History 1891-1976

The Geelong West Brass Band could be truly said to a continuation of one of Geelong's earliest bands.

Early in 1891, the Self Reliance Tent No. 50, Independent Order of Rechabites, Geelong decided to form a brass band. Known as the I.O.R. band, it became a feature of the growing town of Geelong and district until the latter part of 1911, when it ceased to function, the trouble stemming back to 1908 when the band competed at the Ballarat South Street Competitions, and four of its members were reported for, as we would say today, "getting on the grog", a pastime not favoured by a total abstinence society.

However, when as said the band ceased operation in 1911, the secretary, Mr Dave Kincaid, a well known resident of Geelong West and two others borrowed money from a bank and took over the band's uniforms, instruments, music, etc for 100 pounds, this being the money owing on the band's instruments.

On the evening of 16 October 1911, these enthusiasts met and discussed the possibility of a borough band in Geelong West. It was decided to go ahead and the well-known composer and adjudicator, Mr T E Bulch, who was residing at 31 Candover Street, Geelong West, and present by invitation, appointed bandmaster. Known popularly as Tommy Bulch and a very colourful character deserves more than a mention. An excellent pianist and cornettist, he established the brass band movement as we know it today. He was also responsible for Australia's famous folk song Waltzing Matilda, the proof and the music of which could be a feature of some future concert. This then was our first Bandmaster. At this time, the West Council had purchased what we know as the West Park from Mr Reid of Pine Ville on the corner of Gertrude and Pakington Street for 2,250 pounds with the idea of developing it as we know it today, and the proposed band saw the opportunity for a municipal band to play in the proposed park.

A meeting in the borough hall on the evening of Monday 13th November 1911 convened by the Mayor Cr Dickens, the idea of a band for Geelong West was accepted, the band's title to be Geelong West Municipal Band. The Council took over the debt of 100 pounds on the band property, and those councillors forming the Parks and Gardens Committee had the responsibility of the band. Thus, the Geelong West Municipal Band was the first Council band in the Geelong district, the Mayor of the borough being appointed a permanent chairperson.

Geelong West now had both a municipal band and a municipal park. As this is not an official history we will now confine ourselves to some dates and statistics. The band's first public appearance, 16th December 1911 was opposite the borough hall after which it marched to the new West Park in the making, followed by a large crowd, and mounted a large lorry from which the horses had been taken, contributed a splendid programme to the large assembly. On 17th February 1912 the West Park officially opened with music supplied by the West Band. The plaque erected by the Council for this event records the wrong date by a mere 9 months. Could we take this opportunity of asking this historical error to be rectified?

A dispute arose between the Council and the band later. The Council issued writs for the return of all band property, but fortunately, things were smoothed over and the band continued. However, Mr Bulch's services terminated. William Kincaid, aged 15 years and 7 months was appointed as conductor of the band on 22nd February 1913. Mr Kincaid conducted the band until early 1924 when he went to reside in Melbourne. The band went into recess until 1925. Later Mr Percy Jones was asked to reform the band which functioned until late in 1927 when it went into recess again. In 1929 a well known and successful euphonium (and cornet) player Mr Eric Searle was approached to revive the Geelong West Band, ably assisted by the well-known band identity, the late Mr George Davey. The effort was a success and the band became very active and successful, both in entertaining and in competition. The Council's subsidy was 50 pounds per annum.

Twenty-two years later, September 1951, ill health forced the resignation of Mr Searle and the baton was taken over by one of Geelong's best-known musicians and cornettist, Mr Colin Brain. Mr Brain had been trained by Mr Percy Jones in the St Augustines Orphanage Band, a recommendation in itself. However, during 1953, Mr Brain, through unforeseen circumstances, felt obliged to resign and Mr Searle was called back to take the band temporarily until another conductor could be engaged.

Mr Hugh Bartlett, the late bandmaster of Colac Town Band, took over in November 1953 so letting Mr Searle resume his retirement. Mr Bartlett carried on for some time until his health failed, and for a while, the band virtually functioned without a bandmaster. Mr A Reynolds approached Mr Col Brain who was then available and Mr Brain resumed with the band early in 1956.

With the return of Mr Brain, a new enthusiastic approach to the band was soon evident. At the end of 1956, the band competed successfully at Ballarat, also 1957 and 1958. Next, a series of activities were undertaken in a new set of instruments and a new brick band hall that firmly established the band for all time.

Ill health caused Mr Brain's resignation in January 1975 and his successor Mr John Doyle was fortunate in taking over a musically correct, disciplined band with every amenity necessary to function.

Mr Doyle, who was a professional musician on the staff of St Josephs College, found both jobs too demanding and tendered his resignation in February 1976. The next bandmaster, Mr George Manktelow was appointed in May 1976. The President of the day was Cr W H Kenworthy.