Long serving conductors


Well-Known Member
Chat in the pub after band the other day had me thinking... The question was: "Which conductor has conducted a brass band for the longest period?". Scratching my head a bit, I've come up with a few that stayed with one band for notably long periods, but I'm sure there are many more. Here's what I've come up with:
  • 50 years, Joe Ireland, Dearham Band, 1953-2003 - maybe not continuous?
  • >46 years, Stan Sheasby, Ashworth Band, <1964-2010 - maybe not continuous?
  • 42+ years, Haydn Griffiths, Armthorpe Elmfield Band, ~1973-present
  • 42+ years, Tony Small, Penclawdd Band, 1973-present
  • >41 years, Herbert Milburn, Milburn's Model (Middlesbrough), <1871 - >1912
  • 36 years, Ford Knight, Indian Queens Silver Band, 1920-1956 - maybe not continuous?
  • 35+ years, Dave Newman, Hathern Band, 1980-present
  • 34+ years, Charles Kitchen, Fairfield (Buxton) Band, 1981-present
Anyone think of any more who served or are currently serving 30+ years in post? Gwyn Evans at Beaumaris might be another - BBR has him conducting them back to 1986 (29 years), but no contests before then back to 1980.

A related question is: "Which brass band conductor has had the longest career?". One has to be a bit cautious with BBR data for this - there are entries that have been incorrectly matched to the same conductor 150 years apart... Here's what I've come up with:
  • 60+ years, Haydn Griffiths, 1955-present
  • >58 years, Herbert Milburn, <1854 - >1912
  • 58 years, Roy Newsome, 1953-2011
  • 56 years, John Faulds, 1907-1963
  • 53+ years, Richard Evans, 1962-present
  • 50 years, Alex Owen, 1869-1919
  • 50 years, Joe Ireland, 1953-2003
Anyone know any more of 50+ years career? All this second list are drawn from BBR, so from contesting data, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear of someone who'd conducted a single non-contesting village band for some record-breaking span of time... Or an SA band, for that matter. These lists are also very UK-centric; I bet there have been some impressive feats of endurance elsewhere. And they are more representative of the present than the past, too - that's probably also not correct.
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The condutor of the Band I started in - Ikast FDF Brass Band in Denmark - Børge Nørkjær, started conducting the band in 1962 and he is still going strong, so he has more than 53 years of continuos unpaid service as of now. He was also my music teacher in my primary school, and was responsible for me starting playing back in 1974.
The band had a transitionary period from 1959 to 1962 where it had several temporary conductors, but otherwise the band has only had 2 conductors since its beginning in 1939!
The band has been a non-contesting band since 1984.


Well-Known Member
Excellent effort.

I started a parallel thread on the 4BR Facebook group to this, which has received many more replies, but that is still the top of the leaderboard as I currently have it.


Well-Known Member
Eric Cunningham was MD at Craghead Colliery, subsequently Ever Ready (now Reg Vardy) for 38 years from 1950-1988
Another one I didn't have between either thread, thank you. BBR has him conducting a contest in 1989 - so should it be 39 years?

I assume that much of the latter part of it was as a resident MD, as from 1977 onwards more famous names appear against contests much of the time?


Staff member
There have also been some long-serving bandmasters in The Salvation Army, notably A W Punchard, who led Chalk Farm at the Crystal Palace in 1898 and eventually retired in 1944. James Williams, MBE, led Tottenham/Enfield from 1960 to 1997, as well as stepping into the breach on a couple of later occasions.


Well-Known Member
Alfred Punchard was Chalk Farm's BM 1894-1944, according to this.

Jeremy Wise had mentioned James Williams and Enfield, but it sounds that you maybe have more date info as I hadn't realised that he'd taken a break in 1997, thinking his first break was in 2005. Can you confirm?


Staff member
Alfred Punchard was Chalk Farm's BM 1894-1944, according to this.

Jeremy Wise had mentioned James Williams and Enfield, but it sounds that you maybe have more date info as I hadn't realised that he'd taken a break in 1997, thinking his first break was in 2005. Can you confirm?
Richard Phillips was bandmaster from 1997 to 2000, then James took over until the appointment of Andrew Blyth in 2005. Current B/M Jonathan Corry took up the helm in January 2008.


New Member
Hello Dave,
I started as conductor of Slaidburn Band in May 1972 at the tender age of 16 and have been there ever since, 43+ years, and have just completed 40 years as organist at Slaidburn Parish Church too!


Well-Known Member
Mighty stuff, John. Having started at that age gives you a shot at setting a pretty unbeatable mark in time!

By the way, earlier this year, we detoured through the village on the way back from Scotland. Pretty place it is.


New Member
Ian Clague MBE became assistant conductor of the Manx Youth Band in 1979, before taking over as musical director when his predecessor, Jim Crosbie, passed away in 1981.

Ian is still "the man in the middle" of the Manx Youth Band and has also conducted Manx Concert Brass since their formation 1995, meaning at least 4 rehearsals a week since then!!

Also on the Isle of Man, Jim Crebbin conducted Rushen Silver Band from 1964 until 2009 when John Kinley took over. Jim was subsequently appointed "Conductor Emeritus" and continues to be actively involved with the band.
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Well-Known Member

That puts Jim at no. 11 on my current list of long spans conducting a single band without a break.


Ray Jeffery conducted my first band, Thrapston Town, for 44 years I believe. You won't find much information on Brass Band Results though, as they are a non-contesting band. He was awarded an MBE for his services to banding a few years back.


Well-Known Member
Incidentally, here's the current state of the 'long span with single band' list as I have it:

Name Band Modern location Start Finish Total Notes
Don Stewart Tuggerah Lakes Show Band NSW, Australia 1959 57+
Børge Nørkjær Ikast FDF Central Jutland, Denmark 1962 54+
Samuel Lewins Bathurst District NSW, Australia 1885 1938 53
Gerald Thirst Stalham Norfolk 1946 1998 52
Haydn Griffiths Armthorpe Elmfield South Yorkshire 1964 52+
Charles Moore Wigston Leicestershire 1902 1952 50
Alfred Punchard Chalk Farm SA Greater London 1894 1944 50 SA "National BM" until death in 1950
Joe Ireland Dearham Cumbria 1953 2003 50 Maybe not continuous
Keith Johnson East Peckham Greater London 1965 2012 47
Stan Sheasby Ashworth Greater Manchester 1964 2010 46 Maybe not continuous and may have started earlier
Jim Crebbin Rushen Silver Isle of Man 1964 2009 45 Still "conductor emeritus" at present date
John Cowking Slaidburn Lancashire 1972 44+
Ray Jeffery Thrapston Town Northamptonshire 1970 2014 44
Tony Small Penclawdd Swansea County 1973 43+
Stanley Boddington GUS Northamptonshire 1933 1975 42 Resident MD before WW2, then professional thereafter
Fran Cowley Swindon Youth / Swindon Brass Wiltshire 1974 42+ Earlier than 1974 (not earlier than 1965). Swindon Youth and Swindon Brass have a complex relationship that involved them being at one point largely the same, but FC continuously conducted one and then the other.
Herbert Milburn Milburn's Model (Middlesbrough) North Yorkshire 1871 1912 41 Could be more at either end. Was daughter Charlotte Hughes, UK oldest woman?
Harry Evetts Long Eaton Silver Prize Derbyshire 1909 1950 41
Alex Tisdell Singleton Town NSW, Australia 1938 1979 41
Colin Cranson Middlewich Town / Roberts Bakery Cheshire 1973 2013 40
Dennis Masters Langley West Midlands 1950 1990 40 Still involved
David Stanley Alcester Victoria Youth / Arrow Valley Warwickshire 1977 39+
Eric Cunningham Craghead Colliery / Ever Ready County Durham 1950 1989 39 Resident rather than pro for much of the latter part of the spell
Algy Hoare Wadhurst East Sussex 1960 1998 38 Second spell 2009-present, so 44+ years in total
Andrew Keachie Kilmarnock Concert Brass East Ayrshire 1970 2008 38
James Williams Tottenham / Enfield Citadel SA Greater London 1960 1997 37 Second spell 2000-2005, for 42 years total.
Len Andrews Warrington Youth Cheshire 1965 2001 36
Alex Owen Besses o' th' Barn Greater Manchester 1884 1920 36
Ford Knight Indian Queens Cornwall 1920 1956 36 Maybe not continuous
Dave Newman Hathern Leicestershire 1980 36+
Philip Goodwin Delph Greater Manchester 1980 36+
Arthur Muddiman Southampton Police Hampshire 1905 1940 35
Charles Kitchen Fairfield (Buxton) Derbyshire 1981 35+
John Dickson St. David's (Dalkeith) Midlothian 1981 35+
Ian Clague Manx Youth Isle of Man 1981 35+ Assistant conductor from 1979
Chris Macklow Abbey Brass Oxfordshire 1977 2010 33
George Annan snr Perthshire Brass Perth and Kinross 1978 2010 32 George Annan jnr took over from him
Terry Clifford Maltby Miners South Yorkshire 1984 32+


Hello Dave.

Gordon Cowley, Band Master of the Douglas, Isle of Man Salvation Army Band was commissioned in 1958.

He retired from conducting approximately 10 years ago but was pressed back into service about 3 - 4 years ago, due to another retirement!

Band Master Gordon is still conducting the band today.

I helped out the Salvation Army Band at a concert in December and at the prior rehearsal Gordon was conducting and playing baritone at the same time, not bad for a 93 year old, he also can still make a mean noise on his bass trombone too !

Many thanks.