H i s t o r y
 

The ”Coffs Harbour Band” had its beginnings in the “Beacon” gold mines at Bucca Bucca, from 1896 to 1899 the band was formed, (The Beacon Band) and the manager Captain William Crabbe employed a bandmaster E Moses, to instruct the players, a top grade band was to be sent to Sydney to compete, however the trip ended at the Jetty as the organizers forgot to book steamer.

When the mine closed in 1898 a band called the “Bucca Coramba Band” was formed and then the “Coramba Band”.

The "Coffs Harbour Band" was believed to have been established in 1906, E Moses was bandmaster, in this time the band would play for the loading and unloading of passengers at the Jetty from SS Fitzroy (loaded by basket) and was still a going concern in 1911.

By 1915, the band was in recess because of the war and many members had enlisted in the AIF, and through lack of funds. Its loss to the town was felt, and within 6 months there was a call for its restoration, Mr Bray promising a quarterly financial support if the band played at his corner as they did in the past (Adv, 1916)

The band was reformed in 1917 when it was decided at a meeting to replace old instruments on time payment, E Moses continued as bandmaster. “Anzac Band “ (note AIF uniforms)

In 1919 play outs at the “Jetty and ”Top town” (Coffs Harbour) on alternate Saturday nights, E Hattersley was bandmaster .

By 1920 playing at the Jetty on Sundays “to see the boat in” was a regular engagement, by this time the band was greatly improved.

  By 1923 Cliff Godwin was bandmaster of the “Coffs Harbour District Band” the Band played at Park Beach reserve in this period.

Bobby Williams on side drum, and Aub Priest on cornet, were some of the old identities who remained bandsmen for many years, Cliff Godwin was a dedicated bandmaster who taught many players, himself a very good cornet player.

The Band was reformed again in 1932, the trustees were to be found and asked to hand over instruments, Cliff Godwin was Bandmaster.

In 1935 Jack Frame was Bandmaster, and competed with the “Coffs Harbour District Band” at the North Coast Association contest at Wingham in March 1935.

They won trophies for “Own choice selection “Happy Memories” Waltz time “Bridal Rose” Diagram March (Kempsey Contest) Paling Cup for aggregate. To be won twice running or 3 times in all. Diagram March (Wingham). And also the Quartet.

The Band built the "Rotunda" at Park Beach in 1936, to floor level, the council was to put the roof on.

The Band reformed after the war in 1946 with 8 players, as the "Coffs Harbour and District Citizens Band". Cliff Godwin was Bandmaster, in this period they played regularly in the Rotunda built “1936” on Park Beach Reserve and were very popular when ever they played there. They also travelled away on Band Sundays which were popular at the time.

The band in this period having no fixed place to practice, rehearsed in “Fisherman's Sheds” and private houses.

  In 1947 to 49, Bill Golden was bandmaster and instilled new life into the band running learner classes; this boosted the band considerably, and along with old “Bill Golden” (Drum Major and eupho player) was instrumental in getting new uniforms in 1948(see photo in gallery)

   Life members of  "Coffs Harbour and District  Citizens Band" in this period included:

Cliff Godwin, Martha Fawcett, Marge Hudson, O.M. (jack) Potts

Abt. 1950 Cliff Godwin became bandmaster again, In 1952 the Band travelled to Grafton for a Band Sunday where it earned a "C" grade classification. The band went on regular trips to “Band Sundays” and contests winning "C" grade at Wauchope about 1954. In this period, "Frank Hammond" A local bus proprietor, generously made available one of his buses, driven by "Keith O'Neill" Euphonium player and Drum Major, President. Also generous to the Band were Len Cramp of "Cramps Dry Cleaners" Dry-cleaned band uniforms free, and Jack Gerard (one of the owners of the "Tasma Theatre), admitted bandsmen in uniform free on Saturday night, a row at the back was reserved for them.

  Cliff Godwin would take promising players (under his wing) and tutor them at his home, the band practiced for many years in the old church hall on the hill above the “Memorial Hall” at the" Jetty” The hall was in a very shaky state, and when the wind blew it leaned over, a bit frightening. Social Nights and concerts were held, Talented Bandsmen "Keith O'Neil and Ciril Tolhurst" (Prestidigitation) and fascinating "Mind Reading" Max Perry with "Arbans" Carnival of Venice with Variations, Bobby Williams, Bill King, Jack Gerard, (Ventriloquist) and others. The Christmas party complete with large "Christmas Tree" loaded with presents for the kids, given out by "Santa Claus", made for a joyful end to the year.

"Skinny dipping" in the creek after practice was popular so I’m told by John (“Mandrake” (chook) he made things disappear) . There was this cornet player (was it Ken) who had a very large catapult, and tried to shoot a large stone into Coffs Creek, It landed on the Police Sergeants roof, this caused quite a bit of excitement. (He never did find out who it was), On Saturday mornings the Band played downtown and marched through the "Pubs" (before political correctness) collecting, playing "Hail the Fuhrer" (with disarrayed clothing, and very loose lipped playing from the bases) they would get a Pound from the old diggers to play "Colonel Bogey"

In 1953 the band purchased the old “Bowling Club” building (for 50 pounds) and relocated it in Earl St. in Brelsford Park, it was extended and painted by working bee's, "Ted Firth" (a painter) did a masterful job on columns at the front to make them look like marble pillars. (He was remembered by the amount of powder he used to hold his teeth firm) It was used on this site for many years, It was only recently moved to Rex Hardacre oval for the Amateur Radio club.

The band became incorporated into the "13th Bn. CMF". In1954 army uniforms and new instruments were issued for the period. (about 2 years

The North Coast Travellers "Cot Fund " in 1955 and 1963 was a highlight of this time. with a large parade. A huge Crown Was made for the Queen by 'Wally and Martha Fawcett" also the (Queen crown and sceptre). There was a lot of work went into this, and it was used at other Queen parades.

 The Jacaranda festival was looked forward to every year, the “Venetian” festival, where the band played aboard a boat (The Henry Miles Tug) was well received among the floats. One year a float made up like a whale drifted off down the river going in circles, until somebody noticed it, they were over come with carbon monoxide, they were OK. Carolling on “Christmas Day” was enjoyed by the members ( small children playing with toys from ”Santa”up early ) usually in a bus but sometimes a Lindsay bro's semi trailer.

The band regularly played in High St. in front of the old "Woolworths", under a light pole, (put there by the council for the band) also at the “Show” and “Anzac Day” Which was led by "Vic Lindsay" (bus prop.) who was Drum major and president for many years.

There was a bleak period in the 60's (The introduction of "TV" had an impact on young members) with declining members and 4 bandmasters in 12 months (Cliff Godwin, Claude Skinner, Les Cecil, John Ryder.) The Band struggled to maintain a Band for Anzac Day marches. In 1961 the name was changed to "Coffs Harbour Shire Band" . The "North Coast Travellers Cot Fund" Sept 1963 and the opening of the new "Civic Centre" with 8 days of festivities and the largest procession seen in Coffs Harbour, (32 floats), was a big event in April 1964 , but over the next few years the Band slowly declined again.

By 1970 the Band was in recession again, It was reformed in May 1975, as the "Coffs Harbour and District Citizens Band" with Max McCrow as Band Master

Ups and downs followed the bands fortune over the years, with various band masters, including Cliff Godwin, Bill Golden, Claude Skinner, Les Cecil (1962 his children would sleep on the band room floor on a blanket while he conducted), Warrick Rigby, Rex Hardingham, Max McCrowe 1975, Merv Allis, Ruben Fox, Ray Clague, and others.The uniforms were changed in this period.

  (This report by Rex Hardingham highlights the problems faced when reforming) "Arriving in Coffs Harbour in November 1974 it was to my dismay that there was no Brass Band in town. Putting some feelers out I was put in touch with Ray Clague and 'old man' Potts. At that time OM Potts still had the bands minutes from before the last war. With a little bit of knowledge under my belt I approached the council and was directed to Rod Firman the then Shire Clerk. He told me that there would be a council meeting to see if there was enough interest. ( The council were the last trustees.) The meeting went badly as only about four of us attended but were told another meeting would be held in February the following year to see if interest had increased. I got in touch with Kingsford-Smith the owner of Glynns Cordials and he rallied the ex naval people for the next meeting and in marched about forty personnel. The council then granted us the right to form a Brass Band. I was then directed to the Marcia St council depot and what a sorry sight I saw there. All the band gear was heaped in a pile with road signs piled on top. Uniforms, some music and instruments were then discarded to the tip and we started with what was left.

It was a slow start and some time later we asked Max McCrowe a schoolteacher to take over. When he left it was put on to me for about four years. Then we had Reuben Fox take over for a couple of years until retired Major Merv Allis became Bandmaster, He was good but after about a year he tried to change us to a concert band that folded miserably and so the Brass Band went into recess but out of that we salvaged what we have now as "Tarnished Brass" a brass quintet. From the quintet the present day band was built on". "Rex Hardingham" became a life member in this period

The band reformed in 2001 when some of the old bandsmen, Ken Golden, Rex Hardingham, John Rotar, Bill Vitnel, Grant Rigby, who were playing in the “Tarnished Brass" Quintet, decided it was about time to try again. It was reformed as the "Coffs Regional Brass Band” with Rob Davies as the Band Master, he was band master of the A grade “Benalla Band” for many years.

The band has had considerable support from the town. And plays regularly for Mothers Day and Fathers Day, marching on Anzac Day also concerts and charity events around Coffs Harbour and District.

2013 The Band continues to improve in its musical standard with new players joining to replace players that leave the area, with several instruments  purchased of higher quality,and new music, with donations from  various organizations.

Three Senior members were made Life Members for there contribution to the

"Coffs Regional Brass band " at the A.G.M.29th July 2013 Ken Golden cornet player, the oldest remaining  member still playing, coming up through the ranks from the age of 13 yrs 1953, also Bill Vitnel Euphonium  and Alan Jones Trombone player who have worked tirelessly to further the interests of the Band

The Band played at many engagements during 2013 to 2015 including Anzac Day the Dawn and main services, the biggest for years, supporting the Army Band at CEX  which went well, Christmas Carols at Bonville Hall , a yearly gig, carols at Boambee, Antiques Fair,  Christmas Bowl at Catholic and Anglican Church coming up on the 27th Nov 2015, Concerts at the CEX where Grant Rigby was granted Life Membership for his dedication to the Band, allways there with the Band trailer with seats and stands. and playouts at several other venues.

Ken Golden 18/11/2015

 

References: Coffs Regional Museum, Neal Yeates, Advocate, Ken Golden, Geoff Fawcett, and band members.