As a boy, I joined the 16th Manchester Boy’s Brigade Company, in 1969, where I learnt the drum and bugle. In common with most bugle bands, we learnt by the’ear’ method, and this showed its limitations when massing with other bands. Despite the BB having a bugle band manual, of standard tunes, there were always variations between bands, and of course, each thought their version was the correct one.
Sometime in the late 1970s, as an officer I attended a bugle band instruction course at the BB training centre, Broomley Grange. This encouraged me to improve my music reading skills and showed me other sources of music outside the BB. I taught drumming mostly, but when required I would also instruct buglers.
I always enjoyed participating in the battalion band contest. The Manchester competition was always half set tune (from the book) and free choice; so this deterred those bands who were none readers. I was pleased to be asked to judge the drumming, on two occasions. Thus I had gone full circle, taking part as a boy an instructor and a judge.
A Member of
The Yorkshire Corps of Drums
In the 1990s, work and family commitments forced me to resign as a BB officer, and I took a break for a few years. I returned as an instructor in 2nd Altrincham Company, moving to 1st Sale, then my current company 5th Manchester.
At about this time, I helped to form the Manchester Steadfast Association bugle band.
Membership was a mixture of ‘old boys’, former and current instructors. The main impetus was the international convention of Steadfast Associations a year later. Our ‘Old Boys’ bugle band, performed at the convention and led the delegates on a church parade through Manchester. The band continued to meet for some years after, but it only exists in a training form today.
I obtained the ‘Drummers Handbook’ and in 1994 started to learn the Bb flute. I joined the Yorkshire corps of drums in 2001, after attending a Corps of Drums Society meeting at Catterick.
I joined several companies over time, sometimes as a bandmaster, which gave me scope to try out new ideas with different people. I was able to organise display items, and this in turn, led to writing my own arrangements. As with all voluntary organisations; work, conflicts of character, frustration with attitudes or lack of achievement, sometimes left me with no alternative but to move on.
In 1985 I joined the Corps of Drums Society, after visiting the stand at the Royal Tournament. From this point, my real interest in the music and tradition of corps of drums began.