When visiting the store room at Beamish I spotted the instrument my Dad used to
play in the Crookhall Colliery Band. Childhood memories flooded back of Dad
cleaning his ‘double B’, cleaning the valves, and washing them in soapy water.
I used to stretch up and put my head in the bell probably to see if I could see any
music inside. I suppose I’m lucky that I never ended with my feet in the air and this
was something I always used to enjoy doing whenever he cleaned it.
On practice night Dad would come home, have his bath and dinner and a short rest
then go up to the band room in the colliery yard. Our black cat, Topsy, would follow
him out of the door and so up the road to the band room. She would sit on the wall
waiting while the band played, enjoying the music. As the men left, she would get
behind Dad and so back home.
When ever the band took part in the Brass Band competitions at Crystal Palace we
listened into the wireless. Mam making a clippy mat, the cat upright underneath
playing with the dangling clippings and my sister and I listening for Crookhall band.
When we heard the oompha, oompha we would then shout ‘that’s our Dad’.
An annual occasion was the Durham Big Meeting, we would join the band as it
passed our house in Delves and follow band and banner to Knutsley station to get
onto the train to Durham. The band and its followers gathered at the Garden House
to march the streets of Durham. It was wonderful to hear the music and the furled
banners. If there had been a tragedy down the pit the banner was draped in black.
The streets were crowded, we were constantly being told not to let go of each other
in case we got separated. So the bands came through up into the market square,
each band pausing to play, up Sadler Street, turning left to go over Elvet Bridge,
pausing outside the County Hotel where the officials stood on the balcony and then
onto the Sands racecourse. There were two tents the first aid and the lost children
and of course there was the shows.
The banners were stood on the outskirts and the instruments beside them. Everyone
settled down to enjoy their picnics before the speeches at twelve o’clock, which we
weren’t interested in. At two o’clock the bands playing in the cathedral would leave.
We eventually got to the shows where we had rides and playing on the slot
machines and then we left the race course to follow our band and banner back to the
station, grubby and tired ready to go back home.