Having watched Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT union lead his delegation down, Tolpuddle High Street in 2008, with the RMT Easington Colliery Band.
I thought about posting a brief article on Brass Bands and the Labour Movement.
While many mining collieries had their own bands, many run and organised by the miners union their is few other examples of trade unions establishing Brass Bands, the only other examples I can find is the Doncaster National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) Brass Band which was established around circa 1938.
A Langham Labour League band from 1871 (this was likely to have been an agricultural workers union band). The Co-operative movement also had numerous Brass Bands, many of them successful.
The Gas Workers Union in the late 1880's also seem to have helped establish a number of bands and today UNISON sponsors the Kinneil Brass band in Scotland, founded by the miners of Kinneil Pit and the workers of Wilson's Kinneil Iron Works in their home town of Bo'ness, West Lothian in 1858.
The Milnsbridge Socialist Brass Band (Huddersfield) was active in the early 1930's and surely the Independent Labour Party (ILP) or the Clarion's also attempted to establish Brass Bands. Preston Clarion had a band circa 1911 and also the suffragettes in the WSPU.
I have seen reference to a Transport & General Workers Union Brass Band ? but not been able to confirm. Photo right is of a special Silver Jubilee TGWU band from 1947. I have seen reference to a Post Office Engineering Union band from Stockport circa early 1970's
Their was a Liverpool Socialist brass band
Ireland now has only one trade union Brass Band (CWU), after the disbandment of the world famous Irish Transport & General Worker Union (ITGWU) Brass Band (later known as SIPTU Brass Band) around circa 2005.
HISTORY OF THE IRISH TRANSPORT & GENERAL WORKERS UNION BRASS BAND
By Eileen King "ITGWU Liberty Magazine" June 1984
The Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union Band (ITGWU) was formed in 1919 (picture above). Senator Thomas Foran, General President of the Union, decided that a Brass and Reed Band would be of great assistance in extending Union organisation in
The Dublin dockers were interested in Tom Foran’s idea, and a committee of Dublin No. 1 Branch members was set up to raise the necessary funds to equip, clothe and train a band. The collection to raise the money was undertaken during the latter part of 1918. An interesting point about this collection, which ranged mostly over the docks and local employments, including carriers was that the carriers negotiated an increase of 7/6d per week in October, 1918 and, led by the late Jack Clarke (a member of the fund raising committee) and his eight fellow workers in Suttons, a large number of the carters subscribed their first week’s increase — 7/6d to the band fund.
Financial help came from Union funds too and the organisation of a series of “Housey-Housey” games was — according to a man who was active in the project - another source of revenue.
Early in 1919 the Band was formed, instruments purchased and rehearsals begun. The first uniforms of the band were made by the Abbey Street Co-op and designed and paid for by William O’Brien who was then Acting General Secretary of the
The first public engagement undertaken by the Band was in May, 1919, when it participated in the May Procession at the church of the Oblate Fathers in Inchicore.
There were veterans who remembered how the Band practised in the drill hall of the old Citizen Army ... of the raid on Liberty Hall in 1920 by the Black and Tans who smashed up most of the instruments, and of the period in 1924 when it seemed doubtful if the Band would be permitted to survive. But survive it did and played on to become the only band to win the Royal Dublin Society Band Contest two years in succession.
During the Anglo-Irish war the Band was prominent, participating in many parades and exercises. They were frequently in trouble because of their activities, and were often stopped by the Black and Tans and ordered off parade. An amusing story is told of a parade they had in Finglas. A contingent of Tans stopped the Band and the officer in charge instructed them to cease playing Irish marches. The Band Sergeant agreed and instructed the Band to play the “Wearing of the Green.” The officer applauded and remarked ... “Isn’t that much better than your b.... Irish marches?”.
In 1932 the Band went to
It is worthy of record that in those early years, when the Irish Army Military Band was first formed, twenty-one members of the ITGWU Band were accepted as key instrumentalists and went over en bloc.
Since its formation in 1919, up to 1936, the Band was administered by a Committee from the Dublin No. 1 Branch. Since 1937, it has been administered by the Dublin District Council of the
It was in 1937 also that Adolf Gebler was appointed as Musical Director. He held the degree of Pedagoge de Musicke from a German Conservatoire of Music, and from that year until 1957, when he left to take up an appointment in San Francisco, the Band settled down to a really excellent and fruitful period. It attained a very high standard which won it many collective and individual prizes.
Up to August 9, 1954, the official title of the Union Band was The Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union Prize Brass & Reed Band. Since then the title has be-come The Irish Transport & General Workers Band World Prize Brass and Reed Band. This came about as a result of an invitation to the Band to represent
The journey to
When the party eventually arrived at
In spite of their misadventures, the Band went on to win 1st Prize in the “Excellence Section”; 1st Prize in the “Contest of Honour”, and 2nd Prize in the marching competition. This achievement in
A learners” class was established around 1956 to provide the way and the means of ready-made replacements for key instrumentalists who, perhaps, through force of circumstances or; other reasons might sever their connection with the Band
In 1962, John Carroll (now General President of the
In 1969, Michael Rogers became Assistant to John Carroll, and Junior Band Coach. He was also responsible for establishing the children’s recorder band, which is still flourishing.
In 1970, what was called the Egerlander Band was formed. It comprised 12 members from the Band proper who, in colourful Bavarian-type costumes, played tuneful and rousing music in the “beer-garden” genre. This Band was very popular in the 1970’s, playing mostly for charities. It seems to have gone to ground in recent years, which is a great pity.
The list of achievements by the ITGWU World Prize Brass & Reed Band is quite formidable and space does not allow me to list them specifically. Suffice it to say, however, that the Band excelled itself down through the years by winning many competitions and championships. In addition, many of the Bandsmen won individual gold and silver medals in solo competitions. Three more visits were made to
Due to his many commitments, John Carroll left the Band about five years ago, and was replaced by Jimmy Cavanagh as Musical Director.
The standard of musicianship of the Union Band has long been acknowledged as top class, and the honours which have come its way in competition at local, national and international level bear testimony to this.
From its foundation, the Band has been a regular participant in labour, trade union and national parades and ceremonies. Ever since then the Band has continued its labour and trade union activities and has visited most centres of the country in which the union has branches on many occasions down the years in connection with commemorative ceremonies, industrial parades and disputes and other major industrial events.
The bandsmen always have been drawn from the ranks of the workers; some of the boys from the Artane Band have graduated to the uniform of the
The ITGWU (SIPTU) Brass band closed circa 2005
Thanks to Andy Newman for Tolpuddle/RMT photo