1955 National Brass Band Championship Festival
Taking place on Saturday 29th October 1955 was the National Brass Band Championship Festival, at Hammersmith Town Hall in old London Town. At stake in the Third Section was the National Challenge Vase and £50 prize money. The test piece? Three English Pictures by Adam Carse.
16 runners and riders fancied their chances. On the programme at number 15 was a Welsh band – Tonyrefail Boys’ Band – conducted by Tom Jones (I kid you not!!). Bands from north to south were in the mix including Cockerton Prize Silver Band, Haltwhistle Old Silver Band, Houghton Main Colliery Band, Moderna Blanket Works Band and at number 13 (unlucky for some?) a familiar name, Pontardulais Town Band, conducted by the esteemed Mr Cliff Ward.
And the result? With 174 points, taking the Daily Herald National Challenge Vase, £50 Prize money and the title of Third Section National Champions of Great Britain, the band drawn number 8… Pontardulais Town Band!
The band gave a magnificent performance, beating 15 other bands to the top prize and their nearest rivals Pillowell Silver from Lydney, Gloucestershire by a margin of 4 points! It was a very good day for Welsh banding as a whole with Tonyrefail Boys’ Band, the youngest band in the competition (with an average age of 14) and their Musical Director, Mr Tom Jones, coming away with 164 points and a fourth place in the same section.
On hearing the result Hammersmith Town Hall erupted and MD Mr Cliff Ward was carried on shoulders from the Town Hall by his band as a mark of appreciation of the service, knowledge and patience he had extended in the run up to the contest.
On returning home the village of Pontardulais holds a civic reception for their band attended by local councillors and dignitaries. Local newspapers reported; “The Band have brought honour not only to their own town but to Wales and Welshmen everywhere”.
Mr Cliff Ward
It was his first year of tenure as Musical Director of Pontardulais Town Band. Aged 51, Mr Ward was a talented and versatile musician, he had broadcast as a solo pianist, as well as on trumpet, saxophone and clarinet. During the war he was leader of an RAF dance band and in his younger days led the Denza Players, one of the first dance bands of note to be formed in West Wales. He was well known at Stradey, not only as the conductor of the Pontardulais Town Band, who played at all Llanelly club’s home matches but also as an ex-player. He was full-back for the Llanelly team over a period of three seasons until he unfortunately broke his leg in a practice game. Mr Ward was also a talented cricketer, opening the Morewoods Innings, when they won the South Wales and Monmouthshire Cricket League Championship in 1937. He was also a member of the RAF snooker and Llanelly Liberal club billiards teams, winning many competition with frequent breaks of over a hundred. Prior to joining Pontardulais Town Band he was leader of the Llanelly Silver Prize Band. What a talented Man!
The 1955 Pontardulais Town Band was made up of schoolchildren, miners, bus drivers, factory workers and rollermen. With ages ranging from 9 to 48, the band included three girls – Meriel Howells, aged 19, of Penclawdd on Flugelhorn, Ruth Carter, aged 16, of William Street, Pontardulais on Horn and Maureen Davies, aged 12 on Cornet.
There were a number of families in the band including four members of the Evans family: dad Bryn on Bass and his three sons – Dewi on Solo Euphonium, Alun Evans on Repiano Cornet and Handel, aged 13, on Cornet. Incidentally, Alun is still winning prizes as the Solo Euphonium of Penclawdd Brass Band whilst Handel, also a very fine Euphonium player, can be found assisting Rhodri, his grandson, in our Training Band.
Other related band members included:
- Father and daughter Mydrim Howells on Solo Cornet and Meriel Howells
- Father and son Bryn Davies on Bass and Lyn Davies on Soprano Cornet
- Peter Carter on Baritone and Ruth Carter, who were brother and sister
- John Davies on 1st Horn and Maureen Davies on 3rd Cornet, also brother and sister
- Stafford Bowen on 2nd Trombone and Gregory Bowen on 2nd Cornet, who were brothers
Other (non-related!) band members included Gilbert Francis on Solo Cornet, D. J. Williams on 1st Cornet, the lovely Mr Harold Brenton on 1st Cornet, Clive Hiddlestone on Solo Horn, Emlyn J. M. Thomas on Solo Trombone, Eynon Hughes on 2nd Cornet, Keith Thomas on 3rd Cornet, J. P. Evans on Bass Trombone, Stan Howells on Euphonium, Jim Jones on 1st Baritone, and last but not least, a familiar surname in Brass Banding – Mr Harry Small on Bb Bass.