The Brass Bands

The brass band tradition flourished in Britain between the 1870s and 1930s, particularly in the colliery districts in the north-east of England. Many of the mine workers in the Newcastle and Hunter coalfields emigrated to Australia from Yorkshire and Northumberland and other northern districts, and they started up the bands in their new home.

Brass bands were voluntary organisations associated with working-class performers and audiences, and represented "the people's music". They tended to be ignored by orthodox musicians.
The musicians were exclusively male until well into the 20th Century and the bandroom provided a place for camaraderie as well as music practice. Bands often played for money, and surplus funds generated by their activities were distributed amongst the bandsmen.

Why were they important?

  • Bands played a "vital educational role for both instrumentalists and audiences". They popularised the classics of 19th Century music "among large sections of the community which would never have had the chance to hear them in their original form in the concert hall or opera house."
  • They were competitive - many band concerts were held each year and each band had spectators and fans similar to sporting teams.
  • They played an important part in popular culture and social life, bringing people together.
  • Bands "were among the first voluntary organisations to be set up in the infant mining villages of the Newcastle coalfield in the 1860s and 1870s. Lambton, for example had one by 1870."


Bythell, Duncan."Class, Community, and Culture: the Case of the Brass Band in Newcastle." Labour History 67 (Nov 1992): 144-155.

Pipe and Brass Bands

Today it is almost impossible to find a town or specialist band within Cessnock City.

However, there was a time, during the early 1900s, when the larger Miners' Lodges all had their own marching brass bands.

One of the most prominent was the Hebburn Colliery Band, which, in 1909, performed with great credit in the Maitland Military Tattoo.

Together with a number of other bands they marched and played down Maitland's High Street to the Albion Sports Ground followed by hundreds of people.

It was reported that as each band entered the oval, playing their own special march music, they massed together to the delight of all who were fortunate to be present. Unfortunately, this is all in the past - there is virtually nothing today.

However, like today's Retired Mineworkers' Association, who have taken over from the old Lodges, there is now the Miners' Federation Drum and Pipe Band.

In 1998, this Band travelled to France and Belgium, retracing the WW1 battlefields and visiting the war cemeteries.

They were there specially for the burial service of Private Russell Bosisto, who was killed there 82 years earlier, on August 4, 1916...


Andrews, Brian J.  An independent look at the pioneering days of the Coalfields No. 17. March 2001. Kurri Kurri, Coalfields Heritage Group Inc., p. 4

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