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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LATROBE FEDERAL BAND

The Latrobe Federal Band is the oldest continuous functioning brass band in Australia and this year celebrates its 140th anniversary. The band has overcome many obstacles during its long history including two world wars and an equal number of depressions to emerge a thriving, successful and much respected band within the state of Tasmania.


The band was formed on the 8th April 1872 by Captain McNee, an ex-British army bandsman who had seen service in a military band in India before immigrating to Tasmania during the late 1860’s. The twelve instruments for the original bandsmen were purchased for £75 from money raised by band members and supporters at a local bazaar. In the November of 1876, seventeen uniforms were purchased at a cost of £70. The original uniforms were described at the time as being “of French military in style, made of a fine rifle-green broadcloth with white edging on the seams, trimmed with silver lace and sporting caps featuring a silver lace band with embroided initials”. A band consisting of ten members competed for the first time at the 1877 Ballarat competitions.


During the first thirty years of service the band played at various functions including ship launchings, sports and wood chopping carnivals, agricultural shows, parades and even the opening of the local water works in 1893. Many a concert was held in the local band rotunda prior to the First World War.


The well known brass composer and conductor Charles Trussell was bandmaster from 1887 until 1895. Later under the pen-name of Carlisle Vernon he wrote many well known marches including “Tiberius”, “St. Kilda” and the fantasia “Knight Errant”.


Another bandmaster worthy of note is the late Lou Coventry. Joining the band as a boy in 1899 he was elected bandmaster in 1919. He held this position continuously until 1965 when at the age of 76 he resigned due to ill health. He would often conduct the band with one hand and play either the cornet or euphonium with the other. As a direct result of his involvement with the band which included holding the position of Bandmaster for 46 years, serving as playing member for 66 years and by virtually single handedly keeping the dwindling band together through the both the depression and the second world war, he was awarded a well deserved Life Membership with the Tasmanian Bands League and the honour of being awarded an M.B.E. in 1966.


The Nationally renowned Drum Major Bill Welling who led the First World War Victory March through London in 1918 also acted as Drum Major of the band for a period during the late 1940’s.


During the sixties the band competed in and won numerous B and C Grade competitions taking out the C Grade Victorian Championship at Ballarat in 1965. This period also saw Latrobe emerge as a successful marching band with a strong drum corp. The seventies saw the passing of the 100th anniversary and band at its strongest as a successful nationally competing B Grade band. For five consecutive years the band competed at the Ballarat competitions even entering the A Grade contest in 1976 taking out the Hymn section and finishing third in the test piece.


1979 proved to be the band’s finest hour. For four weeks during August and September the band embarked on a successful tour of the United Kingdom being to date the only brass band from Tasmania to do so. The band toured with a local barber shop quartette and contested in the Edinburgh Open Invitation Brass Band Championships. Highlights of the trip included meeting Mr. Harry Mortimer, attending the Edinburgh Tattoo, touring the Boosey and Hawkes factory in London, attending the Bellevue Contest in Manchester and being filmed by the B.B.C. in York. The band also participated in a march before 120,000 people as part of the Carlisle Great Fair. Other places visited on the tour included Glasgow, Morecambe, Bradford, Kirkby Moorside, Whitby (the birthplace of Captain Cook), Scarborough, Chester, Rhyl and Oxford.


During the eighties the band continued in fine B Grade form competing in National and Ballarat competitions and successfully took out further state titles. In 1992 the band celebrated 120 years of service and attended the National Competitions in Sydney. The band’s recent successes includes winning the B Grade hymn section at the 1994 Melbourne Nationals, winning the Tasmanian C Grade Championship title eight times during the past ten years and in 2004 enjoyed the success of becoming the only Tasmanian brass band to ever win a National C Grade title.


The band’s longevity can be attributed to the strong association of the Hicks and Clarke families, both of which had family connections amongst the original twelve bandsmen from 1872. The Latrobe Federal Band also holds the distinction of having three successive generations of the Perkins family fulfill the role of President; a distinction the band believes to be an Australian banding record. F.V. Perkins served as President from 1925 until 1927; his son Val from 1951 until 1966 and in turn, his son Kem from 1966 until present day. In all some 60 years of combined Presidential service to the band.

Our current musical Director is Geoff Dell.

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