THIS has become another firm fixture in the band’s end of season programme. No major mining done in Durham these days but the former pit villages continue to keep alive the tradition of marching with their banners that were established in the days that ‘Coal was King’.
Same format every year. Each village with its banner and brass band converges on Durham and they form themselves into a long procession that slowly winds it’s way through the streets until the County Hotel is reached. Here, on the front balcony stand the invited guests from the Trade Unions and Labour party. All the bands then play their own selected party piece before moving on, eventually to congregate on a local field where the options seem to be listening to speeches, going for a drink or finding somewhere quiet for a bit of lunch.
There can be anything up to 100,000 people in Durham on the day and things can get pretty raucous as the day goes on. Eventually the bands process back through Durham and return to their villages with all their supporters. ‘Our’ village is Horden a former mining community on the coast and we’ve played for them for a number of years now. We returned to Horden after playing in Durham and ended by playing the miner’s hymn tune Gresford in the middle of the village. Gresford was written by a miner from Hebburn in South Tyneside and commemorates the pit disaster at Gresford near Wrexham in 1934 when 266 men and boys lost their lives in a pit explosion.
Only 11 bodies were recovered. The bands from former pit villages always play it at the Miners Gala. After this it was back on the coach for home.
A long day starting at 6.00am and ending back home at 9.00pm. We’ll be up there again next year. No doubt about that.