|Interview of Mrs. Philippa Wills
Subject: Women Supporters Group of the Wolverton Town Band
My name is Philippa Wills and the date of my birth is the 25th of December ... and I was born in 1924 ... and this is the 5th of October 2000.
How did I get to....My son (Robert Wills) came home from school one day and said to me: ...'Mum, I would like to join the Town Band.' He was nine and a half and I said: 'Well, if you join the Town Band it hasn't got a five minutes wonder.' He is now 43 and still in the Town Band.
It's been ... Well, it was a great comfort to my husband and I, because we both joined. We were both members. My husband was instrument secretary and I was competition secretary and librarian. We also had a ladies committee whereby we ran dances to raise funds, bazaars, or cake stalls, ... all sorts of things.
And ... I used to run ... be the competition secretary and have grand tickets... and it was the first three winning trapp numbers that was on the ticket that won. Sunday afternoons in my home was a nightmare because I got tickets all over the floor, doing them up in bundles of five and ten. And my husband used to say: 'Sunday afternoons is awful in this house.' However, it made them quite a bit of money. I think I made them over £ 200 one year, which was good, because that was what we wanted, the funds. So, what else ... is that it?
His musical instrument was a cornet. (Judee...Your son's name?) Robert Wills. And...and he used to sit...I used to have a knitting machine and it used to have a piece on the top where he could put his music and he used to sit and play. And once he could play he used to play a piece that was called 'Come into the garden, Maude'. Because we had a neighbour who lived opposite and her name was Maude. And I used to tell him he shouldn't be playing it. And he said:'I'm playing it for the lady across the road'. (Laughing) That ... he practised. He was a good boy who practised. I won't say he was always good about going to band. There were some times where he didn't want to go, but we made him go.
But my husband...he was very musical and he used...he helped him such a lot. He played... my husband used to play a mandolin and he did teach two people to play the mandolin. He started to teach me and I could play 'The Bluebells of Scotland'. And when he said I had to learn chords...that finished me. I didn't want to know...(laughs.) It was too much. But I still have his mandolin. He used to sit hours playing it in the garden and play for hours and it was lovely...lovely sound.
But Robert,... he wanted to teach Robert, but his fingers weren't long enough to go round the strets. So, of course, Robert just stayed on with his music in the band...my husband and I until my husband died. We used to go down to band practice and have wonderful evenings down there. I used to love to listen to the band practising and selling my tickets...and ... yeah ... it really was ... it brought the family together because we were all interested in it.
(Stephanie: Did the band practice in the BR Canteen and everyone who wanted to listen to them practise went there as well?) ... That's right. Mondays and Wednesdays I used to go down...Monday and Thursday I mean. I used to go down to band practice with my tickets and every...I think it was every month...we had a ladies meeting, which was always held in the canteen, you know, the ladies section of the band. And it...it really was lovely. I'm...I'm hoping that the band will come back together like it used to be.
(Stephanie: Who did you sell the tickets to in those days?)...All the bands men and people outside. I used to go round touting my tickets ...laughs... But I used to have three sets. I can't remember how many whether there was a 100 in a set...But I used to sell them all. Friends, anybody that would buy them. But the bands men used to buy them as well because they didn't pay subs, so really those tickets...to buy the tickets... was their subs and they stood a chance to win. Not a lot but...
(Judee: What were the prizes?)...Er, I think...I can't really remember. I think it was ... was it a £ 1 or one 50 p or something like that. I can't...It's so long ago...laughs...I can't remember!
(Stephanie: 'So...it was a little bit of money?') It was money, yeah, and as I said, I made about £ 200 profit in the year for them. They wanted new uniforms at the time and that was what we were aiming for, all the dances and the bazaars and the cake stalls we used to run, jumble sales...Yes, yes we had quite a good time.
(Judee: Where did you used to play...where did Robert used to play and the band?') In the canteen and they did fetes and all sorts of things...you know...They...we used to do Mass Band Concerts sometimes up at the Radcliffe School or they'd do a concert at the College that they have just pulled down. They used to do concerts there. Oh,...we've had some lovely evenings with the band.
(Judee: 'Open Garden Concerts?') Yes, Garden...fetes. Yes. In the...in the...Robert used to go with another...with Ted Briggs and they used to go on Armistice Sunday. I went to Olney Church with them and they played 'The Last Post' and 'Reveille' during the evening. Oh and it brought a lump to my throat to listen! (Laughs).
(Judee: 'Competitions?') Yes, they used to go into the Brass Band Contests in London. We all...we used to go mostly to Hammersmith, I think...we was in the fourth section then and we used to go to Hammersmith. Then after the contest we would get on a coach and we'd all go to the Albert Hall, somebody had booked seats and the whole coach load would go to the Albert Hall and listen to the champion band, a champion band. Oh, that was marvellous! It was a lovely evening. I think I've sat all over the Albert Hall...laughs. We used to have a box and then there's some more seats where you sit right high up in the...right over the lights...laughs. One lady used to grumble if we got those seats. But it was... oh it was lovely. It was a joy to belong, it really was. We loved it!