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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada

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Louisbourg Heritage Society

The Louisburg Brass Bands

William A. O'Shea

( The paper copy of The Louisburg Brass Bands is out of print. It is reissued for WWW use on 1 June 1996 )


Louisburg Brass Bands is dedicated to the members of the three Louisburg bands. Talking to people about the Bands, reading about the Bands, and thinking about the enjoyment they gave to the community has given me many pleasant moments.

I have chosen the old-fashioned spelling of Louisburg because that's how the Town spelled its name when the Bands were active. That's how the band members would have recognized it.

In 1901 the community was incorporated as The Town of Louisburg. The Post Office converted to the present "Louisbourg" spelling on May 2, 1951. The Council took a similar step that same year. Unfortunately, the Town Hall fire of 1982, and the resulting de struction of the Minute Book for that period, means that the record of the Council's decision is lost. Still, the spelling was not actually altered officially, until E. A. Manson, MLA for Cape Breton West, introduced a Bill in the House of Assembly. Accor dingly, on April 6, 1966, "An Act to Change the Name of the Town of Louisburg," changed the name to The Town of Louisbourg.

2. The Sydney and Louisburg Railway Station where many of the Bands' activities took place.


The three Louisburg brass bands, organized between 1903 and 1935, were local expressions of a Citizens' Band Movement that developed in Europe and North America during the last half of the 19th century. Brass bands were composed of varieties of brass instruments with a small percussion section. They tended to be organizations of volunteer enthusiasts as opposed to professional bandsmen. This did not diminish the quality of the music of brass bands, but it did present special challenges in recruiting, continuity of membership, training and financial support.

The Brass Band Movement

A number of factors influenced the development of Citizens' Brass Bands. In Europe there was a solid tradition of military bands, combining brass and woodwinds, which provided a general familiarity with band culture. In addition, by the middle of the 19th century, there was a range of brass instruments readily available on the market. Among these was an ancestor of the cornet, a cornerstone of the brass band. There was also a newly-developed family of brass instruments, invented by Adolphe Sax, all of which used similar fingering. This similarity in fingering eased instruction, and permitted more flexibility in filling gaps in a band than had earlier, more specialized, instruments.1

Of equal importance, was the active encouragement by employers and municipalities coupled with increased leisure time. These combined to provide a valuable impetus for miners and factory workers to become involved in local bands. The Salvation Army was another successful sponsor of band music, as were Temperance Societies, missions and various social and sporting events.2

In England, the first brass bands were developed before the 1840's. Access to printed music in band journals, and national contests, promoted the development and popularity of bands in Scotland, Wales and Southern England by the 1880s.3 In t he United States, the Boston Brass Band and Dodsworth's Band in New York were organized by 1835. Brass bands were used as Regimental Bands during the American Civil War.4

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia there is a tradition, not yet fully studied, of public band entertainments provided by the various garrisons stationed here during the 18th and 19th centuries. The military bands helped to develop a local appreciation for band music and provided a source of professional instructors to the community. By the 1870's, the bandmaster sergeants in the British Army were graduates of the Royal School of Music, established in 1857, and were replacing civilian bandmasters.5 Still to be studied, as well, is the influence of British bandsmen who came to Nova Scotia to work in the collieries. Finally, we know very little about the impact of the Salvation Army bands in creating an appreciation for brass bands and providing instructional opportunities for future community bandsmen.

Brass bands were established quite early in Nova Scotia. The Stellarton Silver Band was founded before 1850 and survived to World War 1, when it became the Regimental Band of the 85th Overseas Battalion.6 There was also a brass band formed i n Yarmouth in 1849.7

Cape Breton

In Cape Breton, there are newspaper records of a band in Sydney and Sydney Mines as early as 1845.8 Reverend A. A. Johnston writes, as well, of a Sydney Harbour excursion and a St. Patrick's Day parade in 1855 in which bands participated.9These bands are only mentioned in passing, and it is impossible to determine whether they were true brass bands or a mix of brass and woodwinds. Still, it is obvious that an interest in band music was developing in the Cape Breton Community from an early d ate.

The first brass band for which there is direct evidence was organized in Sydney Mines in 1862 by Robert Wilson, the manager of the Low Point mine. Wilson later formed a band in Victoria Mines and, by 1870, had organized one in Sydney. The instruments for this band cost $1700.00 towards which F. N. Gisborne, the promoter of the New Glasgow to Sydney Railway, contributed $1000.00. The Sydney Brass Band lasted into the early 1880's. It was replaced by the Sydney Cornet Band which was formed in 1884.10 The short-lived St. Cecilia Band, established in Sydney in 1901, began life with mainly brass instruments, but was aspiring to a mix of brass and woodwinds.11

The desire to move to a greater range of instruments was not surprising. In the United States, under the influence of band leaders such as John Philip Sousa, the interest in all-brass bands had given way to military bands by the end of the 19th century. 12 Concerts given in Sydney by bands from the French naval ships, that visited the harbour regularly, or bands such as the Black Watch Band, which played in North Sydney in 1904, demonstrated the flexibility that could be had with a wider range of instruments. 13 Some local bands managed, every now and then, to add one or more clarinet players. But not every community had bandsmen or band instructors with the interests or the range of skills needed to manage such a band, with the result that the all-brass bands continued well into the 20th century.

3. The reorganized St. Joseph's Band, Glace Bay. John T. Ryan is seated fourth from the left in the second row.

Outside of Sydney, brass bands were organized in all major centres of the newly industrialized region. In 1890, the St. Joseph's Band was established in Glace Bay by Dan Hardy of Caledonia. Hardy was killed in a mine accident, in 1893, and the band ceased operation for a time. In 1903 it was reorganized by John T. Ryan who was an instructor for the first Louisburg band.14 Glace Bay was also attempting to organize a Citizens' Band in 1902. The Sydney Record correspondent pointed out that this would make the fourth band in Glace Bay, though the others were connected with some fraternal order or society.15 One of the early bands at Dominion #4 played at the opening of the Alexandra Rink in Glace Bay in 1903.16 There was also a band in Port Morien.17 A Catholic Mutual Benefit Association (CMBA) Band was organized in Sydney Mines in 1901.18 In North Sydney a Citizens' Band had been established by 1897, and a League of the Cross Band formed there several ye ars later.19 The LOC Band was composed of members of the North Sydney Band who left that organization as a result of a community dispute centring on the North Sydney school.20 Farther afield, there was a brass band in Baddeck which served, for a time, as the Regimental Band of the 94th Victoria Regiment militia. This function was later passed on to one of the Glace Bay bands.21

Bands came and went for a variety of reasons. The first St. Joseph's Band dissolved on the death of its organizer, Dan Hardy. The Sydney Cornet Band disbanded in 19O2 " . . . owing to the lack of interest shown both by the public and individual band members."22 And the Independent Ten Band, composed of some former members of the Cornet Band, transformed itself by a name change into the Citizens' Band of Sydney.23

The various Cape Breton brass bands provided a public service for their communities and were a creative outlet for individual bandsmen. J.G. MacKinnon notes that the Sydney Brass Band took part in the laying of the cornerstone of the Courthouse. It also m arched in the Blue Ribbon Temperance Procession, on October 24, 1877, which attracted 2000 participants.24 The Cornet Band gave free concerts from the bandstand on the Esplanade,25 and played at Sydney winter carnivals and Labour Day concerts.26 One of the memorable events for the Cornet Band took place in Louisburg in 1895, when the Society of Colonial Wars unveiled a monument commemorating the French and English combatants in the 1745 siege of the fortress town.27

In addition to the specific contributions made to public culture at a time before radio, movies or television, the bands could even bridge the gap established by religious differences. Father John Edwards, writing in 1963 about the North Sydney bands at the turn of the century, presented a positive, though possibly time-mellowed recollection. He noted that, "During the years of that time, in all the towns of Cape Breton, the Town Band was quite an institution in the area - an important item in the social life of the town. In all places it was a town band - not belonging to any group - Catholics and Protestants alike were members; all that was needed was some ability to play an instrument and a willingness to take part."28

Father Edwards' remembrances capture an essential value of Cape Breton community bands. Yet a letter written by local newspaperman S. P. Challoner, in 1904 at the height of community brass band popularity, reflects the practical problems facing all bands. Raising money to purchase uniforms and new instruments was a constant challenge for band organizations, as was convincing local businessmen and municipal officials that a band was a community asset. Many frustrated volunteer bandsmen, in towns all over the industrial area of Cape Breton, nodded in agreement with Challoner, who wrote:

"A good band is one of the very first assets any community can have. A well-trained musical organization of this character giving free open air concerts once or twice a week during the summer months is one of the most attractive drawing cards a city can offer to outside people. And as these entertainments increase in popularity as they always steadily do, the businessman reaps a direct benefit through actual purchases made and an indirect return through the additional money that gets into circulation by the medium of strangers who come to town.

Sydney, in the past has always taken, in a general way, a great pride in the talent and achievements of its local bands, yet, at the same time, our businessmen and the city generally have failed absolutely to fully appreciate what such an institution could be made to accomplish for the business interests of the place. Hitherto, the Sydney Cornet Band, the Citizens' Band and the St. Cecilia Band have mainly supported their respective organizations from their private and individual funds. This, of course means no small outlay, for, in order to keep abreast of public necessity, new music means a constant outlay, besides which the time devoted to public service and to practice is really money expended.

In other places the civic authorities make an annual appropriation for the maintenance of the local band corps - for instance, the town of Amherst, votes $400. This again, is supplemented by private contribution. Result: Amherst has a band of full military strength, which is deservedly, the pride of its citizens. Not so is it in Sydney. The civic government has never provided anything except a bandstand, and that was not a thing of beauty and joy for only a very short while. This shows very poor public spirit - we take all we can get for nothing and long for more at the same price."29

4. The Catholic Mutual Benefit Association (CMBA) Band, Sydney Mines, organized in 1901.

The widespread popularity of community bands, both brass and combinations of brass and woodwinds, continued up to the Second World War. In Glace Bay, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) Band was a regular feature at ice skating rinks, parades and concerts for over 25 years.30 Other Glace Bay bands included the Black Diamond Band and the Passchendaele Band.31 In Sydney there was the City Band, Coronation Band and the Veterans' Band. The multicultural nature of the city was reflected by the band of the United Negro Improvement Association and the West Indian Band during the 1920's and 1930's.32

The only community brass band existing at present on Cape Breton Island is the Donkin Band, directed by Ken Reid. The Donkin Band is unique on Cape Breton in that it has operated without interruption since it was organized in 1919.33 But there have been other efforts to keep community band culture alive, though not through the medium of brass bands. In Glace Bay, the Coal Town Band formed in 1954 lasted into the late 1960's.34 Most recently, a new Glace Bay Community Band was formed in 1987.35

The City Band in Sydney lasted until 1947. Another City Band was organized in the early 1960's and survived for several years. Gordon Elman, one of the organizers of this revival, writes that the Sydney band did not survive because if the expense and the fact that young people were not being trained. 36 In Sydney Mines, the Victory Band was organized circa 1944 to provide an organization to which former bandsmen, on active service in Europe, could return. This was followed in the 1950's by a Reserve Army Band associated with the Militia. The current Sydney Mines Legion Band, directed by Wilson Rowe, was organized in 1967.37

The story of the three Louisburg brass bands reflects the general Cape Breton enthusiasm for community bands, while adding their unique contribution by reflecting the times and personalities in Louisburg.

5. The Sydney Cornet Band in Louisburg on June 17, 1895 at the unveiling of the monument erected by the Society for Colonial Wars.


The Louisburg Citizens' Band was a product of the enthusiasm of a new century in a growing town. Louisburg was incorporated in 1901 on the coat tails of the industrial age which was introduced by the Dominion Coal Company's railway and coal pier. It was an expansive time with dreams of a railroad from the Cochrane Lake coal mine and another rail line along the coast from St. Peters. People were moving into Louisburg from the surrounding communities. There was a major building boom, a new water system and a Marine hospital in the works. It was amid this energy and excitement that the Louisburg Citizens' Band was born.

The Band Is Formed

The Band was organized by John Murphy in the fall of 1903. Murphy, a former member of the Port Morien Band, had come to Louisburg around the turn of the century to work for the Dominion Coal Company.1 As a major contribution to the Band, he purchased the band instruments for $100.2

The first meeting was held in the Town Hall on Saturday, November 14, 1903.3 At the meeting, John Murphy was elected bandmaster, W. W. Mann, secretary and F. W. Townsend the treasurer. There were 17 members and by December the new band was meeting weekly for practice and, "progressing finely," under Murphy's leadership.4

The Band and the Town Council

As with most bands, finding secure financial support was an ongoing problem for the Louisburg Citizens' Band. When the band was formed it was anticipated that the Town would be asked to give assistance.5 Some sort of formal agreement was reached with the Town to purchase the instruments and, presumably, John Murphy got his $100 investment back.6

Relations with the Town were severely strained by a request from the Band in April 1904, for $20.00 to repair some of the instruments. In response to the request, Councillor John N. Spencer stated that the young men of the band ". . . should have spirit enough to make a little money themselves." He felt that since Town had already contributed by purchasing the instruments and because work was scarce, the ratepayers could not afford the expense. Councillor Elias Townsend struck a more personal note when h e said that, " .. it would have been better had the town purchased a set of bagpipes."7

At the next Council meeting on April 28, Mayor W. W. Lewis referred to the matter of the Band and noted that there was a clause in the Agreement made between the Town and the Band stating that, " . . . if the town was not satisfied after a time the member s would take back the instruments and refund the town council their money."8

It seems that some band members, upset by the very negative reaction to the request for help, had told the Mayor that if the Council did not want to cover the cost of repair to the instruments they would purchase them back.

Councillor Spencer reacted strongly saying, "... let them take them back by all means, this thing will only be a drag on the town." Councillor Townsend, broadening the base of the attack, felt that, "The members composing the council at the time of the pu rchase of this band, must have been a fine lot of musicians". The Council meeting concluded, "After some discussion wherein the band was scored by Councillor Spencer, (and) the matter was deferred until the next meeting when a representative of the band m embers will be heard."9

At the Council meeting held on May 19, the first point of business concerned the Band. The bandsmen had sent a delegation to a previous meeting of the Council and confirmed the earlier suggestion that if the Town was not satisfied with the purchase of the band instruments the bandsmen would buy the instruments for $100. A Council committee had been formed to look into the ownership of the instruments and reported that it was John Murphy who had purchased them not the individual band members.10

By the June meeting of Council, the clerk had spoken with John Murphy about assuming responsibility for the band again. But Murphy would not consider doing so until all the instruments were returned. Councillor J. O'Toole asked who had been in charge of instrument distribution and was told that they had never been under the control of anyone from the Town. Councillor O'Toole expressed the opinion that the instruments were Murphy's responsibility.11

The clerk was directed by Council to proceed on the matter with Murphy.12 He was not successful since Murphy never did take over the direction of the Band again. Obviously, there was some sort of conflict between Murphy and members of the Band that remained unresolved. It is surprising, given the nature of local reporting, that none of the dissatisfied band members are ever named in the newspaper articles. Nor does John Murphy appear to have been directly involved in the Band's reaction to the rather inflammatory statements of Councillors Townsend and Spencer. Unfortunately, the Minutes of the Town Council were destroyed in a fire in July 1982 and along with them the full story of the disagreement between John Murphy, the Band and the Louisburg Council.

The Band and the Community

The Band did not wait for long to find a new instructor after John Murphy withdrew his services. By July 1904, John T. Ryan was coming to Louisburg from Glace Bay twice a week to provide instruction in Peters' Hall.13 Ryan was well qualified fo r the job. He had reorganized the St. Joseph's Band in Glace Bay in 1903 and was its treasurer and musical instructor.14 Just how he was attracted to the challenge of the Louisburg Band is not known, but he proved to be a wise and practical choice.

Along with a qualified instructor, the Band had some encouragement by example. In August, the Salvation Army's Bermuda Brass and String Band visited Louisburg, paraded through the town and gave a concert.15 And in September, Ryan's St. Joseph's Band from Glace Bay band played at the Stella Maris Catholic Church Labour Day picnic.16

Ryan's instruction was successful, and on Friday, September 16, 1904 the Band gave its first public concert. Bandmaster Ryan was present with 11 of the 16 members. The Band met in Peters' Hall to practice, then marched west along Main Street to Warren Street, then south to Mayor W. W. Lewis' residence.

The local correspondent for the Sydney Record reported that, ". . . almost the whole population of the town turned out en masse last night to hear our bandsmen in their first public performance. Warren Street was last night packed with people, also a goodly number on Townsend street, besides the large yard adjoining, Mayor Lewis residence was filled, and the verandah of the Mayor's residence was filled with spectators who had been invited there to a seat by his worship."

The programme for the evening included the Two Step Princeton, Norma Serenade, Two Step Yorktown, Fairy Bell March, Sunshine Walk and God Save the King. In his address to the band and assembled crowd, the Mayor noted that the bandsmen had acquitted themse lves in a manner worthy of veterans. He made passing reference to earlier difficulties stating that he felt the Band had not been treated as well as it might have been by the Council. He mentioned that he had supported the Band in Council since the member s were public-spirited citizens of which anyone might be proud.

The bandsmen at that first public concert included Duncan Lamont, baritone; Arthur Keefe, B flat bass; Guy Hiltz, circular bass; Murray Cameron, trombone; James Lamont, 2nd alto; Frank Keefe, 2nd alto; Norman Cameron, E flat cornet; Wiley Stacey, 2nd E fl at cornet; J. W. Ryan, 1st B cornet; John O'Handley, bass drum; Ernest Dickson, kettle drum; Fred Curry, cymbals. Those who missed the opening were Fletcher Townsend, 1st B flat cornet; John Dillon, 1st tenor; W. W. Mann, 1st alto; Dan McDonald, 2nd B flat cornet; and Richard Cays, B flat clarinet.17

The only photograph of the Band at the time has a slightly different cast of bandsmen. This picture was taken in front of Peters Store on Main Street, before John T. Ryan completed his term as instructor in April 1905. Murray Cameron, John O'Handley, Dan MacDonald and Richard Cays are not in the photograph, perhaps having left the Band, but new members included Walter Jewel, Jim Crowdis and Archie Hare.

An interesting point about the participants in the Band, discounting the younger participants, is that they were either businessmen, clerks or tradesmen. There were no coal trimmers, fishermen or farmers in the Band. And though five were Roman Catholics, the membership also seems to have remained within municipal boundaries of the Town, there being no representatives from the Irish settlement of West Louisburg.18

The Busy Fall of 1904

The inaugural concert in September was the beginning of a busy fall season. Prime Minister Laurier had called a federal election for November 3, 1904 and the Band was in demand for the various rallies held in Louisburg.

On Tuesday, October 18 there was a meeting for the Conservative candidate, Doctor McKay. The Band led the speakers through the streets to Peters' Hall.19

6. The Louisburg Citizens' Band in front of Peters' Store on Main Street between July 1904 and the end of April 1905. The only item of uniform is a Band Cap with the letters LCB inside a wreath on the cap front. Extreme back row. I-r: Fletcher Townsend, James Crowdis, W. W. Mann. Remaining Bandsmen. I-r: E. Dickson, Ned Cameron, Fred Curry, Wylie Stacey, Walter Jewell, Frank Keefe, Archie Hare, John T. Ryan - band leader, James Lamont, John Dillon (?), Duncan Lamont, Arthur Keefe, Guy B. Hiltz.

Next, on Thursday the 21st, there was a meeting for the Liberal candidate, Alexander Johnston. A crowd about 500 people, " . . . among whom, were several ladies," assembled to greet Johnston.20 Mayor Lewis and County Warden Levatte escorted the speakers from the Louisburg Hotel to the Hall in a parade, along with, " . scores of citizens and working men headed by the Louisburg Brass Band "21 As they paraded, the Band played "See the Conquering Hero Comes" and in front of Peters' Hall, " The Maple Leaf Forever."22

The Candidate was the first to appreciate the presence of the Band, providing a perspective that the bandsmen would have appreciated. According to the Sydney Record correspondent,"He opened his speech by pointing out that the progress of Louisburg under L iberal rule (was) manifested by the presence of a brass band. Eighteen years of Conservative rule found Louisburg without a brass band and without other comforts of life to say nothing of luxuries".23

At the close of the meeting there were cheers for the King, Laurier, Johnston, Kendal and the Band. The evening ended with the Band playing "God Save the King".24

The night after the election the victorious Liberals assembled in Peters Hall for "a smoker and general celebration". Alexander Bates presided and the Band played several selections. There were songs by J. T. Ryan and bandsman Duncan Lamont.25

It is of passing interest to note that the Band does not seem to have been present at the meeting for the Labour candidate, Stephen B. McNeil, on Monday the 17th though Mayor Lewis and Warden Levatte were present to dispute certain issues.26

Raising Money

At the first public performance of the Band in September 1904, the correspondent for the Sydney Record commented that while the band had received some financial support from citizens that there were those who could afford it who have not contributed a cent. He expressed a hope that the Council " . . . will also assist the enterprising and public-spirited men and boys who compose the Louisburg band by giving them a liberal donation."27

The citizens of the Town demonstrated their appreciation by a social and concert that was held in Peter's hall on October 4. The Record noted with approval that, " Since securing the services of Mr. Ryan the band has make rapid improvement until today they can take their place alongside other bands."28

The successful fall, and possibly, the new bandmaster caused the Council to modify its previously held negative opinion. In December, Arthur Keefe, Wiley Stacey and Guy Hiltz appeared before Council to explain that they had been to considerable expense obtaining instruments, giving entertainments and paying an instructor. They said that, "If the town council would see fit to give them a little aid it would be highly appreciated by the band members." Councillors Smith, McVicar and Townsend were supportive. Councillor Spencer said he would like to see the Band assisted but he did not like the idea of taking the ratepayers money without calling a public meeting. He did say that, " He was prepared to put his hand in his pocket and help the band personally, but to take the ratepayers money, he did not like it." Councillor James MacPhee, more realistically, noted that there was $250.00 set aside for miscellaneous expenses and since none of the amount had been touched some might be given to the Band. No one followed through with this suggestion but, " All the Councillors spoke in high terms and praise of the band members and it was decided to get up a special entertainment at the beginning of the New Year."29 The Band promised to give free entertainment on the night of January 2 if the town paid for the Hall.30 The evening of January 2, 1905 was a success. Peters' Hall was filled and, in addition to the Band programme, there were songs by Duncan Lamont and Ned Davis as well as short addresses by Mayor Lewis and Councillors MacPhee and Smith.31

With this success under their belts the Band began a weekly series of dances to raise money. A typical programme consisted of a concert, by the Band, after which there was dancing and refreshments. For the dance held on January 9, in addition to the band music, Joseph MacDonald and Norman Campbell played the violin.32 There was another concert in March.33 As in the previous one, there were selections by the Band followed by a general programme of vocal solos, instrumentals, dancing and refreshments. The turnout was excellent earning $60.00. The Band's debt was paid off and there was a surplus to its credit.34

In addition to this financial success, the Band earned a positive, if somewhat pompous, word of praise from Mr. George Dixon the steward on the SS Cape Breton. Dixon was connected in some way with the Chicago Marine Band and, reflecting on this concert, pronounced that, " . . with a little more practice the band would be a credit to the town."35

The Band was grateful for the community support and not remiss in recognizing the help received from fellow citizens. At the meeting in March the members passed a resolution, ". . . that a vote of thanks be extended to all those non-members of the band who by the gratuitous giving of their time and talents and the loan of musical instruments, contributed so greatly to the success of their late concert." 36

On St. Patrick's Day, there was a particularly important local event involving the Band. That evening at a lecture in Peters Hall, presided over by Rev. Fr. Keily of Stella Maris, the Rev. D. McMillan of Calvin Presbyterian Church lectured on "King Saul a nd the Witch of Endor, or the Philosophy of Ghosts and that sort of thing." The lecture was a community event in support of Rev. Murdock Buchanan of the Presbyterian Church who had tuberculosis and had gone to Boston in hope of finding a cure.37 The lecture lasted for over an hour and, "... proved most conclusively the absurdity of Spirit Rappers, mediums, etc., and in many instances accounted for such things on scientific principles." The Band played and there were solos by Mrs. Sutherland and Mr. Bullock with Mrs. O'Toole as accompanist.38

At the end of April 1905, with the coming of more suitable weather, the Band moved outside. Melvin Huntington notes in his diary that it "Played on the street in the evening and put on a good programme for listening pleasure."39 This was the last appearance with John T. Ryan as instructor.40 He would be missed, but he had developed the Band sufficiently to permit it to approach the summer optimistically. Eventually the Band found a new instructor, Robert Lyons, though he appears to have remained only for a short time.41

The Band was very encouraged by a successful dance held on Monday, May 8. However, the members were not as pleased by the results of an open-air concert given at the end of the month where the collection was only $2.00.42 It was pointed out by someone present at the concert, " . . . that there was quite a crowd until the hat was passed around when they quickly dispersed."43

Another concert and social held in Peters' Hall in June was reported to be well attended. Before the concert the Band formed up in front of the Hall and marched along Main Street to the Pharmacy at the Corner of Upper Warren and Main and back to the Hall. 44 But the concert was not a success since the Band was in financial straits by July. Fortunately, the Council was sympathetic and Councillor W. E. McAlpine moved that $100 be paid to the Band to permit it to meet expenses.45 This windfall was celebrated with an open air concert. The Band formed up in front of Peters' Hall and marched along Main as far as Hooper's Store, on the corner of Main and Strathcona, and back again.46

More Community Events

There were three additional band events in July. On July 1, the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association picnic was held Slattery's Point. The Band met visitors arriving by train at the Sydney and Louisburg railway station and led them to the picnic grounds. I t remained there all day making a positive impression on the crowd, many of whom came from towns outside Louisburg.47 On July 12 the annual Orange Day Picnic was held and members of the lodges from Louisburg and Catalone were led in parade by t he Band from the S&L station to services in Calvin Church on Strathcona Street.48 Then on July 21, the Band played as part of an outing on the harbour with a few friends aboard the steam launch Cecil Rhodes.49

The high point of the year for the entire town, took place in early August when Governor General Grey, Lady Grey and their daughter Lady Evelyn Grey visited Louisburg. This was a far cry from the visit by Governor-General Minto in 1902 when the Town Fathers refused to meet the visitors officially.

7. Louisburg before 1910. Main Street looking east towards Warren Street.

On this occasion, the Vice-Regal party was met at the S&L station by Mayor Lewis, Councillors MacPhee and O'Toole and Captain D. J. Kennelly. The Band was on hand and played the national anthem and several other selections.50

That month the Band ventured abroad when on August 10 it held a concert in Gabarus. The bandsmen were accompanied aboard the steamer Sea Bird by a number of young people from Louisburg. The outing was successful and everyone was loud in their praise of the hospitality of the people of Gabarus.51 Rounding out the summer, on the September 1st, the Band serenaded Councillor Elias Townsend on the occasion of his 57th birthday. The Councillor made a short speech in which he congratulated the Band on its progress and " . . . stated that in the future any favour they requested from the Town Council would receive his hearty support as long as he remained a councillor."52 This was a remarkable change of heart from the Councilor who had a year earlier wondered whether the Town should have purchased a set of bagpipes.

The Band in Trouble

The money voted by Council in July 1905 slowed, rather than put an end to, the Band's financial difficulties for by the fall it was facing problems once more. The concert that was to be held at the end of September was "indefinitely postponed."53 There was a subscription ball held in early October at which 40 couples were present.54 However, the ball was not a financial success because over ninety invitations had been sent out. According to the correspondent for the Record, "taking the expenses for refreshments and hire for the hall the financial proceeds if any must be a mere bagatelle."55 Not to be deterred, the Band was planning for its monthly ball on Wednesday, November 8, and sent out invitations to a number of Louisburg residents.5657

The next band event was a Bandsmens Ball announced for February 15, 1906, but postponed until Friday the 23rd, when about 100 people were in attendance.58 From then on, nothing more is heard of the Band until a brief note a year later stating, "It looks as though the Louisburg Citizens Band has disbanded."59 There was one last appearance by the Band on Labour Day in 1907. That day, awards for the Labour Day sports were handed out by Mayor W. W. Lewis at the S&L station and the Band p layed a number of selections.60

Why The Citizens' Band Came to an End

There are any number of reasons why the Louisburg Citizens' Band faded out of existence in 1907. The central ingredient, a qualified bandmaster, had been missing since J. T. Ryan's departure in the spring of 1905. It had been hoped that Robert Lyons would fill the gap, but that hope was not realized. The interesting point is that the local community did not generate a bandmaster after John Murphy dropped out of the picture. This was not because there was no talent available. Both the O'Keefes and the Town sends who were in the band were considered "musical". But none had been involved with a band previously and they were probably not comfortable with the range of instruments and the organizational requirements.

Lack of money was a definite problem. The Band needed a regular income to cover the cost of the bandmaster, to pay rent on the Hall, to maintain instruments and to buy sheet music and uniforms. While there was some income from concerts and intermittent help from the Council, this was obviously not enough to meet normal operating needs, not to mention any special requirements. The Band never did purchase uniforms, being satisfied with band hats. Uniforms could be ignored, but the instruments were central to the activity and they were expensive to maintain. Shortly after the Band organized in 1903 the members had approached Council for $20.00 to repair the instruments. The fact that Murphy paid only $100 for them in 1903 suggests that they were already second or third hand and needed regular overhauls. New instruments were very expensive. The St. Joseph's C.Y.M.C. band in Glace Bay was anticipating a cost of $900 for 19 instruments.61 And S. P. Challoner estimated a cost of between $1200 and $1500 for 25 pieces for the Sydney band.62 A close look at the picture of the Band in front of Peters' store reveals dents in almost all the instruments. The poor condition of the instruments is further suggested by the fact that the bandsmen had to borrow some of the instruments from people about town.63

It is difficult to gauge the extent of community support for the Band. It is obvious that some Councillors questioned its value. While the Band was concerned with finding, in the Council, a financial backer, the Councillors were working out broader responsibilities in the life of the newly incorporated Town. In the enthusiasm of a political rally the significance of the Band, as an indicator of prosperity, might be stressed. But there is nothing that indicates this sentiment was consciously shared by the rest of the community. Band events seem to have been reasonably well attended, with the exception of the Subscription Ball in October 1904. Yet they never earned enough money to keep the Band ahead of its expenses. While the Band might have viewed itself as a community asset, I suspect that the average person in Louisburg saw it as an interesting diversion and never thought beyond that. With no leader, no money, and a public that was not overly supportive, it is not difficult to see the bandsmen begin to lose interest. For there were many other volunteer activities in the growing community to occupy an individual's free time. There were church choirs and several mens' organizations and fraternal orders. The Catholic Mutual Benefit Association, for example , was organized in 1901 and both Arthur Keefe and Duncan Lamont were members.64 In addition, by 1907, there was a yacht club in Louisburg with former bandsmen such as Wylie Stacey, Fletcher Townsend and Guy B. Hiltz deeply involved organizing e vents, racing and building boats.65

But the fact that the Band disappeared does not mean that it was a failure. As a general phenomenon, it was reflective of the initial optimism and enthusiastic growth of Louisburg at the beginning of this century. It reflected, as well, new ideas that were being introduced to the town by people from the outside. By participating in political rallies, parades and fund raising concerts, the Band added a hint of sophistication associated with larger communities on Cape Breton Island. As Alex Johnston noted during his political address, in the fall of 1904, its very existence was reflective of the growth that had taken place in the town. The Citizens' Band provided a genuine, if not fully appreciated, service to the community. It also left positive memories t hat would lead a core of its members to form another band a few years down the road.

8. Canadian Medley March, Published by Whaley, Royce and Co., 1890. Music used by Wylie Stacey.

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