The story you are about to read is unique. It tells of a brass band, tucked away in the beautiful Hodder Valley in Lancashire, near to the centre of the United Kingdom, which in 1998 is to celebrate its Centenary - or so we think!
Gathering information for this project has been ongoing for about 10 years and has not been easy. The Band possesses no minute books, accounts or documents for its early years, and therefore has had to rely on local organisations, societies and press, but most importantly, individual recollections from a great many local people who themselves were members of the band or have memories of its activities. To all these people I am extremely grateful.
The Centenary Year is based on the Band's re-formation in 1898 which is well documented. It is known that a band of some form existed before this time but, at present it is proving difficult to trace. Some clues have been found thanks to help and advice from Arthur Taylor, author of the book "Brass Bands" - considered to be the definitive work on the British Brass Band scene - who suggests that many brass bands were formed from the musicians who played as church bands before organs were installed.
Evidence to support this theory in Slaidburn's case can be found from 2 sources: Alice Peel's "Short History of Slaidburn" and an obituary notice from Slaidburn Parish Church magazine of 1903. Alice Peel writes:
When Mr. Peel presented a small organ for which a gallery was built in 1852 at the West End, he and his family were allowed to take possession of a rough plain deal raised enclosure near the font, hitherto used by the string and wind instrument players and singers.
Further proof of the Church and Band theory comes in the following obituary notice:
Mr. Henry Dugdale who was our Schoolmaster at Slaidburn from 1851 to 1867, died at the end of September 1903 at the advanced age of 80 years. He was organist at the Parish Church, teacher of the Brass Band, Actuary of the Yorkshire Penny Bank, besides fulfilling many other duties connected with village life.
Perhaps Mr. Dugdale was responsible for creating the first band in Slaidburn after 1852, in which case the Band is well past its Centenary, but by how far? Some day we may find out, but until then we celebrate 100 years of music-making in 1998.
Please enjoy the Book and Celebrations with the Band.