Above is an intriguing photo. This photo of the Broken Hill City Band dated 1906 starts a story through the message that is penned around the edges; “Broken Hill City Band 1906 with compliments to Kalgoorlie Band”. Knowing the geography of Australia as we do, the towns of Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie are very far apart. Yet as we also know, during these times brass bands toured fair distances to participate in competitions and performances. It was no different for these two bands. They did meet, twice in five years.
The photo above is held in the archives of the Victorian Bands’ League, so we wonder why it is still in Victoria. That story cannot be told due to a lack of information. However, we do know when and where the two bands met, and the first meeting was in Victoria at the famous South Street Competition. The fact that they were both at South Street in 1906 reflects a ‘can do’ attitude from both bands, as well as many others. The travel was long and expensive, but the lure of rewards beckoned. Such was the case when the bands met again in 1911, the next time in Kalgoorlie.
Hence this post covers the years of 1906 and 1911, two different times. We can marvel at the travel that was undertaken and the other ‘little’ stories surrounding the trips. The central theme of this post, however, is the fact that these bands met and seemingly formed a mutual respect and friendship through music, geography, and circumstance.
The early bands of Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie:
Aside from the distance from each other, the establishment of both Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie followed relatively similar paths. Both are remote mining towns that experienced rapid population growth with the discovery of minerals – “silver, lead and zinc” in Broken Hill in 1883 and gold in Kalgoorlie in 1893 (Frost, Malam, Williams, & Malarz, 2014, p. 39). With increased population came increased services and demand for transport links, most importantly the early railways (Frost et al., 2014). Interestingly, a rail link from Broken Hill to Adelaide was built before Broken Hill was linked to Sydney and over in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, rail links were built to the south coast at Esperance and west to Perth (Frost et al., 2014). With the development of these important centres, and the influx of people came the establishment of early brass bands (Farrant, 1989).
Briefly, the bands of Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie started with years of each other with bands in Kalgoorlie-Boulder commencing in 1895 and consolidating themselves a few years later – by 1900 there were two bands in Boulder and one band in Kalgoorlie (Farrant, 1989; Goldfields Brass Band, 2004). The remaining band in Kalgoorlie, the Goldfields Brass Band can trace its lineage back to the Boulder Brass Band having been gifted a store of music and instruments in 1963 (Goldfields Brass Band, 2004). The Kalgoorlie brass bands had a healthy respect and support of each other, and in the early years were boosted by the talents of the five McMahon brothers who arrived in Kalgoorlie-Boulder in 1900 (Farrant, 1989; Greaves & Earl, 2001). Over the coming years, the famous Cornetist and Conductor Hugh McMahon and his brother Henry (Harry) took their bands all the way to Ballarat to compete at the South Street competitions with varying degrees of success (Greaves & Earl, 2001).
A similar development of brass bands occurred in Broken Hill where a band was established in 1899 as the “Bermingham’s Band…with J. J. Bermingham and his 9 sons comprising the majority of the membership” (Barrier Industrial Unions (BIU) Brass Band, 2019). The band expanded its membership and was renamed the Broken Hill City Band a year later – the current Barrier Industrial Unions (BIU) Brass Band is a direct descendant of this early band (Barrier Industrial Unions (BIU) Brass Band, 2019). The townsfolk and band members of Broken Hill, like Kalgoorlie, appreciated music and visits from other brass bands were well-attended (“THE AUSTRAL BRASS BAND.,” 1906).
1906: The South Street Competition, Ballarat:
The year is 1906 and from across Australia, brass bands have once again made their way to the South Street competition. Since the commencement of brass band and brass solo/ensemble sections at South Street in 1900, this section of the competition continues to grow. In 1906 these thirteen listed bands participated in the A and B grade sections with many bands participating in both grades, and many other musicians competing in the solo and ensemble sections:
(Vic.) Ararat Model (B Grade)(Mullen, 1951; “No title,” 1906; Royal South Street Society, 1906c)
(Vic.) City of Ballarat (A & B Grades)
(Vic.) Bairnsdale Municipal (A & B Grades)
(NSW) Broken Hill City Band (A & B Grades)
(Vic.) Collingwood Citizens’ Band (A & B Grades)
(Vic.) Daylesford Citizens (B Grade)
(Vic.) Eaglehawk Borough (B Grade)
(WA) Kalgoorlie and Goldfields Infantry and Regimental Band (A Grade)
(Vic.) Maldon Miners (B Grade (Withdrew from A Grade))
(Vic.) Prout’s Ballarat Brass Band (A & B Grades)
(Vic.) Richmond City Band (A & B Grades)
(Vic.) St. Augustine’s Orphanage Band (A Grade)
(Tas.) Ulverstone Rangers (A & B Grades)
Considering the travel methods of the day, to attract this many bands with three of them travelling from other colonies is quite remarkable. Such was the lure of the South Street competition. For the Kalgoorlie Regimental band, they were travelling paths set down by the Boulder City Band and the Boulder A.W.A Mines Band before them as they participated South Street in 1902, 1903 and 1905 and achieved excellent placings (Farrant, 1989; Greaves & Earl, 2001). Travel for Kalgoorlie bands to get to South Street involved a train, a ship and another train and tours often lasted for six weeks (Farrant, 1989). The distance for the Broken Hill band was not quite as long but involved a roundabout way of travel as the band took a train to Adelaide and then another train from Adelaide to Ballarat (“BALLARAT EISTEDDFOD.,” 1906a).
The details of the 1906 South Street competition were notable for several reasons. Much of this was due to the performance of the legendary St. Augustine’s Orphanage Band from Geelong who, despite their youth, managed to win all of the A Grade sections and carry off the Sutton Shield & Cup and the Boosey Cup (“The Ballarat Band Contests.,” 1906; “BALLARAT EISTEDDFOD.,” 1906b). By all accounts the quality of their performance and subsequent win were undisputed. However, there was a degree of controversy about this competition and some felt results underneath St. Augustine’s were unjustified.
Some of the controversies were pinned to the choice of the adjudicator. Unlike previous years when the band sections were adjudicated by eminent brass band authorities such as James Ord Hume, Captain W. G. Bentley, and Albert Wade, the 1906 competition was adjudicated by a Professor Frederick W. Beard LRAM of Birmingham (Greaves, 1996). Professor Beard, “did not pretend to be a brass band expert” but apparently “had a thorough knowledge of orchestral work and he knew enough about brass instruments to qualify for the position he undertook…” (“BALLARAT EISTEDDFOD.,” 1906b). Such a decision did not go down well with some bands. Upon the return of the Kalgoorlie band back home, their President, Mr Eli Shaw read out a resolution of the Richmond City Band at the welcome home reception which stated,
That this band respectfully declines to enter or compete at any band contest unless a practical brass band conductor, or conductors, be appointed as judge, the definition of ‘practical’ being an approved registered conductor, who has piloted bands to victory in large contests, and that copies of this resolution be forwarded to all secretaries of all registered bands in Victoria asking them to adopt the same, and forward on to secretary of Victorian Band Association, Ballarat.(“KALGOORLIE BRASS BAND.,” 1906)
Such was the ill-feeling from one band who participated in this competition.
For the Broken Hill City Band, the results simply did not go their way in the A grade or B grade sections except for winning the third prize for discipline behind the Bairnsdale & Eaglehawk bands (Royal South Street Society, 1906c). However, their playing was judged by others to be excellent and it was felt that their placings were not deserved (“BALLARAT BAND CONTESTS.,” 1906).
The experiences of the Broken Hill Bands and the Kalgoorlie band were somewhat linked and for the Kalgoorlie band, some felt they had been treated extremely unfairly by the Victorian Band Association (V.B.A.) and the adjudication. It was not until the Kalgoorlie Band arrived in Ballarat that they found out they had been unexpectedly regraded from B grade to A grade on account of the V.B.A. wrongly assuming the status of some of their members (“KALGOORLIE BRASS BAND.,” 1906). Apparently, the V.B.A. told Kalgoorlie they had sixteen members who had played with the A.W.A Band and the Boulder City Band in previous years, of which the Kalgoorlie Band “proved” that these sixteen “had never played before in a contest” (“KALGOORLIE BRASS BAND.,” 1906). If we are to believe this account, it would seem the V.B.A., which was the band association overseeing the registrations, had made a grievous mistake somewhere.
There were also the woes of adjudication which upset many in the band community. At the same reception where Mr Eli Shaw read out the resolution by the Richmond City Band, he also read out letters of support from the Broken Hill band and the Hobart band. Perhaps, this letter is somehow tied into the photo at the head of this post, but we may never know this for sure. The letter, written by the bandmaster of Broken Hill, was printed in an article published by the Kalgoorlie Western Argus upon the return of the band back home:
Permit me and the members of the Broken Hill City Band to offer you and the talented members of your Kalgoorlie Band our sincerest sympathy in the position in which an utterly outrageous adjudication has placed you at this Ballarat contest. It is the consensus of opinion amongst all whom we have met, and are disinterestedly capable of giving a sound musical judgement, that your rendering of the test and choice, especially the latter, was a real musical treat, and that the judge, in awarding such an absurdly low number of points, insulted the musical intelligence of hundreds, who, I am sure, are infinitely more capable of giving a fair judgement than he did. Allow me once more to offer you our sincere sympathy, and we hope that this perverted judgement will not prevent us from hearing your magnificent band many times again here.(“KALGOORLIE BRASS BAND.,” 1906)
The sentiments of the bandmaster of the Hobart band were very similar – a grave injustice had been done, not only on this band but the whole community of bands.
The Kalgoorlie band did what they could under the circumstances and obviously drew praise for their playing. Upon the completion of the Ballarat contest, they travelled to Bendigo to present a concert and were awarded a civic reception upon their arrival, and received an excellent review of their performance (“KALGOORLIE REGIMENTAL BAND.,” 1906). From Bendigo, they travelled home and Kalgoorlie gave them a hero’s welcome upon their return with a reception attended by the other bands in the region, local politicians and the Mayor (“KALGOORLIE BRASS BAND.,” 1906).
Aside from the results in the band sections, competition results in the solo and ensemble sections were a consolation for both the Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie bands. All sections had a number of entries and included musicians from bands that were not in the main band sections (Royal South Street Society, 1906a, 1906b). It would have been pleasing for the Royal South Street Society to have so many entries.
1911: The Kalgoorlie Eisteddfod:
The Kalgoorlie Eisteddfod was obviously a much smaller event than South Street, yet it seemed to generate similar excitement and interest from participants and audience. So much so that several public authorities, the Eisteddfod and the West Australian Band Association made sure that visiting bands were treated to the finest hospitality. The 1911 Eisteddfod was notable for the participation of the Albany Brass Band and the Broken Hill City Band who travelled to Kalgoorlie to compete against the three Kalgoorlie-Boulder bands.
In August 1911 the Broken Hill City Band commenced a long journey to Kalgoorlie. The Trans-Continental Railway was yet to be built, so the band took the train to Adelaide where they presented a concert on the 18th of August before taking a ship to Albany (“BROKEN HILL BAND.,” 1911a). There was a huge amount of interest generated by the arrival of these two bands in Kalgoorlie. On the 25th of August, both the Albany and Broken Hill bands arrived in Kalgoorlie, and their travel movements were reported on by the Kalgoorlie Miner newspaper – of which also highlighted an example of the hospitality they were being awarded,
The Broken Hill men got off the Karoola at Albany, and special carriages were provided for both the Barrier and Albany men through to the goldfields. At Northam the carriages were shunted off, and later attached to the express, so that there was no confusion caused in regard to transhipping baggage, etc. The Albany men gave a concert at Northam while waiting for the express, and realised a fair profit.(“KALGOORLIE EISTEDOFOD,” 1911)
…and remarking on uniforms,
The green and gold uniforms of the players from Broken Hill are particularly effective, and in mufti they wear green hat bands and gold lettering; also badges of green and gold. The Albany attire is of blue, with red facings and badges of the same colours.(“KALGOORLIE EISTEDOFOD,” 1911)
Both bands were received at the Kalgoorlie station by a plethora of officials and townsfolk and the railway station reception also included a small combination of the three Kalgoorlie-Boulder bands playing music. After this welcome, both bands formed up and marched to the Eisteddfod office and then after more speeches, marched to their hotel (“KALGOORLIE EISTEDOFOD,” 1911).
Fortunately, the article in the Kalgoorlie Miner newspaper also published the names of the bandsmen from both bands so we have this piece of history on record:
P. Pfitzner, conductor(“KALGOORLIE EISTEDOFOD,” 1911)
W. May, professional cornet
H. Mitchell, solo cornet
A. Hendy, solo cornet
J. Shannon, repiano cornet
S, Phillips, flugel horn
E. Holland, second cornet
H. Halse, third cornet
W. Keays, soprano cornet
E. W. Barwick, solo horn
R. Rawle, second horn
John Richards, first horn
W. Partington, baritone
O. Hannett, baritone
D. Hopkins, euphonium
R. Ramsay, euphonium
C. Thomas, trombone
Stan Phillips, trombone
J. Martin, bass trombone
J. Bartley, BBb bass
W. Head, BBb bass
O. Berriman, Eb bass
S. Goldring, Eb bass
C. Kumm, bass drum
R. Gummow, side drum
M. Williams, side drum
Mr. J. Doherty, is the drum major, Mr. J. Mitchell is the manager, and Mr. W. W. Barwick the secretary.
A day later both bands were getting into their practice on the city oval which was reported on by the Kalgoorlie Miner. The welcoming ceremonies were not over. After their afternoon practice on the oval, both bands marched to the town hall to be received by the mayor and councillors who awarded them another civic reception (“KALGOORLIE EISTEDDFOD,” 1911). Toasts were given all around and it appears the Mayor of Kalgoorlie had spent some years in Broken Hill, so he was familiar with the town and mines. The camaraderie was evident as was the hospitality. Mr J. Mitchell, secretary of the Broken Hill band said as much in his response to the welcome.
…he appreciated the kindness that had been shown them, especially by the energetic committee and secretary, who had secured free railway passes for them, otherwise Broken Hill Band could hardly have taken the trip.(“KALGOORLIE EISTEDDFOD,” 1911)
A few days later the Broken Hill band presented a concert in Kalgoorlie’s Victoria Park which was well-attended by the townsfolk. As a measure of support, the band received £32 in total from contributions which obviously helped with some expenses – the trip was estimated to cost £400 (“BROKEN HILL BAND.,” 1911b). The band was said to have performed with “good quality of tone, excellent balance, and intelligence in interpretation” which was high praise for the visiting ensemble (“BROKEN HILL BAND.,” 1911b). No doubt a good review for the band to have! Interest in the bands had not waned and was carried through to the Eisteddfod proper. Certainly, the enthusiasm from the townspeople and friendship of the local bands between each other attracted the notice of local commentators (“KALGOORLIE BAND COMPETITIONS,” 1911).
The band sections of the Eisteddfod commenced in the first week of September and were adjudicated by Mr Charles Allison who also did his bit by leading the combined bands on a street march and conducting them on the oval (“KALGOORLIE BAND COMPETITIONS.,” 1911). The sight of the three Kalgoorlie-Boulder bands combined with the bands of Broken Hill and Albany would have been quite spectacular. Over the coming days, all bands competed in a variety of band and solo/ensemble sections and results were mixed between them – the Kalgoorlie Band won the overall championships however the Broken Hill band won the Street March section (“BAND CONTESTS,” 1911; “STREET MARCHING COMPETITION,” 1911).
By all accounts, this was a very good band contest with little reported controversy and where all bandsmen exhibited the best of behaviour towards each other. Indeed, even during the contest, social nights were encouraged and the Kalgoorlie-Boulder bands made sure the visiting bands were very welcome (“VISITING BRASS BANDS.,” 1911). This hospitality was not lost on the visiting bands and in an article published on the 9th of September in the Truth newspaper we read that,
The visiting bandsmen, however, express their intense appreciation of the kindness and courtesy extended to them on all hands. The Chamber of Mines, the School of Mines, the brewery manager, the Race Club, secretaries, the manager of the power house, and others did their best to make the Albany and Broken Hill men enjoy themselves.(“Kalgoorlie Band Contests.,” 1911)
According to an account by a member of the Broken Hill band who documented the whole trip, and which was published in the Barrier Miner newspaper, the Broken Hill band commenced then commenced a long trip home – a train to Perth, a ship to Adelaide and another train to Broken Hill. The band arrived back in Broken Hill on September 17th and despite some results not going their way, they acquitted themselves well and certainly enjoyed the trip west (“THE BROKEN HILL BAND.,” 1911).
What is evident here through these ‘little stories’ is just one example from many of the connections and friendships that were made between early brass bands. There is probably much more that can be written on this topic. However, one must admire the fact that these bands traversed vast distances and in doing so gave themselves chances that they otherwise would not have had. The fact that the Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie bands came from towns that developed around mining obviously helped the friendships that developed.
I have formed no doubt through the research for this post that these two bands gained valuable experiences from their trips. Competitions aside, it was the camaraderie of early bands people and the connections that were formed that made the trips even more worthwhile.
THE AUSTRAL BRASS BAND. (1906, 08 February). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44491455
BALLARAT BAND CONTESTS. (1906, 03 December). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44520304
The Ballarat Band Contests : The Championship of the Commonwealth Won by St. Augustine’s Band : The Boys Carry off All the First-Class Prizes : An Unprecedented Feat. (1906, 17 November). Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954), 14. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article170199282
BALLARAT EISTEDDFOD. (1906a, 29 October). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115677274
BALLARAT EISTEDDFOD : Brass Band Section : Victories of the Orphans : St. Augustine’s Wins the Double. (1906b, 08 November). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115680908
BAND CONTESTS : Championship won by Kalgoorlie. (1911, 04 September). Evening Star (Boulder, WA : 1898 – 1921), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article204606679
Barrier Industrial Unions (BIU) Brass Band. (2019). History. Barrier Industrial Unions (BIU) Brass Band. Retrieved 03 September 2019 from https://biuband.com.au/history/
BROKEN HILL BAND. (1911a, 19 August). Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58436856
BROKEN HILL BAND. (1911b, 28 August). Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1950), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91317321
THE BROKEN HILL BAND : Its West Australian Trip. : (By a Member). (1911, 20 September). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article45165481
Broken Hill City Band. (1906). [Rectangular black and white photograph mounted on card : L21.6cm – W16.5cm]. . Victorian Collections, Victorian Bands’ League. https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/5b59a68021ea690d805b060c
Eastern Goldfields Historical Society Inc. (2019). Kalgoorlie : City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Eastern Goldfields Historical Society Inc. Retrieved 03 September 2019 from https://kalgoorliehistory.org.au/towns/Kalgoorlie
Farrant, J. E. (1989). Boulder bands win at Ballarat, 1904/1905. Studies in Western Australian History, 10(April [Celebrations in Western Australian history / Layman, Lenore & Stannage, Tom (eds.)]), 107-113. https://search.informit.org/documentSummary;dn=890911633;res=IELAPA
Frost, G., Malam, K., Williams, L., & Malarz, A. (2014). The evolution of Australian towns [Research Report](136). T. Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Communication. https://www.bitre.gov.au/publications/2014/report_136.aspx
Goldfields Brass Band. (2004). History. Goldfields Brass Band. Retrieved 03 September 2019 from https://www.goldfieldsbrassband.org.au/history.php
Government Photographer. (1905). Goldfields Infantry Regimental Band [1 photographic print, mounted : b&w ; 10 x 12 cm.]. [008561d]. State Library of Western Australia, Government Photographer collection ; 816B/E/6541. https://encore.slwa.wa.gov.au/iii/encore/record/C__Rb2088645
Greaves, J. (1996). The great bands of Australia [sound recording] [2 sound discs (CD)]. Australia, Sound Heritage Association.
Greaves, J., & Earl, C. (2001). Legends in brass : Australian brass band achievers of the 20th century. Muso’s Media.
KALGOORLIE BAND COMPETITIONS : Notes by an Observer. (1911, 29 August). Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1950), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91315285
KALGOORLIE BAND COMPETITIONS : Street Marching Contest : Won by Broken Hill Band. (1911, 13 September). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article45164623
Kalgoorlie Band Contests : The Quickstep. (1911, 09 September). Truth (Perth, WA : 1903 – 1931), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208697815
KALGOORLIE BRASS BAND : Civic Reception. The Band’s Troubles. (1906, 11 December). Kalgoorlie Western Argus (WA : 1896 – 1916), 12. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33083145
KALGOORLIE EISTEDDFOD : Brass Band Competitions : Visitors’ Movements. (1911, 26 August). Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1950), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91321579
KALGOORLIE EISTEDDOFOD : Brass Band Competitions : Broken Hill and Albany Players : Reception Arrangements. (1911, 25 August). Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1950), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91326006
KALGOORLIE REGIMENTAL BAND. (1906, 06 November). Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 – 1918), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article227751661
Mullen, C. C. (1951). Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951). Horticultural Press.
No title. (1906, 29 October). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article210688939
Royal South Street Society. (1906a, 30 October). 1906-10-30 Brass Solo Contests. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 26 August 2019 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1906-10-30-brass-solo-contests
Royal South Street Society. (1906, 31 October). 1906-10-31 Brass Solo Contests. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 26 August 2019 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1906-10-31-brass-solo-contests
Royal South Street Society. (1906, 04 November). 1906-11-04 Band Contests. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 26 August 2019 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1906-11-04-band-contests
Scott, R. V. (1911, 10 October). KALGOORLIE BRASS BAND COMPETITIONS AND EISTEDDFOD. Kalgoorlie Western Argus (WA : 1896 – 1916), 21. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33398332
STREET MARCHING COMPETITION : Won by Broken Hill. (1911, 04 September). Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1950), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91325887
VISITING BRASS BANDS : Smoke Social in Kalgoorlie. (1911, 05 September). Kalgoorlie Western Argus (WA : 1896 – 1916), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33396714
2 thoughts on “Trans-continental connections: the brass bands of Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie”
Thanks for this insight into such a rich world of music and Australian history. It’s amazing to think of the journeys these bands undertook to come together in eisteddfods and I’m sure strong friendships were formed. I love the pictures as well – fantastic!
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