The Extraordinary Band Contest

Categories Cornish Dialect1 Comment

Tony Mansell brings you another slice of brass band history garnished with an amusing account of the event in Cornish Dialect.


Nine bands attended the fifth brass band contest at Four Lanes in 1913, two in the first section and seven in the second. Those in the lower section: St Ives Town, Bugle Silver, Stenalees Silver, Lelant Brass, Indian Queens, Foxhole Temperance and St Agnes Town, played William Rimmer’s The Village Bride and it was St Ives which was placed first, ahead of Bugle and Stenalees.

There was keen interest in the top section where the Camborne and Reduth bands were pitted against each other. The set test piece was Emilia, a popular choice at many contests. In addition, Redruth chose to play The Bohemian Girl and Camborne played Maritana.

Camborne Town Band was reputed to be the best in Cornwall and was expected to romp home in first place but much to everyone’s surprise, the adjudicator, William Short of London, preferred the playing of the Redruth Band. He placed them ahead of Camborne. In addition, all the soloist prizes went to the Redruth men. Even after all these years the stunned reaction of players and spectators alike can be felt but that must have been quickly replaced by the raucous reaction of the men from Redruth. This was cataclysmic, an earth-shattering result, and even though it was the opinion of one man at one minor contest it is still talked of and cannot be expunged from the records.

The result was very different just three weeks later when the two bands were joined by St Dennis Temperance in the top section at the Cornwall County Contest at Lelant. Camborne were the undoubted winners and Redruth… well they languished back in last place. Following this contest, William Uren, Camborne’s bandmaster, said, “If we merited the prize at Lelant, we merited it at Four Lanes. The performance of the test piece at Four Lanes was one of the best we have ever given. At Four Lanes,” he continued, “Redruth beat us for the first time in their lives. It will be some time before this happens again. Our band can beat Redruth every day in the week, whether we play for money or marbles.” The Camborne people were quick to quote the saying, “The first shall be last,” as applicable to Redruth Band because they were first at Four Lanes, but last of the three bands at Lelant. Despite setting the record straight at Lelant, the result at Four Lanes really did hurt and it was said that the Camborne players walked home across the fields kicking the turnips out of the ground as they went.

Someone, with tongue firmly set in cheek, decided to immortalize the great win with this amusing dialect story through the eyes of one Billy Annear. It appeared in the Cornish Telegraph of the 14th August 1913 and colourfully describes Billy’s involvement in the day that Redruth famously defeated Camborne.


Billy at the Band Contest

Fower Laanes band contest is awl right in its way, but et cain’t be compeered to the contests we used to ave away back fifty year agone down weth we. In thay days brass bands wadn’t hardly heerd about cepts into Druth an awver Caamburn. Our bands wor mostly fife an drum bands, good wauns they wor, too. I used to live at Downs in they days, fur yeers we ad the best band in the parish, an to heer them play Hold the fort or Pull fur the shore wor a experience wot you wud never furgit waunce you heerd et. My ould fayther wor laider ov that band, an wen ee wor forced to give up cause ee got so fat that he cudn’t blaw agoin agen the hill I wor put in his place, an though I say et as shudn’t say et, theer wor never a band wot had a purtier, a moare capable, a moare fearless laider than I wor. Talk about laiden, we won the fust prize ov five shillin waunce awver to Scroggan, an North Country band wot wor second wor as jealous as fire an called us chaits an awl the rest ov et. Now tes hard lines fur honest men to be called chaits, an as I wor jealous fur the reputaashun ov our band I called theer laider aside an tould un that ef ee dedn’t call back thay wurds I shud feel et my dooty to chastise un. But, as luck wud ave et, et turned out that I wus talkin to a moare aable man than myself, fur taakin me by the scruff of the neck ee gov me sich a shaakin that the teeth neerly dropped out ov my head, an ef I dedn’t scraim murder I believe theer wud ave ben a end ov me on the spot.

Well, three weeks ago cum Toosday Jack Sleeman cumed to my house awl excited an ee sed, sed ee : “You do knaw me, Billy,” ee sed.

“I think I do,” I sed, thinkin ov the many aalf suverigns Jack borrowed frum me frum time to time an ad never payed back.

“An you knaw me to be a able man, Billy,” ee sed.

“Iss,” I sed, “I conseder that you be the ablest man in this ere parish, next to myself.”

“An ov coorse I be musical, Billy.”

“Coorse you be,” I sed.

“An you be musical, too, Billy,” ee sed.

“Rather,” I sed.

“Well,” ee sed, “I spoase theer be six or eight moare down ere wot es musical, too,” ee sed.

“No doubt about et,” I sed.

“Then wot es theer to purvent us agoin to Fower Laanes next week an taakin that Fifteen pound prize?”

I sed. “Wotee main?”

Then ee up an sed as theer wos to be a £15 prize an a silver cornet fur the band wot do play the purtiest.

“Be ee shure, Jack?” I axed , fur it wor hard to blieve that so much muney cud be won in waun afnoon.

“Read the bill fur yourself,” ee sed, an took a bill out ov his pocket fur me to read. I put on my glasses, an theer et wor in bould print that the best band wud git a silver cornet.

“We aven’t got a band, Jack,” I sed.

“But we can soon maake waun,” ee sed, “fur theer’s Joe Pearce, an Maaister Carpenter, an young Tom Blight, an Josey Paul an his son-in-law Jim Pooler, young Nickey, Jan and Dicky Boo.”

“Wot about musics?” I sed.

“We can git fifes fur ninepence aich,” ee sed, “an Joe Peerce ave still got his ould drum.”

Well to maake a long story short, we called a mitten the saame evenin, an I wor conductor, an afore the end of the week we wor practisin in my ould barn fur awl we wus worth the two ould faavourites Dare to be Daniel an Theer’s a light in the winder, an wen the day ov the contest arrived we cud play both peaces weeth our eyes shut. We left ome weth stout hearts and a detarminashun to win that fust prize or perish in the attempt. Wen we got close to Druth we formed up in marchin order an let out awl lusty weth Dare to be Daniel, an the pepul cumed to the doors to see wheer the sound wor cumin frum. By the time we reached the bottom ov the town theer wer fifteen or twenty lil boays follerin behind, an et looked fur awl the wurld like a taytrait. I maake bould to say twor purty moosic, too, fur Josey an Jack an boay Nickey an the rest ov them wor in fust rate form. Wen that wor awver we pressed on owr journey an dedn’t play no moare ontil we got to Fower Lanes. And did’n the pepul stare wen we struck up Theer’s a light in the winder. Then a accerdent appened fur Joe Peerce wor that rash that ee scat in the side the drum. The pepul must ave knawed I was cumin weth the band, fur the flags wer flyin everywheer.

At the gaate we kept on marchin and playin, but the man in charge shouted, “Sexpense aich, plaise.”

“But we are the band,” I sed.

“Which band,” ee sed.

“The champshuns,” I sed. Then after lookin at the red paaper ee took out ov his pocket, ee sed theer wor no band ov that name entered.

“Ov coorse we aven’t entered,” I sed, “fur you ave stopped us.”

“Wot be your naame?” ee sed.

“Billy Annear,” I sed, walkin close so to catch un in caase he went off into a faint.

But strange to say, he wadn’t a bit upset by the news that Billy Annear had arrived, but only sed, sed ee, “The name eden on this ere paaper. An whot’s moare, I doan’t knaw ee.”

“Doan’t knaw me,” I sed, fur I cud hardly believe my ears.

“No I don’t” sed ee.

“You don’t?” I sed agen.

“No, I don’t knaw ee frum Adam,” ee sed.

“Then, young man,” I said, “your edycaashun av ben sadly neglected.”

Then a nice-lookin young man weth a badge on his coat axed wot wor the matter. “Tes like this ere. Maaister Roberts,” sed the man. “This ere feller wot do say his name es Billy Annear want to go in fur nawthin weth awl his party,”

Pon hearin my naame, this ere Maaister Roberts cumed forth an’ neerly ringed my hand off, an sed ee wus proud to welcum sich a important person to the contest. “You be a noospaper man Maaister Annear.” ee sed, “an theerfor you doan’t pay.”

“Wot about my baud?” I axed.

“Fife an drum bands aren’t allowed to play fur the prize,” ee said, “but you can do awl the playin you want awver in the corner of the field purvided the tother bands doan’t ear ee.”

That wor a fear offer, an we awl thanked the young man fur makin et. Then I took aalf-a-suvrign out ov my purse an we awl passed through.

Theer wor a band playin so luvely wen we got theer that we greed not to do no playin at awl, but to listen to the other bands. So we put our fifes in our pockets an Joe Pearce thrawed his broken drum awver the hedge.

We were glad we cumed, fur we never heerd purtier music afore cepts weth the Grenadier Guards an Luggan band. The seven lil bands dun so purty that if I ad ben the judge I shud ave gov em all the fust prize.

After they finished Druth band started, an I doan’t mind sayin that I wanted them to do well, fur though I be a Downs man, an my Lizzie Ann a Scroggan woman, I’ve allers somehow ad a likin fur Druth. Well, they played bootiful, an wen they finished Maaister Richard Reynolds, who I knawed wen ee wor awnly so high, an his fayther and grand fayther afore un, looked sum proud wen ee walked off the stage. The Caamburn band, in charge of a strange-lookin gentleman who I never seed afore, dun theer playin, an afore they finished Jack Sleeman and Maaister Carpenter sed twud be a close thing atween that two bands. An a close thing et wor, too, but Druth got in frunt, an I shudn’t be surprised but wot they doan’t keep theer.

Well, we didn’t git that fust prize, but we ad a enjoyable day, an wudn’t ave missed et fur anything.

So long fur the time.

Billy Annear


Brass Band contest results are often unpredictable as the decisions includes the subjective view of the adjudicator but never was the comment of one observer more appropriate, “If you haven’t got a sense of humour then you shouldn’t go contesting”.


Tony Mansell is the author of several books on aspects of Cornish history. In 2011 he was made a Bardh Kernow (Cornish Bard) for his writing and research, taking the name of Skrifer Istori. He has a wide interest in Cornish history and is a researcher with the Cornish National Music Archive and a sub-editor with Cornish Story: an Institute of Cornish Studies initiative.




Tony Mansell
Tony Mansell is the author of several books on aspects of Cornish history. He was made a Bardh Kernow (Cornish Bard) for his writing and research, taking the name of Skrifer Istori. He is a sub-editor with Cornish Story and a researcher with the Cornish National Music Archive specialising in Cornish Brass Bands and their music.

1 thought on “The Extraordinary Band Contest

  1. Good to kow that they days and dialects are not forgotten. Lovely bit of Istory and

    Thank you Tony and Billy Annear.

    Oll an gwella,

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