A Means Of Enlivening The Community
Chapter 6 - Tobacco Tins and Transmitters
The 1920s and 1930s are a time in the Band's history when little is known about its activities. Many bands found themselves short of players following the Great War and often did not survive. It is known that both Slaidburn and Grindleton Bands found themselves in this predicament and decided to join forces. Significant in this decision is that Slaidburn's instruments were used, but Grindleton provided the majority of players. What happened to Grindleton's instruments is not known, but at least Slaidburn's survived to guarantee some continuity in the years ahead.
In 1924 one of the members of the Band contributed a piece of music to the local villagers and by another action pre-dated the practice of burying "time capsules" for future generations to find.
Joseph Hodgson, trombonist with the Slaidburn Band, could fairly be described as one of the village characters, or even eccentrics. He was a deeply religious man, often titling himself as "the leader" and when in church or chapel would affirm his assent to a preacher's words with a resounding "Amen" or "So Be It." It is said that on occasions when meeting some of Slaidburn's "wayward" villagers in the street he would kneel before them to pray for their salvation, much to their embarrassment! Prepared for all weathers he carried two hats, one for fine weather and one for rain. As mentioned in Ellen Cowking's poem, he was a poet of some ability, but for us he was also an amateur composer and thanks to his own foresight some of his compositions are still played by the present Band.
No doubt Joe Hodgson's religious beliefs had some influence on his choice of the hymn tune as a means of composing and their naming after local areas no doubt made them popular in Slaidburn. Hymn tunes such as "Burn Fell" and "Croasdale Fell" were composed in 1924 to be followed by others such as "Rex Egis" and "Monai" in 1927. Joe somehow had these hymns professionally produced on postcards, possibly to generate income for either himself or the Church or Chapel and many people still have copies of these hymns amongst family heirlooms. To ensure that future generations discovered these musical contributions from this remarkable villager, Joe had another idea.
Slaidburn's farmland is bounded by mile after mile of dry-stone walling, much of which still stands today and is in need of constant attention to repair gaps. Joseph Hodgson must have realised that here within the repaired sections of wall was an ideal place to bury a piece of music for posterity. "Wills", "Old Holborn", and other tobacco brand names provided their customers with their favourite tobacco in sealed tins and Joe used such tins to place his postcard hymn tunes in. As repairs were made to gaps in walls the tobacco tins were placed within and no doubt over the passage of time forgotten. In recent times as walls have needed repair again the tins have been discovered. The present conductor of the Band has been told of the find and has arranged to copy the music therein. The tin has then been returned to its place in the wall, possibly for future generations to puzzle over the find! The Band is now gaining a collection of Joe's hymn tunes and are always a source of interest when played at local events. There are still some villagers of Slaidburn who can remember the tune being played locally and more importantly, recall the occasion when it received a national airing --- but more of that later.
By the mid-1930's Slaidburn must have been unable to raise a Band for the Hodder Valley Show had to book Bentham Band to play for the September 1936 Show. It may have been around this time that the amalgamation took place with the Grindleton players, and if so, not a moment too soon, for national fame was shortly to descend on the Hodder Valley and some of its inhabitants.
The wireless by this time had become a major force of communication to every household and the B.B.C. soon realised that to increase its listening audience it had to involve the listeners themselves. The present writer can remember the late Franklin Ingelman presenting the long-running radio series "Down Your Way" visiting places of interest throughout Britain and talking to the local folk to gain an insight into their way of life. Back in 1937 a gentleman by the name of "Harry Hopeful" presented a similar format but with one major difference --- pre-recording was in its infancy so this programme did not go to the place chosen, the area and its inhabitants went to the B.B.C., which in Slaidburn's case meant a trip to studios in Leeds on Monday April 5th 1937.
Needless to say this event in the valley's history dominated conversation in the run-up to the broadcast (and no doubt increased the sale of wireless sets!) and received quite a bit of coverage in the local press. Those taking part in the broadcast unfortunately would not hear it because of live transmission but on the day of broadcast the days normal routines in households throughout the Hodder Valley were reorganised to ensure that all was done before the time of the broadcast. The Yorkshire Evening News takes up the story:
“Slaidburn Has Its Night On The Radio --- Britains Biggest Parish Thrilled To Hear The Talent Of Its Friends. Everyone in Britain's biggest parish listened to the radio last night; and for 40 minutes the parish laughed and approved, chuckled and nodded heads, while listening to well-known friends broadcasting. At Broadcasting House, Leeds, a party well over 100 strong crowded into the studio running through anecdotes, songs and band numbers. Yes, Slaidburn has a Band, and it was the Band which, playing the village's signature tune, introduced these people from the country's biggest parish to the air.”
No doubt any bandsmen listening in around Britain would recognise William Rimmer's march "Slaidburn" as opening the broadcast, and other items heard during the 40 minutes would include poetry readings and interestingly choral contributions from the "Slaidburn Choir" who sang "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" to Joe Hodgson's tune "Burn Fell". The Yorkshire Evening News also mentions contributions from George Parker (shepherd), William McKend (gamekeeper), Thomas Leedham (Dunsop Bridge Fisheries) and John Wilson (sawmiller). The Clitheroe Advertiser and Times also ran a feature on the broadcast in its edition of Friday 9th April describing the broadcast and alongside the formal feature ran a wonderful dialect story on the episode:
Slaadburn an' Grin'leton Broadcast.
- Hello, Tom.
- Hello, how do, Bill.
- Where's ta bin, Tom? I hevn't sin tha I doan't know how long.
- I've bin busy. I've had time for nowt.
- How's that?
- Why, what wi'th wife spring cleaning an' wantin' o'sooarts o'bits o'jobs doin', an' grumblin' an' growlin' every time we've had a bit of a practice, I've bin fair off mi heyd!
- Practice! wht's ta bin practcin' for?
- Why, doesn't ta know?
- Nay, I know nowt. What's ta mean?
- Does ta mean to say tha doesn't know about Slaadburn an' Grin'leton band broadcastin'?
- I didn't know there wor a band at Grin'leton.
- Tha wod ha' known if thad bin theer this last week or two. There's bin nowt else talked about.
- Tha never ses!
- Well it's not really Grin'leton band, it's Slaadburn --- at least Slaadburn has th'instruments an' hofe o'th men, an' Grin'leton hes 'tother hofe an trathri lads fro' Chatburn
- I didn't know.
- Well it wor this way. Tha sees, we used to hev a band at Grin'leton abit sin --- it wor a reight band too, if it 'ad nobbut kept on. We could ha' licked Clitheroe Borough into fits!
- Is that soa?
- Aye! Well tha knows, when King George's Silver Jubilee were on ther were some o'th owd band chaps left in't village, an' some on 'ems fairly keen on a bit o'music. So they geet together to form a band for th'ocassion. But they'd no instruments, so as Slaadburn hed instruments an' not enough men, we med a bargain wi' 'em. So Slaadburn comes an' helps us then we go 'an help them when they're hevin' a do. See?
- That sounds o'reight.
- Aye! Na then, it'll be't Coronation afoor sa long. We were practicin' for that when if they didn't come some chaps fro' Leeds an' wanted us to go theer to broadcast.
- An' 'ev ya bin?
- Aye! Wi went last Monda' 'an Slaadburn choir an' all, it were a reight do, about ninety on us all together.
This articles gives a few clues about the reasons behind the amalgamation of the local bands and certainly the Slaidburn Band was booked to play for the 1937 Hodder Valley Show, although its membership was still pretty low. It is possible that the Leeds broadcast may have revived interest in the Band locally for by April 1938 the Rector of Slaidburn, Rev'd Bowker, was able to write in the Parish Magazine:
“We are all delighted to know that our Band has emerged from the obscurity in which they were hidden for a few years and are now able to turn out in full force and show what an asset they are to the Parish. They have just acquired at considerable expense new uniforms and they will now be able to turn out and bring honour to our village both by their musical abilities and skill and also by their smart appearance. The band makes Slaidburn known wherever they go and of course bring credit to the village.”
The provision of new uniforms was marked by the commissioning of a formal band photograph taken at the Whit Monday Festival of 1939, and the players were identified by the late John Peel who is seated in the foreground on the right. John was at that time the youngest member of the Band and recalled arriving at the bandroom for the first time to ask about joining up. He was unceremoniously given a tenor horn and a tutor book and told to go away and not to come back until he could play it properly!