Walcha History: Band stands and delivers for Premier

Players: The Walcha Oddfellows Band c.1890 – Percy Bath is standing second from the left, all other bandsmen unidentified.
Players: The Walcha Oddfellows Band c.1890 – Percy Bath is standing second from the left, all other bandsmen unidentified.

The Armidale Express of November 11, 1889, included a report on the band’s formation: “The Oddfellows of Walcha, at a meeting a short time ago, passed a resolution to form a brass band in connection with their lodge. Mr. S.W. Farrell, being in Sydney a few days ago, purchased the instruments, of which there are 10, also a drum.

“I hear that Mr. Vine, band-master at Armidale, who has been tutor to Armidale and Uralla bands, has been engaged to instruct the Walcha band. The instruments are on view in Mr. J. Louis’ window and appear to be a very fine lot. All that is now wanted to start the thing are the players.”

The newly formed band was invited to come to Hillgrove and perform in front of Sir Henry Parkes on his visit to that mining town in March 1890. Parkes had been Premier of NSW on five different occasions and later became known as the “Father of Federation”. The three Flanders brothers, who had a tailoring business in Walcha, together with Hugh McMahon and Ted McCrohon accepted the invitation.

It happened to be a cold, blustery day at Hillgrove and the Walcha bandsmen shielded themselves from the weather by standing behind trees while awaiting the dignitary’s arrival. As Sir Henry and his mounted police escort came into view the bandsmen dashed out from their cover with blare of trumpets and much banging on drums, the noise of which almost unseated the police escort.

Sir Henry said later he found the reception by the Walcha band to be quite remarkable despite his belief at the time that he was being attacked by bushrangers.

During the early 1890s the band became a self-supporting entity no longer under the wing of the Oddfellows Lodge.

By 1900 it had 16 performers but was struggling to find sufficient funds to rent a hall, pay for music, maintenance of instruments and incidentals.

In an attempt to overcome these issues they regularly performed in the streets in all kinds of weather, but were often disappointed by the small audiences that braved the sometimes chilly conditions to listen to them.