a tale of
“oh yes we can!”
In 1912 a committee had been formed to raise funds for a town band to be formed to perform at carnivals and fetes. Former military bandmaster William Holman had moved to the town and during a conversation with local auctioneer Frank Parsons, accepted a bet that in six weeks he could train from scratch a band fit to march through the streets of Shipston.
On Thursday, 16th May, 1912, Shipston Band, using a system of numbers, gave its first public performance. William had managed to teach his 19 recruits a march and a waltz., they marched up West Street, along Darlingscott Road and down Sheep Street returning to the Square, pausing on route to play their waltz on each street corner, this was too much for most and by the time they had returned to the square only William and the drummer were still playing and the bet was won.
Soon after the band formed the Great War started and a number of its players were called-up for active service, however, it was decided to carry on despite these problems and the band committee elected to pay the subscriptions of absent players whilst they were away and then William Holman was called to service, the position of conductor was taken over by J. R. “Dick” Mayo, for the next two decades and the band contributed to the war effort by performing at recruiting rallies, concerts for the troops and by marching the them to the railway station en-route to France.
World War II saw the band to close down and all the instruments went into store, but once the war was over a former cornet player, Bert Smith reformed the band. Before the war a number of players had travelled to other local bands to play at contests as Shipston were not interested in competing, however, in1956 they entered their first contest in Winchcombe, although not a winning it sparked off interest and in the succeeding years other contests were entered.
“Bert” Smith remained conductor of the band until his death in 1976 and the band achieved countless successes qualifying for the National Finals in London in 1961 and 1971. Over the years the band practised in back rooms local pubs and finally had its own band hall, formerly an army billet and this was to remain in use until 1968, when it too was replaced by the present band room.
After Bert came a succession of fine conductors: ‘The Welsh Wizard’ Richard Nash and his assistant Peter Stevens who guided the band to competition success, saw the arrival of Charlie Cox, David Williams, Jeremy Dibb, Glen Coleman, Dennis Grant, Les Yarrow, Dave Lea and our current conductor Howard Gibbs.