Did You Know?
That at Consett in Co. Durham, the World's First Salvation Army Corps Band was formed in 1879?
Consett Salvation Army Band circa 1880
Consett S.A. Corps or Station opened in 1878 and only a year later, the small kitchen at 16, Puddler's Row must have been a hive of musical activity, as four of the converts got together learning to play brass instruments. Most of the men in the row of one-up and one-down houses were puddlers at the iron works, as the name suggests. 26 year-old iron roller Ned Lennox, a good musician it seems, had obtained a motley collection of musical instruments. Of the four aspiring bandsmen, George Storey must have had most difficulty, for he had lacked schooling, which was not uncommon then and reading and writing didn't come easy to him. To help him, small signs were drawn at the side of the music and despite his meagre education he became a very fine cornet player with 'a fine round tone'.
George in fact was in charge of the ingot reheating furnaces at the works, a very responsible position.
            Bob Greenwood, the third member of the party, was getting to grips with the horn and the practices were frequently interrupted by the fourth man in the kitchen, Jimmy Simpson, continually knocking off the ornaments from the Lennox's mantle-shelf. Reputed to have been the life and soul of the party, Jimmy had the difficult job of handling the circular bass, which encircled his body with the large bell end swinging around whenever he moved in the small room. What Ned's wife Isobel and his 67 year-old mother-in-law, who lived with them, thought about these band practices, one can only imagine.
            Very soon, the original gallant four were joined by Bros. Sam Carruthers, J. Murphy and Jack Greenwood and with the addition of a bass drum, the band's effectiveness must have been greatly increased.
            On Christmas Day in 1879, the pioneer band felt confident enough to make their first public appearance.
At first, the band's music was arranged by its teacher and a local musician, but with a visit from the Fry family with the Founder in July 1880, much of the arrangement was the work of the Fry's, until the official band journal was issued and band music was published by Headquarters.
            About a year later, as a surviving photograph of the band shows, the band had grown to fourteen or so members and their services were in great demand, being in that time the only S.A. band in this part of the country. It consisted of J.E. Scott; James McWilliams; J. Gibson; J. Rutherford; E.S. Lennox (cornet and first bandmaster); R. Greenwood; Sam Carruthers (trombone); Jack Greenwood (horn); Septimus Brodie (horn); James Simpson (tuba); George Storey (cornet); Robert Chambers (horn); David Pearce (drums) and James Frosdick (drums).
            When Monkwearmouth's hall was opened, the band travelled to play and a weekend was spent playing at South Shields in June 1881, before the port's own band was formed and which later became famous. One of the band's early weekends was a visit to Gateshead with Captain Polly Barber as Officer-inCharge. On the Saturday night, the open-air meeting was in progress when a trader objected to their presence. Having obtained previous permission from the authorities, the captain refused to move to another stand and was asked to accompany  police officers to the station. The band and Soldiers then formed up, marched with the Captain and police to the station and paraded back and forth outside. Captain Barber joined them later at the hall, unharmed by her experience.
            By 1905, the band was largely being recruited from the Juniors and among the older members present were Bros. S. Carruthers (the Corps' oldest soldier); J. Greenwood (Band Sergeant); J. Murphy (Senior Sergeant Major); J. Roy; J. Walton; W. Carruthers; W. Woodley (Band Secretary) and T. Pearson (Corps Secretary). In the hands of Band Master Tom Snowdon, a man with first class qualifications, the 1905 band photograph shows a large increase in the number of bandsmen (34), testifying to the firm foundation on which it was formed by those early converts.
Consett S.A. Band in 1905
           When the Consett band celebrated its seventieth anniversary in 1949, Ernest I. Pugmire, the U.S. National Commander, was moved to send a congratulatory message 'to members past and present, of the distinguished Consett Band - the first Corps Band of the Salvation Army'.
            From the Canadian Territorial Commander, Commissioner Chas. Baugh, came the message, 'Hearty greetings to the pioneer Salvation Army Band in Consett'.
            Band Secretary Sam Carruthers died in 1947 aged 86 and his nephew, Bandmaster Amos 
Carruthers, died in 1981. Sam, a member of that unique first band and his nephew were the Corps' historians and it is to them that we owe a large debt for leaving us the history of the band. One hundred years on, the band's centenary was commemorated by a band reunion, at which time the retired bandmaster, but still active in the band Amos Carruthers, wrote an article entitled 'Men of Steel', which was published in the Musician (24th March) and which fortunately gives us an idea of the personalities of that first band by his pen-portraits of them.
            Mr. E. Simons, who has been associated with Consett Corps all his life, Remembers Bandmaster Amos Carruthers referring with great affection to Bandmaster Lennox in their band practices and the former's article 'Men of Steel' in The Musician. As Mr Simons says, "Bandmaster Carruthers did not want those important people in Salvation Army history to be forgotten." To this I can only add, neither do I, for Bandmaster Ned Lennox, as I have recently discovered, was my great uncle.
            Of those first bandsmen, Septimus Brodie became the Consett Iron Company's accountant and is mentioned in the book 'Leaves from Consett Iron Company's Letter Books'. James McWilliams was a furnaceman and Bob Greenwood became a successful Methodist Minister in New Zealand. 'Canny lad' David Pearce was unfortunately killed in an accident at the steel works in the early days of the band. Jim Scott was the local barber and always gave free haircuts to Corps officers. Jimmy Frosdick was indeed a character and caused a sensation in Consett when it became known that he had stopped drinking. Sam Carruthers worked as a coke drawer in the works and his careful recording of news cuttings and outstanding events connected with the Corps etc. enabled him to prove that Consett indeed had the first organised Corps band in the world.
            Finally, of Bandmaster Ned Lennox, Sam remembered him as a good musician, a man of above average intelligence and a gentleman in every sense of the word.

NB. This article would not have been possible without kind assistance from Mr. T.E. Moore (the Derwentdale Hon. Sec.) with his original research, the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, Mr E. Simons and Captain Naylor of Consett Salvation Army Corps, The Local Officer (Aug. 1905), The Musician (Mar. 24th 1979), and most importantly Band Secretary Amos Carruthers and great uncle Ned,  who I sincerely hope would have quietly approved.
                                                                                                                                 Copyright Bill Johnson 1997.
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