The Yallourn and District Band, over almost sixty years has played a significant part in the life of the Latrobe Valley, and particularly of Yallourn and its immediate environs.
It would be no exaggeration to say that Yallourn Band has done more than its share in the field of entertainment and culture in and around Yallourn.
It must surely be the oldest organisation in the area, for photographs show its players in action at the Eastern Camp Gymkhana in November 1922.
A Bandsman must be a true music lover, for there is no monetary reward for his long hours of practice and public performance. He has to give up so much of his time and his family life, to give of his best in this section of public and cultural entertainment.
There has seldom been a sporting fixture, memorial service, procession, or any large public function, without the Band being high on the priority list, and likewise there has seldom been a request for the services of the Band which has been refused.
The Beginnings – 1921
The Beginnings – 1921
Way back in 1921, a car bringing passengers from Morwell to Yallourn, contained Mr. JR (Rod) Wilson, and Mr. Peter Cameron, an engine driver from the temporary power plant. Their conversation touched on the possibility of forming a band at Yallourn.
So, really, the band started with Peter Cameron, who was a cornet player from Gormanstown, Tasmania, who had recently come to Yallourn (February 1921) as an engine driver, and remained as a turbine driver, at “A” Station, for a great many years. Later Peter switched to the trombone, which he played (both tenor and bass) for many years.
When his friend Jack Turvey, also from Gormanstown, arrived in Yallourn fresh from contesting at Burnie, Tasmania, their thoughts and conversation naturally centered on bands and the possibility of forming one in the area.
No doubt, owing to representations from Peter and Jack, later in that same year, several other Tasmanians arrived, who were also bandsmen, and thus a nucleus of a band was now available.
The names of some of these who come to mind are :-
Jack Arnold a bass player
Albert (Doughy) Riseley a cornet player
Jack and Doughy went back to Tasmania for Christmas, and when returning to Yallourn brought with them young Alec Wiggins, 14 years old, a cornet player of some promise. Alec obtained a position with the West Camp Post Office.
A little later Ron Wiggins, also a bandsman, came to Yallourn followed a little later by his father and mother and two brothers. These four, brothers, Ron, Alec, Vic, and Roy Wiggins have all played with the Band.
Alec having been in “on the ground floor” so to speak, continued his association with the Band for almost 60 years, and still has an odd “blow” when his health permits. How’s that for the Guinness Records.
Other names among the early members of the band which come to mind are :-
Ray de Carli
Arthur O’Brien oboe
The East Camp Band
The East Camp Band was then formed, with Peter Cameron as Conductor and Mr. G. Flewin, as President. Soon after, Wally Kite, and Paddy Hyland, both fine drummers, came from “Gormy” and joined the group.
Peter, whilst not an outstanding player himself, loved his music, and practice commenced under the trees at the old Eastern Camp. With most of the players on shift work, Peter considered himself fortunate if he could get together at any one time, one player in each section of the Band.
The first record of the Band performing publicly, is recorded in photographs showing the Band at the Yallourn railway station on the arrival of visitors for a gymkhana in November 1922.
A few months later, they were photographed at the laying of the foundation stone, of St. John’s Anglican Church, in February 1923. In the background of this photo are two saddled horses, and a model “T” Ford.
Music, Uniforms and Instruments
With no financial aid, other than passing round a collection box, music had to be purchased. Uniforms and new instruments were quite out of the question. Finally a grant of 200 pounds was made by the State Electricity Commission (SEC) for the purchase of instruments, and for some years this enthusiastic little group carried on, their love of band music practically their only incentive.
Circulars were distributed at the SEC Pay Windows soliciting regular weekly or fortnightly subscriptions, and cash donations to augment Band funds, and in return the Band undertook to give twelve recitals a year, at regular monthly intervals, in the Band Rotunda and to visit the Western Camp, and Brown Coal Mine Township (now Yallourn North) as often as possible.
In August 1928 the SEC agreed to subsidise the Band to an amount of 200 pounds on the basis of 1 pound for 1 pound collected, for the purchase of uniforms and instruments.
They followed the local footballers everywhere, and on one occasion at Yarragon, when a Movie Man expended some film on them Peter was heard to remark, “well, there’s a chap with a fine sense of humour”.
On another occasion, during a Queen Carnival, the eight or ten Bandsmen were giving of their best, when a breeze sprang up and began to play havoc with their music. One-by-one the players had to stop playing and chase their music, until finally the only sounds to be heard were gales of laughter from both players and audience.
THE INAUGURAL MEETING – 1925
November 1925 the first efforts were made to establish the Band on a sound, business-like footing. Two public meetings were called and finally the following officers were elected :-
Patron Sir John Monash
Vice Patron CH Kernot
President FH Morton
Hon. Secretary Jack Turvey
Hon. Treasurer HL Roberts
Band Reps A Riseley
It is presumed that this is when the Constitution was drawn, although it is not dated, a rather serious omission.
The first Bandmaster – 1926 – Peter Cameron
At this stage it was hoped that sufficient public support would be forthcoming to justify the appointment of a permanent Bandmaster. Peter Cameron was prepared to carry on, as far as the exigencies of shift work would allow, and efforts were made to recruit additional players for the sections needing them, with the promise of a job with the SEC.
So, February 1926 Peter Cameron was officially appointed Bandmaster on a salary of 52 pounds per annum. As part of a money raising drive a Grand Ball was held.
The Band coasted along for another two or three years, playing at public functions and running efforts to raise money for its own funds.
The Rotunda – 1928
At the annual meeting held on 31.05.1928 with Mr. JR Wilson presiding, Mr. RD Dixon, the then Assistant General Superintendent, presented to the meeting plans for a Band Rotunda, to be erected in Broadway Square, and an offer from the SEC to provide the 200 pounds required for its erection.
At this meeting the following appointments were made
President RD Dixon
Secretary Jack Turvey
Assistant Secretary RC Wiggins
Treasurer HL Roberts
The completed Band Rotunda was officially opened on 11.02.1929 by General Superintendent Mr. JM Bridge, and Mr. WB Nelson, being President at this time, paid tribute to Peter Cameron, who had done so much to inaugurate and foster the Band.
From 1929 onwards, for many years – under the baton of Verdi McMahon – Band recitals were given in the Rotunda every Sunday evening at 8.30 pm after Church in the summer, and at 3.00 pm in the afternoons in the winter. The gardens around the Rotunda were gay with colour, and the townsfolk flocked to hear their Band. It was the regular afternoon outing, in winter, and the gardens were packed with appreciative listeners.
These performances were continued, right up until the war years (1939) and then were temporarily shelved in favour of concerts held on Sunday nights in the Theatre, for Comforts Funds.
At the conclusion of the war it was attempted to continue these recitals, but they were met with indifferent success. Whether it was owing to the fact of people earning higher wages, and more of them being able to afford motor cars, and so formed the habit of a Sunday afternoon drive; or the advent of radio in every home; or other interests intervened, who can tell? The Band continued to perform to dwindling audiences of a few faithful supporters, for a long time, until finally discouraged by the apparent lack of public interest these performances became limited to a “now-and-then” basis.
Quite often the remark was heard in later years “Why doesn’t the Band play in the park now?”, to which the answer patently was, “you gave the Band away before it gave you away” “Oh, but,” folk would say “we could hear it sitting on our verandah!” Which was no doubt very nice for them, but not much encouragement for the players who had given up their time to entertain the people.
Many of the readers of his history will remember, with nostalgia, the great pleasure they derived from listening to some fine performances by the Band, and the happy times spent fore-gathering with friends and acquaintances, in the park.
With the demise of the Yallourn Township the Band Rotunda was re-erected at the Gippsland Folk Museum in Moe.
A PERMANENT BANDMASTER – VERDI McMAHON
The time had come when Peter felt that it was advisable to appoint a permanent Bandmaster, who would not be hampered by shift work, and could devote his time to the Band on a regular basis. The committee then approached the SEC who promised a job to a suitable person.
It was recommended that Verdi McMahon, who was personally known to committeeman O. Amos, as a fine cornet player, who had been with the then famous Malvern Tramways Band, and was, at this time, conducting the Echuca Band. With the prospect of a permanent job, and a small salary from the Band, Verdi agreed to come to Yallourn.
Verdi, as his name implies, came from a musical family, his father being a well-known band conductor in Western Australia, and composer of the march “The Golden Mile” associated with Kalgoorlie.
Verdi taught this Band to play, and memorise the march, which soon became known in the town as practically the Band’s signature tune.
On 24.03.1929 a Smoke Night was held, to honour Peter Cameron, and to present him with a commemorative gift of a gold watch on his retirement as Bandmaster, but not as a player. He continued to play with the Band, on trombone mostly, until his retirement when he went to Melbourne to live. At this function opportunity was taken to welcome the newly appointed conductor, Mr. Verdi McMahon, and to wish him well in his future dealings with the Band.
The first performance under Verdi’s baton was a programme presented in the Rotunda on Sunday evening 10.03.1929.
DRUM MAJOR JACK AMOS – 1929
Early in 1929 it was realised that the Band was in need of a Drum Major to train and lead the Band in public appearances, and for contesting purposes, to which they were now looking. Accordingly Mr. Jack Amos was appointed to this position. Jack was quite unversed in the intricacies of Band formation marching, but after a number of years in the Air Force, at Point Cook, had the necessary background for the task
In connection with the continuing need to raise funds for uniforms and instruments, a Sports Carnival was held in Moe on 01.04.1929. This event culminated in a Ball in the Moe Mechanics Institute, in the evening.
A little later, in conjunction with Yallourn Fire Brigade, a Queen Carnival was organised. Three Beauty Queens were selected to represent various sections of the community viz –
Power House Miss Lynch
Coal Supply Miss Lyons
Briquette Factory and Township Miss Gladman
This effort culminated in a Grand Ball on 19.10.1929 and was won by Miss Gladman. Total amount raised was 475 pounds.
The Band was now fully equipped with uniforms and instruments, and Band practices had been established on a firm and regular basis. Several new players had been recruited to fill obvious gaps. Outstanding among these were:-
Alec (Sandy) Douglas euphonium
Keith Smith b.flat bass
Paddy Noonan tuba – all from Echuca
Bill Reid cornet
Frank Schneider cornet
Reg (Snowy) Gould trombone – all from Queensland
Alf Welfare cornet
Bill Daniels cornet
Bill Fleming cornet – from various parts of Victoria.
Registration and Contests
The Band now applied for registration with the Victorian Band Association and was officially graded “D” grade, and Verdi decided to prepare them for the Echuca Band Contest on 26.12.1929. (Boxing Day)
As well as preparing the musical side, it now became necessary to prepare for the Quickstep, an integral part of all band contests of those days. It was decided to enlist the services of ‘Big’ Bob Llewellyn, famous Drum Major of Collingwood and Malvern Bands, as Drill instructor. He journeyed to Yallourn every weekend to instruct the new Drum Major and train the Band in the intricacies of precision marching to a diagram, whilst playing. During the week, Drum Major Amos continued the rehearsals, on the oval and in the street, as many as three nights a week. The town would resound to the strains of “The Golden Mile”.
This intensive practice paid off and Yallourn and District Band won the Quickstep at Echuca, by five points. In the Selection they were placed third, and in the Waltz fourth, gaining third place in the aggregate of the music sections of the contest.
Bandmaster Charles Turner
After less than a year at Yallourn, Verdi, for family reasons decided to accept an offer from Thompson’s Foundry Band at Castlemaine. Naturally he was concerned at leaving Yallourn Band, after such a short time, and was anxious that the Band should get a leader who was able to carry on the work he had begun. Consequently he wrote to a friend and former band-mate of Malvern Tramway Band, Charlie Turner, asking if he would be interested in taking over a very promising Band, with the offer of a permanent job with the SEC.
Charles, who had been solo cornet and Deputy Conductor of the Malvern Band for some years, had in September 1925 gone to Stawell to conduct the band there, in conjunction with a job in the town.
At the time of Verdi’s letter arriving, Charlie’s job had just ‘cut out’, it being the early days of the depression, and the prospect of a steady job, in conjunction with a promising Band, was most attractive, and he promptly indicated his interest. Accordingly Verdi recommended Charles to the committee, and he was duly appointed as Bandmaster, to take up his duties early in 1930.
So Verdi left for Castlemaine at the end of December 1929 and Charles came to Yallourn early in January 1930. His wife and 2 year old daughter followed in a few weeks when a house was made available.
Although the salary offered by the Band was less than half of that he had been earning in Stawell, the prospect of a steady job and a good Band more than compensated and he set off with a will, hoping to be able to demonstrate what he was made of.
One of the first functions which the Band attended under the baton of Charles Turner was the opening of the Scout Hall early in March 1930
The Band accompanied the local Fire Brigade to the Fire Brigades Demonstration at Bendigo, and took part in the Marching Events, Torchlight Procession and Band Recital.
“The Bendigo Advertiser” of 05.03.1930 in describing the Torchlight Procession which was over a mile long (and in which 15 Brigades took part) states that “The Yallourn Band, a fine combination whose visit to Bendigo has won it a lot of popularity, led the section from the road leading to the railway. The Yallourn Brigade carried signs on which Yallourn was picked out in red letters and on the reverse side was the slogan “Burn more Briquettes”. In reporting on the Band Recital the Advertiser said, “the playing of each band was excellent, especially that of Yallourn Band, whose rendition of “the Desert Song” was brilliant”.
Echuca and Bendigo 1930
December 1930 saw the Band compete at the Echuca contest, and as there was a contest at Bendigo the following day, had entered for “D” grade there also.
The appointment of Charlie Turner as Bandmaster was fully vindicated at Echuca, where he swept the Band to victory in all events by a substantial margin. Yallourn won the aggregate of Selection and Waltz by 18 points. In the Quickstep they were also ahead by 15 points. This result reflected great credit on both Conductor and Drum Major.
On arriving at Bendigo the next day, they were met at the Railway Station by a deputation of Band Association delegates, and organisers of the Contest, with an earnest request that Yallourn would enter for the “B” grade contest, as there were insufficient entries to enable the awarding of a third prize. There was no “C” grade at this event.
As the Selection and Waltz and Hymn were to be “own choice” Bandmaster Charles, after consulting with his team, agreed. The Band once again won every item in the “D” grade, by a considerable margin, and the Adjudicator Percy Jones, commented most enthusiastically on the playing of the Band in all sections, and on the various soloists, ending his comments with “This Band should be moved out of this grade immediately”.
In the “B” grade contest Yallourn Band won the Waltz, and received high praise from the Adjudicator for the playing of their selection “The Works of Lizst”, summing up as follows – “This Band excelled in tonal quality, and in the expressive interpretation of the slower movements, and the rhapsodical movements were brilliant, with well judged variation of tempos. A most creditable rendition of a very beautiful selection”.
The accepted procedure of the Band Association (which in later years became incorporated with the Victorian Bands’ League) was to review gradings once a year, when registrations were accepted, but on the Adjudicator, Mr. Percy Jones’ strong recommendation, Yallourn and District Band made history, by being immediately re-graded to “B” grade, thus missing “C” grade altogether, and jumping 2 grades in one go.
Naturally, they returned home highly elated, and many were the congratulations to Band, Conductor and Drum Major. Yallourn began to realise they had a Band to be proud of.
These wins had, understandably, whetted their appetite for contesting, but knowing that they would now have to compete in “B” grade, rehearsals were resumed with enthusiasm, and performances in the Rotunda, and appearances at town functions, continued as before.
At this time there were a lot of various functions, sports meetings, carnivals, etc. run for “Unemployment Relief Funds” and of course the Band was a very important part of these events.
Charlie’s toe – 1931
Early in 1931 Charlie was unfortunate enough to injure his toe and went through a long period of severe pain, despite which he managed to carry on with the Band. Eventually the local doctors decided to send him to a specialist in Melbourne, who asked him to enter the Alfred Hospital for a few days for observation. He remained there for 8 months, finally having part of his toe amputated, after which the healing process was quite prolonged.
During this period, the Band committee stood behind him and his wife and small daughter, and the SEC held his job for him.
He returned home early in October, about midday, and although two of the committee men called to welcome him home, he was rather disappointed that none of the Band had called by tea time, so imagine his delight and emotion, when at 7.30 pm there was heard the sound of marching feet, and the Band struck up and played outside his home, after which they came in to give him a Welcome Home surprise party. Peter Cameron as Band Sergeant had kept the Band going in his absence.
Though not completely mobile for a few more weeks, he was soon in action again in front of the Band. Committeemen and bandsmen very kindly giving him transport.
MELBOURNE MASSED BANDS – 1931
On 27.10.1931, the Band journeyed to Melbourne to attend a Massed Bands Recital in the Melbourne Cricket Grounds, arranged by the newly formed Victorian Bands’ League. Thirty-one affiliated bands took part. One newspaper commented “The Yallourn Band were acclaimed by onlookers, throughout their route march from Princes Bridge to the Cricket Ground, as the best equipped and efficient of the bands”. The “Sun” said “Yallourn’s silver clarity and fine ensemble were comparable with the most brilliant of the bands, and its marching matched”. High praise indeed, when you recall that all the best Metropolitan bands were there in full force.
When a “B” grade contest was mooted for the Stawell Gift, naturally Charlie was keen to enter, as were all the bandsmen.
Charles very much wanted to show the people of Stawell what he was capable of, given a good team to work with. The residents, perhaps because they originally know Charles and liked him, immediately took the Yallourn Band to their hearts, and were delighted with its smart appearance, precision like marching, and splendid playing.
Once again, Yallourn scooped the pool, this time in “B” grade. They were placed first in every section, with enthusiastic comments from the Adjudicator, Mr. Hugh Niven, Music, and W. Humphries, Drill.
After returning home from this further triumph, the Band attended a reception at the Yallourn Hotel, and the Conductor and Drum Major were presented with a pair of silver vases each as a token of appreciation of the committee and citizens and their pride in their Band.
In connection with this contest, special mention should be made of “Sandy” Douglas, the very fine euphonium player, who was quite a feature of the Band. Sandy had the misfortune to be knocked down by a car on Easter Saturday night, sustaining a nasty wound in the forehead which necessitated 10 stitches, at the Stawell Hospital where he was admitted overnight, as he was also suffering from bruises and shock. His absence from the Band would have been a serious loss, but when Monday morning came, he insisted on taking his place, so that the balance the Band had worked so hard for might be maintained
BALLARAT – SOUTH STREET CONTEST 1932
In October 1932 the Band traveled to Ballarat to compete in the Band contest, which was the culmination of the famous South Street competitions.
The Band contest at Ballarat, in those days, was really something, with a Torchlight Procession of bands up Sturt Street to the City Oval, where the Selections were to be played. On the Sunday afternoon the Quickstep display was held, when the Oval would be crammed with spectators, and if one wanted a seat in the grandstand it was necessary to be there at least one hour before the start, as this was the event of the Ballarat year.
Yallourn Band had to be content with 2nd place in the Selections but won the Quickstep in “B” grade.
The following year the same thing happened. The Band having to take second place to Ballarat City, a band which had held its own in “A” grade for many years.
During this period when the Band went to Ballarat almost every year, it was never beaten in Marching, which speaks a lot for Drum Major Amos.
During the next few years the Band broadcast some excellent programmes. One through 3AR in September 1936 brought these comments from the next issue of THE AGE. I quote – “The players showed evidence of sound musical training and leadership. They displayed a fine sense of interpretation and restraint. Their tone was good throughout, especially among the cornets and the bass end. Euphonium and trombone left no room for criticism. It is evident that the best bands are not confined to Melbourne.”
They also broadcast programmes through 3TR Sale, and 3UL Warragul, which were much appreciated by the listening public. As well as these broadcasts the Band competed in the P & A Parade, a nationwide Radio Talent Quest for professionals and amateurs, which was exceedingly popular in that era. They gave their usual excellent performance and won their heat by a large margin of points, but were eliminated in the finals, much to the chagrin of the music critics of ALL the daily newspapers of that time, who failed to understand the Judges preferring a smaller group.
MELBOURNE COMPETITION – 1937
In November 1937 the Band went to Melbourne to compete in a Quickstep Competition run by the Victorian Bands’ League, entering for both “B” & “A” grades. All the other bands were from Melbourne and suburbs. Yallourn was successful in winning the “B” grade, in a field of six good bands, and coming a close second to Hawthorn City in “A” grade in which 7 bands marched.
CANCELLED CONTEST – STAWELL 1937
For the Stawell Gift at Easter of that same year a band contest was mooted and once again Yallourn entered. After some weeks of concentrated rehearsal, they were informed that the contest had to be abandoned owing to lack of sufficient entries. However, the authorities of the Carnival in Stawell had decided to engage a band to perform throughout the Easter weekend, at a generous fee, and had given Yallourn Band first preference, which was a matter of pride to the Band and to the Yallourn citizens, and the offer was accepted with alacrity.
AUSTRALIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS – 1937
For the Australian Championships, in Ballarat in 1937, a great line-up of bands appeared. Yallourn amongst them. Yallourn had entered for both “B” and “A” grades. However, this time they did not have their usual run of success, having to be content with fourth place in both grades, only missing a placing in “A” grade by one mark. The points were very close in both grades, and the adjudicators had had a difficult task in choosing winners from so many splendid performances.
BENDIGO EASTER FAIR – 1939
At the Bendigo Easter Fair in 1939 Band Contest, Yallourn once again entered both “B” & “A” grades. They further added to their laurels by “Scooping the Pool” in “A” grade, winning Selection, Hymn, Quickstep and Street March. In “B” grade, however, disaster struck. Just as the Band commenced to play its Selection, a Big Drum from a nearby side-show suddenly boomed out, giving the nearest bandsman such a fright, that he fell off the stand, which completely disorganised the rest of the Band, and it was quite a few bars before the Conductor could pull them together, and under the circumstances, they did well to finish third.
In the Hymn they were second, but won both the Quickstep and Street March. A protest was lodged, but the Committee ruled that nothing could be done at that stage, but undertook to ensure that side-shows were better controlled at future contests.
This convincing win in “A” grade meant that Yallourn was automatically regraded to “A” grade, being the only real country band to reach this status. Other “A” grade country bands were those of large cities, such as Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, etc.
JACK TURVEY’S DEATH and FUNERALS
In 1939 the Band suffered a severe loss in the death of their comrade Jack Turvey. Jack had been Secretary of the Band since its inception. His instrument was tenor horn.
Jack, one of nature’s gentlemen, was loved by all, and his passing, in tragic circumstances, was made doubly poignant by the fact that his wife was in the last stages of an incurable illness, and everyone knew that his young family were facing a double bereavement in a short space of time.
As a mark of the great love and respect they had for Jack, the Band marched at the head of the funeral cortege playing “The Dead March” from “Saul” by Handel. Although every member of the Band felt the sorrow of the occasion so deeply, they didn’t put a foot wrong, or play a sour note. It was a most beautiful and deeply moving performance. If you have never heard this music played by a good band with muffled drums, you have never really heard it at all, and on this occasion there was not a dry eye in the whole of Yallourn. Later they played Chopin’s “Funeral March” at the grave-side.
Although it was a searingly emotional experience for his family, it was a sincere and wonderful tribute to a much loved and greatly respected comrade.
In later years, while the Band was still at full strength, they also marched at the head of the funeral cortege for their late comrade Arthur (Bud) Williams, a horn player of considerable distinction, having held the Australian Championship for tenor horn soloist for many years. Similar honours were accorded to Jim White, a baritone player with the Band for some time.
WORLD WAR II
Later in 1939 we, here in Australia, along with Britain, were involved in the Second World War, and contesting was suspended for the duration of the war.
During the few years previous to the outbreak of war, many of the Bandsmen joined the Militia, and formed a band in connection with the local unit. This Band attended several contests among Militia Bands with considerable success.
Charles Turner, along with some of the other members, was called up and went into camp at the beginning of the war. Others among them were Jack Chapman, Paddy Noonan, Bill Fleming, Bill Daniels and Bill Dinsdale. Others were employed in essential services, and could not be released by the SEC. After a month or so in camp Charles was discharged on medical grounds, but the others served throughout the war. Bill Fleming was listed as Missing, in Japanese held territory, and others just managed to escape ahead of the Japanese army.
Mrs. Fleming never gave up hope that her husband was alive, and after some years her faith was vindicated, when she received a telegram to say that he had been a Prisoner of War in Japanese hands. All the town rejoiced with her, and very soon after that Bill was home again with his friends and dear ones, though still needing care and medical attention.
He soon recovered his health and continued to give his services to the Band for many years, until his health deteriorated. He served as Band Sergeant for a number of years
many years the Band attended, and was a feature of, the SEC Annual Picnic at Frankston, marching from the Railway Station to the Sports Ground, and playing throughout the day. Sometimes a special train was chartered for this function and a large proportion of the population of Yallourn and Yallourn North attended the picnic. When these trains were discontinued, the Band usually chartered a bus.
ANZAC & REMEMBRANCE DAYS
The Band always led the Anzac Day commemoration March and Service, not only in Yallourn, but also in other surrounding towns including Moe and Thorpdale. Thorpdale held their commemoration on the nearest Sunday to Anzac Day and regaled the players with a sumptuous afternoon tea. Moe also treated the Band to light refreshments.
A cornet player was always available to schools to play the “Last Post”
at Remembrance celebrations, and also officiated in the Town Square on Remembrance Day in November.
A bugler for “Last Post” was always available for funerals of returned soldiers. It is impossible to estimate the number of times Charlie Turner and others rendered this service to the community.
Over the years a number of new players had been recruited helping to keep the Band at full strength, and of good quality. Amongst these were :-
Bill Armstrong a bass player
Frank Menner euphonium
Syd. Turner a fine cornet play and his brother
Ted. Turner a good trombone player
Bill Whately a tube player who achieved many successes on his instrument as a soloist
Arch Forbes cornet and later horn
Hue Ross a fine cornet player from Maryborough
Also, all this time Charles continued to teach juniors and turned out many fine players who were later a great asset to the Band. Notable amongst these were :-
Mr. Les Iveson, a cornet player who was a teacher, attempted to form a band at the Yallourn Technical School, and started to teach band instruments, but was unable to interest sufficient numbers of boys to make a successful band. However, he himself joined the Yallourn Band and some of the boys came to Charles for further tuition and made the Yallourn Band in due course. Names that come to mind are :-
Charles continued to teach instruments until his retirement in 1965 (and beyond) and turned out many fine players. Amongst these was his grandson David Dickie, who was at one time School Boy Champion Cornet Player of Australia, and has been a Conductor of the Moe-Yallourn Band. He also taught, John Gould, who was for a time Conductor of the Morwell Band.
In this work of teaching, he was, at various times, assisted by :-
Arthur O’Brien also assisted with pupils of their own particular instrument.
During the war years contesting, and most of the usual Band activities, were suspended, and Yallourn Band concentrated, like most organisations of the time, on raising money for Red Cross, Comforts Funds, etc.
Their Sunday night concerts in the Yallourn Theatre were quite a feature of the town life, at that time, and raised over 2000 pounds for various Patriotic Funds in existence in the town, namely :-
The Victorian Defence League
The Comforts Funds
Women’s National Emergency Committee
Their efforts in this direction were greatly assisted by the generous donation by Mr. Harold Verey of the use of the Theatre and staff.
At the conclusion of the war it was hoped to be able to continue these concerts for Band funds, which had been so depleted during the war years. Unfortunately permission to use or hire the Theatre for this purpose was refused, and so a potential source of income was lost
When the news of the cessation of hostilities came through, the SEC granted two days holiday to all its workers, and all, but those in essential services, joined in general jollification, and Victory Celebrations. The Band members generously decided to forgo their holiday, and to assist in the various celebrations staged throughout the area. The presence and playing of the Band made these celebrations so much more enjoyable for all concerned.
CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT
It may be appropriate at this time, to mention that for many years the Band played for the “Carols by Candlelight” gathering held just before Christmas each year. Firstly these were held at No. 1 Oval and later in Yallourn Theatre and were organised by the Local Ladies Auxiliary of the Victorian Blind Institute.
In later years when this Auxiliary disbanded, the Band in conjunction with the local clergy, arranged these festivals in Broadway Gardens, or in various indoor venues, if the weather was inclement.
THE GIPPSLAND BAND GROUP – 1936
A move was made in 1936 to form a Gippsland Band Group, but this did not really get into full swing until after the war.
For a while this was very successful. One of the Gippsland Bands would host a gathering of Massed Bands in their area. A programme of individual band and massed band performances was rendered, with a social get together with afternoon tea to follow.
Yallourn Band attended ALL these rallies, and sometimes would hire a bus, and take the families of bandsmen, making it a picnic outing.
As the months went on some of the original enthusiasm of the Bandsmen waned somewhat, and unfortunately, Yallourn being last on the list alphabetically, suffered. When it was their turn, after advertising the day, quite extensively, as a Grand Massed Bands performance, only three bands came. It was quite a good day, with some very enjoyable music, but naturally Yallourn was somewhat “browned off” and gradually the group faded out.
After a few years a move was made to resuscitate it, and a Gippsland Band Group Contest was arranged. This presented quite a few difficulties, as the bands were of different grades. It was finally decided to run it on a handicap basis. Yallourn Band was handicapped 20 points, but in spite of this was never beaten, and after a few years, these contests also lapsed.
It was some years after the war before contesting was resumed, as most bands had been in the doldrums with members serving in the forces, etc. and the Bandmaster had concentrated on teaching of Juniors to re-build the Band.
HEIDELBERG & BALLARAT CONTESTS – 1954
In 1954 the Victorian Bands’ League sponsored a Contest run at Heidelberg and Yallourn Band entered in the “B” grade. The items included were a Selection, Hymn and Street March. All music to be “own choice”. The Yallourn Band won all three.
The Heidelberg contest was held two weeks before Ballarat (South Street) contest, so was a good try out. Yallourn once again being put in “B” grade. At this contest, Yallourn was awarded second place in all events viz – Test Selection, Own Choice Selection, and Quickstep. As the Championship is decided on the aggregate of the two selections, and as a different band came first in each of them Yallourn Band gained the highest aggregate, and therefore were acclaimed as “B” grade Champions.
Following this, they were again, automatically re-graded to “A” grade. In 1955, again competing at Heidelberg, this time in “A” grade, and so competing with all the top bands of Melbourne, the Band put up a very creditable performance and were awarded third place in the aggregate.
This same year they also competed at Ballarat, again being placed third in the aggregate. It is interesting to note that at this contest Yallourn defeated every other band in one or other of the events.
In 1956 competing again at Heidelberg in “A” grade, the band was once more placed third and in 1958 at the same contest achieved a second placing.
In this year of 1958 they had also entered for Ballarat, but a few days before the Heidelberg contest disaster struck, when Charlie Turner was hospitalised for an emergency operation, and so was unable to go to Heidelberg. However, the Band had been well trained and under the leadership of Hugh Ross, Deputy Conductor at that time, was able to perform and gain second placing as aforesaid.
An emergency meeting of the Band was called to decide whether or not to go to Ballarat, but as all arrangements had been made, accommodation booked, etc. it was finally decided to proceed with the arrangements. However, without Charlie in the middle, and with missing Hugh as Solo Cornet, as he was conducting, this time they were unable to secure a place.
THE END OF AN ERA
During this period the Band suffered a severe loss, when the Turner brothers (no relation to Chas.) left the district. Syd, to take up an appointment as Bandmaster of Warrnambool Band, and Ted to reside in Teran.
It was becoming increasingly difficult to raise the finance necessary for going to contests. The Heidelberg one, which only meant hiring a bus, was discontinued at about this time. Such expenses as fares, accommodation, lost time payments, became quite prohibitive and contesting became impracticable.
Without the incentive of contesting to keep them on their toes some of the older members, unfortunately, seemed to lose interest and began to attend infrequently, and so the Band began to deteriorate, and it became necessary to once again concentrate on teaching Juniors to help fill the gaps. The fact that the music had, of necessity to be of a caliber that these Juniors could handle, caused further dissatisfaction amongst some of the more experienced players, and with losses from death or retirement, it became increasingly difficult to hold the Band together
DEATH OF JACK AMOS – DRUM MAJOR
In 1960 the Band suffered a sad loss in the death of its loved and respected Drum Major of many years, Jack Amos. Jack knew he was dying and arranged with Charlie the part he wanted the Band to play at his funeral, saying “I don’t want the Band to march without me at the front to lead them, but I’d like them to play in the church, for the hymns”. Of course his wishes were adhered to in this matter.
DEATH OF HUGH ROSS
Another very severe loss was sustained in the untimely death of Hugh Ross, in 1965. Hugh had been a close personal friend of the Conductor, and a great asset to the Band, not only for his brilliant cornet playing, but also as a pianist, when his services were in great demand as solo contests and were always freely available. The Band played some of the hymns at the funeral service as a sincere tribute to their friend and comrade. His passing left a gap that it was virtually impossible to fill.
NEW DRUM MAJOR
Eric Webster came forward to undertake the post of Drum Major and, although new to this work, after some tuition from leading drum majors of the time, succeeded in becoming a fine Drum Major, a position which he ably filled till his retirement. Indeed he has since, on more than one important engagement, made the trip from Inverloch to lead the Band such as Anzac Day Marches and parades
During these later years the Traralgon Eisteddfod was started and has gone on successfully for many years now. Yallourn Band was always prominent in all Brass Sections, solos, parties, ensembles, etc. and had recorded successes too numerous to mention.
Charlie was always ready to coach and help those wishing to enter solos, and in fact encouraged them to do so, as well as training parties, some of which had to have a Conductor other than the Bandmaster.
SUCCESSES AT BALLARAT COMPETITIONS
Several soloists and parties were successful over the years at Ballarat Competitions.
Charles Turner and Hughie Ross winning the cornet Duet
Charles Turner, Hughie Ross, Frank Manner and Arch Forbes winning the Quartet
Keith Smith and Les Putler winning the Bb bass solo in different years
Bill Whately winning the tuba solo
David Dickie won the Junior Cornet Solo, on three occasions, and also did well in open competition while still a Junior, winning the “Percy Code” Solo in an open field of 23 players.
A TEACHER’S HEARTACHES & ENCOURAGEMENTS
It is something of a trauma, to a teacher, that after making good and useful players, so many of them, on reaching maturity, leave the Band for various reasons. Perhaps they are transferred in the jobs, or for other reasons, such as family removal, leave the town. Harder still to take is the fact that some of them, while still residing in the area decided to give the Band away. It was heart-breaking to see gaps in the Band that he knew could be ably filled by those he had spent many hours on making into good players, for almost no remuneration.
Although an excellent teacher, he always refused pupils for which he could have asked a big fee, if they were not likely to be of use in building his Band.
Bands all over Victoria have benefited from gaining as members players he had taught. He did not mind this as they were still contributing to the band movement, and always encouraged boys leaving the district to join another band, and would write to Secretaries or Bandmasters in the appropriate district appraising them of the arrival of a potential bandsman.
He was always willing also to help and coach Bandmasters and Bands in other districts, and many have reason to be grateful to him for setting them on the right track.
THE YALLOURN ORCHESTRAL SOCIETY
The Yallourn Band always had a close association with the Yallourn Orchestral Society and when this was in its hey day provided the brass players for this section of the Orchestra, and the trumpets were often featured in their concerts. On more that one occasion Band and Orchestra have combined for public functions, such as the opening of the Yallourn Theatre, visits of VIP’s etc.
The orchestra housed its tympani equipment in the Band Room and the Band was allowed free use of it. This was an advantage they made use of for concert programmes.
For many years the Band was granted the use of a building in the Municipal Yards for their practice room. This was not ideal, as it was really too small for the volume of the full brass band, but they were grateful to have a home. Peter Cameron had some living quarters behind this, and many a cup of tea, or in the winter a cup of hot soup, was enjoyed by some, at the close of Band Practice.
When the Municipal Depot was re-organised and a large Eastern Road Hostel was opened, the SEC offered the Band, as alternative accommodation, the Mess Room of what was formerly the Old East Camp, over beyond the Briquette Factory. These premises incorporated a Practice Room, Recreation Hall and Kitchen, with premises also for a caretaker, and the Band Committee accepted with alacrity. For many years a peppercorn rent was paid to the SEC and later the ownership of these premises, with consequent maintenance, was handed over to the Band Committee, and the Band enjoyed these facilities for many years.
After a number of years, when Yallourn was being dismantled, the Band once again found themselves in need of facilities.
Largely owing to the efforts of Mr. Joe Tabuteau and Mr. Eric Alexander who were now serving on the Band Committee, the Moe Council became interested in the plight of the Band, and in 1976 agreed to assist in providing a Band Room, and partially sponsoring the Band on the proviso that it be known in future as the “Moe-Yallourn Band”.
A fine new Band room was erected at the rear of the Newborough Public Hall and handed over to the Band. Part of the cost paid for by the Bands share of Yallourn resettlement money.
The Band was a feature of the Town’s welcome to the Queen and Prince Philip for their visit here and also for the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, all of whom expressed their appreciation to the Bandmaster for the high quality of the music provided.
CHARLES TURNER RETIRES
When, in November 1965 Charles Turner retired from his job with the SEC he also officially retired as Conductor of the Band, and over the years several new Conductors were appointed. None of them remained very long.
A complimentary social was tendered to him and his wife, who had been very active in the Ladies Auxiliary for many years, and presentations were made to both of them. A Civic Reception was also arranged in the town square to express the appreciation of the SEC and Town Council and residents, for all they had done for the social life of the Community.
Several Bandmasters were appointed over the succeeding years, none of whom seemed to last very long, and Charles was continually being asked to carry on in the meantime. The first of these was Albert Lack, an Englishman who was reputed to have played with some good bands in England. After a couple of years he left the district and Vern Garth of Morwell was appointed. He also only lasted a couple of years, and following him Bill Fleming and Arthur Whately.
These all finally became discouraged by poor attendances at rehearsals and gave it away.
When it seemed impossible to get another Bandmaster Alec Wiggins, who was Band Sergeant at the time, kindly consented to carry on for the time being.
Alec held this position for seven years, during which time the problem of moving from Yallourn and finding new premises had to be faced.
When failing health necessitated that Alec should cease conducting, Mr. Bill Wright was appointed, and on his resignation Mr. David Dickie, grandson of Charles Turner, was appointed Conductor.
Juniors continue to be taught by the Bandmaster and some of the senior members of the band, and some Music Camps for brass have been attended. These provide good experience for up and coming bandsmen.
The Band continues to lead the “Carols by Candlelight” celebrations held in Moe on the Friday before Christmas with various charities receiving the proceeds. This has proved a most popular function, and the area in front the of Council chambers is always packed to capacity, and the singing to the Band enthusiastic.
When Charlie Turner died in 1973, a composite Band of players from all over Gippsland played outside the church, and so many were unable to get into the church, that the service was broadcast to those waiting outside to pay their last tribute to a fine gentleman and an outstanding musician.
The finest tribute to his memory would be for the Band he was so dedicated to, to continue to thrive and give enjoyment to both players and listeners.
The newly organised Moe-Yallourn Band owe much to a group of enthusiastic players, and to a hard-working Committee and to a dedicated Secretary, in the person of Mrs. Ina Larkins.
THE YALLOURN BAND LADIES AUXILIARY
From the early days, the Band had been fortunate in having an active social committee to arrange money-raising efforts, collecting at Band performances, etc.
When it was decided to run a series of Whist Drives, which were very popular in the town at that time, the need was felt for a Ladies Committee to help with supper, etc. With so many organisations running Whist Drives, to attract the crowds, they began offering bigger and bigger prizes until finally the Band Social Committee realised there was no profit to be made from them.
Accordingly they switched to a Football competition (highest and lowest) and for a while this was a good money-spinner, but soon others began to realise this, and the football clubs began to run in opposition, until finally there was nothing in it for anyone.
Then the Social Committee ran for many years a little “Tatt’s” very successfully. As this entailed a lot of work for a few, these few eventually wearied of it and let another organisation take it over.
Late in 1934 Victoria’s Centenary year, it was decided to run a Band Centenary Ball, in St. John’s Hall, the only venue available at that time. The Ladies Auxiliary at this time was organised on a business like basis, and the Ladies undertook to cater for this function. It was a huge enterprise, as 600 were expected, and there had to be four sittings of supper.
The SEC kindly made available an empty brick house adjacent to the Hall, and trestle tables and chairs were put in. It took all day to cart everything in. The Social Committee and Ladies Auxiliary worked in preparation for what proved a highly successful ball.
When one looks back and realises that a few dedicated women worked from 10.00 am until 5.00 pm cutting sandwiches, salads, fruit salad, etc. then rushing home to feed their families and get the children to bed (and several of us had young babies too), it is nothing short of amazing.
The ladies had also baked for days, one making 24 dozen baked savories, another 20 dozen cream puffs, and so on, prior to this.
After arranging baby sitters, as, of course, the husbands were with the Band at the Ball, there was the rush back to the hall, or rather the supper rooms, to set tables, and set out food for the first sitting. Some of the men from the Social committee helped with the washing up between settings. It was really a mammoth job, and accomplished with minimum fuss.
Amongst these ladies were :-
The ladies periodically held Street Stalls, and other efforts to augment the Band funds and were the instigators of the Annual Christmas Hamper competition by which they raised large sums of money over the years.
They also arranged various social functions on a more or less monthly basis, and whenever there was a special occasion. Notable among these was the conferring of Long Service Badges to bandsmen for 20 years service to the Band. When there were several of these coming due around the same time, a social evening was arranged for the presentation.
They also helped with providing billeting for various visits from Metropolitan bands, notably Malvern Tramways, with whom Charlie had kept his affiliation and was made a Life Member. Some very enjoyable weekends were arranged, the visiting Band giving Recitals in the Rotunda, with a couple of massed bands numbers including Yallourn Band. These provided some fine entertainment for the people of Yallourn, who turned out in full force to enjoy them.
The Auxiliary also sponsored a couple of Solo Competitions for bandsmen with particular emphasis on the Juniors, providing the trophies, and supper at the close. These were judged by a Registered Adjudicator from Melbourne, who was given hospitality at the “Turners”.
One or two of the long time bandsmen had either left or retired from the Band for various reasons, and had been tendered complimentary social evenings with farewell gifts.
One day one of the ladies said “Why should those who are leaving the Band be feted, and the faithful ones who remain with the Band forgotten? Why can’t we honour them also?”
Accordingly the Ladies Auxiliary offered to tender a Complimentary Banquet, in honour of all Bandsmen of long standing, the Committee agreeing, this was done and a most enjoyable and memorable evening was enjoyed.
All Bandsmen and their wives were invited, but emphasis was put on those of 20 years, or more, service. The Ladies worked hard all day preparing the food and setting the tables, etc. The tables were arranged in a “U” formation, and at the top table, were:-
Mr & Mrs Eric Foote the Band President and his wife
Mr & Mrs Charles Turner the Bandmaster and his wife
(who was also the president of the Ladies Auxiliary)
Mr & Mrs Arthur O’Brien Guest of Honour – 35 years service
Mr Alec Wiggins Guest of Honour – 37 years service
Several long service medallions were presented at this function, but the highlight of the evening was the responses of the Guests of Honour, to the toasts drank to their health. Both O’Bie and Alex made excellent speeches well laced with humour, and with interesting highlights of early days on the Band. O’Bie’s opening remarks were well worth recording. O’B said “I come from a little town in Tasmania, called Gormanstown, were men are not born, they are quarried” and went on to tell of the rough conditions in that place with a wealth of humour that had the audience in peals of laughter.
This was a most successful function and a memorable occasion, which well repaid the Ladies for their hard work they had done to make it a success.
As the years went on the Band became solely dependent on the Ladies Auxiliary for fund raising, apart from a small subsidy from the SEC. They used to average about 200 pounds from the Christmas Hamper, and this not only necessitated selling a lot of tickets, but soliciting the local trades people and others for the donations. By this time, outside traders had been allowed into Yallourn, but of course there were not many of them, and those there were most generous in donation towards these prizes, year after year.
The Band of willing workers was dwindling, but a few faithful ones carried on, and a mid-winter effort was instituted, in the form of a Raffle of a Linen Parcel. Permission was granted from the SEC to sell tickets outside the Cafe, and the Ladies would sit there in all weathers, striving to keep warm with rugs, and hot water bags.
By the time the Band moved its quarters to Newborough, the Auxiliary had dwindled to about half a dozen stalwarts, who all felt, that as most of them were getting (or had got) “a bit long in the tooth” the time had come to call it a day, as they had been carrying on under difficulties for some time. Accordingly they disbanded and handed over their remaining funds to the Band Committee.
For a while, the members met now the then, socially for coffee and chatter. They had hoped that an Auxiliary of younger women would be formed, but so far, this has not eventuated.