Tale of brass band rivalries

Bob Pickles, who has written a book about brass bands
Bob Pickles, who has written a book about brass bands

An enduring rivalry between two village brass bands has been explored by Bob Pickles in a new book, ‘Battles of the Bands’.
 Mr Pickles is a brass band fan and former member of Black Dyke Junior Silver Band and then the National Youth Brass Band.

In the book he looks at Wyke Old Band and Wyke Temperance Brass Band who competed against each other on the contest stage and enjoyed fierce rivalry during the second half of the 19th century.

“It was unusual to have two brass bands in such a small geographical area and the competition between them was quite vicious at times,” said Mr Pickles, a former teacher, of Worthing Head Road, Wyke. “I thought the story of the rivalry between the two bands was well worth telling - I wanted to rescue it from obscurity.”

Wyke was unusual in that the standard of playing in its two brass bands was very high - both Wyke Old and Wyke Temperance were championship standard.
 Wyke Old Band was established in 1856 and was supported financially by the landlords and patrons of the pubs in the village.

The Temperance Band, which grew out of the Temperance Movement in the 1860s, was unpopular in its early days and was vociferously opposed by the supporters of Wyke Old Band.

As Mr Pickles writes: “Temperance bandsmen, their families and followers, had to endure tirades of abuse from their fellow villagers.”

On the contest stage, the bands were fairly evenly matched. In fact the close rivalry seemed to inspire the bands to better and better performances throughout the 1870s and ‘80s. Whenever the Temperance Band triumphed over its nearest rival, it was ‘subjected to hooting, jeering, stone and sod throwing’ by supporters of Wyke Old.

Occasionally the rivalry boiled over into violence and vandalism, with musical instruments being damaged and Temperance Band members being jostled and hustled.

“Occasionally a few Temperance bandsmen went miles out of their way to get home rather than face the boisterous, hostile crowd,” said Mr Pickles.

Wyke Old Band faded into obscurity after 1890 and Mr Pickles could find no record of the band competing after that date, ending the unique rivalry.

By the early years of the 20th century, the influence of the Temperance Movement was diminishing and allegations of drinking had been levelled at members of the Temperance Band. The band was largely referred to as Wyke Band and, though it was still enjoying success on the contest stage, its last recorded concert engagement was in 1924 and after that it faded away. “I started doing research for my book while I was a member of Wyke local history group. I am grateful to Derek Rawlinson, of Brighouse and Rastrick Band, who gave me a lot of help.”

‘Battles of the Bands’ is available from Just Books in Brighouse and from the Debra charity shop in Wyke.