Australian Police

Australian Police

The Thin Blue Line – Australian Police

NSW Police Concert Band


NSW Police Concert Band

The Beginnings

The first known mention of the idea of a police Band was in 1894. A meeting was held on 6th June of that year in the Central Police Barracks, Sydney, where it was resolved to form a ‘Metropolitan Police Brass Band’. A committee was elected and George Neil elected secretary. As a result of this meeting a Notice was printed inviting interested members of the Force with musical talents to sign their names and give their support.

When the committee was aware that they had enough support from members an approach was made to the Inspector General of Police, asking for his permission to form a band. His reply received on the 15th June read as follows:

I cordially concur and approve of the movement. The matter of for practice can be subsequently Considered but I must say I see no necessity for it interfering with the fixed Tour of Duty.”

It should be stated that the idea to form the band was not purely in the interest of Police musicians but to “Materially strengthen that Esprit de Corps so necessary for the highest development of all bodies of disciplined men. It would also bring the respectable portion of the community more into touch with the Police.”

After receiving the Inspector General’s permission to form the band, subscription lists were sent to all Police Stations around the state on the 26th June. This notice stated that:

The committee made no apology for asking members of all ranks throughout the colony, as it is intended that the band shall represent the entire Police Force of the colony.”

From the lists still in existence, it is noted that most members gave one or two shillings. As a result of these subscription lists £116/18/10 was raised.

In December 1894 the first set of instruments was purchased from the French Musical Instrument Depot. These instruments were:

1 Piccolo
1 Eb Clarinet
3 Bb Clarinets
4 Cornets
2 Trombones
2 Flugelhorns
2 Tenor Horns
1 Baritone
2 Euphoniums
1 Contra Bass
1 Brass Drum
1 Side Drum
20 Music Stands

All the above cost a grand total of £108. It can be seen that, although being called a Brass Band, the Police Band was a Military or Concert Band from the beginning.

NSW Police Band 1896 –

Click photo to view names of Band Members

A Committee report was given in January 1895 on the progress of the movement. Mr. W. Hutchinson had been selected from twenty-one applicants to become the first Bandmaster at a salary of £75 per annum. Members selected for the band were requested to pay a weekly fee of one shilling for the privilege of being in the band. It is interesting to note that on the end of the report it is written:

It is the ambition of the Committee that some day, among
the notable Bands of Australia, may be ranked the Band of
the New South Wales Police Force.

The very first notes of the Police Band were blown in February, 1895 in the rehearsal rooms at the Central Police Barracks in Belmore Park, Sydney.

The band progressed well enough to be able to give their first performance on 30th August, 1895 at 4.30pm at the Central Police Barracks for the Inspector General and his officers. A copy of the programme is still in existence. The performance must have been a success, as the Inspector General granted permission for the band to have a special uniform. This uniform can be seen in the above photo.

After a year in existence the band had grown to twenty-eight members. The first performance for the general public was given in Hyde Park on 27th February, 1896 before an estimated 3000 strong audience. The performance was at 8.00pm and it is believed that the band supplied their own candles.
During the year, performances were given at Government House, Victoria Barracks, Police Swimming Carnival and parades of Police. There were problems however with members not being allowed time off to rehearse. The band rehearsed on two afternoons a week for two hours and reports were sent to the Inspector General asking for permission for time off. Unfortunately, some members were forced to leave due to not being permitted rehearsal time.
Two members of the band at this time went on to greater achievements. James Mitchell, who was the first Band Sergeant, eventually became Inspector General of Police and served for forty-five years. He was replaced as Inspector General by Walter H. Childs in 1929 who was also a member of the band. During 1897, further subscription lists were sent to Police Stations and these were well supported by police. The band also performed their first concert in the Sydney Town Hall during that year. The band was asked to perform at Manly during 1898 but regretted they could not attend due to the time it would take to get there.

During 1899 the first set of saxophones were purchased at a cost of £48. The total value of all band instruments was around £300, this sum being totally subscribed by members of the force.
The turn of the century saw the band in helmets for the first time but the problem of players getting time off to attend rehearsal still existed. The Inspector General of Police thought the band a credit to the service but some other officers did not like men having time off to practise and some “didn’t like the band at all“.

After some months of non-attendance, Bandmaster Hutchinson resigned in February, 1901 and, sadly, he passed away four months later. The second Bandmaster of the Police Band was Mr. W. G. Bentley who was appointed in April 1901. During the early years, all band performances required the approval of the Inspector General of Police and only police or charity functions were supported.

Throughout 1903, twenty-one performances were given, showing how popular the band had become. These included performances as far away as Goulburn and Newcastle. An interesting note in the minute book for 1903 refers to the “inclusion of a Cake-Walk in musical programmes – as this particular style is popular with the public.” However the Bandmaster was of the opinion that “there is no musical taste in Australia.”

During 1904, a lengthy newspaper article in the Evening News stated that the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Garvin, was apathetic towards the band, had refused them permission to perform at a fete and had not given approval for a concert to raise band funds. It stated that the bandsmen were bitterly discouraged and wondered why they should give their time to a band which was never allowed to play. The band committee responded to this article by sending a report to the Inspector General of Police condemning the article and assuring him they had nothing to do with it and would abide by his ruling. The Inspector General of Police replied that he thought the band “a credit to the service” but would not let the band compete against those who earn their living from bands and did not want them playing at charities.

During 1906, the band were given new uniforms and performed at the opening of the 50th New South Wales Parliament in May.

The major event for 1908 was a Grand Smoke Concert presented for visiting country police on duty in Sydney for the visit of the U.S. Fleet. It was a big success, raising nine pounds for band funds and was held in the Sydney Masonic Hall.

In November 1912, the band made their first interstate tour. They left Sydney and stopped at Goulburn, Wagga Wagga and Albury. Concerts were given in each town and the band continued on to Melbourne. The duration of the tour is not known but it must of been a wonderful adventure in the year of 1912.


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