And The Band Played On
The Peace Celebrations that took place on Saturday July 19th 1919 were one of the key national events of the immediate post war period. Thanks to some recent detective work by noted local historian Allan Frost, new light has been shone on how the festivities unfolded in Wellington.
One of the most puzzling aspects of researching ‘Wellington’s War and What Came Next’ has been quite how largely the town’s contribution to the national Peace Celebrations has been forgotten. In hindsight, perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise at all. While the Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News (the foremost regional ‘paper of the period) went to considerable trouble in reporting the day-long extravaganza, no photographic evidence of the event appears ever to have existed. In an era when the once-weekly publication thought nothing of sending its photographers to local football matches, baby shows and, oddly, traffic accidents the decision not to cover an event that appeared at times, quite literally, to have involved practically the whole population of the town seems unusual to say the least. To make matters worse, no official records survive either. The local peace celebrations were organised by a special committee of Wellington Urban District Council but many of its early Twentieth Century records perished, so it is fabled, on a bonfire during the local government reorganisation of 1974!
Happily, the recent discovery of a handbill by Wellington historian Allan Frost has helped to fill-in some of the gaps. It provides detailed listings of an official programme encompassing a jam-packed twelve hours of events. Hemmed in between entertainments at the Town Hall and a procession to The Wrekin, the document intriguingly makes a reference to a performance by the Old Volunteer Band on the Bowring Rec’, which had then only been in existence for about six years. In legend, brass bands of any description were said to be forbade within its grounds by a long lost covenant — owing, it has been said, to a hatred of that style of music by the man from which the park takes its name (John Crump Bowring). Yet, here was just such an ensemble — and one that had seemingly been invited to march right in. What the Wellington Journal does confirm, however, is that the derring-do never actually occurred; in traditional British fashion, it was cancelled due to heavy rain! While everything else went ahead as scheduled, one item not included in the official programme was a ‘sparkling’ carnival parade that took place on the morning of the celebrations, ‘a few enthusiastic spirits recognising that the reaction of a great sorrow could have reasonable expression in accentuated joy’ as the newspaper eloquently reported. Other aspects of the day still remain a mystery: why, for example, was the Honourable Mrs Robert Trefusis OBE invited to light the bonfire on The Wrekin? If you know, please drop us a line!