The Long Story – Part 4

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

The year 1894 began well for George Allan in that on Sunday the 18th February at the family home on Pears Terrace his wife Elizabeth gave birth to the couple’s first, and only, son. They named him William Willoughby Allan.

Also, it appears that in this year George may have started putting some of his blacksmithing skills to use outside of the workplace. In the “History, Topography, and Directory of the County Palatine of Durham, comprising A General Survey of the County and a History of the City and Diocese of Durham” – by Francis Whelan & Co. (2nd Edition 1894) – George is listed in the directory section for New Shildon as “Allan, George, (j) blacksmith, Pears Terrace”. Of the total population of New Shildon, which in that year was something exceeding 1,760 persons, only 198 residents are named and listed in the directory, most of whom are offering some kind of goods or services. Thus it looks very much as though George may have been trying to supplement his income through a little moonlighting. Whether he owned the facilities to do this or not is questionable. The yard of his home at Pears Terrace is very small and doesn’t, today, look like it would have hosted even a small forge. It’s possible, though, that he might have used the facilities at the railway works for this purpose. The same directory also named George’s father James as still being a tailor and living at Adelaide Street.

This might have been an indication of him struggling to make ends meet, though as always this is by no means definite. We do know that during this year he did allow his membership at the Mechanics Institute to lapse, though his wife had membership from 1894 through to 1897.

Despite the Saxhorn Band having been truly outshone by their Temperance adhering cousins in the previous year, George evidently made sure that his own band worked hard during 1894, and they appear to have plenty of engagements. Whilst the Temperance Band had gathered a haul the previous year in prize money to add to whatever subscription or sponsorship they received to maintain their uniform and instruments and pay for travel and band room hire etc., the Saxhorn Band, equally needing to do likewise, had to do their own fundraising. The Darlington & Stockton Times reported on Sat 31st March 1894 that “Two sacred concerts were given in the Co-operative Hall, under the auspices of the New Shildon Saxhorn Band, collections being taken for the purpose of purchasing new instruments for the band.”

April saw the band continuing the long-standing tradition of contributing to events of the friendly societies. The Darlington & Stockton Times mentions on 28th of the month, “Church Parade – On Sunday Evening the members of the New Shildon branch of the “Independent Order of Oddfellows” (Kingston Union) met at the Lodge Room, Black Bull Inn, and paraded the principal streets, accompanied by the Shildon Saxhorn Band, prior to attending divine services at St John’s Church where an eloquent sermon was preached to a large congregation by the Rev. Horatio Spurrier, M.A., vicar.” Clearly, there were townspeople and groups or societies still willing to request the services of the town’s elder band.

Midway through 1894 Wright & Round’s Brass Band News begins to receive correspondence from a writer under the pseudonym of ‘Ravenswood’ offering insight into the workings of brass bands in the Shildon district. Among these the writer includes occasional tit-bits about the New Shildon Saxhorn Band. The first features in the July 1894 issue of the paper, and explains how the band played ‘for the Auckland Park P. M.’ on the 17th of July and at the Bicycle Sports Club (now Shildon’s football ground) on the 30th of that month.

Between these two engagements, on the 21st of July to be precise, the annual Durham Miner’s Gala occurred; an event that we are told was the highlight of George’s annual calendar. In this year we’re told by the Darlington and Stockton Times that the Saxhorn Band led the miners and banners from New Shildon and Shildon Lodge Collieries on the walk into the city of Durham. Though the Gala had a very serious political point to it as a demonstration of the combined collective power of the miners of the Durham Coalfield, whom we should not forget had been bested by the coal owners only two years previous, for a lover of brass music such as George Allan was, it was an unprecedented opportunity to hear the other bands involved. After all the groups of miners had arrived at the racecourse, the speeches were made by MPs C Fenwick, J Havelock Wilson, John Burns and L A Atherley Jones, as well as Isadore Isaacs for the solicitors to the Durham Miners Association. Burns used his speech as an opportunity to give his views on reducing the daily working hours of the coal miners to eight hours. Then, as now, after the speeches, there would have been time for revelry. Perhaps George was again, as was reputed to be the case, inspired to compose again. A small handful of new titles appear in this year, including the marches “The Ovation” and “Sailing Homeward”, though the compositions that would make his name a lasting one in brass band circles were still ahead of him.

As the summer wore on, we see that on 11th August 1894 the Darlington & Stockton Times reported upon the Heighington Flower and Agricultural Show stating “A fine musical programme was supplied by the Shildon Saxhorn Band, and at the close dancing and sports were indulged in.” Ravenswood in his 1894 reports in the Brass Band News states that he had expected the Saxhorn Band to attend a contest that took place at Darlington, but that the band had not appeared. He had anticipated that they would have been among the prizes had they appeared and admonishes George with “Come George, rouse them up a bit, it will never do to miss chances like these.”

Later that month, though, we see the Darlington & Stockton Times include a report of the Shildon Flower Show that includes what appears to be a ‘dig’ at the Saxhorn Band. “The town prize band, under the efficient conductorship of Mr Harry Gibbon, gave a grand afternoon concert in their recreation ground on the Spoil Banks. In spite of the rather inclement weather a large company of delighted listeners were present. The collection in aid of the new instrument and tuition funds, realised the handsome sum of £3 10s. The Saxhorn band also gave a selection of music on the band-stand in the show field, and were fairly patronised.” The ‘prize band’ of course being a reference to the Temperance Band, of whom Harry Gibbon was day to day bandmaster aside from the business of contesting. Though the Temperance Band had the power to ‘delight’ it seems that the writer thought it was ‘fair’ of people to at least give the Saxhorn Band an audience. Ravenswood adds further insight into the emerging gap between the Saxhorn and Temperance bands when he writes in the Brass Band News “The New Shildon Saxhorn have not done much lately. I hear they are practicing for the Pelton contest, and I should like very well to see them in the prize list.  But what is all this nonsense I hear, George, about the Sunday concerts? Surely there is room for both bands to play: it looks very much like as if you did not like to see your neighbours get on so well. Away with such petty jealousy and strive to do ye likewise.”

The Saxhorn Band did, as Ravenswood predicted, take part in at least one band contest during 1894, which was on the 25th August at Pelton Fell. Darlington & Stockton Times and Ripon & Richmond Chronicle on 1st September 1894 proclaims,  “Success of Local Bands” “On Saturday at Pelton Fell, under Mr Allan’s able baton, the town Saxhorn Band took fourth place in the band contest, the test piece being “Flowers of Beauty,” arranged by Mr J Ord Hume.” The Pelton Fell contest at the Pelton Fell Recreation Ground was judged by the noted composer James Ord-Hume himself, and ten bands took part. In the same report it mentions how the town’s ‘Prize Band’ which was again doubtless the Temperance Band took two second place prizes at Tow Law that week.

An interesting quirk of this event is that it creates yet another a connection between George Allan and Thomas Bulch in that both composers had their bands judged by James Ord-Hume, albeit on entirely separate continents. Ord Hume would, as we shall later hear, make a journey to Australia and judge at a contest that Thomas Bulch had a hand in establishing. More on that later though.

As in many previous years, membership of the New Shildon Saxhorn Band wasn’t just about the music. There would occasionally be time for fun and games in the name of fundraising too. In September of 1894 the Darlington & Stockton Times explains one such occasion “Saxhorn Band – Under the auspices of this band, on Saturday afternoon, a football competition was held in a field near to Shildon Lodge Colliery, kindly lent for the occasion by Mrs S E McNaughton. Owing to scarcity of time, the competition was not finished, and the two Dinsdale and Shildon teams left in the competition will compete for premier honours on a future date at present unsettled. In the quoit handicap, the two prizes were divided between Bell, Wright, Matthews and Teesdale. The first prize in the throwing ball at wicket competition was won by Teesdale, and the second prize by R Foster. The proceeds were in aid of the new instrument fund, but owing to the small attendance present, only realised a small sum.”

AS the year drew to a close we see one further update from Ravenswood in Wright & Round’s paper, which tells us that the Saxhorn band were at the Witton Park quickstep contest on the 25th Oct but were not in the prizes. He also tells us that they were having a fundraising Christmas prize draw and wished them every success with that venture.

Regarding Thomas Edward Bulch’s year it seems that 1894 saw him busy as ever. he had ended 1893 with a contest, not for bands this time but for the best march submitted for brass or military band. The Launceston Examiner reported on the Tasmanian bandmaster C Trussell having been honoured in that contest. A more cynical mind might suspect that the competition may have been a veiled attempt to seek new materials to include in Bulch’s brass band journal; and why not.

There were also signs that Bulch had in mind to initiate a grand new band contest which would involve bands from Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand if it could be realised, take place in Melbourne. An article in the Southern Cross newspaper ponders on the idea. “The idea of an Intercolonial, Band Contest to be held in Melbourne, promulgated by Mr T. E. Bulch, music-publisher of that city, is being pretty fully discussed both here and in Australia. On the other side it is meeting with very much favour. In New Zealand some hold the opinion that it would be absurd even to think of a New Zealand band competing with such crack Australian bands as Sydney Permanent Artillery, Newcastle 4th Regiment, and others. But there is no doubt that if a representative band could be formed, in some such way as cricket and other teams are (and there is ample material to form such a band with) there is every reason to suppose N.Z. would carry off the palm: —and the prize money. We hope to hear of Mr Bulch’s efforts being carried to a successful issue.” It appears though as though the Antipodes were not yet ready for such a venture and it was not to happen in 1894, though one was held at Castlemaine on New Year’s day 1885 that does not seem to have much to do with Thomas Bulch at all.

Thomas was still active with his Operatic Band, on one evening in January providing a programme of six selections at a broader concert at the Carlton Tennis Club; and the Melbourne GPO Military Band as demonstrated at a picnic of the Post and Telegraph Department at Mornington whereupon “the Post Office Band under the conductorship of Mr Bulch discoursed some inspiriting music”. It was around this point that Thomas composed the march “Postman’s Parade” for the latter band; a march, along with Bulch’s “Phonograph” of 1892 proved very popular that year and which continued to be popular for many years. Thomas, not wanting to miss an opportunity to satisfy a market, created, as he often would, a variant of “Postman’s Parade” for piano which was reviewed thus “Speaking of music, I have received the ‘Postman’s Parade,’ composed by Mr T Bulch. It is dedicated to Mr John Springhalt, Superintendent of the Mail Branch G.P.O., Melbourne, and who is a well-known resident of Prahran. The Parade is written in two fourth time, the key being B flat. It is easy, tuneful, and graceful, throughout, and is likely to be a popular march for others besides Postmen. An excellent lithophotograph of Mr Springhall embellishes the initial page.”

Band programmes countrywide bulged with the compositions of Bulch and his pseudonyms or pieces he had arranged by others; and in Ballarat, his name continued to thrive through its association with the Model Band he once instructed, who undertook countless engagements in this year under the continued leadership of fellow New Shildonian James Scarffe.

Bulch’s co-venture of a brass band newspaper continued apace. The Australian Town & Country Journal 23 Jun 1894 includes a review of The Intercolonial Orchestral and Brass Band News, “Vol. 1, No. 2. This journal is intended to contain a mass of news respecting the progress of brass band and orchestral music in the colonies, and, judging from the number before us, it seems well adapted to accomplish that object. A supplement contains half a dozen original pieces of dance music arranged as solos for the cornet, but playable on other treble instruments. These compositions are by Messrs. T. E. Bulch, Harris, Godfrey Parker, and C. Trussell, all of whom are well-known musicians. The letterpress in the number before us is interesting, and the journal promises to be an advantage to music and musicians throughout the southern hemisphere.”

All of this in parallel to running a music store on Bourke Street was a great deal of work to maintain.

Thomas was also not shy in publicly coming forward with his views on a musical matter. A choir contest taking place at the Queen’s Festival in Melbourne in 1894 prompted him to put pen to paper to that editor of The Age of Melbourne (and, of course, that paper’s readership) “I was surprised when I read Dr Torrance’s letter in your issue today re the above competition. He states it is unreasonable to expect a judge, to point out the defects of the various competitors, or to state any reasons for giving any particular choir the first prize. He also states it is impossible to specify them to the satisfaction of the competitors. I say it is not impossible to capable judges, to turn in a report which could be easily understood, and it is their duty to do so. I have taken part in a great many competitions, both vocal and instrumental, in England and the colonies, and the judges in every case furnished a fully detailed report. I have always understood that competitions were intended for educational purposes, but if we are to accept Dr Torrance’s theory then there is nothing educational about them. In conclusion, I wish it to be understood that I am not questioning the judges’ decision, but merely pointing out a judge’s duty. — Yours &c., T E BULCH. 73 Bourke-street, 26th June.”

There is a direct, no-nonsense timbre to the letter and the clear air of someone stamping their authority on a matter. Naturally, the correspondence prompted a lengthy reply from Dr Torrence, dissecting Thomas’s critique, and ending “Let each choir come with a determination to do its best, not to be the best, and I think “education” will follow. Apologising for the length of this letter, which I trust may not bring down more vials of musical wrath upon my head, — Yours, &c., G W TORRANCE. Balaclava, 2nd July.”

On Friday the 24th August Bulch’s Operatic Band performed a short programme at the UFS Hall, Queensbury Street, Melbourne, as part of a Grand Vocal and Athletic Entertainment which was held for the benefit of a certain Mr P Matthews. It was around this time that Bulch published his patriotic overture “Austral” which was played by, among others, the St Joseph’s Band of Launceston, Tasmania, that summer. He was also commissioned to provide a quickstep as a test piece to the New Zealand Band Contest Committee for their 13th October quickstep contest. Quick to see an opportunity to leverage business Thomas arranged with his business partner from the Orchestral and Brass Band News, C Foret, to promise a 4 guinea gold medal to the band that accrued the most points in the playing of Bulch’s and Wright and Round’s test pieces at the contest, as well as a free copy of the paper to each of the bandsmen in the winning band in the quickstep contest. He also promised two guineas worth of music, from his stock, to the band that won the march contest.

In the end, Thomas submitted two test pieces. The selection “Reminiscences of Weber” based upon extracts of operas composed by Carl Maria von Weber, and the march “Dunedin Navals”. The latter would most likely have been a tribute to the Dunedin Naval Band of that city, which was a curious choice given that the same band would be competing in the contest. One New Zealand brass critic, with the cryptic pseudonym “Quaver” as was the trend with writers of the day, observed that the print quality of “Reminiscences of Weber” was not up to scratch and that some parts were unreadable in places. They anticipated that the piece later to be provided by Wright and Round would have their characteristic high print quality. That piece, when it did arrive, was “Schubert” by Henry Round. When the contest came around there was, as almost always feels to be the case, some controversy, with Timaru Garrison, Invercargill Garrison and Dunedin Engineer’s bands all being accused of fielding players that they seemed to have brought in to strengthen the bands for the contest.

November the 28th saw Thomas Bulch conduct his GPO Military Band at a special musical evening of the Australian Natives Association’s Prahran Branch at that district’s Town Hall. The event featured a number of the city and district’s musical societies and was initiated with the objective of raising money to provide literature for the blind.

Next for Thomas was a trip to Tasmania. he sailed on the SS Yolla, arriving on 11th December, which of course would be the height of the Australian Summer so not as bitter a time to be at sea as the British reader might perceive. We are given no documented explanation for the trip, but it was a relatively brief visit as he was back to conduct his GPO Military Band on the South Melbourne Esplanade near the promenade pier on Weds 19th December.

38. The Nautical Theory

The year 1895, by all reports, was a quieter year for George Allan back in New Shildon. Whether his band had been set back in any way, or whether it was simply the case that any engagements went unreported, we know little of what went on in his life in that year.

There is one report from the Northern Echo that tells of the 9th Annual Sports of the Shildon Amateur Cycling Club which had just been held and which had proved to be as popular and successful as its predecessors. The article adds that “the new Shildon Saxhorn Band, under the leadership of Mr G Allan, played popular selections and added greatly to the enjoyment of the afternoon.” One of the officials issuing prizes that day was Dr Smeddle who had presented George with his commemorative baton from the band two years earlier.

We do believe though that 1895 was around about the time when George seems to have stepped up his composing activity, and we see a number of pieces start to emerge as being performed that we have not seen in previous years. These include the marches “Bertha”, “No Retreat” and “Blytheville” as well as waltzes “Morning Breezes”, “Nevada”, and the overture “Cavalier”.

When looking at the titles of George Allan’s compositions there is something of a random topical nature that differs to Bulch’s approach in entitling his works. Thomas Bulch’s titles are often named for significant events, such as “The Battle of Eureka” where the prospectors of the Australian goldfields came under siege during their dispute with the governor’s authorities at the Eureka Stockade in 1854, a legend he would have heard much about on his arrival in Creswick, or valiant and militaristic sentiments, military units, places he had visited, bands that he had connections to or places of contests that he had some involvement in. He even named a piece after the Intercolonial Brass Band News after a publication he had a business interest in. So far as we know, “Nevada” was never a place that George Allan experienced, and as far as we can tell, though it sounds like a place, there has never been a place called “Blytheville” in the United Kingdom. All the signs indicate that by this point in his life George was not especially well travelled, and would have struggled to do so by his own financial means. There is a Blytheville in Arkansas, in the United States which was founded in 1879, but while it is a significant city now it would have been of little particular relevance when George Allan was composing in the mid-1890s.

However, there is something in the title “Blytheville” that may offer us a clue as to how George Allan arrived at some of the titles for his pieces, and something that might indicate what else in life he found inspiring. Britain at the end of the Victorian era was famous for its reputation as a maritime nation, and parts of the North as well as Scotland particularly famed for shipbuilding. It just happens that there was an iron screw steamer called Blytheville which was launched by William Gray and Co. of West Hartlepool on the 28th July 1877, two years before before the founding of the American city that we mentioned. She was initially owned by a Mr B Brewis of Darlington, close to New Shildon, and ‘christened’ in name by the owner’s daughter. Coincidence? Perhaps; but when you consider that Allan’s list of titles also includes “Elmville” and see that the William Gray company launched the screw steamer Elmville from the same works in 1889, though this time for a different Sunderland based owner, you see the beginnings of a pattern. Follow that thread and you discover that so many of George Allan’s composition titles correspond to ships, sometimes more than one, right up to some of his later and greatest marches that include “Knight Templar”, “Senator” and “The Wizard”, at which we will arrive later in the story.

A further note on “Blytheville” is that from an issue of Wright and Round’s Brass Band News of July 1895 we can see that the composition was featured in an issue of J Greenwood and Son’s Northern Brass and Military Band Journal at around the same time. In the advertisement, it was described as “A first class march. Good show for everyone. Sure to please”. It was still being advertised as available as part of this journal in January of 1896. This publication was based at 42 Somerset Street in South Shields on the north-east coast of England. We understand the composition to be earlier than 1896 as there is a reference to the piece having been played by Dennison’s Band on the 13th April 1895, which occurred coincidentally at Marine Park in South Shields.

We must be cautious in presenting this theory for as we say it could simply be a mighty coincidence. However, it does present some convincing arguments in its favour. Shildon is close enough to the ports of the North-East coast for George to have seen all these names on ships there as they visited those ports. Though he may not have been especially well travelled, through constraints relating to his occupation and income, and may not have been for example to “Battle Abbey” in Hastings, or “Nevada” in the United States; the ship by the same name may well have come to him. He was a blacksmith engaged in engineering and manufacturing in an era when great technological advances were being made in naval engineering, and may well have had access to publications via his membership of the Mechanics Institute that featured articles on these ships. Perhaps it was even just that each composition he created was not inspired by anything other than just how it sounded and he began to name them after ships for want of any other ideas on how to name them. It would be dangerous to suggest that, should this theory be anywhere near correct, we could, therefore, assume that all of his compositions were named on this basis. Yet I do feel there is a relevance in this theory, and I do hope that though it is admittedly only speculation it reveals something of what made George Allan tick aside from music.

39. The Roving Adjudicator

On the 30th January 1895 boat called the SS Hygeia left the railway pier at Port Melbourne for a moonlight pleasure excursion down the bay. Entertaining the passengers on board, through a performance of selections and dance music were Thomas Bulch and his GPO Military Band. Tickets were 1s and 6d each with proceeds going to the organisers, the St George’s Christian Doctrine Society of Carlton. The 1st February saw another performance by the same band on the South Melbourne Esplanade. Then on Wednesday the 14th they gave “a number of excellent musical selections” in McGregor’s band rotunda, Beaconsfield Parade. Saturday the 23rd February then saw again the annual picnic of the Post Office and Telegraph Department at Portsea, for which, of course, the go-to band was the GPO Military Band, who did not disappoint in their delivery of promenade and dance music. The band returned to the Esplanade on the 13th March. and on the 5th April, the military band gave their final performance of that summer’s season once again at the rotunda on Beaconsfield Parade.

With those engagements duly fulfilled, Thomas was able to concentrate on furthering his name as a contest adjudicator. A contest was due to be held in Queensland as part of the Bundaberg Agricultural and Pastoral Society annual exhibition on the 17th and 18th of July. Prizes totalling £100 in value were offered and by early May it was announced that Thomas “Professor of Music and publisher of the Intercolonial Brass and Military Band Journal” had been engaged to act as judge.

To get to Bundaberg it wasn’t practical to travel by land, so Thomas boarded a ship from Melbourne named the Maranoa on the 11th July heading for Brisbane where he arrived on the 14th, and onwards to the city of Bundaberg from there.

We turn to the Gympsie Times and Mary River Mining Gazette of 23rd July for a narrative of the contest republished from the Bundaberg Star, and Thomas’s subsequent activities there. The reporter’s account of his speech particularly reinforces what we know to be Thomas’s regard for Temperance values and professional standards.

“The Bundaberg Band Contest. The Band Contest was continued throughout Thursday, and excited great interest. The result in popular parlance was foreknown, and all felt assured that Gympie was to bear away the blue ribbon. The judge’s decision proved that the vox populi was again correct for he placed the bands as follows: —Oddfellows (Gympie) .. 140 points; Town Band (Gympie) .. 140 points; Town Band (Bundaberg) .. 125 points; Advance (Maryborough) .. 105 points; Federal (Lismore, N.S.W.) .. 90 points. These were out of a possible maximum of 200 points. The two tieing bands played off a selection again, and the Oddfellows won by a few points. The Gympie Town played in this event, under great disadvantages, as rain was falling heavily at the time injuring their music sheets, and the noise of the sideshows on another occasion compelled them to stop. The win was a popular one, the visitors being heartily cheered. In giving his decision Mr Bulch congratulated the Society on the contest. All the bands were a credit to the towns, and compared very favourably with bands in Victoria. There was really very little difference between the competing bands. The cornet and bombardon playing was excellent. He said the men altogether were the finest lot of bandsmen he had ever come in contact with. Not one was drunk, not one used bad language. He had come here to judge, and he had given honest decisions Ito the best of his ability. (Applause.) He highly complimented the Lismore band on their pluck in coming so far to compete. (Cheers were given for the Lismore band.) He thanked the people of Bundaberg for the uniform kindness be had received at their hands.”

On his return journey Thomas had to travel via Gympie where he made a brief stop. “Mr Bulch, the adjudicator, arrived on Gympie by the mail-tram on Saturday, en route for Melbourne, and breaking bis journey here the members of both local bands at once decided to entertain him at a smoke concert. They mustered in good strength in the Exchange Room after the evening call; a number of friends of the bands were also present. Mr J . L. Mathews, in the unavoidable absence of Mr Smyth, presided, and in a neat speech proposed Mr Bulch’s health. He congratulated the Gympie bands on their success at Bundaberg, and said it was all the more gratifying from the fact that their guest’s decision confirmed the judgment given by Mr Charlsworth at Gympie about which so much fuss had been made. Mr Bulch, in reply, remarked that he had been treated most hospitably, both at Bundaberg and Gympie, and his trip had been a most enjoyable one; Gympie had two good bands, and there was no doubt they had conducted themselves like gentlemen right through the contest. He could assure the assemblage it took him all his time to decide between them. He came to the conclusion each day to give them the same number of points, and that the fairest thing to do was to require them to ‘ play off,’ and in ‘playing off’ there, was no doubt that the band which received the first prize played best; they played better than they had done previously, whilst their rivals did not play quite so well as they had done before. He hoped that if they had another competition on Gympie they would not allow hurdy-gurdies and such distracting noises as were allowed at Bundaberg whilst the music competitions were on. His remarks on the playing would be sent to Bundaberg in the course of a fortnight, and might probably be of value to them on some points. Songs and recitations followed, and a merry two hours’ jollification was brought to a close by the honouring of the toast of the chairman, which was proposed by Mr W M Jones (bandmaster of the Gympie Town Band), and supported by Mr J Snell (bandmaster of the Oddfellows’ Band).”

Thomas returned to Melbourne on the ship Eurimbla, which departed on 30th July and arriving on the 1st August. His overall stay in Bundaberg had been quite a long one. The GPO Military Band continued to fulfil engagements in his absence under the deputised conductor’s baton of one Mr D Rose.

True to his word Thomas despatched a full and frank report of his reasons for the soring to the organisers which was duly published in the press for all to see. It was very detailed and offers praise and criticism in unmistakably clear terms, highlighting moments of poor tuning, poor adherence to the spirit of the music at times and perceived probable poor instrument quality. He does lavish praise where he felt it was due and concludes with a statement of protest at the organisers having allowed bagpipe playing, hurdy-gurdy and bass drums from the side shows to be played during the contest.

The beginning of September saw Thomas being one of the two ‘Professors of Music’ engaged alongside E Rawlins and Mr W Thonrnthwaite to act as three judges at the band contest between the City and Garrison Bands of Tasmania. Rawlins came with a letter of recommendation from the renowned British bandmaster, Charles Godfrey, whom of course was also familiar to Thomas Bulch from his brief contesting career in England. As it transpired, however, Thomas had been unable to make travel arrangements that would see him arrive in Tasmania in time for the contest, and he was replaced on the date by W Tenyson Bates of Hobart, Tasmania.

Thomas would have another opportunity to travel however, as the organisers of the Australiasian Axemens Association made plans for their annual Axeman’s Carnival to be held in November. It was recommended to the organising committee that they cable Mr Bulch to invite him to adjudicate.

Cable-based telegraphy, though considered a primitive means to communicate now, enabled relatively rapid contact to be made over long distances during the late Victorian era and was particularly useful in connecting separate landmasses by deploying undersea cables. New Zealand had been connected with Australia by cable since 1876, though it was often unreliable as strong tides scoured the protective surfacing of the cable requiring it to be relaid periodically. The cable had just been relaid, in 1895, though a second cable had also been deployed across the Tasmanian Sea between Sydney and Wellington in 1890.

Despite this speedy means of conveying messages being available, the committee reported in the Launceston Examiner of 29th October that no reply had been received from Mr Bulch. The Chairman resolved to write to a friend in Melbourne immediately and have that friend contact Thomas to find out if he would accept the engagement, though as a backup plan the secretary was advised to write to several other professional musicians on the same subject. By the 2nd November however the matter was resolved and as the Wellington Times read, “Regarding the Band Contest the services of Mr T E Bulch, of Victoria, have bees secured as judge, for the sum of £15. The appointment should give satisfaction to the whole of the bands entered for the contest, aa Mr. Bulch is eminently qualified for the position.”

Thomas set out for Launceston aboard the Pateena on 21st November. Again as with his trip to Bundaberg earlier in the year, he travelled alone. Presumably, his wife Eliza took care of both family and Melbourne based business affairs in her husband’s absence. The ship made land again on the 22nd whereafter Thomas was entertained at a sacred concert by the Launceston Garrison band before setting out for Ulverstone.

The Launceston Examiner recounts the event of the contest. “The first night’s contest of the country band competition was held this evening in Crawford’s store. The building was well filled. The weather was fine, and visitors from all parts were present. The excursion train was well patronised. Eight bands had entered; Scottsdale, Stanley, and Porter’s did not compete, the latter out of respect to the memory of the late bandmaster, Mr J F. Porter. The arrangements for the contest were carried out by Mr C Findley, Mr Bulch acting as judge in the enclosed compartment. Each band was loudly applauded, and the following programme was gone through -Ulverstone Band (P. D. McLaren, conductor), “Evening thought,”; Lefroy (J. Tevelein) “Lurline”; Zeehan (J. Caddie), “Masaniella“; Wynyard (F. Harper), “Wales”; Devonport (J. Henkel), “Austral.” Selections were played afterwards by each band, but not for competition.”

A second day was of course to follow, and following their rendition of “Ever true” the following evening Thomas Bulch judged the Zeehan band to be winners, and Ulverstone the runners up. The decision was popular and received with much applause from the spectators and supporters of the various bands present. Thomas arrived back in Melbourne aboard the Pateena on the 3rd December.

He would not be at home for too long. After a Christmas celebration and before Thomas’s birthday, he and C Foret of the Orchestral and Brass Band News boarded the Arawatta bound for Sydney to travel to Wollonging which was just south of that city to judge at contest yet again.

40. Carl Volti and the March that led to Matilda

At this point, we need to take a look at an aspect of Thomas Bulch’s life for which he is perhaps best known, which centres upon events around the year 1895, but perhaps have their roots in Thomas Bulch’s youth.

We know from earlier in our recounting the life of Thomas Bulch that he was not only familiar with multiple brass instruments but, as a lad before his emigration, also learned to play piano and violin. In learning this and in doing so day by day, as well as venturing into composing for those instruments, he would have been exposed to traditional music for those instruments as well as newer pieces composed or arranged by musicians some of whom would become his peers and contemporaries. Exposure to such a broad range of music would have given him a wealth of knowledge and familiarity with some of the most popular pieces of the era, and of days gone by, giving him much inspiration to draw upon. With the brass band scene being relatively new when Thomas Bulch was first composing, he, and many other composers would from time to time set about arranging versions of traditional tunes but for a full brass band.

One such piece to undergo such transformation by the pen of Thomas Bulch was the traditional Scottish song “Thou Bonny Woods of Criagielea” for which words had originally been written by Robert Tannahill of Paisley in Scotland and set to a tune by James Barr. It was created prior to Tannahill’s death in 1810 so had been around for a long time as a traditional piece.

How it came to the attention of Thomas Bulch leaves us uncertain, but a theory with significant probability is that the link was created through the work of Carl Volti. This is a name that has long been confused as being a pseudonym of Thomas Bulch, though we now know them to be two distinctly different individuals and know something of the real Carl Volti. The name Carl Volti sounds so much like a name that a reputed wordsmith like Thomas Bulch would have chosen. It has the exotic air of foreignness rather like Henri Laski (which sounds both Polish and French), and of course the word ‘volti’ has a musical meaning – it is an instruction to turn the page (of music), often used with the term ‘subito’ meaning quickly.

It should be unsurprising to us then to learn that the name Carl Volti was indeed a pseudonym; but not Thomas’s. There are others that had been similarly misinterpreted to be names used by Thomas Bulch, but we shall look at those in a later chapter.

Carl Volti was born Archibald Milligan in Glasgow on the 29th January 1848, which makes him a decade and a half older than Bulch. One source tells us that his father, and several uncles on his mother’s side, were fiddlers. One of them being George Hood who was at that time known as one of the best fiddlers in Scotland. We’re told that the young Archie was greatly influenced by his uncle’s visits to the Milligan house. His first instrument, reportedly, was the tin whistle. He and his friends started a whistle band, with Archibald being the leader and teacher. Having exhausted the possibilities of the tin whistle, Archibald’s father, James, had his old fiddle fixed up for the youngster, and upon it the first piece he learned was “The High Road To Linton”

Already we see similarities between Milligan and Bulch, in that both learned violin as youngsters and would come to compose for that instrument. Though revealed in a different context and execution it seems both were keen ‘whistlers’ too. Both also taught piano.

Volti/Milligan was a music teacher, and perhaps one with a curious sense of humour or mischief. In the Glasgow Evening Citizen of Friday 21 August 1868, both Archibald Milligan and Carl Volti are advertising their teaching services in the same column of the newspaper, the respective adverts being barely an inch apart. Milligan advertises as teaching piano, harmonium and violin at his address in Eglinton Street, While Volti requests that his prospective students enrol at 1 Renfield Street for violin and piano lessons. The addresses given aren’t too far apart, but interestingly they are on opposite sides of the River Clyde that cuts through the city.

This is possibly explained by an advert from the previous year, promoting one his (Volti’s) compositions. “The Citizen Galop. By Carl Volti. John B. Galbraith, 1 Renfield Street. This “sparkling galop” is increasing in popularity every day.”

As it happens, the publishing of “The Citizen Galop” was a milestone for both Archibald Milligan and Carl Volti – and you could say 1867 was the year Carl Volti was ‘born’. An interview with Milligan in the Falkirk Herald of 17th November 1909 reveals a great deal about Volti’s origins, and confirms indisputably that Milligan was indeed Volti.

“Despite the wealth of melody that Scotland can call her own, there have been times (says writer in the “Weekly Welcome”) when it seemed as if our grand old airs were to be superseded by modern inventions, and allowed to be forgotten altogether. To-day there is little evidence of such a national calamity. We have again awakened the value of this heritage of song that our forefathers have bequeathed to us, and to no-one are we more indebted for reawakening the lore of Scottish music than Carl Volti.

His life-work has really been to foster a love for Scottish music, and his success can be well gauged by the popularity of his “Highland Wreaths” —a series of Scottish selections that is known to every amateur orchestra in the country, and which is called upon to provide items for the programme at every church social and Saturday evening concert from John o’ Groat’s to Galloway.

From his pen have come practically the only Scottish selections suitable for amateur bands, and it is often matter of comment amongst fiddlers that it should have been left to a foreigner perform such a valuable service to Scottish music.

Despite his cognomen, however, the gentleman in question is Glasgow boy born and bred, and has spent the last fifty years of his life teaching music within a few minutes walk from the Jamaica Bridge.

My, real name is Milligan,” remarked Carl Yolti in the course a crack I had with him the other day in connection with his work on behalf of Scottish music, but I was forced to change it to get the public interested my musical publications. It is rather amusing how I came call myself Volti. The first composition published, “The Undine Polka”, bore my own name, “A. Milligan”, but it was not a success. A music seller in the city suggested that the commonplace name of the composer was responsible for that, and advised me to publish under a nom-de-plume.

I thought the idea a good one, and started to manufacture a name on the spot. Noticing a copy Carl Czerny s 101 exercises for the piano standing on a desk, I asked him what he thought of Carl for a start. ‘Capital!’ he said. ‘But what next?’ ‘I don’t know; let’s try the musical dictionary.’ I picked up a copy that was lying on the counter, and went over the half of it without finding anything to please me. Impatiently turning to the last page the word ‘Volti’ caught my eye. ‘What you think of Volti?’ I cried. ‘Just the very thing. Carl Volti will be a splendid name.’

It was decided to use it for next composition, ‘The, Citizen Galop,’ and whether the name did it or not, this piece turned out a big success, and could be found in almost every house that had a piano.”

Under the persona of Volti, Milligan seems to have been quite active on the musical performance circuit as a number of newspaper articles attest. Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette – 25th Nov 1879 – At a concert in the Freeland School, Bridge-of-Weir, “The instrumental pieces were performed by Carl Volti, of Glasgow, and a select party of his advanced violin pupils, consisting of several violinists and one violincello.”

Volti’s compositions were quite extensively published, particularly by the Glasgow based publisher James S Kerr. Though his pieces were available individually they also often featured in books featuring multiple tunes, of which Kerr published at least nine; “Kerr’s Collection of Merry Melodies for the Piano”, “Kerr’s First/Second/Third/Fourth Collections of Merry Melodies”, “Kerr’s Caledonian Collection”, “Kerr’s Collection of Reels and Strathspeys”, “Kerr’s Violin Instructor and Irish Folk-Song Album”, “Kerr’s Thistle Collection”, “Kerr’s Modern Dance Album”. More than 35 pieces by Volti are included in the first of those volumes.

This understanding of Carl Volti being Milligan’s creation is reconfirmed after his death by the probate records from 1919 which communicate the following: “MILLIGAN, Archibald, (Carl Volti), 20 Abbotsford Place, Glasgow. Died 5th January 1919 at Glasgow, testate. Confirmation granted at Glasgow, 12th March, to Sarah Juliet Sommerville or Milligan, 20 Abbotsford Place, aforesaid, his widow, Executrix nominated in will or deed, dated 24th March 1893 and recorded in Court Books of Commissariot of Lanark 6 March 1919. Value of estate £1479, 16s 9d.”

What’s notable there is that his musical pseudonym is ‘officially’ recorded for the record. It seems to have been that much a part of his life and identity. He seems to have been ‘Carl Volti’ for most of his life. So, how was it that many people have misunderstood Bulch to be Volti?

A hint towards the answer may lie in a document that I located on the National Library of Australia’s ‘Trove’ site; an item entitled “Kerr’s collection of latest dance music. Book VIII”. As with most of Carl Volti’s music this collection was published by James S Kerr of Glasgow – in this case in 1920 (the year after Volti’s death). A quick glance through the contents of this 67 page book, reads partly like a ‘who’s who’ of names associated with the Thomas Edward Bulch story in that it features T E Bulch himself, and Henry Laski, and yet another name we know to have been a Thomas Bulch pseudinym. that of Godfrey Parker.

1. “My Polly”: waltz on Rose Smith’s popular song /​ composed by Henry Laski ; arranged by Alfred C. Wood
2. “Adelina”: schottische /​ composed by Godfrey Parker ; arranged by Alfred C. Wood
3. “Ever True”: waltz /​ composed by D. Miller Wilson ; arranged by Alfred C. Wood
4. “The Village Festival”: march /​ Carl Volti
5. “The Cap and Bells”: polka /​ Rose Smith ; arr. by A.C. Wood
6. “Clarice”: mazurka /​ composed by Godfrey Parker ; arranged by Alfred C. Wood
7. “Myrine”: valse /​ Henri Laski ; arr. by Alfred C. Wood
8. “Tit Bits”: quadrille /​ C. d’Esteve ; arr. by Alfred C. Wood
9. “Les Militaires”: valse /​ composed by Rose Smith ; arranged by Alfred C. Wood
10. “Barn Dance”: /​ by Carl Volti
11. “The Blue Bell Polka”: /​ arranged by Alfred C. Wood ; composed by F. Stanley
12. “Dreams of The Past”: valse /​ arranged by Carl Volti ; composed by Charles Le Thiere
13. “The Melbourne”: march /​ Carl Volti
14. “The Australian Lily”: valse /​ arranged by Carl Volti ; composed by Leonard Gautier
15. “The Cyclist’s Polka”: /​ arranged by Alfred C. Wood ; composed by D.M. Wilson
16. “Nina”: valse /​ Alberto Zelman
18. “Thelma”: waltz /​ composed by Franz Garna ; arranged by Alfred C. Wood
19. “Flight from Pompeii”: galop /​ E. de Beaupuis
20. “Orynthia”: gavotte /​ Carl Volti
21. “Minuet (à l’antique)”: /​ E. de Beaupuis
22. “Assembly”: grand march /​ Carl Volti
23. “The Postman’s Parade”: quick march /​ T. E. Bulch
24. “Les Fleurs d’Australie”: valse /​ arranged by Tom Howard ; composed by Henri Laski
25. “Irresistible”: gavotte /​ E. de Beaupuis
26. “Verona”: valse /​ Alexander Law
27. “Sweet Dreams”: valse /​ composed by Rose Smith
28. “Happy Thoughts”: schottische /​ T. E. Bulch
29. “Jolly Hop”: polka /​ Jules Renardi.

Readers with some familiarity with Thomas Bulch will also have spotted the name Charles Le Thiere in that list of names; a name also understood by some to have been a pseudonym that Bulch used. However, we now know that Charles Le Thiere despite genuinely being a pseudonym, like Cark Volti it was not one that belonged to Thomas Bulch.

Our understanding of the connection between T E Bulch and Carl Volti (as well as Charles le Thiere, and another, Theo Bonheur) was not that he personally claimed these pseudonyms, but that he arranged a number of pieces by these composers for brass band. We know of course that Bulch was talented and diligent editor and arranger and was employed by music publishers in Australia in that capacity. Thomas’s grandson Eric explained to us that his uncle, Thomas’s son, was incredulous as to how Thomas himself often did not receive credit for his arrangements. It’s possible even that in arranging pieces for brass and applying the additional scope for polyphony that this brings a composer like Bulch might have been able to introduce touches that were personal to his own style making some of the pieces feel more reminiscent of his own work as well as that of the original composer.

The point that we are arriving at is that among the traditional Scottish pieces of music that Carl Volti rendered for piano and violin was a piece called “Craigielea Polka” that was based upon the melody from Tannahill and Barr’s “Thou Bonny Woods of Craigielea”. It was, therefore, a piece that Bulch would most likely have had ample opportunity to have become familiar as a pianist and violinist; and theoretically it had a significant probability of having been the inspiration for a piano march called “The Crigielee March”, a deliberate different spelling of the name, which was published as being the work of Godfrey Parker. We know that Godfrey Parker was definitely Thomas Bulch.

As always, and not wanting to miss an opportunity to maximise income from a good piece of marching music, Thomas also issued it as a brass band arrangement. Why the change of spelling from Craigielea to Craigielee? We can only guess, but it’s worth observing perhaps that on Lewisham Road in the Windsor district of Melbourne, leading south from Prahran where Thomas Bulch had settled initially in Melbourne there was a house named Craigielee; home in the 1880s to a family called Howden. There was another just a few streets away in Bendigo Street, Prahran. Perhaps one of these had caught Thomas’s eye one day and reminded him of the tune. Pure speculation, and nothing more. Looking at the Australian newspapers we can also see contemporary references to the original song by Tannahill and Barr that use the same spelling, so it’s equally likely to have been simply following suit.

The first mention in any newspaper that I have found of the march “Craigielee” by Godfrey Parker is in the Ballarat Star of 17 September 1891 where the piece is being played by the Sebastopol Brass Band under their bandmaster Mr S N Prout. Again this should not be a surprise given that Bulch was a Ballarat resident at the time, and that the programme also featured “Jolly Sailors” and “Oppossum Hunt” by T E Bulch, plus a march “Whitworth” attributed to Robert Malthouse, one of the four Malthouse brothers to have emigrated from New Shildon prior to Thomas Bulch, and which it is suspected may have owed much to Bulch in its composition. Not only that but the programme also included the overture “Fair Maid of Perth” which in all likelihood was a Bulch arrangement from one of Volti’s piano and violin compositions.

To come back to 1895, which was the point we had reached in our story, by then Godfrey Parker’s “Craigielee” would have been widely owned by brass bands across Australia, and possibly become a little out of date. However, and appropriately given how it had been derived in the first place, it was about to receive yet another makeover; though this time it would not be Thomas Bulch applying the treatment.

On band that still occasionally played “Craigielee” were engaged to provide entertainment at the horse racing meetings at the racecourse in Warrnambool. On one occasion there was present to hear it one music hall artiste of the day called Christina MacPherson. She writes down what happened next in a letter, penned many years later to a Dr Wood. “Dear Sir, In reading your impressions about music in Australia I was interested to note that you had mentioned the song “Waltzing Matilda” and through it might interest you to hear how ‘Banjo’ Paterson came to write it. he was on a visit to Winton, North Queensland, and I was staying with my brothers about 80 miles from Winton. We went into Winton for a week or two and one day I played (from ear) a tune which I had heard played by a band at the races in Warrnambool, a country town in the Western District of Victoria. Mr Paterson asked what it was. I could not tell him, and he then said he thought he could write some lines to it. He then and there wrote the first verse. We tried it and thought it went well, so he then wrote the other verses. I might add that in a short time everyone in the district was singing it. There are always numbers of men travelling about the country, some riding and some on foot and they are usually given rations at the various stations that they come to, but in Queensland the distances are so great that they help themselves without asking. On this occasion my brother and Mr Paterson were out riding and they came to a waterhole (or billabong) and found the skin of a newly killed sheep, all that was left by a swagman, and he made note of this incident. After Mr Paterson returned to Sydney he wrote and asked me to send him the tune. I am no musician but did my best, and later on he told me he had sent it to a musical friend of his who thought it would make a good bush song. It was included in the Student’s Song Book, and was frequently sung at the Community Singing. I hope I have not bored you about this. Yours sincerely. Miss C R MacPherson. PS I presume that you know that “Waltzing Matilda” means “carrying a swag” and “jumbuck” is the natives’ name for a sheep.”

Christina was the daughter of the owner of the Dagworth sheep station at Winton, which was where “Banjo” Paterson had been staying during his visit. The piece of music Christina MacPherson had heard the band play was Godfrey Parker’s “Craigielee”; and so, in this way, Thomas Edward Bulch had quite unknowingly, and quite indirectly, contributed something to the bush song that was to eventually become considered as Australia’s unofficial national anthem. When you listen to Craigielee and make allowances for Miss MacPherson’s having had to re-render it from memory, it is clearly similar in melody, and very catchy. It’s common enough knowledge now that the song has become ingrained in the folklore of Australia, with there even being a dedicated museum in Winton about it and its creation.

The people of Shildon who know a little of Thomas Edward Bulch will say to you, when asked, “Oh, he’s the man who wrote “Waltzing Matilda”, right?” Of course, Thomas Bulch can no more claim that than could James Barr and Robert Tannahill, or even Carl Volti. “Waltzing Matilda” is clearly the work of Christina MacPherson and Banjo Paterson. But it could be claimed that Thomas Bulch, through the composing persona of Godfrey Parker, was a catalyst. Had he not arranged the march, Christina MacPherson might not have played it to Banjo Paterson who then might not have been inspired to find the words to fit it. Given that he had made note of the event of the sheepskin and the billabong it’s possible that a song would have emerged sooner or later, but that it may well have sounded very different and received an equally different reception. Thus Thomas Bulch can still justifiably lay claim to some credit in the story. Though, as we are trying to show through putting his overall story on pages in this way we are of the opinion that there are many more things he should be known for, not least of which is his influence on band contesting and professionalism in Australia and New Zealand.

41. New Zealand

Readers of the January 1896 edition of Wright and Round’s Brass Band News back in England received a brief update on Thomas Bulch’s progress, derived from his own newspaper The Intercolonial Brass Band News. In a broad update about the improving state of contesting in the antipodes it stated that “Mr T E Bulch, the well known composer, is frequently judging.” There’s every probability that this news reached George Allan back in Shildon.

Around about the same time, Thomas was preparing for his next contest. The band contest in Wollongong commenced on New Year’s Day 1896 and ran on till Thursday 3rd January. A detailed account describing proceedings was published in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate.

“WOLLONGONG BAND CONTEST. The greatest interest was taken by the residents of Wollongong and the district in the band contest which was commenced there on New Year’s Day and finished on Thursday. The attendance numbered fully 3000, and although the following day was not a holiday, there were considerably over 1500 persons present. The judge (Mr T. E. Bulch) was located in a closed tent some distance away from the competitors, so that he could not possibly see any of the bands. His notes were made as each band played, and then placed in locked boxes which were not opened till the conclusion of the programme. The proceedings were inaugurated by a procession, which was formed in the following order :-Parramatta Model, Barkel’s Model, 4th Regiment, Gympie, Canterbury Engineers, Newtown, Wollongong, Naval Artillery, and Bathurst. The bands were despatched. at intervals, and after playing at the intersection of Crown and Corrimal streets were dismissed. The 4th Regiment played the “Cyclone,” and Barkel’s model “Chef d’Oeuvre” on the march. On arrival at the ground lots were drawn to decide which band was to play first, and fortune favoured the 4th Regiment. The selection was, “William Tell”, which was played admirably. Then came the Gympie Band with “Il Lombardi”; Naval Artillery, “Verdi”; Bathurst District, “Les Hugenots”; Newtown, “Roberto il Diavolo”; Wollongong, “Honoria”; Parramatta, “Verdi”, and Barkel’s Model with “Ernani”. The above pieces were the selections made by the bands themselves. The second day the test piece, “Anna Bolena”, was played by all the bands, and the result of the contest was as follows: 4th Regiment, 165 points; Newton, 148 points; Bathurst, 125 points; Gympie, 124 points; Parramatta, 124 points; Barkel’s Model, 123; Naval Artillery, 108; and Wollongong, 105. The 4th Regiment were thus easy winners. For the selection “William Tell” they scored 95 points, and 70 for the test selection. They therefore won the first prize of £60, and the conductor (Mr Barkel) a gold medal. The second prize of £380 goes to Newtown, and the third of £10 to the Bathurst Band. The Gympie and Parramatta bands each scored 124 points, and the fourth prize of £5 was divided. The 4th Regiment were also successful in carrying off the first prize of a brass drum and a year’s subscription to the “Band Directory of Band News” for a waltz or set of quadrilles scoring 45 points, whilst Barkel’s took second place with 38 points.”

“The march contest -was won by Wollongong, 101 points, Bathurst 100 points, Naval Artillery 98 points, Newtown 98 points, 4th Regiment 97 points, Gympie 92 points, Barkel’s Model 92 points, and Parramatta 91points.”

“At the conclusion of the contest, a meeting of band representatives was held, when it was decided to hold an intercolonial band contest in Sydney. Mr J Palmer, of Sydney, was appointed secretary, and Mr T Mellor treasurer. The following district secretaries were appointed: Mr W Armstrong, Sydney; Mr Bonnet, Northern District; Mr P Kennedy, South Coast; Mr Williams, Western District; Messrs. Short and Piper, Queensland; Messrs Foret and Bulch, Victoria; South and West Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand.”

So it seemed that Thomas’s grand dream of an Intercolonial band contest that would pitch the best bands of each of the Australasian colonies against one another for the title of best brass band of the colonies. What’s more Thomas and his business partner, Mr Foret, had taken the responsibility for arranging participation for the regions not represented otherwise by the committee. You would expect that Thomas would have considered that he had enough to arrange, but his personal drive and ambition to progress the project were too high a stake for him not to make this investment.

At the conclusion of the contest in Wollongong, which included a vocal category as well as brass bands, the Mayor of Wollongong heaped praise on Bulch and Foret for the way they had conducted the contest. “It was needless for him to speak in terms of praise of Mr Bulch, that gentleman’s acknowledged musical ability, his spirit of fair play, his many manly attributes of character, made him a judge in whom bandsmen had implicit faith, and his decision on this occasion had given satisfaction.” On the 6th of January Bulch and Foret left Wollongong by train, confident that their plan was now in motion and had a team behind it. Then on the 7th of January, they boarded the Aramac, bound for Melbourne.

There is an item of correspondence that was subsequently published in the Cumberland Free Press in which Thomas communicates words of encouragement to George O’Shea, bandmaster of the Paramatta Model Band. It gives away something of Thomas’s character. “Dear Sirs,— In reply to yours of the 8th inst, I am surprised to hear that anyone should think your band not eligible to compete against such bands as the 4th Regiment, Newtown, and Bathurst. Had your band played a better selection for the open test I have not the slightest doubt you would have been placed in a better position. Your hand gave the best interpretation of ‘Anna Bolena,’ but was deficient in quality of tone to the 4th Regiment. I can only confirm my remarks at Wollongong, viz., that you will make a name for both yourself and the hand in the near future. In conclusion, I would advise your band to stick to practice and show your friends at the next contest that you have a perfect right to be classed as one of the best bands in Australia. With kind regards.”

And of course after each contest Thomas continued to issue each band with a written critique of how he viewed their performance, many of these would be published in the press, but I include only one here as an example so that the reader can see the tone of comment, and Thomas’s clear technical familiarity with the structure of music. “CONTEST SELECTION, “ANNA BOLENA” No. 6. — Larghetto: very fair opening but basses not in tune, in bars 27 to 30 sustained notes out of tune. Moderato’: tempo too quick, but played fairly well. Poco Piu Mosso: very good, but rall. overdone. Larghetto: cornet very good, but one of the basses getting wrong notes in bars 26 and 27, soprano flat in bars 52 to 56. Moderato: crescendo not attended to, but band plays nice and smart. Larghetto: cornet gets nice tone but plays amateurish, crescendo very good, cornet poor in cadenza and missed top C. Alio: tempo too quick and band plays with poor tone and style, wrong notes observed in bars 51 and 52. Larghetto: euphonium plays with poor style and accompaniment, could be much better, cornet plays with poor style and tone, evidently nervous. Alio Vivace: very smart, but not without a few faults in intonation. Piu Mosso: a shade too quick for this band and tone very brassy. This band hasn’t the quality of tone of some of the previous bands, not so good as Nos. 1, 3 and 4, but better performance than No. 2 (Barkell’s Model) and 5 (Bathurst). Points 55.”

Though I doubt any band or bandsman likes to receive criticism, the notes clearly give the master of each band hints as to what to look out for in order to develop the band.

Naturally, all this attention on adjudicating and shaping the band contest scene in Australia still had to leave room for Thomas’s composing, after all a regular income still needed to be made. Brass band compositions and arrangements continued to be released, as well as piano compositions such as the “Parthia Schottische” which was published by Paling and Company in this year, described in a review as a brisk and danceable piece. Another review breaks down the piece for the prospective buyer. “[it] consists of a short introduction, followed by the schottische, which introduces four distinct and tuneful melodies, all In schottische rhythm, so well marked as to make it a welcome addition to dance music. It is well and simply constructed throughout, and is also arranged for full military and brass bands. The title page is attractive and the printing excellent.”

Back home in England, Thomas Bulch’s status as an international celebrity of the brass world was being employed in an advertisement in the Brass Band News to help sell Silvani and Smith’s brand of cornet. “TESTIMONIAL from T E Bulch, Solo Cornet and Bandmaster of Champion Band of Australia, Winners of the £100 Prize, Melbourne, Nov. 19th 1895:- The cornet of your make brought out by me to Australia I used for solo work for a long time. It was really a GRAND INSTRUMENT. In a weak moment I was induced to part with it for £11 11s 0d. A fortnight back I offered a big price for it, but OWNER WOULD NOT SELL. I have found no make to suit me like the SILVANI & SMITH. Note! The instrument is now 10 years old, this is the finest tribute to the value and wear of the Silvani and Smith make.” This advert ran in the newspaper for a few months. It is likely that Thomas received a fee for his endorsement. Any of the bandsmen in Shildon that chanced to pick up and read the Brass Band News would be assured that Thomas was doing well.

There was more good news for Thomas. Impressed by his conduct and judging the previous year, the United Australasian Axemen’s Association reached out to him again requesting him to fulfil the same position at the same bend contest which was going to be held on the day of the Axemen’s Carnival, the 7th November.

Though not everything seems to have been going according to plan, particularly it would seem at the Melbourne Post Office, which might account for why there are so few reports of appearances of the Melbourne GPO Military Band in this year. Whatever the cause of the disagreements, it seems that it was proposed that everything can be made much better by playing brass music. The Herald of Melbourne reports on the 6th August as follows.

“There is at last to be harmony in the Post Office. From out of long months of mutual recrimination, hate, jealousy, and intolerance comes a desire for a better state of things, and the agency whereby this is to be effected is, strangely enough, a brass band. The initial step has just been taken by electing Lord Brassey, Mr J G Duffy, and Mr Jas. Smibert patrons, Mr Sprlnghill president, and some twenty-one gentlemen more or less distinguished in the service vice-presidents. These are only a few of the officers, the others are legion. Neither the Premier; nor. Mr B T Vale has been asked to take an Instrument, but we notice with satisfaction that a Mr Best has been fitted with the exalted position of Band Sergeant. The instrument fund is to be raised by means of entertainments and subscriptions, so that the instruments will be the property of the band, and not of the members individually. Mr T Bulch is to be bandmaster, but It has yet to be decided who is to call the tune. Let us hope, however, that the Post Office Band will have its music sweeten the atmosphere of the department and soothe the savage breasts of some of those gentlemen whose mutual distrust has been so much in evidence lately.”

From the sound of it there have been squabbles, and in part the inability of the military band to appear may have been due to members having to fund their own instruments, leaving a shortage when any bandsman might leave. By forming a brass band the situation is being transformed into one Thomas would have been far more comfortable.

In April Thomas was announced, by the Brass Bands Association of New Zealand, to be one of the shortlisted judges for a band contest to be held in New Zealand. Though there had been suggestions he should be engaged in the past, if selected this would require him to travel to New Zealand for the first time. Not only that but it would require him to spend more time away from his business in Melbourne. It was not a ‘done deal’ though; the short list included three other names including New Zealander Mr G A Martin and Thomas’s fellow Victorian (in the sense of being from Victoria state) Mr A Grieve who had been the judges in the previous years.

By the beginning of August, it was announced that Thomas Bulch had been elected to the responsibility and that the contest was to be held in Dunedin towards the end of October. Thomas was heralded for his work as a composer, proprietor of a band journal, and for his association with some ‘good bands in England’, and it was announced that he would provide the quickstep test piece for the contest. He set to work to create the march ‘The Moa’ in honour of the flightless bird of that name that was once native to New Zealand but now, sadly, extinct.

On the 10th October Thomas boarded the ship Talune heading to Dunedin, New Zealand, arriving at Port Chalmers on the morning of the 17th October. The committee behind the contest had taken advantage of a midweek half holiday to commence the contest with the quickstep contest on the afternoon of the Wednesday 21st October at the Caledonian Ground in Dunedin. The contest was preceded by a public parade to the showground beginning with the competing bands assembling at the city’s Octagon at 1 pm to play, as a massed band, Bulch’s contest composition from the previous year “Dunedin Navals”. Then in the evening a solo contest would be held at the Garrison Hall.

Fourteen entries had been received for the contest, though on the first day the Oamaru Navals band and that from Christchurch did not arrive. Of the grand parade, we are told that all the bands were represented, though not at full strength and though hundreds marched along with the parade the expected volume of sound created by the massed band did not quite live up to expectation. Following arrival at the contest ground, a draw took place to determine the order of play and once again Thomas Bulch was concealed in a tent so as to be unable to see which band was playing when. As was quite common in the antipodes at the time the band would be judged not only on the performance of the music but also the quality of their marching and drill. Each band had to march once around the circle before the assembled crowd then one hundred yards up to the centre of the ground; this last to be done in 120 paces. As if the bands did not have enough to concentrate upon, the occasion was graced by rain.

A correspondent in the Evening Star describes the quickstep that Thomas created for the contest. “We have said that the quickstep used, and composed by Mr Bulch, was suitable from a bandsman’s point of view and lively to listen to. It is written in E flat 6/8 time. There is a good bold opening in unison; after that a silent bar, then the opening passage repeated in a different key; answering passages from cornets, trombones and euphoniums are succeeded by a rather trying passage for cornets; then comes the bass solo with accompaniments in triplets for the remainder of the band and short chromatic phrases; this is followed by a pretty trio with crescendo on the sixth bar from the end dying away to piano immediately. The trio will probably be accounted the best part of the march, which as a whole suited the purpose very well, though some of the players might have preferred a heavier test than it provides.”

The Dunedin Navals carried off the quickstep prize, followed by the Invercargill Garrison band and Kaikorai band. On the evening the solo contests were for trombones and E flat bombardon. The trombone solo contest was tied at the end of the evening so it was resolved that there should be a ‘play-off’ between the three best which took place the following morning ahead of further solo contests for B flat bombardon, tenor horn, E flat soprano cornet and baritone horn. A correspondent in the Oamaru Mail hinted that Thomas’s judgement was not entirely unquestionable. “So far Mr Bulch (the judge) has reversed every decision given by Mr Grieve at Timaru last year. A most remarkable instance was that Davie, of Kaikorai, the champion horn player for years, was left out of the prize winners this morning. Some uneasiness if felt of this as to what may happen in the grand contest, but the most competent judges approve of Mr Bulch’s decisions so far, and profess great confidence in them.”

Also on the second day the first of the test selections, “I Puritani” arranged by J A Kappey based upon airs from Bellini’s opera, was performed by each of the bands. At the end of the session, however, no result was declared as the honours were to be based upon the playing of both test pieces and the second would be played the following evening after the solo contests for B flat cornet and soprano horn. At 6:30 pm on the final day of the contest the band, in turn, played their renditions of the second test piece “Tannhauser” which took until 11:30 pm after which results would be declared. At the half-way point, there was a brief intermission which was reported by the Otago Daily Times. “The 10 minutes intermission, which was granted after half the bands had played, was welcomed by those who were not so nervous about losing their seats as to not embrace the opportunity of getting “a mouthful of fresh air,” as the supervisor put it, and the judge was apparently relieved at the chance to escape for a brief interval from his cage. Mr Bulch had not returned to his post when the first band to play after the interval filed onto the stage and took up their positions at the music stands, but the supervisor directed them to retire again, and when they had left the stage he conducted the judge back to his place. To the great amusement of the “house” who were not slow to take notice of the fact, some liquid refreshment was handed to the judge, so that he for one was not content with fresh air only.” Doubtless many would have been surprised that any refreshment would be highly unlikely to prove alcoholic, given Thomas’s Temperance sympathies.

The winners, falling short of a maximum score of 200 points by only 8 points were the Oamaru Garrison band, 22 points clear of the runners up who were Wellington Garrison. Afterwards, Thomas Bulch addressed the gathered crowd to express that he had given his decision to the best of his abilities, to applause. On the Saturday following the contest Thomas Bulch dined with the Oamaru Garrison band, and afterwards gave an address which was reported in the Evening Star. “Mr Bulch, who hails from Yorkshire, the great centre of amateur band in England, stated that he had not heard such playing as the Oamaru Garrison Band’s since he left home.”

To read this one has to question whether this embellishing claim to be from Yorkshire is a construction of Thomas’s, the reporter’s, or that of those others present. New Shildon, where Thomas was born and spent his early life, is most certainly not in Yorkshire. However, we do know that he made the occasional foray into the northernmost reaches of Yorkshire and saw a good number of top bands from Yorkshire. It would also be fair to say that he had Yorkshire ancestry through his family lineage.

Following the contest, we start to get a sense of some disquiet about arrangements for the contest. A small piece in the Lake Wakatip Mail of 30th October tells us of a claim that Thomas had been fined £5 by the organising committee for not submitting a musical score of one of the test pieces to the committee that it might be used in future adjudications. The Otago Daily Times of the same date elaborates, stating that it was an open secret that during the proceedings the relationship between Thomas and the organisers had become strained. It appears that the organisers had stipulated that the score of the test piece should be scripted and handed over, on the night of the finale, to the committee as Mr Grieve had done the previous year. When the time came however Thomas intimated that he had not written it, deeming it unnecessary. He was then invited to a meeting of the committee on the Wednesday which he had not attended claiming afterwards that the invitation had not arrived in time. The committee then again required submission of the expected score and resolved to fine Thomas £5 from his overall fee of £50.

What’s more, there seemed to be plenty of press commentators from the brass banding community that were happy to take to the pages of the various newspapers across New Zealand to offer their own critique of the bands, and the scoring by the judge. It appears that the band contesting scene had by this point evolved to the point where nobody involved escaped some degree of scrutiny.

Another feature of the press coverage following the contest was an endorsement that appeared in a few papers, by Thomas Bulch on behalf of Besson Instuments. It is possible that Thomas had spotted an opportunity to leverage some advantage or payment in a new way based upon his reputation. What is clearly an advertisement is presented as a letter in which Thomas states “In reply to yours of the 24th inst. asking my opinion regarding Besson Instruments, I beg to state that in my experience (which extends over 22 years) I approve of BESSON INSTRUMENTS as being UNDOUBTEDLY THE BEST. I might state that I have won a great many prizes both at home and in the colonies, and have used nothing but Besson Instruments and must compliment you for being the sole agent on the South Island for so celebrated a firm of brass instrument makers. Yours truly, T E Bulch.” As a person endeavouring to make a good living from music Thomas must have felt that all means of doing so are fair game.

There is, an incidental point here, one of those lovely moments of coincidence that we see so often throughout the detail of this tale, which is that two days after Thomas Bulch left the Dunedin Engineers Band held a concert at St Clair. That concert included both of the test pieces from the contest at Dunedin, as well as Thomas Bulch’s new quickstep “The Moa”; but what makes this moment so pertinent to us is that their opening piece at that concert was the march “Binchester” by none other than George Allan.

After his engagement in New Zealand Thomas set sail for Tasmania, taking with him two batons to be presented to the bandmasters of the first and second placed bands at the Axemen’s band contest in Latrobe. The Daily Telegraph of Launceston printed a description of the opening day.

“LATROBE BAND CONTEST — The band contest, in connection with the U.A.A.A, Limited, was opened last night, the Latrobe, Ulverstone, and Devonport Bands competing. Mr Bulch, of Victoria, acted as judge. Prior to entering the convincing ground the three bands paraded the streets to the strains of the “Wairoa” march, played by two of the number, the local bandsmen bringing up the rear in silence owing to the absence of its bass players, who put in an appearance hall half an hour later. On arrival in the show grounds the bands drew for places, resulting in Devonport taking the stand first, Ulverstone second, and Latrobe third, the judge being incarcerated in a tent close by. The waltzes played respectively by the bands in the order named were “My Polly”, “Myrine”, and “Love’s Messenger”. The result of the contest will not, of course, be known till after the march test on Monday, but the public have already given their decision as to first place, the second and third being looked upon as problematical. The Latrobe and Ulverstone bands, which were each excellent combinations two or three years since, have gone back very much, whilst Devonport exhibits a steady advancement, The first two waltzes played last night, printed under the nom de plume of “Laski”, were, strange to say, both compositions of Mr Bulch, the judge. The night was very cold, and the attendance consequently small, there being less than £5 taken at the gates.”

The point the writer makes about Myrine and My Polly both being Thomas’s own compositions is an interesting one. Assuming it was not a deliberate ploy to gain favour from the judge it is quite startling how many times Thomas Bulch had to judge bands that had elected to play one of his own compositions at contest as an own choice test piece. It is probably also representative of how deeply into the DNA of the late Victorian Australasian banding scene Thomas had injected his influence. This lad from a humble family of miners and railwaymen in the North-East of England now had the bandsmen of a whole continent in his thrall. After the band played their march test pieces on the night of Monday the 8th November Thomas handed his decision on the winners to the contest officials in a sealed envelope to be announced. The winners by a clear seven points were Ulverstone, with Devonport second and Latrobe third. Days later Tasmanian brass band commentator “Moderato” pronounced in the Launceston Daily Telegraph “I was very glad to see the committee had the good judgment to select such an eminent authority on band competitions as Mr T E Bulch as judge, his reputation both as conductor and composer being known so well throughout Australia”.

On the 30th December 1896, Thomas’s birthday, another band contest in New Zealand used a Thomas Bulch composed grand quickstep as a test piece, that being named “The Attack” which though we don’t know for certain was also most likely composed by Bulch for that contest specifically The judge on that occasion was not Bulch himself, but Mr A Grieve.

During all of this, Thomas’s wife, Eliza, had brought a further son into the family. The couple named him John Southey Paterson Bulch, the latter of his middle names being a tribute to the child’s maternal grandfather.

42. The Right Man in the Right Place.

At the other side of the world 1896 was a pivotal year for George Allan. Perhaps through his acquaintance as a composer with the music publisher Fred Richardson of Boston, Lincolnshire, George was featured as a Portrait Gallery series feature in Richardson’s “The Cornet” of the 14th November 1896.

The article, penned by a brass commentator using the pseudonym ‘Thornleyite’, is headed by a portrait image of the then 32 year-old George, one of only two images we have seen of him so far. He bears a sober facial expression framed by dark hair that is starting to thin from the front revealing a high forehead. His dark thick eyebrows are matched by an equally dark horseshoe moustache and a small beard of a type that would now be referred to as a ‘soul patch’ He wears a dark jacket in a popular style of the day with a tie around the neck of a white wingtip, or Gladstone, type shirt collar.

The article reads “Mr Geo. Allan, BANDMASTER, NEW SHILDON. Mr Geo. Allan was born at New Shildon, on March 21st 1864 and is now 32 years of age. At the age of 9 years he was thoroughly taught the Sol-Fa System under a good master, and very shortly after took 1st baritone in a local brass band. He afterwards joined as solo tenor in the New Shildon Juvenile Band. At this time he was also a member of the church choir and I believe it was the question “What can you learn in a brass band as to theory etc.?” which this choirmaster asked him, that led Mr Allan to try what he could do in that line, and with the aid of the works of Marx, Stainer, Clementis and others, combined with hard study, he brought himself before the brass world as a composer of some for the very best music for brass bands.”

“Mr Allan is also solo cornet and conductor of the New Shildon Saxhorn Band, and during the last two years has had the band at seven contests with the following result: 1 first, 2 seconds, 2 fourths and 3rd for quickstep, and this in spite of losing men through slackness of work and otherwise.”

“As a teacher he is hard working, steady, and courteous. he is just the right man in the right place, and I would like to see him come out as a judge for brass band and quartette contests, for he is a thoroughly capable man for the work, and a man that can and would give fair and accurate decisions.”

The article would prove to be prophetic, or at the very least would perhaps serve as the kind of endorsement that a bandmaster might require in order to undergo the transformation to be invited into the fold of contest adjudicators in the North East of England. There were, after all, a good many existing ‘go to’ persons across the region with a track record. It would take a leap of faith for contest organisers to place their trust in this relatively young upstart.

The contesting scene in England was somewhat more mature than its Australian counterpart, though figures such as Thomas Bulch had been working hard to remedy that. Contesting in England had, in the mid nineteenth century been very different to what a bandsman might encounter today, or even in 1901. The early contests had a reputation for being badly organised undisciplined affairs and an excuse for over-indulging in alcoholic drinks and bawdy behaviour. you’ll remember in earlier chapters how Francis Dinsdale had been reported as losing control of his New Shildon bandmen on occasion through the effect of drink, and how the Temperance movement sought to bring professionalism to banding by shunning alcohol. There were also allegations, and doubtless cases, of corruption.

Even the grander concerts involving the so-called ‘crack’ bands of the day were not above criticism. With little formal hierarchy of control and a lack of clearly defines and accepted rules on the proceedings at contest, there was still much to be desired. Rivalries developed between bands that often fermented into dislike and forms of civil action between organisations.

Contest judges in the Victorian era could expect, on occasion, rough treatment and abuse from those that might dispute the validity of their decision. They might also be physically jostled or assaulted for their efforts. This ire may possibly be considered akin to that experienced by football referees today. Often the contests would be passionate affairs with neighbouring towns playing out ages old rivalries through the medium of their brass bands.

By the time George Allan was to enter the fray, things were to an extent improving. The formation of brass band associations was accompanied by the establishment of agreed principles and sets of rules, which though they did not always clear up the disputes at least offered some fall back for those trying to enforce them. Early mentions of brass band associations occur in Scotland with the Glasgow and District Brass Band Association and the Bon-Accord Brass Band Association in the 1860s and 1870s. In the year George Allan had been proposed as a worthy candidate to be an adjudicator, though there were other associations across other parts of England, there had not yet been one formed in to cover the North-East.

There are no reports of George occupying the judge’s enclosure during 1896 though, it would surely only be a matter of time. Though he still had some way to go to catch up with his old bandmate Thomas Bulch, the “Cornet” article does reveal something that the two had in common, which is that ability to play a cornet at the same time as conducting. One wonders whether this was based upon the example set by their common line of tutelage; by which I mean did Francis or Edward Dinsdale do likewise. It’s something we’re unlikely to ever know, but one would presume that they observed the habit somewhere in their development.

1896 also saw a small number of further George Alan compositions emerge that would set him further along the path declared in that “Cornet” article as a composer of some of the very best music for brass bands. It was the year, according to brass historian Roy Newsome, that the march “Lefebvre” was published by T A Haigh of Hull as series no. 1323 in the Amateur Brass Band Journal; possibly one of George’s last pieces for Haigh now that he had fully caught the eye of rival publisher Fred Richardson. Like “Binchester” copies of “Lefebvre” would be exported to, and played in, New Zealand, though, unlike Thomas Bulch, George would never receive the opportunity to visit himself.

In this and, the following year, Allan would produce quadrilles such as “The Humber”, and schottisches such as “May Queen”, even overtures such as the seemingly popular “Romola” and the polka “Rosolio”. Again however, even though he did compose marches around this time such as “Waltham”, the composition work that would give him lasting fame was still to be born of the years that lay ahead.

The following year, 1897, seemed a quiet one for George. Invitations for engagements as a contest adjudicator do not appear to have materialised in great quantity. According to the brass authority Roy Newsome there had been a feeling around that time that the brass movement had peaked, and perhaps that there were too many contests; effectively the novelty was wearing a little, especially with the unruliness and manhandling of adjudicators that occurred. At the same time there was social change brewing, through the growing influence of the Trade Union movements, and the beginning of what was to become a steady decline in participation in organised religion. There were new interests and sporting activities emerging, to which people were drawn. With many musical societies having ties to the more social side of the various churches, the effects, along with those resulting from radio and the beginnings of music recording technology, would start to turn brass band movement into a specialist interest for a minority.

There was to be something of a resurgence in this year, though, as 1897 was the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee; and if it was one thing the Victorians loved it was a royal celebration.

The New Shildon Temperance Band were also quiet in this year, having had a flurry of contest success the previous year and picking up the first place at the Witton Park contest and a pair of second prizes at Middlesborough and Haughton le Spring respectively. For the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, it was to George’s New Shildon Saxhorn Band that the organising committee turned. The Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough on Saturday the 12th June 1897 announced details of the coming celebration in Shildon. “Notwithstanding the fact that the Shildon District Urban Council were somewhat late in starting to arrange for the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Committee recently appointed have now got the arrangements well in hand. It is practically settled that the programme on the 22nd inst. will include a great procession headed by the New Shildon Saxhorn Band, from the market place, through the principal streets of both the Shildons, to a field opposite the railway station where tea will be served to all the children of the town under 15 years of age. The aged people will also be supplied with a substantial tea.” 

As part of the celebrations, and a series of ‘National Thanksgiving” services for the reign of Queen Victoria held on the 20th June, a procession took place through Shildon from the Market Place along Church Street to St John’s Church in Old Shildon. The procession headed by George Allan and his New Shildon Saxhorn Band included urban councillors and members of the town’s friendly societies. Later, on the evening, a further service was held at All Saints Church.

In August, came the Annual Shildon Show, which naturally included a band contest as part of its programme. New Shildon Saxhorn had been absent from the contest at the show for many years but in 1897, particularly perhaps with the Temperance Band being absent, they entered to ensure that the hosting town was represented. The show took place on the 21st of August, and the adjudicator engaged was Mr J Walker. The organising committee, given the patriotic mood that had been swollen by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee the previous month, selected James Ord-Hume’s “Victoria Regina” as the test piece. Ten relatively local bands took part for an overall prize pot totalling twenty-five pounds, with the prize for the first placed band being ten pounds.

The judge’s decision was that the Eston Miner’s Old Band was finest on the day, followed by Thornaby Ironworks, Middlesborough Erimus, Cockerton and Spennymoor Temperance. The News Shildon Saxhorn Band, along with the Darlington Temperance and Brandon Colliery were unplaced. This must surely have felt like a blow to George Allan, for whom the band had been doing much better earlier in the decade. A reporter in the Northern Echo lamented later that week that, “Some regret was felt that the Saxhorn Band did not find a place in the prize list last Saturday. The members have been increasing in their efforts of late in practice, but unfortunately they were not considered up to their competitors.”

The Saxhorn Band had been going for forty years by this point, and that they were not doing better would surely have been a disappointment to George, who possibly also felt that part of his own reputation locally was inextricably tied to how the band performed. We heard in 1896 how he had admitted difficulty in keeping a full complement in the band, and how the band had fallen into the shadow of the Temperance Band to whom we have theorised that many good players may have defected owing to their comparative success. It would not be unreasonable for George to wonder what the future of the band might be.

43. Into the Red

Life for most people will prove to be what is often described as a ‘roller-coaster ride’ in that it consists of numerous high points and low points. We have heard how in terms of musical success George Allan’s life back in New Shildon was in something of a ‘dip’. Matters for Thomas Edward Bulch half a world away in Melbourne were that same year, to prove not a great deal better.

His next adjudicating engagement of the year was at the Australian Natives Gala at Rutherglen to be held on the 26th January. This was the second such annual event to be held by the Rutherglen branch of the A.N.A. and promised to raise funds for district charities through a spectacle of athletics events and races, including those for bicycles. The newspapers at the tie expressed how the organising committee felt that they had been fortunate to secure the services of so ‘honourable and fair’ a judge for the event; which itself was described as greatly and beneficially “cementing the bonds of brotherhood amongst the younger generation who have no recollections of the motherland, and must, therefore, look to this vast Southern Continent as their native soil and home.”

The Southland Times of the 27th February 1897 includes an excerpt from a letter from Thomas Bulch “Mr Bulch, writing on the subject of the New Zealand bands, says: — “In my opinion, we could not get 12 bands in the whole of the colonies to compare with those that played at Dunedin. There are certainly faults to be found in them, as indeed with any band in the world almost, and one of the worst of these is in intonation, particularly in slow movements. A movement of semibreves and minims takes playing — although very few bandsmen think so. There is also room for improvement in collective performances. The individual playing was very good. On the whole, I find bandmasters too apt to exaggerate all expression marks; in piano passages, time and tone must be studied, and several of the bands suffered in intonation through trying to play these passages too pianissimo. Another fault was in the fortes, which in most cases were overdone, the result being that the band got a very coarse tone. These are faults that lie mainly with the bandmaster, who should remedy them. Undoubtedly, the Oamaru Garrison, Wellington Garrison, Kaikorai, and Invercargill Garrison Bands are a credit to New Zealand — the last-named band being the finest I have had the pleasure of listening to on the march. Had the contest been held in the open air there can be no doubt that they must have scored much better; and I might say that I think the Association, if they can see their way clear, should hold their future contests in the open air. It is a better test for the bands, and more satisfactory to the judge, as he can then detect every weakness in the playing. “Mr Bulch refers to “the splendid discipline prevailing amongst the men,” and expresses the opinion that “New Zealand may well be proud of her brass bands.””

In April we see a reference of a performance by the Advance Band of Maryborough of Thomas’s selection “Lurline” which is credited to ‘Herr Bulch’, reminding us that his nationality continued to be misinterpreted as German. The effects of this misunderstanding would only later come in to effect.

That particular piece also had significance in this year as it was selected to be the test piece for another band contest in New Zealand, at Thomas’s recommendation, by letter, which had been accepted by the relevant organising committee. This was the West Coast Band Contest. The committee declared that any of the bands that had registered to compete would from the moment of the declaration need to hand in any copies of the march that they had, to prevent them from practising it before the other bands had a copy of the music. They also replied to Thomas’s letter ordering ten full band sets of the selection plus an additional full score copy.

Thomas’s old band in Ballarat, which still bore his name, continued to be a huge hit in that locality and to fulfil many public engagements. His music, including those very first pieces he had composed and had published in England, continued to be popular and played by the bands across the continent; and yet behind the scenes; and his production of new pieces was as prolific as ever, with publishers such as Palings, particularly the “Parthia Schottische”, continuing to advertise their availability; in New Zealand a version of “The Moa”, Bulch’s contest piece from the October 1896 contest there, was proving popular; and yet behind all this Thomas was struggling to keep his music business in Melbourne viable.

In May of 1897, Thomas, then based at Elgin Street in the Carlton district of Melbourne, an area that still retains some of its late Victorian character today, had to face the humiliation of being publicly declared as insolvent for the second time. Both the Age and the Argus of Melbourne reported on the same day, Saturday 29th May 1897, the following “NEW INSOLVENTS – Thomas Edward Bulch, Elgin Street, Carlton, musician. Causes of insolvency: Pressure of creditors and falling off in business. Liabilities, £349 4s. 9d; assets £69 19s 2d. ; deficiency £279 5s. 7d. Mr Cohen, assignee.”

The Age of Melbourne then followed this up on 8th June “GENERAL MEETINGS IN INSOLVENCY – General meetings of creditors were held and closed before the Chief Clerk in Insolvency yesterday in the estates of Thomas Edward Bulch of Carlton, musician; Richard Herbert Webb of Prahran, no occupation; Donald McIvor of Footscray, sawyer; John Edward Thomas of Melbourne, clerk.” 

This must have come as a bitter blow to the public reputation of the ambitious and hard-working Thomas, who also by now had a larger family to feed, clothe and take care of. One can imagine that it would also have created tensions at home with Eliza, not forgetting that Eliza had previously been given responsibilities in running the business whilst Thomas was away judging band contests.

To raise funds to pay those to whom Thomas owed money, an instruction was raised to J Lyons and Co to sell off as much as possible of Thomas’s stock of sheet music. To add to Thomas’s public humiliation an announcement was posted in The Age “Tuesday 29th June at 11 o’clock. At the Hall of Commerce A, B and C Queen Street. To Musicians, bandmasters, music dealers and others. In the insolvent estate of T E Bulch, Musician of Carlton. J Lyons and Co have received instructions from S H Cohen Esq., assignee in the above estate, to sell a large quantity of complete sets of band, piano, dance, sacred and secular music, by leading composers, Without reserve.” It would be sold for whatever could be raised. Bearing in mind that many of these pieces would have been Thomas’s own work, the sale would leave him without stock to sell and make it difficult for him to earn a living, or raise money to start again.

There was hope for Thomas though in that he was still able to make some money from his engagements as a contest judge, and in the November of 1897, he was announced as having been engaged to be the judge for the Intercolonial Band Contest that was scheduled to take place on New Year’s Day. In the months leading up to the contest, Palings of Sydney advertised to bandsmen that they could provide everything needed for the competition including a large quantity of band music by Bulch and Smith, so it was possible that Thomas may continue to have received an income through sales of his compositions through other outlets, assuming he was able to continue to have them produced.

When New Year’s Day arrived the weather was fine with a refreshing breeze as a large crowd gathered on the Show Ground in the North district of Bendigo for the annual Bendigo Athletic Club Sports meeting. The grandstand reportedly presented a very gay appearance, being packed with ladies in holiday attire to observe the cycling and foot racing. Around the ground, publicans had erected booths serving refreshment to slake the thirst of the gathered throng. For the grand Intercolonial Band Contest that had been scheduled as part of this event, six bands were in attendance. Hopetoun, Northcott’s City, Eaglehawk, Hobart Garrison, St Arnaud and Code’s Melbourne Band; so the line up wasn’t a truly representative of all the antipodean colonies, but strong nonetheless. As always the bands had marched in procession to the Show Grounds, having started out at Charing Cross. The bands were judged on their march to the ground for appearance and marching, with the Hobart Garrison band putting their military background to the best effect and through picking up far more points for discipline in marching. Bandsmen in that particular contest had points deducted for being untidy, wearing dirty boots, neglecting to shave, having a greasy uniform or a dirty instrument. It is noted that during the march to the ground the Melbourne band played “Waverley” which may have been the George Allan march of that name.

In the main contest each band had to play a selection, a set of waltzes or quadrilles and a march. Set aside in his adjudicator’s enclosure Thomas would have been unsurprised to find himself being regaled with many of his own works, including “Les Fleur’s D’Australie”, “The Moa”, “Roberto Il Diavolo” and “Myrine”; he later commented that he could not help but smile when the respective secretaries had submitted the pieces for him to familiarise himself with as he recognised many were his own; though he may have been more surprised to discover his New Shildon roots catching up with him when the Hopetoun Band played George Allan’s march “Lefebvre”. It would be interesting to know what Thomas thought of it. As regards the playing of music though Thomas awarded highest points in the march to Northcott’s and Code’s bands jointly. It was the Melbourne band, however, that excelled in the waltz and selection to finish as the outright victors of the contest, picking up the top prize of £100, followed by Northcott’s and Eaglehawk in that order.

Though we don’t know what Thomas Bulch thought of Allan’s “Lefebvre”, we do have his published judges notes that help us understand what he made of the playing of it “No. 6 Band (Hopetoun).— March, “Lefebvre” (Geo. Allan). Good opening, but coarse tone at times, cornet made slight slips and very indistinct on semiquavers, soprano very good, band not too well in tune. This is the making of a very fine band, but require better instruments to produce that fine massive tone so essential. Points, 16.”

The remainder of 1898, though, appears to have been a quiet one for Thomas. Though band programmes across the land were regularly containing his compositions, quite recently the waltz “Nada” and selection “Sydney by Night”, there was little in the news of his engagements. It is probable that without the music shop to provide a steady income Thomas had to knuckle down working for the music publishers to maintain his family and home. He was, however, far from being washed up.

There were other things going on in Melbourne in 1898 though, one of which would lead further towards a profound change to the way in which Australia would view its place in the world. For some years the idea that Australia should be a sovereign nation, rather than a colony of the United Kingdon of Great Britain. On March the 16th 1898 political representatives of the five colonies met in Melbourne to adopt a constitution that they hoped would lead to a formal and official change in their status. We’ll return to that later.

44. George the Adjudicator

While 1898 may have been a quiet year for Thomas Bulch, it was quite the opposite for Shildon’s George Allan. We had seen how in The Cornet in 1896 it had been suggested that George might make a fine contest judge, and we had seen that from available reports at least such opportunities did not materialise for him during 1897. In 1898 George began to advertise his services in The Cornet. “George Allan, the well-known composer, is open for engagements as a CONTEST ADJUDICATOR – For terms apply:- Pears Terrace, New Shildon”.

What we need to bear in mind when considering George’s career as a brass band contest adjudicator is that unlike Thomas Bulch who was in many ways his own master and able to afford himself some flexibility by, for example, having his wife take care of the music store while he travelled, George was in the employ of the North Eastern Railway. For George Allan to act as a judge it would require any engagement to be at a time when he was available. This would limit the range in which he would be able to travel in that most engagements would need to be within a few hours travel and the dates on which he could fulfil contest obligations. For contests in the North-East of England this probably wasn’t as much of a problem as it sounds in that the same constraints would apply to most bandsmen across the region. For this reason, most contests would take place on holidays or at weekends; though we should remember that in the Victorian era Saturdays were generally a working day for most. Unlike Thomas Bulch, George might not expect to go, say, say, to Ireland or Wales to adjudicate as Thomas had gone to New Zealand and Tasmania, but it would signal the beginning of a new opportunity to supplement his income.

By August; the height of the British summer; George’s efforts were beginning to pay off. He had received a number of enquiries, which then led to engagements. This was his opportunity to secure a reputation for having an ability to judge with authority, fairness and integrity. George had attained only modest achievement in terms of results at band contests as a bandmaster and conductor, yet it was clear that the organisers of contests knew enough about him perhaps as a composer of good music for brass bands to offer him the opportunity.

The first of his engagements in this year was at East Hetton, between the cities of Durham and Sunderland, where following each band’s rendering of the test piece, James Ord-Hume’s “Scotland”, George awarded the first prize to Willington Silver Band. In the march contest the winner was Birtley League of the Cross and runners up Quarrington Hill. It was the first time a band contest had been included in the show. “Liberal prizes” were offered, according to the Durham County Advertiser on Friday 12th August. In truth, they were a rather modest £5, £3 and £1. Sadly newspapers misreported George’s home town as Stockton, rather than Shildon.

Appropriately it was his own townspeople in Shildon who were next to acquire his services. These were people who knew him best of all, and they had faith that he would give a just and worthy decision. This engagement was at the thirtieth Annual Shildon Show on the Vicarage Field in the town which took place on the 20th of August. There was prize money of shares of an overall £25 for the taking and, once again, the test piece was former judge of this contest James Ord-Hume’s “Scotland”. The Durham County Advertiser reported six days later “A brass band contest confined to bands not having won a certain amount of prize money brought no less than eleven competitors. The awards of the judge (Mr George Allan) were:- 1, Eston Miners; 2, South Derwent; 3, Birtley League of the Cross; 4, Cleveland Steel Works; 5 Sunderland Temperance; 0, New Shildon Temperance; 0, Willington Silver; 0, Spennymoor Temperance; 0, Jarrow Borough; 0 West Hartlepool Borough; 0, Hartlepool Recreation.”

We learn, therefore, that in his first contest George had to rate the performance of the band that for almost two decades had been rival to his own, the New Shildon Temperance Band, most probably being conducted by William Holdsworth as usual, though it is not documented. We can be certain that George would not have done so deliberately as he would not have been able to see the bands as they performed, but the Shildon band did not make the placings that day and must have experienced a disappointment similar to that felt by the Saxhorn Band the year previous.

On the 3rd September George made his way to the Thornley Colliery Brass Band Sports and Band Contest where the test piece for the day was “Zampa” by Ferdinand Herold. Again, as at Shildon the previous month, the first prize winners for the march and the selection were the Eston Miner’s Band, followed by Hebburn Colliery Band in both categories then, on the 10th September, he travelled the relatively short distance to Witton Park to officiate at the contest there at which six bands were competing for prizes totalling eleven pounds in value. On this occasion, the winners of the own choice test piece rendering were Felling Temperance followed by Willington and Spennymoor Temperance. In the march contest, there was a tie between Oakenshaw and Spennymoor.

When you look at some of the places competing in these contests, such as Oakenshaw and Howden-le-Wear, they are nowadays, following the closure of the main industries that caused such places to spring up in the first place, much depleted. It would be easy to think that these contests were of little significance, particularly looking at the prize money offered compared to the contests that Thomas Bulch was officiating in the same decade. They certainly don’t appear to have warranted the same kind of coverage in the regional newspapers as the Australian contests in theirs; often only a few lines at best. What’s more, these contests also don’t feature the ‘crack bands’ of the day. But to think of them as of little significance might be doing them a disservice. The places named would certainly have been more populous than in the present day where often whole villages have since been demolished when the collieries closed, but to the bandsmen taking part in them, such results would have mattered no less than to the bandsmen of the named bands of the day in the grander contests.

As you scan the newspapers of these years you can’t fail to find plausibility in the accusations we read earlier of there being too many contests, and those being of a disorganised nature, appear to be correct. At every opportunity there seems to be a band contest associated with whatever community event is being held.

At the same time though there were attempts being made to bring some kind of order and structure to proceedings, through the formation of a Northern Counties Amateur Brass Band Association. This body, not to be confused with the current Northern Counties Brass Band Association in Scotland, held its first contest in Jarrow in June of 1898, while the Cleveland and South Durham Brass Band League also held its first contest at the Victoria Football Ground in Stockton on Saturday 23rd July. Though the shapes of those formal bodies would evolve, a gradual change was underway and ‘order’ was coming.

So too were further engagements on the contesting front the following year. On 22nd May 1899 George Allan started his travels for the year through a trip to Howden-le-Wear where no fewer than ten bands from right across the region were competing for prizes of £8, £4 and £3 respectively. Despite the strong field which included Spennymoor Temperance, Willington, Heworth, Auckland Park Temperance, Birtley Temperance, Hunwick, Oakenshaw Colliery, Peases West and the local band Howden-Le-Wear Temperance, it was again the in-form Eston Miners Old Band to whom George again awarded both the test piece and the march prizes.

By coincidence, George’s next contest judging mission was to make the journey coastward to Eston, near the growing industrial town of Middlesbrough, on 29th July 1899 to perform his duties at a contest being held on the home turf of the band that had been most successful on occasions where he had been the judge. At this contest, there was a test piece and the bands could also perform a waltz of their own choice. There were five bands competing, none of which were from Eston itself. George awarded the top prize to the Cleveland Steel Works Band. The second prize of £5 was won by Charlton Band of Hope and £2 third prize was split between Willington Silver and Middlesbrough Erimus. Cleveland Steel Works also took the march contest prize.

Just one week later, on 5th Aug 1899, George travelled up to a contest at Kelloe Colliery, East Hetton as part of the thirteenth annual show of the East Hetton Horticultural Society. The show itself comprised the usual array of flowers, fruit, vegetables, rabbits, pigeons, poultry and industrial work as well as some children’s competitions and sports. The entries in the band contest were few, with Hartlepool Recreation Band, Thornley, Oakenshaw and Quarrington hill being the four competing for a £7 first prize, with further prizes of £2 and £1. George gave in favour of the Hartlepool Recreation Band for their rendition of the test piece, the set of waltzes “Sunny Spain” by Mr J Fitzgerald; then awarded Thornley Colliery Band a further £1 prize for the quickstep march. In an additional category for best solo on a brass instrument, he gave the decision in favour of a Mr W Fairpley of Birtley.

In 1899 George continued to maintain his membership of the Shildon Mechanics Institute, and this year also saw his younger brother Ralph start a subscription there. He also continued to compose and with the end of the nineteenth century on the horizon, bringing with it the beginning of the twentieth century, he was inspired to create fantasias one of which was called “The New Century” and another entitled “The Village Feast”. Both were published by F Richardson in his Cornet brass band journal and later acquired by Wright and Round in their subsequent takeover of that business. George’s decision to further his career as adjudicator seems to have resulted in a reduction in his focus on the Saxhorn Band and there were no appearances or contests reported for them in that last year of the century; though time wasn’t up for the Saxhorn Band just yet.

Thomas Bulch was announced on St Valentine’s Day, the 14th February, of 1899 as being in contention to be selected by the brass contest committee for a band contest to be held in Armidale; his rivals for the engagement being a Mr G O’Shea of Renshaw and a Mr Charlesworth of Sydney. A comment was made in the Armidale Courier that “With such talent as applicants for the position doubtless the very best procurable man will be availed of by the committee; a fact in itself which should assure the success of the contest.” A month later it was explained that Thomas had been agreed to be retained by the organising committee and that Mr S J Kearney of that committee was to liaise with him on the selection of one of his compositions as a test piece. As events transpired, however, by the end of April it was clear that the contest had not attracted the volume of entries that the committee had hoped for and a decison was made to cancel the concert. The committee consequently agreed a settlement fee of £5 with Thomas for breaking the agreement around his engagement.

On Sunday March the 19th a Grand Musical Carnival was held on the South Melbourne Beach in aid of the St Vincents Hospital Fund, and one of the main features of this was a concert performance by Bulch’s Operatic Band which had bee volunteered to the charitable cause by Thomas himself. An advertisement for this fundraiser in The Record the day prior promised that the band would appear under his own personal conductorship.

Thomas continued to compose and his works continued to be published throughout the year, including the waltz “Elsinore” and march “Federation” under the pen name Henri Laski. Under his own name he also produced the march “Lyndhurst” around this time; all of these, judging by the number of mentions in concert programmes, proved immediately popular. We can see that Bulch’s Band Journal continued to be advertised as being available through outlets such as Palings in Sydney and Brisbane, so his insolvency was not preventing that particular aspect of his business interests. Otherwise, though, the last year of the nineteenth century proved to be a relatively unremarkable one for Thomas Bulch.

45. A New Century, South Street, the City of Ballarat Brass Band and a Return to the 3rd Battalion Milita

Where 1899 may have been of underwhelming significance for Thomas’s story, 1900 was to be quite the opposite. He would have received troubling news from his former home town of New Shildon sometime after June, for on the 8th June 1900 his sister Mary Bulch was admitted to the County of Durham Asylum, at Sedgefield. It is not clear what the reason for this was, but she remained there at least until the early 1930s.

On the 5th September, announcements were made of an exciting new spectacle of brass music being planned to take place in Ballarat, the city with which Thomas Bulch had many connections from his earlier years in Australia. This was the Great Intercolonial Band Contest at the South Street Competitions, which promised to be the biggest ever attempted in the city to that date. South Street is an area of Ballarat that runs parallel to, and south of, the main thoroughfare of Sturt Street. Since 1879 when there had been a Young Men’s General Debating Society started in the locality, there has been a Royal South Street Society. In 1891 the society founded a Grand Annual Eisteddfod of Australasia, which extended over 10 days of contests that subsequently evolved to be one of the premium cultural events in the Australian calendar to this day.

The City Oval had been reserved as the venue for the band contest with bands to play a contest selection on Friday the 5th October and a march or quickstep contest on the Saturday. There would be a supplementary contest for cornet and euphonium solos held on the respective evenings at the Alfred Hall. Despite the title of ‘intercolonial’, by the time particulars had been announced entries received had mainly been from Victoria, with Hopetoun Band, Eaglehawk, the Lord Nelson Band of St Arnaud, Geelong, Prout’s and the 3rd Battalion band all being represented, as well as Bulch’s Model Band, naturally. Tasmania was, however, represented, in the form of the Launceston Garrison 2nd Battalion Band; and from New South Wales an entry was received from the Bathurst Band. There were three judges engaged to provide a decision on the brass band performances, Lieutenant Riley, Mr Ernest Wood and, of course, Thomas Edward Bulch. This would be, to the best of our knowledge, the first time Thomas Bulch would judge the bad that bore his own name, a situation that could be perceived to be an awkward moment, though with Thomas’s reputation for integrity there was little reason to doubt his impartiality.

The prize money on offer was certainly ambitious, totalling £260 across the categories. The winners of the selection would carry off £150 and for the quickstep it was a top prize of £35. When you compare that with, for example, with the typical prizes of less than £10 on offer in most North East of England contests in that period, what was being offered here was a very attractive reason to take part in the contest. To ensure a good crowd, cheap excursion trains were arranged by the railway companies for the bands and spectators to get to Ballarat to enjoy the proceedings.

On Friday the bands were to assemble at 9 o’clock sharp at the junction of Sturt Street and Bridge Street, opposite the office of the Ballarat Star, for a grand procession to the Oval; a ritual that would be repeated at 12 noon on the Saturday for the second stage of the contest. The contest being staged outdoors required good weather, and thankfully this was received on both days. In press reports, it was made clear that for the organisers the way the band contest was run represented a departure from previous years, but the format proved justified as well as being a huge success.

The rules for this contest were prescriptive of the expectations of the bands. Reed instruments, usually reserved for military bands only, were to be allowed, but drums and cymbals were prohibited. Each band was to comprise of a minimum of 16 and maximum of 24 bandsmen. In the selection contest, each band would play either two selections or one selection and an overture.

The South Street Contest of 1900, in Ballarat, was something of a reunion of the banding sons of New Shildon, for not only was Thomas Edward Bulch himself present, but the Bathurst Band brought with it the New Shildonian bandmaster Samuel Lewins, and Bulch’s Model Band had conductor and cornetist James Scarffe and bandmaster and fellow cornetist Robert Malthouse, as well as his younger brother George Malthouse playing B flat bass. It’s also probable that Thomas Malthouse, also a cornet player who had been up to that time master of the Smeaton Brass Band, was present, though his having been quite seriously injured in an accident in July 1899 might explain his absence from banding. It would be wonderful to think that these men might find some moment in the day, just a few minutes in the chaos of this grand occasion, to come together to reflect upon how far they had come, geographically as well as delivering upon their own potential. If such a meeting occurred it would be doubtful that it would be over a drink as all these men had been advocates of Temperance since their youth.

To briefly explore Thomas Malthouse’s misadventure, he had been employed as a carpenter at the Hepburn Estate Extended Mine at Smeaton and had, with the mine manager, Mr Renfrey descended to the depth of 1000 feet to inspect old workings. Whilst they were carrying out the inspection there was a fire damp explosion caused by the candle he was using to carry out the inspection and both were badly burned. Thomas Malthouse suffered serious burns to the head, face, mouth and eyes, the front of his body and his arm, and it was expected that he would lose his sight as a consequence. Renfrey though burned was largely unscathed in the long term.

According to a small piece in the Ovens and Murray Advertiser reporting on how his brother Robert heard the news, it seems there had become something of a tradition among the Malthouse brothers for such disasters. It reads “Mr Malthouse [meaning Robert] had a narrow escape from death some time ago at Rutherglen, and since then his three brothers have sustained accidents of a more or less serious nature.” On Robert Malthouse’s reference, there is a story in the Ballarat Star of 1885 wherein his wrist was lacerated by ‘the bursting of a gun’ but this may not be the incident he meant.

Thomas Malthouse claimed for £1500 damages against the Hepburn Estate on the grounds that he claimed he had been ordered, by the manager, into the mine with a lit candle instead of a safety lamp, and that under the mining applicable regulations it had been the manager’s duty to either test the air before sending the miner in, or issue such a safety lamp. he had attempted to return to work after the accident but had found that his injuries prevented him from carrying out long shifts of duty. The company defended against the accusations with the argument that the mining regulations only applied where the mine was being worked and as this section being inspected was in disuse they were not obliged to follow such regulations. They claimed that Thomas had been negligent of his own accord. The judge found in favour of Malthouse but only awarded £300 and ten shillings damages plus costs. Thomas had been left after the accident with heart problems and a growth on his arm where the skin had been burned. Despite this, when recovered from the initial effects of the accident, he continued to act as bandmaster for the Smeaton Brass Band into the early years of the twentieth century.

On the march to the City Oval, a number of the bands chose to play a Bulch march. Bulch’s Model Band, appropriately played “The Typhoon”, Bulch’s first published march. The Eaglehawk Band chose “Postman’s Parade” and Hopetoun “On the Warpath”. Most likely unknowingly the Lord Nelson St Arnaud Band completed the Shildonian reunion in spirit with a rendition of George Allan’s “The Delegate” (a title reminiscent of his other works under this theme “The Diplomat” and “Senator”). The bands were staggered so that they could be clearly heard as they passed the cheering crowds lining the way without the sound of the next marching band spoiling their tone. The attendance, in part attributed to the fair weather, was reportedly a record up to that time for attendance at any outdoor event in Ballarat.

In the selection, at least two bands elected to play Bulch’s “Reminiscences of Weber”, though whether it was his composition performed or not Thomas, as one of the judges, would have ensured he was familiar with all the selections to be rendered. In the quickstep contest, the Lord Nelson Band played Bulch’s “Postman’s Parade” and the Bathurst Band played “Bathurst” which Thomas had composed especially for the contest in that city. Bulch’s Band again rendered “The Typhoon”.

In the scoring on that first day, Prout’s Band came out on top in the quickstep contest with a five-point lead overall on Bathurst and Geelong who would play-off the following day for the second place prize. The selection contest would be concluded the next day. In that quickstep contest, Bulch’s Model Band had finished a disappointing second from last. After the play-off, the bands massed under the leadership of Sam Lewins. The Bathurst Band also played a selection “Songs of England” to occupy the time before the cornet solo contest commenced at the Alfred Hall.

Robert Malthouse had entered the cornet solo contest and was the first player up to offer his rendition of the test piece “My Old Kentucky Home”. As he worked through the piece the reports tell us that he made a number of slips and realising that he would not be able to win he retired from the contest without completing his playing of the piece. The winner was Mr Graham of Prout’s Band, a decision that came with some controversy in the reports as it was thought to have been an ‘uneven’ performance.

The following day the bands were to muster outside Suttons Music Store in Ballarat for the draw to ascertain order of play, before assembling outside the Ballarat East Town Hall to once again march to the Oval. The points sheet from the first day of competing had been deposited in secrecy in a ballot box which was displayed in full view at the centre of the green so that nobody would be able to read it until the final results were to be calculated. The overall attendance was down from the previous day, with about 4,000 spectators assembled.

For their second selection, Bulch’s Model Band played his “Reminiscences of Weber”, which some of the other bands had chosen to play on the first day. Prout’s also played this same selection. The Lord Nelson Band played a Bulch arrangement of a Verdi piece, but the other bands chose works by other composers. Amid much excitement, the point totals for each band were worked through before the announcement of the winning band was made. The announcement that the contest had been won by the Lord Nelson Band of St Arnaud was greeted with loud cheers by both public and bandsmen. Bathurst had finished second and local band Prout’ third. Bulch’s Model Brass Band, also of Ballarat, had finished in last place seventy-five points behind the winning band. This would have been a blow to them, none more so than Thomas Bulch’s old friends Robert Malthouse and James Scarffe.

Following the main announcement, the Bathurst and Geelong bands played again to see who would take second place in the previous day’s quickstep contest. The Bathurst Band took that honour, to much applause. Then on the evening Thomas Bulch, Ernest Wood and T Riley judged the euphonium solo contest which was won by Mr Lorimer of Bendigo.

Afterwards, a banquet and smoke night was given to the competing bandsmen by the Ballarat Battalion in their Orderly Room. It was presided over by the Battalion’s commanding officer, Colonel Williams and the Mayors of the Town and City. Dignitaries thanked the organisers and band on the success of the event and its effect on Ballarat. The behaviour of the bandsmen, often a point of contention at band contests during the Victorian era remember, had reflected great credit upon them. The efforts of figures like Thomas Bulch and others to professionalise, and instil discipline in, the attitude of bandsmen had been paying off.  Sam Lewins spoke up in praise of the organisation of the contest, he claimed that his band had never been treated better than in Ballarat and vowed a return at a future date It is not known whether Thomas Bulch and the other judges attended the banquet to receive the toast that was proposed to them. Thomas may well have been excused as he had been engaged to judge a band contest at Dimboola, some distance to the west of Ballarat, on the 9th October.

The outcome of the contest most probably introduced some strain in the relationship between Thomas Bulch and Bulch’s Model Band. In the quickstep contest there had been much criticism of the band’s appearance and performance. They had lost points for dirty boots, the front line not being properly dressed, marching out of line, not wheeling properly. These were standards important to the one-time bandmaster, now judge.

At the Dimboola Agricultural and Pastoral Society’s show on the 9th October four bands competed, each playing a march, selection and a waltz. The bands were from Warracknabeal, Nhill, Natimuk and Horsham. Following Thomas’s awarding of points it was the Nhill band that proved victorious claiming the £9 first prize.

On the 13th of November, the Sportsman of Melbourne announced that Thomas Bulch had been reappointed as the bandmaster of the Ballarat Militia Regiment, the post he had vacated many years previously when he had fallen out over the arrangements for a concert on New Year’s Day. This must have come a something of a surprise to some. Particularly as there was already a band in Ballarat bearing the Bulch name, and it wasn’t the one he was going to be leading. Then on the 15th November Thomas guested as conductor at a concert of the Prahran City Band at the City Hall in that district of Melbourne.

In the period between the 13th November and the 24th of that same month, a decision was made that Bulch’s Model Brass Band of Ballarat would rename themselves the Ballarat City Band. Whether this was down to a strained relationship between Thomas and the band following the South Street Contest, or whether it was related to Bulch’s return to the Ballarat Militia Band is not clear. It may even have been coming for some time based on feelings that it had been so long since Thomas Bulch had influenced the band. The Ballarat City Band made its first appearance in that name on the 24th November as a prelude to a lecture on “The Paris Exhibition” at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Ballarat; the band playing a number of selections in front of the theatre from 7:30 till 8:00 pm. The name of Bulch’s Model Brass Band, which had been conjured by him after his attempt to create a new Temperance Brass Band in Ballarat, was no more. Though the name would be reported again by the press, it was doubtless more out of habit than correctness; the era of the Ballarat City band had arrived.

Within no time at all, and despite being a resident in Melbourne, Thomas was once again an active bandmaster in Ballarat. On Friday 7th December, at the Annual Sports of the Ballarat College on the Eastern Oval, and under pleasant skies for such an occasion, Thomas Bulch conducted his 3rd Battalion Militia Band through “some excellent selections of music”. Then the very next day a cricket match was held between a Ballarat, and a Melbourne side, on the Wendouree Asylum ground at which “the enjoyable nature of the proceedings was considerably added to, by the presence of the 3rd Battalion Band (by the kind permission of Colonel Williams) who played a number of selections, under the conduct of Bandmaster Bulch, in a highly meritorious manner.”

It’s uncertain whether Thomas made a permanent move of home back to Ballarat straight away, or when he closed the music shop he had been running in Melbourne, but he certainly seemed to be receiving deliveries at Ballarat from this point as an announcement in the Ballarat Star of 11th December advised that, among other deliveries, there were goods that had been delivered to Ballarat West railway station that awaited his collection. The announcement was repeated on the 14th.

On the 16th Sept a thanksgiving service was held at the Cathedral Church for returned soldiers, and as part of their duty, the 3rd Battalion Militia band were in attendance. The Ballarat Star reported “The music for the service included “Te Deum” and the National Anthem, both of which were accompanied by the Battalion Band under Bandmaster Bulch. Kipling’s “Recessional” was also sung.” By the 27th December, ahead of his birthday, Thomas was advertising other services in the Star. “Mr Bulch, bandmaster to the 3rd battalion, is prepared to receive pupils for all brass instruments. As Mt Bulch is well known as an instructor, he should be well patronised by intending bandsmen.”

46. Marching for Mafeking and Liberalism; and the Death of Queen Victoria

Back in County Durham, George, like Thomas, continued to juggle his duties of being bandmaster with those of being contest judge. The first contest of the year did not require a full complement of his bandsmen. On the 2nd April 1900, the Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough reported that “Under the auspices of the Whitworth Prize Brass Band a quartet contest for brass band instrumentalists was held in the Town Hall, Spennymoor, on Saturday. The attendance was large. The competing bands were: Spennymoor, Birtley, Wingate, Rise Carr, Willington, Shildon, Milburn’s Model (Middlesbrough), Browney Colliery, Rise Carr (No. 2) and Shildon Saxhorn. The judge, Mr Thomas Snowdon, Spennymoor, gave his awards as follows:- 1, Milburn’s Model; 2, Wingate; 3, Rise Carr; 4, Birtley; 5, Spennymoor Temperance.” 

In May the full band was engaged for a celebration that requires me to first provide some context here. In October of 1899, after tensions arising from Britain’s increasing influence in South Africa, war broke out between the British Empire and two Boer states, the Republic of South Africa and the Orange Free State. This was the Second Boer War. Initially, the Empire’s forces were unprepared and the well equipped and trained Boers seemed to gain the upper hand, winning battles at Colenso, Magersfontein and Stormberg. The general in command of the Empire’s forces, General Redvers Buller, was duly replaced by Lord Kitchener and Lord Roberts, and the number of troops significantly ramped up. As was often the case Britain could not rely solely on troops from the British Isles and brought in forces up to a number of around 103 to 153,000 colonial troops comprising Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Indians, Natalese and Ceylonese troops and around a hundred thousand black South African auxiliaries and a few African allies to support the 347,000 soldiers from the home nations. With the Boers having only around 63,000 troops, auxiliaries and foreign volunteers to rely on in besieging Mahikeng, Kimberley and Ladysmith, the odds were overwhelmingly flipped back toward the Empire, but not before they had inflicted very heavy casualties on the British. The Empire stormed Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Gradually they wrested control of the territories from the Boers, many of whom were captured and assigned to grim concentration camps. We tend to associate the term with the Nazis and the Second World War, however the British were as keen to use them in this conflict, and not just for the adult male soldiers. Over 26,000 women and children died in the consitions of the British concentration camps during this war.

As we mentioned, the town of Mahikeng, then referred to as Mafeking, had been besieged from early in the war up to the end of April. The British garrison there was commanded by Robert Baden Powell, who would become a much loved national hero as a consequence of these events, and is perhaps best known and remembered as the founder of the Scouting movement. The battle for control of Mafeking dragged on for 217 miserable days as the Boers did not prioritise the capture of the town they had cut off and shelled sporadically. The bulk of their troops were deployed to higher priority zones elsewhere. So the British contingent at Mafeking was able to hold out through a combination of cunning, intelligence and sufficient numbers. On the 12th of May, the Boers sent 240 soldiers in on the attack, but the besieged forces were alerted and managed to repel the attack killing or capturing many of the Boers involved. Then on the 17th of May, a column of 2,000 Empire troops, including Robert Baden-Powell’s brother Baden, arrived effectively and decisively ending the siege.

Though the Relief of Mafeking was of little strategic significance in the war, which would drag on largely in guerilla form for another two years until the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed on the 31st May 1902. Despite this, the news of the Relief of Mafeking caused a celebratory reaction at home in Britain, when it reached the isles being relayed by telegraph. The nation broke out in celebrations as word spread. In the North-East of England the news appears to have arrived on Friday the 18th May. Bonfires were lit in celebration, shops ordered to close, gaily coloured bunting hastily hung across the streets, flags and tricolour ribbons displayed. The jubilant festivities became boisterous in some places such as Witton Park where a 24 year old Mrs Appleby was accidentally shot by a miner who was a little too careless with his loaded revolver.

In the Shildons the celebration was said to have rivalled that of the Queen’s Jubilee of 1887. This being a railway town, when the news was first received, late in the day as it was, it was heralded by the whistles of the locomotives and the cheers of the drivers and their stokers. On the Saturday a parade commenced from Hildyard Terrace with Police Inspector Lowes at the head, followed by a replica wooden cannon and many schoolchildren. Overhead red white and blue bunting decorated the streets. The parade took in the principal streets of both Old and New Shildon before terminating at the Market Place for addresses from dignitaries. On the evening the parade was repeated, but this time with both the New Shildon Temperance Band and George Allan’s New Shildon Saxhorn Band filling the air with patriotic and uplifting march tunes.

There are suggestions around this time, though that all was not entirely well with George’s relationship with the New Shildon Saxhorn Band. Perhaps the band were finding George’s need to spend some of his time away from the wagon works composing, and at other times away on adjudicating engagements. Whatever the reason we see in the Daily Gazette for Middlesborough on the 21st of May the following advertisement “Resident Bandmaster Wanted for New Shildon Saxhorn Band; Cornet player; miner. Apply F Quinn, Secretary, Shildon, Darlington.”

Had George tendered his resignation? Had the band placed the advertisement of their own accord? It’s largely a mystery. Perhaps between them, they had agreed to advertise to see what options arose that might allow George to concentrate on the other aspects of his life. We don’t know if anyone did apply. All the evidence suggests that, though the advert had been placed for three days in a row, George did not relinquish the post and was still the bandmaster of the band as late as 1902.

On Friday the 8th June 1900, with memories of Mafeking beginning to fade, the Durham County Advertiser tells of “Willington – On Saturday afternoon a band contest, promoted by Willington Silver Band Committee, took place in a field kindly granted for the occasion by Mr W F Longstaff, Low Willington. Eight bands competed. The following are the awards by Mr G Allan, Shildon, who officiated as Judge. Selection:- First Prize Sunderland Temperance, also cornet, euphonium and soprano medals; 2nd, Birtley Temperance; 3rd Spennymoor Temperance and trombone medal; 4th, Sunderland East End. Quickstep divided between Sunderland Temperance and Birtley Temperance. The test piece was ‘Norma’ by Mr W Rimmer.” William Rimmer was an associate of Allan and both shared a common publisher through T A Haigh though, rather like Thomas Bulch, Rimmer was a more prolific composer, being published by multiple publishers and earning his living from his music. It’s never really clear in George Allan’s story why he chose not to try to take his music career to that next level and leave behind his job at the wagon works; whether it was a matter of confidence, self-belief, or whether he simply enjoyed his job and felt his true place was there in the dust, heat and clamour of the North Eastern Railway workshop blacksmith’s forge. There were a great many contests during this period; some argued that there were too many. If George had chosen to make a go of it he possibly could have, however, we should remember that when the time came for Thomas Bulch to make the first step into professional musicianship, over in Australia, he had been given the support to also open a music shop which helped him support himself and his family. Perhaps for George, equally not being from a wealthy family, the leap of faith was too great a risk to consider.

The next month, on Saturday 14th July 1900, George Allan made a journey south to act as an adjudicator at a contest organised by the Dodworth Brass Band in the grounds of the home of Mr H A Allport, a Justice of the Peace, Grove House, Dodworth, South Yorkshire. The contest took place on a sunny day, resulting in a reportedly large attendance. The eight bands that competed were offered a choice of three pieces for the selection contest. These included Rimmer’s “Norma” again, but also “Oberon” by Harry Round and “Songs of England”. The first two of these were the more popular choices. After listening through all eight bands performances George awarded the first prize of £10 in the selection to the Hinchcliffe Mill Band. Cleckheaton came second for £6 and Holme third for £3. Those first three bands all had the same conductor – Mr Angus Holden. In all £24 worth of prizes were offered £22 of which were for the selection and £2 for the quickstep. George decided that Cleckheaton were the best band in the march contest. At the end of the event, after the results had been announced, George declared that all of the bands, who were unknown to him prior to the contest, had played very well indeed and he had great difficulty in coming to a conclusion, especially in the quickstep contest.

On Saturday 1st September 1900, a fine and suitable day, George took to the adjudicator’s tent as the judge at the Brandon Society’s annual exhibition near Durham. This occasion being reportedly the first time a band contest had been included there. There was reportedly a very large attendance on the day, with the exhibits being displayed within five marquees sited on a field adjacent to the colliery village commanding a fine and extensive view of the surrounding country, enabling those attending to watch the harvesting activity underway across the landscape. The show comprised the usual array of amateur sports and floral, poultry, rabbits, pigeons, painting, industrial projects and vegetable displays as well as sideshow attractions for visitors. Of Seven bands entered the contest, which proved an attractive draw. George’s scoring decided that the Seaham Harbour Bottleworks Brass Band were the finest in their rendering of the test piece. In the quickstep contest, the points scored in his judgement left him unable to decide between the Sunderland Temperance and Seaham Harbour Bottleworks bands, so he declared that, rather than the band perhaps playoff for first place, instead the prize money should be split between the two bands, to the approval of the ‘music critics’ in the audience. Afterwards, on the evening, the tents were lit up causing the younger segment of the audience to linger much longer than had traditionally been the custom at such shows.

In November, on Saturday the 10th, George was back in charge of his band at the re-opening of the LIberal Club in Shildon following a series of extensive renovations and refurbishment. The ceremony was conducted by the recently re-elected Mr J M Paulton, the Liberal Member of Parliament who had held the seat for Bishop Auckland since the seat was formed in 1885. The 1900 general election, fought largely on the basis of support for the Boer War, had seen a resounding Conservative victory; yet this corner of the country remained a largely Liberal stronghold. Paulton’s opponent in that election, William Hustler Hopkins, possibly on the strength of Tory emphasis on the Boer campaign, had come closer to unseating Paulton than any Conservative opponent yet, so the victory was seen as particularly important. The refurbishment entailed an expansion of the Reading Room and repositioning of a staircase to enable better access to the Billiard Room, as well as a dedication of the reading room to a Mr J Jamieson, a prominent Shildon supporter of the LIberal political cause. Prior to the arrival of the esteemed MP, the New Shildon Saxhorn Band paraded the streets of the town playing music, before marching to the railway station to await the arrival of the 3:30 pm train upon which Mr Paulton, not a resident of the area, was due to arrive. On arrival, he was driven up to the Liberal Club preceded by the George and the New Shildon Saxhorn Band playing “The Conquering Hero”. Once at the packed Liberal Club speeches were given and the new reading room officially unlocked.

Also in November a number of ticket draw results were published suggesting that the New Shildon Saxhorn Band was attempting to fundraise for instruments, music or uniforms through employing a draw or raffle at this time.

1901 got off to a shocking start with the death of Britain’s beloved monarch, and Empress, Queen Victoria. Hers had been such a long reign that most citizens of the nation had known of no other monarch. She had spent Christmas at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, and there at the age of 81, lame through rheumatism, partly blinded by cataracts in her eyes, she had weakened and eventually passed away on the 22nd January. The nation fell into mourning, and a funeral, long planned by her, was held on the 2nd of February at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, before her interment alongside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park.

Victoria’s heir apparent was her son Edward VII, who immediately inherited the titles, but his coronation was scheduled for the following year; the 26th June 1902 to be precise. This gave George Allan plenty of time to create, and have published, a patriotic overture to celebrate the new king, which is precisely what he did.

The census of 1901 gives us an opportunity to check up on the whereabouts of the Allan family. Unsurprisingly, as the address was always printed upon his published compositions, George and Elizabeth continued to reside at 2 Pears Terrace, New Shildon with their daughters, Lillie and Beatrice and their son William. George’s occupation is presented as Blacksmith, though we know from the wages books of the wagon works that he was still a Blacksmith’s Striker or assistant to the Blacksmith. We can never be sure why George never progressed to being a blacksmith in his own right given how long he remained in that post at the works; perhaps it simply suited him to be the second man. In any case, he seems to have been consistent in his work and didn’t feature in any of the worker’s fines books we have seen from that period. Workers would generally be fined for any breach of the works regulations or for slacking off around the works, arriving late or leaving early. George and Ralph continued their membership of the Mechanics Institute, possibly retiring there occasionally to relax, read or attend an interesting lecture.

George’s father, John James Allan, and mother Hannah were still occupying number 65 Adelaide Street, with sons Edwin, then aged 22, and Ralph, then aged 18. John was by this time in his mid-sixties, but still a tailor and draper and that he is listed as an employer suggests that it is his own business. Nearby at number 68 was son John Robert, now a joiner and wagon builder at the works, where presumably he would have seen his brother George often.

We know of only one contest judging engagement for George in 1901, which was at the Brandon Band Contest of Saturday, August the 31st. The contest had been advertised in the press for weeks beforehand as part of the eighth Brandon Colliery Flower Show and Sports, with instructions for interested bands to contact the show secretary to acquire the rules. Nine bands entered including Hebburn Colliery, Sunderland Temperance, Seaham Harbour, Willington Silver, Spennymoor Temperance, Thornley Colliery, Hetton Colliery, Hamsteels and Brandon Colliery. In the own choice test piece contest the Sunderland band were unable to repeat their success at the previous year’s event, George finding in favour of the Hebburn Colliery Band. Seaham Harbour, the previous year’s runners up, came third. As was the tradition there was a separate march contest at which Hebburn Colliery again triumphed over the Sunderland band.

Otherwise, during this year George continued to compose and to be published. In 1901 we see a handful of his creations published in a new, and seemingly short-lived, brass band journal based, like Fred Richardson’s Cornet, in the area of Boston in Lincolnshire. This was the Standard Band Journal, which may perhaps have been an experiment by the owners of the Boston Standard newspaper. The published journal declares that it was produced by the Standard Publishing Company of Boston, Lincolnshire. George’s works that were published in this year by this journal included the marches “Niobe” and “On Parade” and the fantasia “The New Century” and overture “King Edward”. Two of these pieces were eventually included into the Wright and Round archive catalogue, so a reasonable hypothesis might be that Thomas Albert Haigh had begun an entry into retirement and perhaps the Standard Publishing Co had become interested in filling the gap, but may have sold their business to Wright and Round as Fred Richardson also later did with his Cornet Journal.

47. Entertaining Royalty on the Streets of Ballarat

1901 is a little confusing when it comes to understanding what engagements Thomas Bulch was involved in. This is largely down to references in the press of the day mentioning Bulch’s Brass Band but without knowing whether they refer to a band Thomas was actually running, or a hang-over reference to the Bulch’s Model Band, which were now, of course, the City of Ballarat Band. An example being that ‘Bulch’s Brass Band’ appeared on the 7th of February at the Rokewood, Pitfield and Berringa branch of the AMA’s sports meeting.

What’s much clearer though was that, following the success of the previous year, Thomas was engaged yet again to be the adjudicator for the band contest at this year’s Ballarat Exhibition Band Contest. The bands that had already signed up to compete were the City of Ballarat Brass Band, Code’s Melbourne Brass Band, Geelong Town, Lord Nelson Miner’s Band (of St Arnaud), Prout’s Ballarat Brass Band and the St Augustine’s Orphanage Band. Thomas had specially arranged “Jessonda” by Spohr as the test piece. On Friday the 22nd Feb, this contest was to take place on the Eastern Oval, with entry tickets costing 1s with those for the grandstand and reserve being an extra 6d. As had become the tradition the band assembled at 10:30 away from the showground to take part in a parade to the Oval. The test piece rendering would commence at 11:30 am and then fall in again at 3 pm for inspection and to commence the military drill contest. Each band would play a quickstep while the judges decided on scores. The following day the band would parade to the Oval to play their own choice test pieces. Should there be a tie there would be a playoff. Then at 5:30 pm, the bands would come together for a grand finale parade.

Of Bulch’s test piece, it was said that “Those who have been fortunate enough to hear it pronounce it to be a most classical and refined selection.” We are told that Lieut Colonel Williams of the 3rd Battalion acted as a general conductor, which presumably meant conducting the affairs rather than the bands. The prizes on offer stood at £150 for first place, £70 for the second, £30 for third and £20 for fourth place. Compared with the prizes on offer back at the town and village contests that George Allan was adjudicating these were grand prizes indeed. With extra prizes of £30, £20, £10 and £5 for the military drill. In the event those military drill prizes were taken by Prout’s, Geelong, Lord Nelson and Ballarat City, in that order.

The points scored for the first day of test pieces were, of course sealed in an envelope, to be revealed only after the second round of performances on the Saturday.

The Saint Augustine’s Orphanage Band attracted much support on account of their youth, and reportedly played very well. Bulch’s old band, the City of Ballarat, were said to have played well but did not pay attention to their timekeeping.

The cornet solo contest took place on the Friday evening after the first day of band contests, and the competitors had to play through a piece entitled “Sabrina” that had been composed especially by Thomas Bulch for the event. Mr L Osborne of Melbourne beat W Graham of Ballarat to that prize by three points, with seven other competitors finishing behind the pair.

In the Saturday parade to the Oval for the second day of contesting it was unsurprising to hear some bands again choose Bulch pieces to march along to. The Ballarat City band stuck with their choice from the previous year of playing Bulch’s “The Typhoon”; as did Geelong Town. Prout’s chose two of Thomas’s pieces, “Constellation” and “Newcastle”. With Thomas concealed in the judge’s tent it was the St Arnaud’s Band that went first, playing a selection of Rossini pieces; then came Ballarat City with Bulch’s own Weber selection. St Augustine’s played Harry Round’s “Linda di Chamouni” and Prout’s chose Bulch’s Weber selection again. Code’s played a selection from “Faust” by Berlioz and Geelong played “Tannhauser” by Harry Round. When the points from this round were added to those from the previous day, Code’s band emerged clear winners, followed by Lord Nelson, Prout’s and Geelong. We gather that Code’s band “completely lost its discipline and broke out in every manifestation of delight” at the result; understandable with a prize of £150 at stake. An evening euphonium solo contest followed at which Thomas awarded the prize to Mr J Ogilvie from Code’s band. Thomas’s conduct and judgement throughout were again well received.

As the year slipped on into April and towards the southern winter season a letter appeared in the Ballarat Star on the 29th “A COMMENDABLE SUGGESTION. (To the Editor.)yours, etc., A HELPER. Sir,—I see by yesterday’s “Star” that Mr Adam Scott has kindly sent you the sum of one guinea for the purpose of starting a fund for providing firewood, etc., for those in need during the coming winter. I think it is a good idea of his — one which I think will meet with the approval of nearly everybody. Further, I would suggest that a Sunday programme of music, supplied by our brass bands, should take place, say. next Sunday week, at the Eastern Oval, weather permitting, and a collection taken up at the gates, which I am sure would realise a good sum, considering it is for so worthy an object. Let it be on the same lines as one previously given by our bands in aid of the soldier’s statue fund. Starting from the City Fire Brigade, march to the Oval via Sturt and Bridge streets. I would like to see Mr Bulch, bandmaster of the Militia Band, take the matter up and confer with the other bandmasters on the subject, who l am sure, would only be too willing to help. Also the firemen of the Ballarat. City and Sebastopol Brigades might take part in the march. Hoping Mr Bulch will get going at once, yours etc. A HELPER.” I suppose this is a crafty move on the part of the writer. After all having been suggested so publicly it might look bad on the organisations named if they did not take up such a charitable task. Interesting too that the writer named Thomas, a suggestion that he considered him, perhaps, to be a positive influencer where charitable endeavours were concerned.

Thomas and the 3rd Battalion Militia Band, around the time of that letter, had a sad duty to fulfil, in attending the unveiling of a plaque at Beaufort, honouring the memory of a fallen comrade, Major G A Eddy, one of the first Australians from Victoria State to fall in the Boer War. Major Eddy had begun his military career with the 3rd Battalion Militia. After the unveiling ceremony, the band played a ‘well selected’ programme of music.

Then in May, on the 13th, a day before news of the Relief of Mafeking would filter through to the Australian public, the 3rd Battalion Militia had a very special, and rare, engagement to fulfil. A royal visit to Melbourne and Ballarat. The Duke of York, brother of Edward VII and now heir apparent to the British throne, and his wife, had travelled to Australia for a royal tour. Prince George had visited Ballarat twenty years earlier, and been welcomed as a youth. Citizens flocked to the railway station and thickly lined Lydiard Street and Victoria Square. Flags and bunting adorned every building in a display of patriotism and imperial pride, though it may not have been universally felt. The route of the visit had been published in the ever vigilant Ballarat Star enabling the public to find the best spots to view the royal entourage. Thomas Bulch, the Militia Band and B Company of the 3rd Battalion were on point as a guard of honour at the railway station, with a company of 100 Mounted Rifles, to greet the arrival of the special train bringing the Prince and his wife as well as the Prime Minister of Australia, Edmund Barton; the Attorney General and State Premier too. The station had been specially and unusually dressed and furnished lavishly for the occasion. After a meet and greet with the City Mayor and Town Councillors inside the station, the Duke and Duchess exited the station as Thomas Bulch and his Militia Band played the National Anthem. The couple then began their procession. They travelled to the Soldier’s Statue, a publicly funded memorial to the soldiers of the locality that fell so recently in South Africa, where they ceremonially laid a foundation stone. The Duke and Duchess then travelled to the Town Hall Gardens to plant trees, again ceremonially. They were then presented with a silver casket containing specimens of gold from the North Woah Hawp Mine before proceeding via City Hall, where they were serenaded by former Shildonian James Scarffe’s Ballarat City Band with 1,200 school children en route to Alexandra Square. With the sound of the peal of the City Hall bells beginning to fade the couple received addresses at Alexandra Square, formally naming it, before journeying on to the South Star Mine to receive a presentation and gift from the Chairman of Directors there. They returned to the railway station via Sturt Street to view the Women’s Ward at the hospital that was dedicated to Queen Victoria in her Diamond Jubilee year. The couple then departed by train at 4:00 pm. A grand banquet of the civic dignitaries followed, with a firework display in the evening.

In June, on Friday the 21st, a social reunion of the 3rd Battalion Militia was held at the Trades Hall, and naturally, Thomas Bulch provided a programme of music with Miss Anderson. 32 couples partook of 20 dances. There followed a banquet on the evening, at which Thomas presided. Toasts were raised to “the King”, “the officers”, “the band” and “the ladies”. Around this time it was also revealed that Thomas had composed the selection “Gems of Meyerbeer” to be used as a test piece at the next South Street Competitions. On the 27th Thomas attended, and was one of the persons who contributed a number of instrumental and vocal renditions to, a farewell at the Orderly Room for the 3rd Battalion Militia’s former bandmaster Mr Gray, who also had run the Phoenix Foundry Band for a time. Mt Gray had secured a post at a large foundry in Brisbane so was leaving Ballarat. On Wednesday 17th July Thomas attended yet another function at the City Rowing Club for another well-liked citizen leaving Ballarat. This time it was Mr Charles Tulloch who was being transferred from the Ballarat Branch of the Commercial Bank to one at Footscray. Thomas not only sang some of the several songs but provided piano accompaniment throughout. On the 29th August the direction of travels was reversed, with Thomas and the 3rd Battalion Militia Band being engaged not this time to see someone off, but to welcome the Mayor of Ballarat and his wife back to the city. A social gathering of over 1200 persons attended the function at the Alfred Hall that had been suitably bedecked to greet the couple. The band played Bulch’s “The Commanding Officer’s Parade”, “The Empire”, his new selection “Gems of Meyerbeer”, the waltz composed under his alter ego Henri Laski, “Elsinore” and an arrangement, possibly Bulch’s, of Glaswegian violinist Carl Volti’s “Fair Maid of Perth”. There then followed an interval after which musical duties were picked up by Harry West’s Orchestra. Dancing then continued until the early hours of the morning.

By early September, anticipation was building for the Ballarat Musical Festival, which again would include a major band contest. Prizes of £200 were announced and a huge list of competing bands that had registered was declared. These comprised Newton Band (New South Wales), Newcastle Band (New South Wales), Albury Band (New South Wales), Gawler Band (South Australia), Loco South Australian Railways Band (Adelaide), Hobart City Band (Tasmania), Queenstown Band (Tasmania), Northcott’s Band (Bendigo, Melbourne), Hopetoun Band, Geelong Town Band, Code’s Band (Melbourne), Lord Nelson Band (St Arnaud), 3rd Battalion Militia Band, Prout’s Brass Band (Ballarat), Ballarat City Band, Soldier’s Hill Band (Ballarat), St Augustine’s Band (Geelong) and the Eaglehawk Band. It was clear that this was going to be a serious contest, and on this occasion, Thomas Edward Bulch would be competing rather than judging. The bands would play two selections, one pre-determined and one ‘own choice’. Bands would then mass to play a march composed for the occasion by Thomas Bulch himself. First though there were other duties to perform.

On Sunday the 15th September the 3rd Battalion Militia band took part in a funeral procession for Mr Walter S Douglass, a member of K Company of the Mounted Rifles. Accompanied by a firing party, the procession was led by Thomas and the Militia band playing, as was customary, “Dead March” from Saul along the way which was lined with spectators. Then on Saturday the 28th Thomas and the band were in attendance at the unveiling of a memorial to Sergeant Charlie Vaughan of Learmouth, another casualty of the Second Boer War. The Ballarat Star, in describing the unveiling, waxed lyrical on the validity of Australia’s part in the conflict. “It was to such men as’ Sergeant Vaughan, who did) so much for their country and civilisation, that the people owed a great deal. SouthAfrica had proved the dumping ground for Australia’s sons, who were now known throughout the world for the splendid work they had performed. It was thought by many that there was no need to send men from Australia to fight in South Africa, but those who had watched events must acknowledge that there was great need. When that petition was sent calling upon Great Britain to settle the grievances of the Outlanders, it was the duty of Great Britain to respond to the call. The British nation must protect her subjects wherever they might be. When those in responsible power in these states called on eligible men to come forward their action was adversely criticised, but it was necessary that we should show the mother country and the world at large that we would recognise our responsibilities as British subjects.”

On Wednesday the 9th of October, Thomas found himself in the judge’s tent once more. This time at the Agricultural Show at Dimboola, which rather than the grand contests in the city of Ballarat, sounded more akin to the kinds of band contest George Allan found himself being employed to judge back in Britain. Four bands competed; Dimboola, Nhill, Warracknabeal and Natimuk, each providing a selection of music for the pleasure of those in attendance. The Warracknabeal Band won by a single point with Nhill second, Natimuk third and Dimbool bringing up the rear. Also in that month W Paxton & Co, the music publishers of Melbourne and London were advertising among their many new publications that they offered for sale a book entitled Bulch’s Cornet Tutor. This is interesting in the sense that Paxton published music created by composers often confused as Bulch pseudonyms, such as Theo Bonheur, a pseudonym for Arthur Charles Rawlings, but also that Thomas Bulch’s influence as a music tutor was greatly extended into many homes through books such as this. Many cornet players would have started out following Thomas Edward Bulch’s method.

On Saturday the 19th October, there was an official inspection of the 3rd Battalion Militia by Major-General Downes at Russell Square at which Thomas’s Militia band provided music for the march past. Then on Thursday the 24th of October, it was time for the much anticipated first day of the South Street Competition’s Grand Interstate Band Contest.

Then finally came Thursday the 24th of October, the first day of the now annual South Street Interstate Band Competition as part of the South Street Contests. having adjudicated the previous year this was Thomas’s opportunity to experience the proceedings from a participant’s perspective. Though naturally, his involvement was slightly more than that would suggest, as he had contributed the test piece of the selection contest; his “Gems of Meyerbeer”.

The grandstand at the Eastern Oval in Ballarat was ‘well patronised’ and the lawn ‘thronged’; an estimated 2,000 spectators looked on. Of the eighteen bands that had registered to compete, two had failed to put in an appearance, those being Northcott’s Band of Bendigo and the Hobart City Band; nonetheless, sixteen bands was, for that time, and extremely strong and serious competing field. With the exception of the Loco Band of the South Australian Railways, who ironically had been held up owing to a delayed train, the other fifteen bands massed on Sturt Street opposite the office of the Ballarat Star and together as one played “Will o The Wisp” under conductor John Robson. They then made the march to the Eastern Oval in turn at five-minute intervals. Thomas and his 3rd Battalion Militia band were the last of the fifteen bands to set off.

The judge, concealed inside the hessian tent at the Oval this time was one Lieutenant Herd. A number of ‘improvements’ were reported for this year’s event, one of which was that the ‘booths’ were under the control of the WCTU, a temperance organisation, meaning that the event’s organising committee could be sure that no alcoholic drinks would be offered for sale to the public during the contest. This principle also included the organising committee themselves; anyone hoping for a jolly nip or a hearty ale would be sorely disappointed. Prizes in the main contest this year were £200 for the best band, £75 for second place, £40 for third and a fourth prize of £20.

At this year’s contest, it had been decided that rather than have all the bands perform on day one, the entries would be broken into three groups for the test piece, the own choice selection or the quickstep march. This somewhat more complicated programme might have been in the hope that it might improve the attendance on days two and three. Thomas and his band were in the group that would play their own choice selection and quickstep on day two and the Meyerbeer test piece on day three. As each day at the Oval came to a close the points awarded by the judge were again locked away. At the end of the third day, the totalled points sorted in numeric order to reveal the winner.

After the selections on day one, and a brief interval for a callisthenics display by eight boys of the St Augustine’s Orphanage, came the first round of the quickstep march contest, again featuring only the first band group. At the end, the massed bandsmen again played “Will o The Wisp” under conductor Robson.

Day two, then, saw Thomas’s chance to show what his band could do with the own choice selection, for which he had chosen his own arrangement of the works of Lohengrin. The draw had resulted in them first having to stand by and watch the “Gems of Meyerbeer” test piece being rendered by the Ballarat City Band, once Thomas’s own band, but now under the control and baton of his old bandmate and fellow emigrant from New Shildon, James Scarff. This would be one performance Thomas might well wish to better, particularly with this being his own musical arrangement. The Ballarat City Band’s playing of the piece seemed to go well. “Bandmaster Scarff had his forces well in hand, and his indications were clearly and crisply taken up, the attack being admirable throughout. Tempo was a trifle slower than that adopted by most of the other bands, and if there was any error in the reading of the piece it was that there was a little too much soft music.”

On the afternoon Thomas’s 3rd Battalion Militia Band produced their quickstep march piece, for which he had chosen his own “The Commanding Officer’s Parade”; which was “a composition marked with well-marked lines and in every way adapted for the purpose for which it was written. The band turned out in first-class order, uniforms and instruments being clean and well cared for. The men marched in excellent lines with intervals well marked, but they finished the 100 yards slightly under contract time. Their wheeling and counter-marching were done with splendid precision, the lines being splendidly maintained.” Being, by their very nature, a military band, this section of the contest was the 3rd Militia’s chance to really shine, and they had largely taken it well.

On the evening, Thomas and his band were to offer their performance of the own choice test piece they had selected. It was reported thus. “The first movement, after the opening gave the cornets an excellent, opportunity for a display, of which they fully availed themselves. This was followed by a full band movement, which in turn was succeeded by a pretty effect, in which the horns and euphonium shewed to advantage. An excellent euphonium solo played with good delicacy of feeling showed what that instrument is capable of in the treatment of soft music, and another horn and euphonium duet was rendered with considerable taste. This was followed by a piano passage, in which the trombone was used very effectively. Taken as a whole, the band gave an excellent rendering of the piece, though they have been heard to better advantage in it. The music was capitally balanced, and light and shade were used with considerable judgment. Though the band discoursed plenty of soft music, there was an absence of the pianissimo playing by some and the balance of tone was well maintained.”. 

Throughout the weekend Thomas had plenty of opportunities, setting the pre-selected test piece, to hear some of his own compositions played. For example in the quickstep contest the Albury Band on day two played his “Newcastle” and Eaglehawk his “Constellation”. The following day St Arnaud played “Chef D’Oeuvre” and under James Scarff the Ballarat City played a favourite of Bulch’s Model Band, Bulch’ first march “The Typhoon”; these two marches from Bulch’s days in England showing that they could stand the test of time and compare to many pieces that had been composed since. With many of the other compositions at the contest being of English or European origin there could be no doubt in Thomas’s mind of his position as one of Australia’s premier composers of brass band music by this point.

On the third day the 3rd Battalion Militia were the second band to play the Meyerbeer test piece. With this being Thomas’s own arrangement there would be pressure on him to conduct the band to render it faithfully. The Ballarat Star’s account of their performance was as follows. “The Third Battalion, under bandmaster T E Bulch, opened very effectively, save that the euphonium soloist was a little “off colour”. The cornet solo was much better taken, and the full score music was given with a roundness and evenness of tone that were quite refreshing. The staccato passage was rendered very crisply, and in the various changes that followed a considerable amount of musical expression, the accents being very clearly marked. In one or two parts the band adopted a somewhat different rhythm from that chosen by other bands and as the conductor is the composer it is reasonable to suppose that he carried out his own intentions. Taken altogether, an admirable balance of tone was maintained; the modulations were artistic, and the rendering generally was a very acceptable one.”

Despite this review, Thomas’s efforts and those of his band were not enough to secure a placing in the contest. The winners of the Selection contest, and the £200 prize, were the Newcastle band of New South Wales. Second came Code’s of Melbourne, followed by St Arnaud and Newtown of New South Wales. The Militia Band came twelfth and the City of Ballarat second from last. This would have been a blow to morale of both. There was redemption for Thomas’s band though in the Quickstep contest where they had finished third, having scored the joint top marks for their marching and highly for their musical performance. For this they were awarded £15. Scarff’s Ballarat City Band did slighlty better in this contest too, coming ninth.

Overall though, the South Street Contests, with all the other various artistic, musical and literary competitions of which it comprised, had again been a huge spectacle, which concluded that evening with a grand military tattoo that saw an estimated 15,000 people gather at the Oval to celebrate the finale. This show featured a display by the Scottish Regiment as well as the 3rd Battalion, which of course includes Thomas and the band. The main spectacle of this tattoo was a simulated ambush by Boers on a small camp of British soldiers, reprisals for which was a retaliatory attack on a Boer homestead with bombs and fireworks which concluded with the capture of the Boer guerrillas and the house being razed to the ground. The band then massed once more to play the National Anthem.

With normality restored once more to the streets of Ballarat, on Thursday 21st November the Militia Band occupied the Rotunda opposite the office of the Ballarat Star to render a number of selections “in a manner which was highly creditable to Bandmaster Bulch, and a source of enjoyment to the large number of listeners.”  Then on Saturday the 30th November, the Evening Journal of Adelaide looked forward to the Australian Natives Association Carnival and Sports in Adelaide, scheduled for 27th January 1902 which, of course, as well as a new ‘cask rolling’ contest also included a brass band contest, and for which Thomas Bulch was being announced as the chosen judge. On the 24th of December the Evening Post of New Zealand also announced that Thomas was shortlisted as a possible judge for the band contest to be held in 1902 under the auspices of the North Island Brass Bands Association, and explained that the result of the selection of a judge would be declared on the 4th January that year. In the meantime, the bandmasters of the bands comprising the association would be balloted towards reaching that decision.

Continue to part 5