On the Quayside

Being a sea-port band has its advantages as far as engagements go, as the ‘S.S. France’ was played out of Southampton on her maiden voyage by the Band, having a place of honour on the balcony of the Ocean Terminal at 43 Berth in the Docks.  The music was relayed to the hundreds of spectators all around the vast Ocean Dock, but unfortunately rain spoiled the proceedings.


Much better conditions however prevailed as the Band played out another great Ocean giant, the ‘Northern Star’ on her maiden voyage to Australia and New Zealand.  Here the combination under Mr. S. Swancott, performed on the quayside and played appropriate music for the occasion, such as ‘South Pacific’, ‘Hawaiian Serenade’ etc. and by the time the great vessel sailed the Band members were covered and tangled up in streamers thrown by the passengers on board.


Another new service to be opened in the Docks was the drive on, drive off, ferry service to Cherbourg and Le Havre.  At the start of this maiden voyage, the Band entertained the passengers and visitors and played the first car aboard the ship (‘Viking’) which belonged to the Mayor of the Town, the tune ‘When the Saints go Marching In’ – the Mayor was a very keen supporter of the ‘Saints’.


A similar service was opened to Spain and Gibraltar in 1966 at 49 Berth in the Docks.  Here the Band entertained the travel agents and other guests in the morning from the quayside, in the afternoon on the Sun and Swimming Pool Deck, and in the evening played to Civic dignitaries.  The next evening, the ship ‘Sunward’ was played out in the rain, with streamers again enveloping the Band.


So much for ships being played out, and now to one being played in.  This vessel was the American nuclear powered ship the ‘SAVANNAH’.  She was the first ship of her kind in the world and was met by several local and international dignitaries.  After the speech making, the guests toured the ship and a programme of music was given by the Band.  Then they too were invited aboard and were entertained by the crew to coffee and cakes, and then shown around the vessel.


On two occasions, in Southampton and at Poole (because they had done so well at Southampton) the Band led Circus parades.  These were a great success and it appeared that the elephants were keeping time with the music as they swayed their massive heads and trunks to and fro.  At Poole, it seemed that some jealousy had built up, because the Albion and not the local band had been asked to lead the Circus.  One of the members of the local combination actually picketed the Band with a placard, denouncing the fact that, although Poole had its own Band, the Circus authorities had engaged an outside one.  After a letter was sent to the offending member’s band, a letter of apology followed and

the incident closed.


Shortly after this, Mr. Swancott began to suffer from poor health and it became apparent that this was retarding the Band’s progress.  Whist he was away sick, Mr. Courtney Bosanko from Bournemouth – a very able and efficient conductor and teacher – coached them for the Contest at Reading in 1964. Although not in the prizes the Band acquitted themselves very well indeed, this time against Championship Bands.  Soon afterwards, Mr. Swancott for health reasons left the district to live nearer his home in Yorkshire, and it was then that Mr. Bosanko was invited to take over the Band as its Musical Director, which he did to the delight of the members.

All England Finals, 1962


Success came very quickly after that, in that the Band won 1st prize at the London and Southern Counties Area Championships in London in April, 1965, with 15 Bands taking part in the 2nd Section, and this entitled them to take part in the National Finals in London in October 1965.  Although playing ‘The Frogs’ very well, Albion was not in the prizes, but were invited to compete again the following year.  Once again, however, against the finest opposition in the country, they could not be placed.


In the Wessex contest in December 1966, the band again won the March Cup very convincingly, but the Wessex Championship eluded them.


As well as losing players to the Services, Albion has also lost them to Championship section Bands namely:- Leslie Burgess (Euphonium) to the old Enfield Central band, Alf Thorn (Flugel Horn) to the Luton Band, Bob Richards (Euphonium) to Manchester C.W.S. and the most recent Ian Lovel (Euphonium) to B.M.C. Band.


Besides the ‘full’ Band successes there have been many prizes gained by the Band in Solo, Quartet and Septet Competitions.  One of those sweep-the-board days was at Tadley in March, 1951, when a Septet party from the Band was 1st, the Trombone Quartet won their section, Bram Taylor won the Senior Solo medal, and Alec Wotton won the Junior Solo medal.  There was a similar success at Amesbury in 1937, on that occasion the Band were 1st with Septet, 1st and 2nd with Quartet and were 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the Slow Melody, L. Burgess, W. Barnes and C. Rhodes respectively and L. Burgess winning the ‘Air Varie’.


In 1962 the Band started an inter-Band solo and quartet contest which was held annually.  This was usually well attended and there was much friendly rivalry amongst the members at this event.


The Band was very fortunate indeed to be supported by a very active Ladies Committee.  In their first few years, during the 1960s, they purchased a set of chromium plated music stands, a new euphonium, and made several donations to the Band.  On behalf of the members I would like to thank them very much indeed for their wonderful efforts.


During 1967 the Band was invited to play out two more new ship on their maiden voyages and to greet the most famous liner of them all – the ‘Queen Mary’ – on her final Atlantic crossing as a British Ship.


The two new ships were the ‘Patricia’ opening up a new service from Southampton to Bilbao, Spain, as a passenger and car ferry when the Band played on the new quayside as the cars and passengers embarked on the ship from the specially built ‘Princess Alexandra’ Terminal, and with the bunting and streamers and the ship gaily dressed over all, it was quite a carnival atmosphere.  It was a similar scene as the new car ferry the ‘Dragon’ opened up another new service from Southampton to Le Havre, only this time the sailing was a bit later in the evening.  However the Band were fortified with hot coffee and biscuits, and, the fact that their efforts were much appreciated, made everything worthwhile.


In September of that year, that famous old lady of the sea – the ‘Queen Mary’ – reached the end of her career as a passenger liner, so it was with very great honour that the Albion were asked to greet her and play her in.  This was a great occasion, thousands of people were waiting, the Ocean Terminal was packed with sightseers, and the Band entertained them as they waited.  Television and Newsreel cameras were set up at vantage points and as the great liner came alongside, there was silence.  Then suddenly, at a pre-arranged signal, everybody on the roof and balcony shot streamers towards the ship, and the Band played appropriate music.  This was a very touching scene and some people were crying unashamedly.  Then the ship’s Master, Captain Treasure Jones, came ashore, congratulated the band and said that they had received a terrific send-off in New York, but this was nothing to the reception they had received  at Southampton.  Some of the passengers congratulated and remarked at the high standard of playing by the Band, it was even mentioned in the press as a Royal Marines Band – a very great compliment indeed.

Playing for the 1001st and final Atlantic Crossing of the Queen Mary


During the year all the usual engagements had been carried out and the Wessex Winter Contest attended.  As usual, the Championship of Wessex eluded the combination, but they did not come away empty handed, being placed third in the main event.  At this contest one Band in the Championship section was disqualified for playing unregistered players.  Unfortunately, some Bands do this from time to time, but this only brings disrepute and takes some of the fun out of banding.


In the early part of 1968, preparations were made to take part in the London and Southern Counties Area Championships at Wembley.  Unfortunately the test piece was very uninspiring and therefore uninteresting.  An addition the venue for the Contest was not a very good choice and certainly not accommodating.  However, the Band were placed fifth, father lower than was hoped for, but as difficulties had been encountered with some key players during the past year, causing major reorganisation, the result was considered inevitable.


Shaftesbury in Dorset was the setting for the Wessex Summer Contest.  This was a programme contest of half an hour duration, in which the Band were placed second, winning the Downside Trophy.  In the Hymn Tune contest which followed, first prize was gained, winning the Tolpuddle Martyrs Shield – appropriate indeed as this was on the anniversary of that great tragedy.  The band were also placed second to the Army Band for deportment.


During the year all the usual Fetes and Carnivals were attended, quite a number of them for Charity.  At such events, considerable expense is incurred in travelling, and the Band is very often out of pocket through taking part in these ventures.  Often members have to use their own transport, and expenses for petrol etc. are borne by themselves.


As in previous years, the junior members took part in the Gosport Musical Festival, the Cup for the best overall performance being won by Haydn Taylor on the Tenor Horn.  Last year it was won by another Albion Junior, this time a young lady named Lena Smith.  The other Juniors came away with twelve certificates of Merit for the various solos and quartets – quite an achievement.


As the world’s largest liner the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ neared the end of her great career, the Band was invited to give her musical honours.  She had to make a ‘finishing up’ cruise to Gibraltar and North Africa before leaving Southampton for her last resting place.


The members turned up in force at the Ocean terminal for this departure and appropriate music was played between 11am and 12:30pm on November 8th, 1968.  Thousands of people watched this other great Lady sail and the event was also covered by Television and Newsreels.  The Band was under the direction of Mr. Archie Weston who is deputy to Mr. Bosanko.


At 107 Berth on November 15th, 1968, at 4pm the liner was played back after the cruise.  The Band played entertaining music for an hour before her arrival and then a further 45 mins while the great liner was manoeuvred alongside.  It was certainly goo ‘lipping’ for the Contest at Reading the next day, but in spite of a good performance the Band were placed fifth.  This of course is the way of contesting and every Band believes they should be the winner.


Then came a very dark morning on 29th November, 1968, when at 7:15am the combination gathered in the floodlights of 107 Berth to do duty to the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ for the last time.  Two or three hundred people were present at the Berth but in nearby Mayflower Park and the Royal Pier there were many more.  Some of the items played by the band were broadcast on BBC1 and ITV with appropriate commentary, and there were very good write-ups in the local and national press.


So through the years it appears that the Albion has been heard in the Docks at all hours of the day and night, either playing-in or playing-out various vessels.


Immediately after the Reading Contest, preparations were made to take part in the Wessex Winter contest at Bournemouth.  After much hard work by the members, the day of the event arrived, but sad to say the Band were not among the winners – so the Wessex Winter contest ‘jinx’ is still with us.


With Winter now approaching it became obvious that new raincoats would have to be purchased.  This meant a considerable outlay from Band funds and several activities were arranged to help finance the project.  In addition several members personally contributed by purchasing their own raincoats.


During the Christmas period, members split up and played carols in various parts of the City, and a donation was sent to the Mayor’s Fund out of the collections made.


With Christmas over, the London and Southern Counties Area Contest at Wembley has to be considered.  Playing very well the Band were placed fourth out of fourteen bands.


Other engagements undertaken during the early part of 1969 were the stone laying ceremony of the new Bitterne Methodist Church, a concert in aid of the Church Fabric fund in Peartree Church, and another concert in the Salvation Army Citadel, Southampton.  These were all very well received and hopes were expressed for repeat performances.


During this time, Albion were invited to take part in a Contest at Weston-Super-Mare.  This was the furthest west the Band had played and in the event won third prize against some very good opposition.


Now after playing a full season at the Dell, the 40th, the combination looked forward to a very busy summer season.