Thanks for the Memory No 3:
LOUIS ALLISON, by Chris Helme
I am sure many readers will have carried out their own research
on their own pet projects at sometime, whether it was purely for
their own personal interests or simply the satisfaction of just
finding out or possibly for something more formal, educational advancement
Part of that research invariably involves delving back in the old
local or even national newspapers or for this purpose the back issues
of brass band periodicals and programmes, as well as your own local
Certainly in my own experiences and I am convinced it will also
be the experiences of many readers too that researching through
the old newspapers is a fascinating pastime in itself. Diversion,
being side tracked are perhaps two descriptions that come to mind
immediately. Whilst looking for one thing you inevitably end up
looking at many other things too. I am sure the phrase ‘…well
I never knew that…’ comes to mind for many of you as
Whilst this is all very time consuming it is from my own years
of experience, a very enjoyable experience – particularly
when you come across something that you may never have found if
it had not been for that moment of being side tracked.
An example of that was whilst I was researching the man who was
dubbed the Prime Minister of Bandmasters, Arthur O. Pearce. For
years I thought somewhat naively it was actually Arthur O’Pearce
until I embarked on the research and found it was Arthur O. Pearce
as in Arthur Oakes Pearce. His middle name was a family name and
was the maiden name of his mother Caroline who died at the comparatively
young age of 48 on the 31st of May 1898. Arthur O. Pearce was appointed
conductor at Black Dyke in 1912 and remained there until his retirement
in 1948 - the story about Arthur will have to wait for another day.
Anyway, it was whilst researching his life and spending hours and
hours delving through old newspapers that I cam across the name
of Louis Allison who was described as the Principal Cornet at Black
Dyke or as it was spelt in those days Black Dike. Far from being
a so-called expert on these matters but someone who has a genuine
interest, that was a name I had not come across before. In fact
looking through various old publications his name does not appear
however, I am sure the more serious researcher of brass band history
will of course know of him.
Looking through my programmes that illustrate the chronological
order of soloists up at the famous Queensbury band, about the turn
of the nineteenth century the first mentioned holder of that coveted
‘end chair’ is John Paley who was there from about 1891.
Thanks to some information given to me by Dr Roy Newsome from his
own research, John Paley also seems to have gone to America in the
same year to play with a Patrick Gilmore’s Band. It would
seem that he signed on with Black Dyke on a year by year basis rather
than being tied to what we would call a year on year regular member.
Black Dyke Mills 1906
He was then followed by Bramley (Leeds) born master cornetist the
then 23 year old Ceres Jackson who joined Black Dyke in October
1901 as sub- principal cornet to John Paley. His first outing as
a soloist came at the Princes Theatre Accrington when he enthralled
the audience with Damare’s ‘Cleopatra‘. He finally
took the ‘end chair’ position in his own right in 1902.
Information about Ceres Jackson is a bit thin on the ground so if
you have or know of any information about him I would be very keen
to hear about it and there only seems to be the one photograph of
him in circulation.
It was reported that in 1912 Louis Allison was still a young man
although as yet I have not found either his date of birth or date
and place of death but all the available evidence indicates at that
time he’d had a long experience in music.
As a seven years old he was playing the Soprano Cornet with the
Belle Vue Band at Wakefield, a band that had been started originally
by his father - a well known cornetist who himself had retired in
Louis helped local bands in the Wakefield area until he reached
the age of 11 when he joined the Dewsbury Old Band and was adjudged
the best Soprano at Belle Vue that year. Just when that was and
with out further detailed research it is impossible to say but on
the balance of probability in 1891 Dewsbury Old took 3rd prize at
the British Open at Belle Vue. On the basis that young Louis was
then only 11 years old he would have born in 1880 and would have
been 26 years old when he was invited to join Black Dike (please
note different spelling to that of today) on the America and Canada
Tour of 1906.
At the age of 12 he was awarded 2nd prize amongst 28 competitors
at a solo contest at Shipley near Bradford and was presented with
his award by non other than John Paley who it was reported was adjudicating
his first soloist’s contest that day. It was on that same
day he and his 10 year old brother came second in the duet competition
a feat that was talked about for some weeks afterwards.
After two to three years with the Kingston Mills Band he joined
the Linthwaite Band at Huddersfield as their principal cornet and
over the five years he stayed with them he won 14 medals for the
best solo cornet player at contests. Sadly enquires and help provided
by Linthwaite Band have so far failed to find any details of his
career with their band.
With continuing success as a performer he decided to venture into
conducting with one of his first bands being Castleford Old and
then Brotherton United Bands and then with his old band Belle Vue,
Harrogate Temperance Band, Watford Artisans, Tillery Colliery and
It whilst conducting the Abertillery Band that success as a conductor
came when in 1904 and playing off number 10 he led them to a fifth
place and a £12 prize at the Crystal Palace National Championships,
one place above Black Dyke Mills and their legendary conductor John
Gladney. Having moved to South Wales and achieved this success it
was not long after that he returned north to take over the Daisy
Hill Band in Bradford. It was whilst in the Bradford area he was
also in regular demand by local orchestras.
It would appear that he had originally come to Black Dyke’s
notice when they needed another cornet player for their 1906 tour
of America and Canada. It was reported that the band warmly received
him and although having been invited to join Besses on their world
tour it would appear that he decided to stay at Black Dyke on sub
principal until their principal cornet the legendary Ceres Jackson
left. On that tour other players included:
Soprano: Thomas Scatcliffe Repiano Cornet: Ernest Ambler
Soprano: Harold Coates. 2nd Cornet: Wilson Farrer
Solo Cornet: Ceres Jackson 3rd Cornet: Sam Midgley
Solo Cornet: Louis Allison Solo Flugel Horn: Frank Bramfit
Solo Cornet: Harry Bower 2nd Flugel Horn: Willie Jeffrey
Solo Cornet: Thomas Bottomley 1st Tenor Horn: Harry Charnock
2nd Tenor Horn: Edgar Coates 3rd Tenor Horn: Wilfred Jackson
3rd Tenor Horn: Charles Pearson Solo Baritone: Joe Jackson
2nd Baritone: Alfred Gray 1st Tenor Trombone: Fred Bower
2nd Trombone: Mark William Ambler Bass Trombone: Harry Craven
Solo Euphonium: Harry Waddington 2nd Euphonium: Joe Ambler
2nd Euphonium: John Arthur Wood Eb Bass: Alfred Bower
Eb Bass: Harry Firth Eb Bass: Arthur Greenwood
BBb Bass: Alfred Ingham Drums: George Ambler
Drums: Sam Cowgill Briggs Bandmaster: Harry Bower
Conductor: John Gladney
During this time at Black Dyke as second man for the America and
Canada trip Louis Allison had a contract which earned him a substantial
amount of money for those far off days.
Even for a highly skilled group of brass players from the hill top
village of Queensbury that six-month tour must have been very daunting.
Particularly when you consider that many of their mill worker mates
from the village where it would have been considered to have been
an ‘outing’ just to take a tram ride to Bradford or
a train ride into Leeds. Let alone going away as far as one of our
seaside resorts of Blackpool or Scarborough.
It was the man who has often been portrayed as the ‘Father
of the Brass Band’ John Gladney that led them on that six
month tour. For someone then aged 67 years old it must have been
very exhausting, it may not be surprising then to hear that the
following year he retired.
In 1907 Louis Allison was still the sub-principal to Ceres Jackson
when they came second to Wingates Temperance Band playing Charles
Godfrey’s arrangement of Robin Hood at the British Open.
There is some evidence suggesting he later left to conduct the
Lee Mount Band at Halifax for a short while and was also heavily
involved with Wingates Temperance Band until he was invited to become
principal cornet with Black Dyke in 1912 a position he must have
only dreamt of. His first engagement as principal with Black Dyke
was on Saturday 4th April 1912 at Hull where he performed ‘Queen
of Angels’ and ‘Fairies’, which was probably one
of the first concerts the band had under the baton of Arthur O.
He led the band to 4th place at Belle Vue in that same year but
the following year they were not even placed. Whether those two
unsuccessful years by their standards had anything to do with the
fact at the 1914 Open Championships Louis Allison’s sub-principal
for the previous two years Harold Pinches had been appointed the
principal cornet would be open to conjecture. The band bounced back
that year under the direction of J. A. Greenwood and his leadership
and took the coveted first prize.
Louis Allison won 46 first prizes for his cornet playing and a
new cornet valued at 20 guineas in a competition at New Brighton
in 1910. Along with his father he had two brothers who were also
players - one with Lee Mount and the second Arthur won the Cornet
Championship of Scotland 14 years in succession. He also went on
to compose the cornet solo ‘The Caledonian’ which was
recorded by the legendary cornet player Willie Barr during the 1960’s.
Just where Louis Allison went after he left Black Dyke as yet remains
a mystery and will require further research. With a bit of luck
and hopefully without being diverted or side tracked too much or
too often I will hopefully find that answer one day.
Whilst not knowing what happened to Louis or where he lived or
where he spent the rest of his life it is a little easier however
to throw some light on what happened to his cornet or at least one
Thanks to David Read the much respected adjudicator has told me
that in 1946 he was entered in the North of England Area Championship
Solo Contest which was held at three venues in Bradford that year
and along with thirty eight other hopefuls he performed at the Eastbrook
It may be of interest to all those who entered competitions at
this venue that the building has now been demolished except for
the original and very impressive nineteenth century frontage and
is in the process of being re-developed – I have the complete
programme for that 1946 event which looking through the names of
those who competed in that year it is a veritable who’s who
of banding of that period with many of the competitors now being
respected elder statesmen of the brass band world who went on to
higher things as players, conductors or as adjudicators.
It was after the event his father and tutor George Broadhurst bought
him a new cornet from a man in Bradford some time after the solo
competition. David recalls that as a youngster he never met the
man who sold them the instrument but does remember being told that
the cornet which he believes was a Besson Zephyr and had a very
decorative bell had belonged to Louis Allison the man who had sold
his father and George the cornet.
As David says – “…It’s a long time ago
now…” – but he does have a vague recollection
after all these years that the instrument change hands for £15
and was in excellent condition having been well looked after –
in 1946 the £15 was a princely sum bearing in mind a working
mans weekly wage in those days. If it was Louis Allison who did
sell them the cornet it does point the way to him possibly living
in Bradford in 1946 along with the other evidence of him conducting
the Daisy Hill Band – this could suggest that he may still
have family living in the area. If any anyone can throw any light
on this man I would be pleased to hear from you.
‘What happened to the instrument…?’ - David says
that he did it play for a while but went back to his preferred choice
cornet the Boosey NVA. He believes that the old cornet went on to
be used for learners possibly with his old band at Askern Colliery.
This publicity photograph is a postcard showing Black Dyke and
was probably produced especially for their 1906 America and Canada
tour where one of the cornet players was undoubtedly Louis Allison
but again just which one remains a mystery.
My last story about the life and times of that legendary cornet
player from Scotland Willie Barr brought a tremendous response from
readers who had either played in the Scottish CWS Band at the time
or had admired his playing as a member of a rival band or as a spectator
had been dazzled by his many concert and radio performances. Willie
has asked to be remembered to those friends he has not seen for
many years – it has also given him the chance to renew contact
with a number of those friends from the old days through the benefits
and magic of the internet….and of course 4barsrest.com.
Bram Thompson now an octogenarian was Solo Horn in the same band
from 1950 to 1963 and recalled many happy times playing in the band
with Willie. Kenny Crookston at Whitburn Band remembered hearing
him from his own youthful days. Chris Gregg from Melbourne in Australia
although not having heard of Willie before echoes everyone else’s
sentiments that Willie was certainly one of the top draw players
of his generation. Chris Gregg also goes on to say that he is Jim
Shepherd’s number one fan in Melbourne - having bought one
of my small books about Jim’s life story, Jim being the true
gentleman he is has kindly offered to sign it for him and will make
this fan very happy in deed.
Recently I came across a 1963 LP of the late tenor singer Rowland
Jones singing songs described as the ‘World’s best loved
songs’. Rowland as well as being a perfect gentleman and a
character was principal Euphonium with Black Dyke between 1934 and
1939 then moved onto Bickershaw Colliery before becoming a professional
singer. I am looking to write a story about him and would welcome
your contributions – particular photographs of him in his
uniform please or where his daughter Sally may be living now or
any other relatives of Rowland’s that may be still around
– you can contact me at email@example.com
or on 01422 – 205763.
© Chris Helme