rendition first of the own choice test piece, Bulch’s “Weber’s Works”, then a waltz “Homage to the Ladies”, and then, after the test selections took their turn to play their chosen quickstep whilst, as was customary with Australian contests, on the march. For this, they chose Bulch’s own march “King Pin”. The bands then massed under the baton of Henri Stael to play “Federation”, another Bulch piece albeit under the pseudonym of Eugene Lacosta, and “Waggon Hill”. Then the large crows hushed to absolute silence to await the announcement of the winners.
The Albury Town Band won this B Grade Championship contest by a margin of four points over their nearest rivals the Wangaratta Band, and in doing so collected a prize of £75. This was topped up by £5 to £80 when the result of the quickstep contest was given revealing that the band had come second, bested only by the other local band the Albury Citizens Band. Both local bands received a hearty cheer from the mainly local audience
Thomas was beginning to demonstrate that, with the right band before him, he was still a successful and positive influencer of a band’s capability at that level, and force to be reckoned with as bandmaster and conductor.
His children too were starting to come into their own. Not only was Thomas Edward junior beginning to make his mark as a fine solo cornet player, but his other children were becoming involved in things too. On Tuesday the 18th of April, Thomas’s youngest daughter Alice took part in a children’s competition at the Albury Mechanics Institute, with friends and relatives of the competitors looking on. She was part of a team of convent schoolchildren competing in an ‘Action Song’ contest for teams of children under 14 years old. One of his sons was a keen footballer playing for a team called the
Braced by their contest successes, and doubtless fatigued by the intensity of it all, the Albury Town Band took a well-deserved break from rehearsing, the end of which was announced through an advertisement in the Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times on Tuesday the 8th of May, which read, “ALBURY TOWN BAND Resumes PRACTICE TONIGHT. All members are requested to attend. Important! – T BULCH, bandmaster; W J Lester, Hon. Sec.”
This rehearsal was followed on Friday the 11th May by the committee of the Albury Town Band treating the bandsmen to an evening meal at the Albion Hotel on Dean Street, in recognition of their successes that season. 50 persons attended, bandsmen included. After the
Following further speeches in his praise, Thomas gave his response, complimenting the hard work that had been invested by the bandsmen towards the achievement. He then placed upon the table his desire for a next challenge for the band; to travel to Sydney to compete and win in a Grade A contest there. This was a well-received suggestion. Thomas declared that there was nothing the band could not do if they stuck together and attended practice regularly, perhaps a hint that attendances at practice, as George Allan had experienced back in England in recent years, were not all they could be in Australia too. He declared that, with the exception perhaps of his Model Band in Ballarat, there had never been a band in his life “in which there were associated a better or more genuine set of good fellows than those which constituted the Albury Town Band.”. Further toasts followed after which Thomas took to the piano to accompany songs from a couple of singers present as well as a cornet solo from bandsman Richardson, to bring the evening to a musical conclusion.
Later that month, the Albury Town Band provided music at a Smoke Social at the Oddfellows Hall for the great and the good of Albury and district. A meal opened the evening followed by toasts and speeches rounded off by the programme of instrumental music. Then on the Saturday of the 26th of May 1906, the band entertained at a postponed Empire Day demonstration by local children, of which an estimated 1100 took part. This was followed on Thursday the 28th by an Empire Banquet after which the Albury Town Band, under Thomas Bulch, played a series of patriotic airs.
On Thursday the 5th of June, Lord Northcote, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth, paid an official visit to Albury and was received in true patriotic style with a display of flags etc. throughout the town. He had arrived at the Albury railway station at 10:00 am where some 5,000 citizens were present to greet him along with the Albury Town Band who played the National Anthem as he emerged from his carriage onto the platform. A general tour then followed taking in the various schools and public features of note before a luncheon at the Mechanics Hall. Lord and Lady Northcote were then conducted to inspect the local hospital, a football demonstration and the local orphanage. Afterwards, further entertainment was hosted in the Mechanics Institute.
At a meeting f the Town Band committee on 10th July 1906, Thomas sealed the deal with the committee to send the band to the contest in either Sydney or Ballarat to pit their abilities against a different class of band. A good outcome at either of those contests would see not only the band’s but also his own, reputation where he would like it to be. The band re-commenced fundraising mode to ensure it would have the means to cover the costs. To begin with they gave a Sunday performance at the Botanic Gardens once again on the 15th of July. Then on the 18th of July, the band tried something new. They had organised what was expected to be the first of a series of social evenings at the Mechanics’ Institute at which the card came ‘euchre’, a trick-taking card game played by two pairs of players and invented in the 1860s, was played. 150 people attended with the card game being played from 8.30 pm until 10.00 pm. Thomas’s son, Thomas Edward junior seems to have done well, being among the prize winners; he won a tobacco pouch. Afterwards, a supper was served before Thomas Edward senior took to the piano to play dance music until one o’clock in the morning. A profit of about £20 was raised towards the band’s costs to travel to, and take part in, the Ballarat Competitions.
Three days later, on the 21st July 1906, a tragedy happened thousands of miles away that would shock the Bulch family. Less than five months into his retirement, the patriarch of the family, Thomas Bulch senior, passed away. He had, at the age of 70, taken an apoplectic fit at 48 Adelaide Street which had rendered him in a coma from which he did not recover. According to the death certificate his
As always it would take some time for this news to reach Australia, so Thomas Edward Bulch would remain unaware, and would not, of course, have been able to be present as family and friends gathered at New Shildon’s All Saints Church on the 24th of July 1906 to say their last farewells before he was buried. However, if the shock of his death was not enough of a tragedy for Thomas’s sons and daughters, worse was yet to come. It then emerged that two years earlier, on the 18th June 1904, Thomas senior had written a will that left the entirety of his estate to his second wife Margaret, explicitly stating that if she did not outlive him everything was to be left to her two daughters Mary Jane and Alice. Effectively, for whatever reason, his Bulch descendants had been disinherited.
We know from word passed down through the family to Thomas Edward’s grandson, Eric Tomkins, that the Bulch family did not take this lightly and contested the will. It was, however, an unsuccessful challenge and the will of 1904 was upheld, though one can imagine the bitterness that may well have arisen in New Shildon over it; that Margaret Harrison, who sought to take their mother’s place at their father’s side had now succeeded in taking everything he possessed, a legacy of £138 and 4s, and the family home of 48 Adelaide Street where she would continue to live in the years following his sad death.
All of this, though, was taking place far away from Albury, and Thomas would most probably only have been able to follow it through correspondence from his brothers and sisters. In the meantime, still unaware of these happenings in the family, Thomas awaited the decision of the committee of the Albury Town Band on his suggestions to take the band to a major contest.
That committee met on the 28th of July, and of the two suggestions Thomas had put forward, based upon responses from both Ballarat and Sydney contest organising committees, the Albury Band committee decided that Ballarat would be the band’s destination. They caveated that decision, however, with a condition that they would only endeavour to pay the railway fares of the bandsmen, and that if the bandsmen and bandmaster agreed to that condition, that the band should enter both A and B grade contests. The railway fares were expected to amount to somewhere between £50 to £60. Test selections for the Ballarat contest were “La Reine De Saba” for the A Grade and Rossini’s “Semiramide” for B Grade.
When the bandsmen learned of this many objected on the grounds that their own personal finances would not extend to cover the accommodation and living expenses costs that the Ballarat contest would incur. Some made the point that, as bandsmen, they gave their services for the entertainment of the town without charge all year around. They submitted a counter-proposal that the band committee at least
While the bandsmen awaited the decision, Thomas took them, on Sunday the 6th of August, to the Newtown Orphanage at Albury where they rendered a programme of music, as part of a celebration of Orphanage Month, for the public as well as a group of 60 orphans who sat in a circle around the band watching and enjoying the music. Father Griffin, in charge of the orphanage, made special mention, at the end of the concert, to thank the band for their periodic visits to cheer up the orphans. After this a collection was made, to the benefit of the orphanage, realising a sum of £25 5 shillings and 6 pence. The Sisters of Mercy gave tours of the institution, during which many people reportedly also commented on what a fine job Thomas had made of raising the Albury Band to such a “first-class standard”.
The Albury Town Band had an active ladies committee, in which it seems that Eliza Ann Bulch, Thomas’s wife, was actively involved. Though in those days, unlike the present, the ladies were rather excluded from all matters relating to the making of music, at committee busied itself with the business of supporting the financial wellbeing of the band. The ladies committee had been behind the organising of the euchre party mentioned earlier, and at the beginning of August were making preparations for
Alas, the proceedings and the decision of, that meeting were not published in the press; though the fundraising social organised by the ladies committee did go ahead on the 15th of August and was a success, with ticket buying guests enjoying dancing until 1 am. The Albury Band did not compete at Ballarat that year, so we can only conclude that the demand of the bandsmen was rejected.
On Sunday the 26th of August, the Albury Town Band assembled along with the children of St Matthew’s Sunday School, to march in procession to St Matthew’s Church in Albury. As they marched the band played, and the children sang, to an arrangement of “Onward Christian Soldiers” specially arranged for the occasion by Thomas Bulch. A special Anniversary Service for the church followed during which the band accompanied the hymns, using arrangements that had also been arranged by Thomas for the band. The band also played during the offertory, and then led a procession up Dean Street to the old Telegraph corner playing Bulch’s then recently composed march “ABCDEF”. The band then gave a programme of music at the Botanic Gardens which was comprised primarily of Thomas Bulch’s own compositions. A collection was held to boost the band’s funds. It was reported that they had a heavy week of rehearsal ahead of them with a Show Week coming up.
As part of his having settled in Albury, Thomas and his family yet again set up a music shop business. Under the name of Bulch and Co, they took premises in Wittmer’s Buildings on Townsend Street in Albury selling “Pianos, organs, brass instruments, music and everything pertaining to the musical profession. All business under the personal supervision of T E Bulch (Bandmaster of the Albury Town Band and Walla Band)” that latter being based in Walla Walla, a small town some 30 or more kilometres north of Albury. Thomas’s earnings as a bandmaster and composer were still not enough to support his family, and rather than take employment under another and further despite his previous experiences he still preferred the option of running a music shop. The business commenced advertising in September of 1906, though it may have been opened well before that time.
Sunday the 23rd of September saw the band give yet another open-air concert at the Botanic Gardens, realising another small but welcome sum towards the band’s running costs. They also gave a programme of music at the Germanton Show, a seemingly particularly equine affair, around the same time. Then the 3rd of October saw the band at the Public Schools Demonstration at Albury, giving a programme of music as the children gave gymnastic and dancing displays on the Albury Show Ground at which 11 Maypoles had been erected. That same day a meeting at the Albury Hotel reveals a little of Thomas Bulch’s political leanings at this time. It was held to support the candidacy of Sir William Lyne as the sitting member for The Hume. Lyne had been the 13th Premier of New South Wales from 1899 to 1901, as a member of the Protectionist party, advocating protective tariffs on trade to allow Australian industry to grow and provide employment. He had also, in 1901, had the opportunity to become the first Prime Minister of Australia, but had failed to form a government. At this meeting at the Albury Hotel, Thomas Bulch pledged himself as part of a central committee of electors in Albury that would forward Lyne’s interests. The following year Lyne would accompany then Prime Minister Alfred Deakin to a colonial conference to try to persuade Britain to dispense with its policy of free trade.
Thomas Bulch may well have been personally acquainted with Sir William Lyne as we learn that on Saturday the 29th of September, Lyne was present at the annual picnic of the Walla Walla Brass Band which, on that occasion, was being conducted by Thomas as their bandmaster. The picnic, with free refreshments available under a large marquee and blessed by good weather, was well attended and a grand fundraising concert featuring a variety of local singers, opened by Lyne himself who departed shortly thereafter, was held afterwards to raise money for the Walla Walla Band.
On 17th October the Walla Walla Band gave a concert as part of the Mission Festival at Walla Church, after which Thomas continued his work with the Walla Walla Band at a concert at the Gerogery Cricket Ground to celebrate Hospital Saturday on the 20th October 1906. The band played as a series of races were run by competitors of all ages. Throughout the proceedings visitors to the event were encouraged to submit donations by depositing them in a ‘hospital box’ kept on prominent display throughout. Teams of ladies also gathered at various points around the district with collection boxes. This overall effort led to over £170 being raised for the Albury District Hospital.
On the evening of the 6th of November, Thomas received a belated award at a presentation event held as part of an Oberon Quartette Party at the Albury Mechanic’s Institute. A Dr Woods was resent to distribute gold medals for the prize winners from the Albury Musical and Literary Festival that had been held in April. Woods, on presenting Thomas with the award as a representative of the whole band, confessed that he had an interest in another band in the area but expressed his admiration for the performance of the Albury Town Band and commented on how Thomas had lifted them from a position of mediocrity to one of superiority. He declared that it was a band “of which every resident of the town was justly proud.”
Thomas must have spent much time travelling, most likely by the connecting rail link, between Albury and Walla Walla throughout this year to take tuition of both bands. On the 10th of November, he was putting the Walla Walla Band through their paces again at a concert in aid of the Doctor’s Residence Association which accompanied a sports event that included, among its other contests, a slow bicycle race. The 15th of November saw Thomas with the Albury Town Band again, rendering the first of a series of summer concerts on the Sports Ground at Albury which was preceded by a parade from the old Telegraph office. The programme included a new arrangement by Thomas of works of Meyerbeer. This had been created to be performed by the band at the forthcoming band contest at Geelong at the end of February, so was being rehearsed to that end. There was a charge of sixpence per ticket, with funds raised going to support the band towards participating in the Geelong contest.
On the evening of Friday the 7th of December, the Albury Town Band rendered a programme of music again on the Albury Sports Ground as a fundraiser and despite being without their two Eb bass players and a trombonist they played through Bulch’s “Bombardment of Port Arthur” which as a newspaper report of that time proclaims had been by then gained such favour in Japan as to be adopted as one of the principal army tunes there. The piece was given, according to the correspondent from the Border Mail and Riverina Times, “to fine effect, the various stages of the movement being vividly portrayed.” The band, at this event, revealed their plans to hold a big demonstration on New Year’s Eve in aid of their Geelong competition fund.
When New Year’s Eve arrived the band assembled on the sports ground along with members of the Albury Choral Society. A large crowd had gathered in the brightly illuminated grounds to enjoy the spectacle as part of seeing in the New Year. In addition to renditions by both choir and band, Thomas Bulch, having just celebrated his birthday the day before, offered a cornet solo as part of the programme.