Mr. William Ryder is mentioned in the Stonnington City Brass centenary book, “Bold as Brass”, yet is mentioned as a mere footnote in a long line of conductors of the band. He probably would have passed attention even further had it not been for a donation of photos to the band. These photos were not only remarkable for their condition but for the portion of the history of Stonnington City Brass they have now filled in. Discovering the story of Mr. Ryder has been very rewarding, and has reinforced old ties with one of the most famous brass bands in the world, the Manchester Besses O’ Th’ Barn Band.
Some particulars of Williams Ryder’s life are unknown but we do know that he was born and raised in England. He apparently started out learning the Violin but switched to the Cornet soon after. By all accounts, he became a very gifted musician and was tutored by the great William Rimmer, a very famous conductor of the time. Mr. Ryder even played in the company of royalty on one occasion.
We know that William Ryder came to be in Australia when he was included in the Besses O’ Th’ Barn band on their worldwide tour in 1909-1911 as their lead Cornet. However, his reputation had preceded him and in 1910 he joined the Wests Theatre Company in Melbourne and in 1911 became the first conductor of the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Employees Band. This is only a small tie with the famous Besses band and they were very interested to find out about Mr. Ryder’s whereabouts – Besses apparently joke at concerts about the bandsmen who went on tour and never came back!
Mr. Ryder’s prowess as a musician can’t be discounted. Like the vast majority of bandsmen, he was active in competition and in 1912 he achieved 2nd place in the Open Bb Cornet section at Royal South Street (Ballarat). What is more remarkable is that in 1914 he not only won the Open Bb Cornet title but the Open Eb Cornet title as well at South Street in two days of competition! He also conducted the early Malvern band to competition wins.
According to an early history of the Stonnington City Brass (Malvern Tramways) compiled by Mr. Charles Selling, Mr. Ryder left the band in July 1914. Mr. Snelling wrote that “With the change of Bandmaster, several of our men left us, and another Band was formed in Malvern under Mr. Ryder. This combination was short-lived, however.”. Which, I might add, was a situation not unheard of in these times. Succeeding Mr. Ryder as a conductor was Mr. McAnally however he only had a short tenure and in early 1915 the great Mr. Harry Shugg was appointed.
After his stint in Malvern, Mr. Ryder traveled to NSW to take up an appointment with the Rozelle District Band, then transferred to the South Sydney Band. From this point up until the end of the First World War, Mr. Ryder was part of the AIF forces as an acting bandmaster. After the war, he proceeded to Queensland and according to articles from the Queensland Times (Ipswich) 1926 and the Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) 1931, he had been associated with the Maryborough Naval Band, Maryborough City Band, the Rossendale Band, the Ipswich Vice Regal Band, and the Rockhampton City Concert Band. As a Cornet soloist, he also kept up his competing thrice winning the New South Wales Championships and winning the Queensland Cornet Championship. The last time he won this championship was in 1936 when he was 54 years of age. Wherever Mr. Ryder went he was warmly welcomed. A journalist from the Maryborough Chronicle in an article from 1918 even penned an enthusiastic poem to welcome Mr. Ryder to the town and the band.
Mr. Ryder did not slow down in the later years of his life having been appointed to the Gympie Band in the 1930s and in 1938 he took the band down to Sydney and won the D Grade competition against 16 other bands. While in Gympie he also established the Gympie Boys’ Band and eventually handed over the reins of this band to his son, William Jnr. In 1941 he joined the Military forces and conducted a Battalion band and was subsequently posted to New South Wales. However, in 1942 he returned from New South Wales and entered a Brisbane military hospital where he died at the age of 60. He was survived by his widow, three sons, and three daughters.
Much of the story of Mr. Ryder’s life is anecdotal having come from the resources of the Trove archive and some of the Stonnington City Brass history. I must acknowledge the active interest that representatives of the Besses O’ Th’ Barn band have in their own history as they were very forthcoming with material regarding Mr. Ryder, to which I thank them.
Mr. Ryder’s story is but one of many bands people who have played or conducted the Stonnington City Brass. As I wrote in the opening paragraph, Mr. Ryder is a mere footnote in the Stonnington City Band history, however, he set a course for the early band and the band continues that legacy.
Bannerman. (1918, 08 May). A WELCOME. Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 – 1947), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article151083205
NOTABLE BANDSMAN : Mr. William Ryder : Vice-Regal Band’s Conductor. (1926, 18 December). Queensland Times (Ipswich, Qld. : 1909 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115649816
CITY CONCERT BAND : To contest in Sydney : Mr. W. Ryder As Conductor : A Distinguished Career. (1931, 14 January). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54688441
LATE MR. W. RYDER : Well-Known Band Conductor Passes. (1942, 20 May). Queensland Times (Ipswich, Qld. : 1909 – 1954),5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115078488
Lawson-Black, P. (2010). Bold as brass : the story of Stonnington City Brass then and now. Pat Lawson Black, Stonnington City Brass.
Prestwich, M. (1906). Besses o’ th’ Barn Band [Postcard]. Martin Prestwich, Manchester, United Kingdom.
Stonnington City Brass. (2018). Band HIstory. Stonnington City Brass. https://www.stonningtoncitybrass.org.au/history.html
Tesla Studios. (1915). William Ryder [Postcard]. Tesla Studios, Q. V. Markets, Sydney, Sydney, N.S.W.