Bolton Bands

Bolton has been blessed with many bands over the years.  In April 9, 1975 the Bolton Enterprise published an account of the bands, written by a bandsman, Herb Elliot.  It tells the story of the bands along with numerous anecdotes.  The article is transcribed below into text form.  The original article included the photo of the Bolton Citizens band led by Jim McDonald, but the Albion Bolton Historical Society has a number of other band photos which are reproduced throughout the article.


(Written by the late Herb Elliott,
for many years a Bolton bandsman)

    Bolton always had a Brass Band until about 30 years ago.
It is the change of the times in which we live that we have no band now. It would be quite a task to get at least 20 young men to give one night a week to band practice besides engagements.
Bolton was fortunate in having kept its band alive longer than our neighboring villages. In earlier years a band was a vital part in communities and such places as Nobleton had a good band at one time, due no doubt to Mr. White,

who led the band and had at least four of his sons playing under him. Caledon East had a good band years ago, also there was an organization in Teston known as Teston Silver Band which acquired quite a name for itself. Abram Carley, the school master, was leader. His granddaughter is Mrs. H.R. Egan of Bolton. Connor had quite a nice band some 60 years ago.

An 1885 photo of the Bolton band led by David W. Hughes. He is in the front row, second from the left.

This photo of the Bolton Brass Band appeared in the Bolton Enterprise on October 24, 1973 with the caption: “Glimpses in Bolton’s Past — The village for many years supported a Brass Band. There is no one now to identify them. We recognize several members of the Stubbs family. Charles Plummer is third from left at rear.”

Stubbs family with four members in band uniforms

Bolton Citizens’ Band with Tottenham Loyal Orange Lodge, Tottenham, July 12, 1908. Bandmaster John T. Galvin is in the back row, fourth from the left.

There is some conflictions in dates as to the first band in Bolton. After reading the “Book of Earlier Years” by James H. Bolton., he speaks of a band being organized in 1852 by the Cadets of Temperance and later refers to the first Bolton Brass Band being organized by David W. Hughes in 1885 1. Mr. Hughes was the grandfather of A.D. McFall, local barrister.
Mr. Hughes carried on to about 1893 when John Wood became band leader. He came from Lloydtown which was a thriving community at that time.
I can remember Mr. Wood as leader and he had at least two sons and one daughter, Maude, playing in the band. It was quite a novelty to see a lady playing in the band at that time. She played cornet and even led the band for some time after her father had to quit through illness. Sorry I have no personnel of this band.
Next came Tommy Miller as leader. He worked at Glasgow Woollen Mills and after leaving Bolton acquired the leadership of Brandon, Manitoba band. The personnel of this band was as follows: Tommy Miller, Fred Scott, Ted Whittle (Constable); R.I. Russell (Jeweller); Arthur Snell, Forest Snell, Chas. Black, Henry Beamish, C.E. Plummer, Wm. Stubbs, John Stubbs, Joseph Stubbs, James T. Stubbs, Robt. Williamson, Walter Sheardown and Eddie Henderson(Tubby).
You will notice there were four Stubbs boys in that band and right here I wish to say that the Stubbs family had been one of the main contributing factors in Bolton always having a band.  At one time six sons of Jas. T. Stubbs played in the Bolton and had a complete balanced unit with Joe on the bass drum, Wm. on cornet, Jno W. on trombone or tenor, Albert Sr. on bass horn, Fred on alto and Jas. T. on baritone horn, who I should say was away above the average baritone player.
One time playing an engagement in Guelph in front of the Bell Piano and Organ Co. (a large factory in its day) the Bolton Band was requested to repeat a selection “Stella Polka” which had a wonderful baritone solo played by aforementioned Jas. T. Stubbs.
Then followed with Bolton being blessed with two bands: one being led by Jas. T. Galvin, known as the Bolton Brass Band, or Old Band. This Band was backed by the council of the village at that time insofar as paying the bandmaster and free hall for practice and was composed of the personnel of the preceding band.
The other band was led by our own James McDonald and composed of young fellows just starting. They paid for their own suits, music and practice hall. This band was known as Bolton Citizens’ Band. There was great rivalry between these two bands and practically divided the business men etc. of the village. The sympathy of most were with the New Band : as it was otherwise known; because of the youth of the personnel. Also they were our own nome town boys. I would not have penned these lines in those days or you might be removed right out of the village, the rivalry was so tense.  One time the Old Band procured a new march selection and through the grapevine system the members of the New Band got to know of same. They got a copy of the same march and practiced it secretly and played it ahead of the Old Band on the street on Saturday night. Needless to say, they stole the show. By the way, I might say both these bands played out on Queen St. every Saturday night. Old Band at the south end, King and Queen Sts., and the New Band near the bridge.
So keen was the competition between these bands that a player in the new band who had a landlord who backed the old band was threatened that if he did not transfer to their band he would have to vacate the house. Houses were not as scarce as they are now. They always say competition is good for business so it sure paid off in producing some fine bandsmen in Bolton.
Around 1904 a banker named Maguire organized a band which lasted about two years. I cannot give you complete personnel of this band.
Around 1907 a committee of businessmen organized a band with John T . Galvin back from Parkhill as band leader.  This was a good band with uniforms and during this period the United Societies of Bolton used to run excursions by special train to interesting places and would always take the band along.  Needless to say they had to be good and did a lot to bring Bolton to the front. There were no automobiles in those days so this event was looked forward to as the annual outing. Places included Owen Sound, Parry Sound, Bala, Peterboro, St. Thomas and many others.
The personnel of this band included: Tom Childs, Albert Pilson, Roger Pilson, Elliott Bolton, Leslie Elliott, Wm. R. Robertson Jas Wigmore, Jack Perry, Jack Black, S.H. Cameron,  Oscar Smithers, Frank Rutherford, Adam Wallace, Elwyn H. Elliott, Stanley Rutledge, Rueben Sheardown, Herb Elliott, and many others at times.
This band carried on till around 1912.
Bert Cooke was the next band leader and he led the band for at least till around 1914.
Jas. McDonald formed the next band but I do not have the date for sure. This band made a name for Bolton by having the record of meeting and leading the parade for every returning soldier (whether from the village of outlying district) back from World War No. I.
These returning men all came home by train from Toronto which arrived in Bolton around 7 p.m.
The word would get around the village about 4 p.m. that a returning hero was coming on the 7p.m. train. This band, led by Jas. McDonald would get to the station (present location) some way and lead our hero into town to be given a public welcome on the bank steps. The short notice and time of the train arrival meant that the band boys never had time to have supper but we felt it was worth any sacrifice for our returning boys and their families. Also there was a Welcoming Committee who never missed a trip composed of Rev. P.N. Knight, Dan Henderson, Harry Townrow and Reeve P.W. McMurter. There were many other faithful ones who I do hope will forgive me by forgetting their names at present.
Just how long this group carried on as a band I cannot give exact date.
Around 1933, after being without an organized band for some time, Jas. McDonald gathered together a young bunch of boys and formed the next band and it was one of the best organizations the village ever had. At first this was to be a beginners band, but they just could not keep the older fellows away. Also it was very disheartening to a leader to coach a beginner up to be a key man and then have him have to seek employment elsewhere. Many times, because he was a good bandsman.
Right here I should mention a “young” fellow named Wm. Bell became interested in the work of Bolton Band and while he never played any instrument he did everything else that goes to keep a band going in a small place like Bolton. Now these other jobs included getting the tardy ones to practice on time, arranging transportation when needed, carrying the Union Jack on parades and acted as president and peacemaker on many occasions. The band boys and the Village of Bolton owes a great deal to the late Wm. Bell.
The personnel of this band was: Harold Egan, Herb Elliott, Jno Pickett, Walter Schilds, Fred Webb, Frank Stubbs, Albert Stubbs Sr., Bruce Cameron, Laud Wilson; Jno Keyes, O.J. Hardwick, Bert Schaefer, S.H. Cameron, Jno. Black, Gordon Lindsey, Doug Sheardown, Bill Harris, Albert Stubbs Jr., Jas. Norton and leader Jas. McDonald.
This organization carried on for perhaps the longest of any band in Bolton. A picture taken at Bolton Fair will show practically the same personnel with some changes or additions.  Albert Stubbs, Jr., Jno. Black, Jno Pickett, Albert Stubbs Sr., Al Foucar, Tom Childs, R.A. Schaefer, Frank Stubbs. Chas. Strong. Herb Elliott. Wm. J. Robertson, Jas. McDonald, leader, Jno. Keyes, Jack Watt, Walter Schllds, Ruth McDonald, Geo. “Bubs” Kirby, Jno Abrams, Aylmer McDonald and Wm. Justice.
Next band leader was Wm. J. Hefferman, 1938 – 1941, who came from Lindsay, Ont. He was a wonderful teacher and developed a real good organization.  During this time there was started a Band Tattoo which has later developed into the Bolton Jamboree.
The band visited other places for the return of their band for our band tattoo. These bands were Newmarket, Georgetown, Acton, Brampton and Alliston. Hefferman, a brother-in-law of Wm. Bell, was a protege of the late Sir Sam Hughes, Minister of Defence, and needless to say he led some of the best military bands in World War I.
During a visit to Newmarket Tattoo, Bolton Band followed in the “March Past” behind Brampton Band, who were a Regimental Band in full dress uniforms compared to Bolton Band in just caps as uniforms. Brampton played as their selection “John Peel” which had been agreed on beforehand as Bolton march selection. We marched down the track into the searchlights of the march past stand playing “John Peel” and received the greatest ovation also special mention from the well known adjudicator, Prof. T.H. Thiele of Waterloo, Canada’s most outstanding band conductor of the time.
Another amusing incident I feel I should record. We were playing an engagement at Caledon Fall Fair, and our old friend and former member of Bolton Band, Floyd Henderson of Brampton, was giving us a helping hand. Late afternoon of that day it was decided that the band should lead a parade of the prize winners of the fair in a march past of the main crowd.
 Right behind the band was a big black and white animal (Head of the Herd). After a long wait for a start off this animal quite impatient and being handled by a young slim boy of about 16 years got quite unruly and took longer steps than the band boys till going past the main crowd he was right up in the centre of the band, much to the amusement of the people, but Floyd in the front row playing slide trombone very diligently (as always) got a whiff of the breath from the nostrils of the animal. The length of the next few strides that Floyd took were never actually measured but we will venture to say they still hold the record for length and speed of time.
Mr. Hefferman went back to Lindsay through pressure from the business men of that town to again lead a Senior and Junior band.
From 1942 to 1944, Mr. Jas. Napier of Toronto followed as Bandmaster with practically the same personnel. He was a good leader and being an accomplished musician he gave a great deal to the youth of Bolton. Mr. Napier played solo clarinet in the old Star burlesque theatre in Toronto and commuted to Bolton.
It was during this organization’s regime that the idea of including young ladies was realized. The following ladies: Ruth Stubbs, Bernice Maw, Isobel Stewart, Nellie Pilson, Edith Beauchamp (Secty. of the band) and Christine Pegg (now Dr. Pegg of New York) contributed wonderfully to the success of this band and had a steadying effect on the discipline of the organization although I must admit there was the odd slip of the tongue from the young boys which was forgiven by the girls.
I am sorry there is no picture of this band.
Bolton Bands have had their big moments and thrills, but the greatest thrill to any bandsman is to hear applause from the side lines when on parade from your own town folks.
Each bandsman has made some sacrifice towards Bolton but their reward has been the compliments and encouragement from our own home town. Some times it is hard to understand as this episode explains. One time Bolton Band played a Sunday afternoon concert from the North Hill, near Godbolt’s bush. It must have sounded very good as all sacred  music has some nice chords along with the stillness of the day (no autos in those days). We received a number of compliments and requests for repeat performances and we think this certain lady meant well when she said Bolton Band sounded better the farther away it played.

  1. The 1885 diary of David Hughes records: “meeting in evening about bands” (May 13), “H.H. Bolton and I went to Toronto and bought band instruments” (May 15), “Band practice for first time this evening” (May 20), “band went out and played for the first time” (June 26)