History continued

In 1932 the papers of Joseph Crawhall were given to the Society, and were then handed to W.A. Cocks for safe keeping in his collection. They are now in the Bagpipe Museum. It was felt that there was not sufficient room at the castle for the annual competitions, so this year and until 1937 they took place at the Old Assembly Rooms, outside caterers providing refreshments. Also this year the Society published 'A Bibliography of the Bagpipe' by Gilbert Askew. Miss Joan Sharp, secretary of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, asked for pipers for a public demonstration to be given in Newcastle in January 1933. R. Mowat and G. Storey played the smallpipes and J. Dunn and G. Askew the half-long pipes. R.R. Armstrong resigned, and the new chairman was R.N. Mowat, who had been a prominent member of the old society, being then one of their best players. The Rev. J.P. Thornton presented a silver cup, and it was agreed that this should be competed for in the beginners small pipes class.

At the fifth annual meeting, membership stood at one hundred and twenty-one, seventy-one being playing members. During the year, the Society had published a monograph on 'The Northumbrian Bagpipes; their development and makers', by W.A. Cocks. The first of several radio broadcasts took place. Nine members performed and it was relayed from the castle.

It was the practice in these early years always to have a demonstration of pipe playing after the competitions. In 1935, after playing by T.W. Pigg, R.N. Mowat, and M. Hodgson, a demonstration of the playing of a 'shepherd's pipe' was given by Miss Gladys Page Wood of the Pipers Guild. This was a simple pipe, and her playing was much appreciated.

'The Northumbrian Pipers Society Tune Book', edited by Gilbert Askew, was published in 1936. Mr. Mowat died this year and Jack Armstrong was elected to the Chair at the Annual Meeting in 1937. This was quite an eventful year, the Society obtaining permanent headquarters in the Morden Tower. A piano for it was provided by Esther McCracken, and the President supplied the furniture. The first meeting was rather a disaster because of a smoking chimney, but this difficulty was overcome, and all meetings, competitions, Annual Meetings etc. were held there, for many years to come. Members soon made themselves at home, for there were facilities for providing refreshments, and most meetings ended with dancing to the pipes.

In 1938 the Society published another booklet by Gilbert Askew, 'The Medals of the Northumbrian Bagpipe.' He left the district this year, and so resigned from the secretaryship, having occupied this position from the very beginning. W.A. Cocks also resigned from being technical adviser and treasurer, and became a Vice-President. L. Robson became secretary for one year, after which his son, L.G. Robson succeeded him. L. Robson senior did much work for the Society, serving as Vice-Chairman, or on the committee for many years. He paid the rent of the Morden Tower out of his own pocket. The Alnwick Branch of the Society was formed this year.

From this point and until the beginning of the war in September 1939, the Society organised many functions such as concerts and dances, at Bellingham, Cambo and Bolton. Members entertained the Lord Mayor (Ald. G Oliver) to a demonstration of the small pipes, half-longs and Highland pipes at the Morden Tower. There were reedmaking sessions. It was decided to start piping competitions at the Caistron (near Rothbury) sports. Lady Armstrong presented a silver cup for this, and it was well attended. At the last Annual General Meeting before the war, it was reported to have been a record year with membership up (though no numbers are recorded), meetings better attended, and finances more healthy than ever before. The concerts had proved very popular and lucrative.

During the war this prosperity naturally declined, many members serving in the armed forces. L.G. Robson joined the R.A.F and Miss Margery Bell became secretary (1941). The monthly meetings were continued, but competitions and other outside activities were suspended, petrol rationing and other war time austerities making travelling difficult. Apart from a few social evenings and reed making sessions, little could be done. Fees from members in the forces were suspended, and collections were made for them. The Alnwick Branch organized Troop and Red Cross concerts and dances.

At the June meeting in 1943 the death of the president G.V.B. Charlton, was announced. The chairman, (Jack Armstrong) played a lament, 'The Flowers of the Forest' in his memory. Discussions took place about a suitable memorial and it was finally decided to issue a new tune book. Subscriptions were collected for this and it was published as 'The Charlton Memorial Tune Book', edited by Alan Hall and W. J. Stafford, in 1957. Captain W.H. Charlton of Hesleyside became the second president.

After the war was over, a series of concerts was organised in order to boost the Charlton Memorial Fund. Esther McCracken wrote a play entitled 'Cash or Kind', which she gave to the Society. It was first performed by the Bellingham Women's Institute where, it was reported, it was very good, but would have been improved with more piping. It was later performed at the Society's concert in Newcastle, which proved very successful, and netted over £30 for the Fund. Competitions were resumed. Jack Armstrong resigned in 1946 due to pressure of work, though he continued to help the Society, giving talks and demonstrations, and providing music for the dances with his country dance band for many years to come. He was one of the best pipers of his day, and produced many sets of pipes, which are much prized today. He was made a Vice-President and Alan Hall became chairman.

Lady Trevelyan was unanimously elected president in 1947. She had been a very active member of the Society, attending many meetings, and was made a senior Vice-President after the death of G.V.B Charlton, being nominated as his successor. She led the 'ad hoc' committee for raising money for the Charlton Memorial Fund, and organized many concerts for this purpose.

Mrs. Sample of Bothal presented a silver cup to the Society in 1949, in memory of her son who was killed in the war. This is known as the John Sample Cup, and is competed for at the Alnwick competition in the open small pipes class. This year the Alnwick Branch organised a highly successful concert, which was the forerunner of the present annual "Alnwick Gathering", for a long time one of the highlights of the piping year. A concert was held at Bellingham also, which proved very popular, and a branch was opened there, called The North Tyne and Redesdale Branch of the Northumbrian Pipers Society.

By the time the Society came of age (October 1949), it had recovered from the war. Membership now stood at ninety-eight members. The president started an annual outing to Wallington, and socials, dances and concerts featured in the programmes. The Christmas party had by now become a regular event. Ordinary meetings also became more interesting. The Annual General Meeting report for 1949 mentions 'Mr. Jack Armstrong's demonstration of reed making; Mr. Pagan from Glanton and friends demonstration on recorders; Mr. P. Kennedy's talk and gramophone records of folk music; and Mr. T. Clough's talk on traditional music and his masterly renderings of old airs. The rules were amended by W. Stafford. Jack Armstrong was congratulated on becoming Piper to the Duke.

After the war, there was a spell when the Morden tower fell into disrepair, and meetings were held in different rooms in the city. After repairs had been dealt with and a gas stove installed, a great cleaning and decorating programme was carried out by Ed. Robb, and his team (all members) in 1951. This was repeated in 1956 by Mr. and Mrs. Ord and friends. It appears to have been a combination of a series of break-ins, the cold, and difficulty in getting cleaners, which led the Society to relinquish the tenancy in 1960.

Alan Hall retired in 1951 and became a member of the Committee. W.B.(Basil) Clough took the chair. Social events continued to be very popular, and the president remarked in 1952 that 'she had never been so conscious of the vitality of any society as this.' A particularly popular event was the Ceilidh at the Crow's Nest Hotel that year. However, interest in the ordinary monthly meetings was felt to be on the wane again, pipers not playing as much as they should. Professor Fisher Cassie gave an interesting talk on Sword Dancing, followed by demonstrations, at one of these meetings. Wilfred Hall left his set of pipes to the Society. These were put into playing order by F. Ord, and are now loaned to prospective pipers for six monthly periods. HMV re-produced the record of Tom Clough playing the small pipes. They were soon all sold.


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