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Est. 1943

Besses Boys' Band


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Our Story

Besses Boys' Band is a Second section graded North West Area brass band formed in 1943.

The 70's & 80's

The 1950's

The 1960's

Besses Boys' Band 'Nursery Class' Moss Lane, Whitefield

The band was recognised on the concert platform, too. They played under Charles Groves, John Hopkins and Harry and Alex Mortimer. they appeared in shows with Richard Murdoch, Tommy Handley and Jack Train. There were also regular bookings for radio broadcasts and in 1958 there was a TV appearance.


By this time many of the older boys had moved to the senior band and the boys' fortunes fluctuated during periods of rebuilding. But the 'Peter Pan' band continued, unlike so many other youth bands which changed name and identity as their players grew older.

Willie Wood, a professional musician who had directed the senior band became conductor in 1960 and the boys produced a "78" record under his baton. Ten years later and the learners, tutor, Pat Edgar, took over. He had joined the boys within a year of its formation and played soprano in the senior band for almost 28 years. Pat developed a busy concert diary and conducted the first of the bands successful spring concerts in Radcliffe.

Where it all started

­The band was conceived in the grim days of the second world war, born in adversity before spirits were raised by the Normandy Landings. The band was formed by two members of the Besses o'th Barn Band, Fred Cowburn and Nathan Snape. The war had decimated the band and officials believed that the way for it to survive was to train young people in musicianship. Thirteen of the senior band's players had been lost in the first sixth months of the 1939/45 conflict and in the Moss Lane band room there was fears of a bleak future.­

A 'nursery class' was formed with four lads, Jim Cowburn, Rowland Curless, Harold Galloway and Stan Warburton. The band grew quickly and was recognised as Besses Boys' Band on October 11th that year by the Alex Owen Brass Band Festival Committee. The boys played carols in Whitefield streets at Christmas and Jim Wright who had directed the senior band before the war, was brought in as conductor before the boys' official engagement in July 1944.­


Harry Mortimer and 'The Boys'

Barrie Chappell, who formerly played tenor horn with the senior band, was appointed musical director in 1978. For 13 years Barrie, ably assisted by training band tutor Derek McCulloch, Continued rebuilding the boys' band which had remarkable run of more than 60 firsts among more 100 contest prizes.

The band were North West youth champions for 12 years, playing at such venues as the Royal Albert Hall in London finals and chalking up high placing each year. The best youth final positions were second in 1982 and 1986. Another national title was clinched at last in 1987, "the year the band fell between two stools" at the area qualifying contest. They were shocked to fail for the first time in the North West youth competition, but showed character and ability later the same year in the Westminster Hall that October.

Invitations to European youth contests followed along with promotion in the adult grades to section two even before the introduction of the first section.

Concert work, the bands financial lifeblood was never neglected and a series of engagements were played with conductor's like Jim Shepherd, Ifor James, Dereck Southcott, Roy Newsome and Gordon Higginbottom. In fact Roy served as president for a time and wrote "The three B's march" for a concert to commemorate the band's 40th anniversary. Harry Mortimer was the guest conductor and Brian Mather, an old boy who served 15 years as top cornet with the senior band, was guest soloist. Later Alan Stringer, principal trumpet with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, was another old boy featured as guest soloist. He was just one of several players who became professional musicians. Mark Wilkinson was among a stream of boys who joined the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain. He was principal cornet when the NYBB played a 1989 BBC proms concert.

Further highlights under Barrie Chappell's leadership were two LP recordings, an appearance with Roy Castle in the BBC TV Brass Beat Series and a tour of Australia where the band was complimented by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the opening of the British pavilion in Expo 88 at Brisbane

The 1990's


Besses Boys' Band

Brisbane Festival of Bands 1988

The 1991 Christmas concert was the last to be conducted by Barrie Chappell. Soon after, Steven Sharples, was appointed conductor in 1992 and conducted the band for two Royal dates. They played for the Queen in Bury and for the Princess Royal at Manchester's GEM exhibition centre.


A trip to Scotland and a concert in Dornoch Cathedral were arranged with help from John Whittaker an "old boy" from Heywood. Steven Sharples also led the band which won the right to represent the North West in the reorganised National youth championship final in 1993.

Ex Chairman Alan Bryan gave strong leadership for several years and the loyalty of Fred Snape, son of founding member Nat, cannot be matched. Fred was appointed president in appreciation of his many years as secretary, treasurer and chairman. Arnold Duxbury was the spearhead of the new move to the new bandroom at Clarkes Hill in Prestwich and is just one from dozens of people who have worked for the band. Secretary Irene Grady is another and, looking back, her admission to the committee was the first step to girls joining the band.

The 2000's


Besses Boys' Band, Bury New Rd - the boys' infront of a manchester corporation bus.


During the Naughties the band was declared the North West Region Fourth Section Champions. The experienced gained with the band was invaluable to the players of the time with a number of them playing for senior bands such as Fodens, Brighouse and Rastrick and Yorkshire Building Society Bands


Besses Boys' Band are understandably proud of our history and traditions and want to share their thanks and appreciation to all members, past, present and future.


For more information on the history of Besses Boys' Band or to pass on information/ pictures you may have please contact us at:

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Besses Boys Band went from strength to strength and from 1945 won the British Junior Championship three years in a row. They were barred in 1948 and they returned to Belle Vue for two more victories before the contest ended. The 1950 victory was achieved under the baton of William Haydock following the death of Mr Wright.