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Welsh Banding loses well loved figure

Abergavenny Borough Band remember long standing mentor Bill Parry


The Band have sadness reporting the news that, Mr. F.W. Parry, affectionately known as "Bill" to many, passed away peacefully on Monday, 9th December at Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny.

Bill was associated with the Band for over 75 years, initially as a player, and ultimately as Band Chairman — a position he held for 50 years.

He was a tireless worker for the band during his life which spanned 90 years and he was blessed with good health for most of them. If it was not for his efforts there probably wouldn't have been a band in Abergavenny today.

Bill will be greatly missed by everyone in the Band, and we would like to send our condolences to his family.

‘Farewell My Comrade’
title words of a W. Rimmer march
by Eric Powell and Ken Hayward

With the passing, on 9 December 2002, of Frank William (Bill) Parry, brass banding in Gwent, and Abergavenny in particular, lost one of its most dedicated characters.

Frank William Parry, known to most as Bill was born in Newent in Gloucestershire in 1912 and was brought up by his grandparents. When his grandmother became ill, and could no longer care for him, he moved to the Abergavenny area, as a young boy of 8 or 9, to live with an aunt in Llanfoist.

After leaving school he became apprenticed to J.B.Thomas, a local builder and, on completion of his apprenticeship, worked with that Company for many years before he was employed as a Clerk of Works with the Cwmbran Development Corporation until retirement in 1977.

F.W. Parry's working life spanned 51 years, but his chosen hobby as a brass bandsman lasted 76 years. He joined the Abergavenny Borough Band as a learner in 1926 on baritone however by 1929 he was playing Bb Bass.

The period between the wars proved to be a difficult time for the band. Players were moving out the area to find work elsewhere thus depleting the membership of the band and this was one of the numerous ‘ups and downs’ he experienced during his banding life.

After the war, in the early 1950's, he became Chairman of the band, a position he held until his death and in 1952 he provided the instruments and formed a learners class.

In 1962 the band was dealt a severe blow when fire destroyed the bandroom in Fairfield. Many instruments, uniforms, and a valuable library of irreplaceable music, much of it in manuscript form, were lost. The band accepted the offer of a room in which to practise from the local branch of the Old Age Pensioners Association. Bill called a meeting of members, wives, friends and other interested parties, but only a few attended, however, a nucleus of members was determined that the band should not cease and a £1000 worth of instruments were ordered and rebuilding commenced.

Under his Chairmanship and a few years later, having moved rehearsals to a former Meeting Hall, the band, under his drive, was able to purchase these rented premises and Bill became one of the trustees and remained so until his death.

In the early 1960's Bill applied to the then Monmouthshire County Council for instruments and an instructor for the Youth Section. He was successful in achieving both, the latter being Eric Powell, (on the 10 September 2002 4BarsRest payed tribute to Eric Powell when he retired after 38 years at Abergavenny.)

Members of the current Borough Band played at and banding friends from Wales attended both the funeral service and cremation service at the Gwent Crematorium on 17th December 2002.

During his banding career, Bill helped several bands, particularly the Varteg and Blaenavon Colliery Bands

Toward the end of the 1960's the band was preparing to start contesting, which Bill saw as his dream, and he was very proud of being Chairman to see ‘his’ band progress from the Fourth Section through to the Championship Section in 10 years.

By this time he had retired from playing but that did not stop his reslove and he continued to be involved with all the other banding activities. He attended every rehearsal and will surely be missed in and around the bandhall. In 1985 Bill, a forward-looking and deep thinker, commenced his next project, an extension to the bandroom to include a new kitchen, toilets, and library.

Until recent years was a regular attender and participant at meetings of the South East Wales Brass Band Association. They granted him Life Membership in 1976 and honoured him even further a few years ago by presenting him with one of the Association's Special Awards for Dedicated Service to Brass Banding. In 1995 his service to the community was recognised by Abergavenny Town Council with the presentation of a plaque bearing the Coat of Arms of the town.

Although his one and only hobby was the band, above all he was a family man and his first priority was always his family, to whom we extend our heartfelt sympathy.

Sheona White

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