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And the band played on.

Portarlington Brass Band


Musical bands first made their appearance in Portarlington aboard the many steamers from Melbourne that brought visitors during holiday seasons. During New Year’s Day in 1878 ‘thirteen steamboats were employed in taking out excursionists from the Sandridge Pier and Queen's Wharf. Several had bands on board, which enlivened the journey down the Bay with strains of music, and every effort was made by those in charge of the vessels to promote the enjoyment of the trippers. Some of the vessels which conveyed the excursionists were the Golden Crown, which ran to Sorrento and Queenscliff; the Williams, to Portsea and Queenscliff; the Albatross, the Dawn and the Nelson, to Geelong; the Macedon, to Portarlington’. Walker’s band from Geelong often accompanied the steamer trips.

In late 1888 the correspondent to the Geelong Advertiser, suggested the formation of a Brass Band. In December a meeting took place for the purpose of forming a band.

By April of the following year, the band’s first public appearance took place at a concert to assist the widow Jarvis, under the leadership of Mr Graves. In July a grand concert was held in the Foresters’ Hall, by the Geelong Military Band, in aid of the local brass band. This was followed in September by selections played at the Drysdale Sports and Fancy Fair. Mr Graves often played a clarinet solo.

The band took part in various events around the town and district - at the Portarlington Racing Club meets; sports held by the Portarlington and District Cycling Club; 1903 Football Premiership between Portarlington and Drysdale; Vulcan Foundry picnic; school concert to raise funds for a shelter shed; laying of foundation stone for new Sunday School Hall at Drysdale.

By 1901 there was a band known as the Portarlington Rifle Club Brass Band.

Mr J. Clee, of Spray House, East Bellarine, having at the inception of the Portariington Rifle Club Brass Band generously donated a handsome amount, the band out of courtsey to that gentleman, and under the command of Captain Richardson assembled on the lawn in front of Mr Clee's residence on Tuesday evening when a programme of music was played. During an interval Mr Clee’s hospitably entertained the members and congratulated the bandmaster on the rapid progress they had made, and said the band would be quite an acquisition to the town during the summer months. After completing the programme three cheers were given for the host and hostess. The band returned through Bellarine where they again stopped and played several items in front of Mr. Willey's residence, arriving home well satisfied with the evening's outing. The band is slightly handicapped for the want of torches, but hope soon to be in a position to procure some. It is their intention to perform on the 3rd November (Hospital Sunday) in the Park, when a collection will he made by riflemen in aid of the charities.

Soon after this appeal Mr Box, of Geelong, donated six torch lamps to the Portarlington Rifle Club Brass band, for which they were extremely grateful. The men will now be able to play in the open air during the summer evenings.

In February 1902, Mr George Robson, bandmaster of the Queenscliff Federal Brass Band, was appointed bandmaster of the Portarlington Rifle Club Brass Band, in the place of Mr F. Rich, who was leaving the district. By 1908 the bandmaster was J.T.Tansey.

In 1909 the Portarlington Rifle Club allowed the band to separate from the club and be known as the Portarlington Town Ban. The committee of the Rifle Club was to act as trustees of the instruments.

In 1912 Conductor Allen was in charge.

In 1916 Leo and Lawrence Willey left for the Front and were presented with gifts from the Brass Band.

Sgt. Major R.J. McLean (died 1917) was for many years secretary of the Band.

Perhaps the band disbanded because of World War One but in September 1928 there was a meeting to start up a new Brass Band. Mr Bridges, who has had many years of experience with bands, offered to give all the assistance he could. If a first cornet player can be obtained, it is anticipated that 20 players can be secured.


Pam Jennings