Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 14, October 1970
by JOHN BEESTON
(Note. We asked Mr. Beeston to sponsor this article and no one could be better equipped, for he not only gave over 40 years of continuous service as a player but has also been Band Sergeant, Librarian for 12 years, Band Master, and still holds the Secretaryship of the "Waihi Federal Band". Ed.)
Every early mining settlement was noted for its Music and Waihi was no exception. The "Town Band" was established in 1895 with 28 performing members and won the Contest at Te Aroha in 1897, later competing at Napier and Palmerston North in 1899. Mr. E.A. Johns was then the Secretary.
A good deal of friendly rivalry was indulged later when the "Waihi Martha Band" was formed but this resulted in the betterment of both. The "Martha" was fortunate in obtaining the services of three members of Australia's Champion Band (Hillgrove, N.S.W., of which their brother, Hugh McMahon was the conductor as well as being the World's Champion Cornetist.) With Harry, Bill, and Alex McMahon's assistance the result was electrifying and for a while "Martha" revelled in supremacy. However the brothers returned to Australia and it was then that the Salvation Army Band received a major share of public attention. Hundreds of people congregated in the streets on Saturday nights and with four hotels doing big business there was no room for vehicular traffic.
Eventually "Martha" and "Town Band" decided to amalgamate and made a good combination. There was much discussion about a suitable name, the final choice being "The Waihi Federal Band". In 1907 a decision was made to build a Band Hall in Haszard Street on a section donated by the Martha Gold Mining Company. It was completed in 1908 while Mr. T. Burton was Secretary. Mr. Glennie was Band Master and he immediately set to work preparing for a contest in Hamilton in October when the Band won £35.
Mr. Godkin was Conductor 1909 - 1910 when Mr. T. Russell took over and entered the Band in the contest at Palmerston North in 1911, winning nearly £50. In 1912 he took it to Wanganui and won the New Zealand A Grade Championship (£150). After that there were several changes in Conductors (H. Thomas, F. Lawn, E. Hardiman and J. Hardiman). With the outbreak of War in 1914 most bands were affected and all contests suspended, but the "Federal" paraded many times to the Railway Station to farewell local boys. Mr.W. Paull became Secretary in 1914 and remained till his death in 1931.
J. Hardiman returned to England in 1916 and Ben Pascoe was elected Band Master, holding the position till November 1925. (I joined up under Mr. Pascoe in 1922). Mr. Russell came from England in 1925 and in Feb. 1926 took the Band to the N.Z. Championships where it won £50. Owing to ill health he returned to England in May 1926 and died shortly afterwards.
Ben Pascoe, being an old miner was also suffering from ill health so Bert Carlyon, who died a few years ago, was appointed Band Master. He had arrived in Waihi in 1900 when he was 13 years of age but he had already played in a Salvation Band in Australia and joined the local one. During World War I he spent 4 years as a Bandsman overseas and he gave nearly 50 years of service to the Federal Band in Waihi.
One of Bert's brightest memories of the "Waihi Federal" was wrapped up in the family name "Smith". He vividly called to mind one of the EbBass [E flat – E] players Tom Smith - who had two sons who made their mark not only in N.Z. but in the whole world of Music. K.G.L. Smith on two occasions took representative Brass Bands to England, Scotland and Europe. He was born in Smith Street, Waihi named after Tom Smith and his remarkable flock. The other son Wynn gained a wide reputation in Radio Circles especially in U.S.A. and Gt. Britain as a Pianist. He was playing the Piano with Stanley Black at the B.B.C. in London when he received the news that his father was seriously ill so he hurried home to be with him before the end. Ken Smith of Cornet fame, a son of K.G.L., took the world by storm as a Cornetist and Trumpeter.
In April 1928 J. Hardiman returned from England and served as Band Master till October 1930 when ill health again caused a change and Eddie Bielby [Beilby ? – E] was appointed. When W. Paul passed away in 1931 Mr. Clarrie Jennings became Secretary. October 1932 saw Mr. George Henry, a very useful soprano Cornetist appointed Band Master. He used to hike up from Waikino 3 times a week to practice. But the depression was causing more changes. Geo. Henry had to resign because of failing health and Bert Carlyon again became Band Master.
With the formation of the South Auckland Association, contests were again a factor in building up the band and we once more met with a fair measure of success. We became incorporated when Mr. L. Boughton was Secretary, bought a new set of instruments and in 1937 won the South Auckland Championship at Tauranga. (Now there are only three of those players connected with the Band - Jumbo Lloyd, George Measures and John Beeston).
E. Dunston was Band Master from 1941 - 1949 and J.J. Callaghan was Sec. till ill health forced his retirement in 1949 when I was appointed and have continued to hold that position though the Band has been in recess on two occasions. R.C. Dunstan was a playing member for over 50 years and was President when ill-health caused his retirement. The Heaths were great stalwarts and so was Jumbo Lloyd who joined as a Trombonist and served for 40 years under Conductors, Russell, Carlyon, Beilby, Hardiman, Dunstan, and Vickery.
With the closing of the Martha Mine in 1952 a serious decline in Band Membership took place and although we strove hard to keep things going a decision was made in Aug. 1954 to call in all instruments and uniforms, though finances were still very sound. Feb.1956 we endeavoured to form a Boys' Band, Mr. Harper, an old Waihi Bandsman returned, and offered to train the boys with assistance from Mr. Vickery, Mr. Carlyon and myself. With further assistance from Mr. Lloyd and Mr. W. Heath steady progress was made with 14 boys coming on well. Unfortunately some of them lost interest and others left the town after school exams. Between Feb. 1957 and Aug. 1962 nearly 40 boys had joined as learners, but left again after several weeks, proving how difficult it was to maintain concerted playing.
In later years, with the Assistance of Ross Vickery I have endeavoured to keep things going but we had to go into recess again in 1968. It is indeed unfortunate that the once famous "Federal Band", like many others cannot get sufficient players to carry on.