WHEN you look at the histories of the Numurkah Town Band and the building it calls home, it’s hard not to form the belief that their destinies are tied together.
Both came into existence in 1883 and have seen their fortunes ebb and flow in the 136 years since, and both are currently experiencing a resurgence - with the building now undergoing renovations that should see it standing proud well into the future, and the band seeing a recent resurgence in membership.
The band hall, as it has long been known, started life as a hotel dining room; part of the Railway Gate Hotel located close to the Quinn St railway crossing in a time when rail was the dominant form of long-distance transport.
The band started life in 1883 with, as far as it can be established, no name and no official bandmaster - though a Constable Clark was the accepted leader.
By 1904 it had been named Numurkah Town Band and was rehearsing regularly in stables owned by Mr T Richards.
A Numurkah Leader article from 1933 quotes an original band member - a euphonium player by the name of Mr Alex Webster - as saying that in its first 50 years the band went into recess several times.
According to Mr Webster, when it was operating, the band practiced in places as diverse as the cellar of a home, the old fire station and a hide and skin store. Though it did own its own rehearsal space in the early 1900s (location unknown), this had to be sold to pay off debts the band had incurred.
For many years, the band rehearsed in the Presbyterian hall whilst still seeking a permanent home. That chance finally arose in 1948 when the RSSILA (now the RSL) decided to sell its club rooms.
The building in question was in fact the former dining room of the Railway Gate Hotel, which had been relocated years earlier to land owned by the Numurkah Masonic Lodge at the corner of Quinn and McCaskill Streets.
For the princely sum of £200 the deal was done, and the band once again took possession of it’s own band hall where it happily resided for many years.
When the Masonic Lodge decided to build a new lodge building at the site around 50 years ago, the weatherboard building was moved once again, to its current position at Stringer Walk, on Crown land by the Broken Creek.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, and over the years the building has been the target of vandalism on a number of occasions.
In one incident, the windows were all broken, and in others, instruments were taken from the hall and thrown in the creek. Three separate attempts were made to burn the hall down.
However, a local institution of such long-standing enjoys much support from the community, and band president Peter Heard told the Leader that security measures have been put in place to prevent further damage.
“We raised enough money ourselves to build a security fence to keep vandals out, and Dyson’s IGA also donated money for a security system,” he said.
“The fence spoils the view of the building a bit, but it has stopped the damage.”
The view of the building is especially fine at the moment, with recent renovation works making it look as good as it ever has.
Thanks to funds raised by the band itself, and contributions from Moira Shire and local service clubs, the exterior of the building has been repaired and repainted in heritage colours to make it both solid and beautiful.
A new kitchen is also on the way - one element of which band secretary Dorothy Heard is particularly excited about.
“We’re going to have hot water for the first time ever and I can’t wait,” she said.
The new kitchen, and hot water, will make the preparation of supper much easier, which is just as well given the recent swell in band numbers, with four new members having joined since the start of the year.
“We were down to four members at the start of 2004 because five members left at the end of 2003 for various reasons,” Peter said.
“We stopped doing play-outs because we didn’t have the numbers, but we kept rehearsing and numbers gradually went back up and now we’re up to 29.”
The band suffered a bit of a blow with the loss of it’s major sponsor Dyson’s IGA, and is now seeking new sponsorship, but it has been through worse.
“We have to regular expenses such as power, insurance and instrument repairs, so sponsorship is really valuable to us, but we are managing through fundraising.
“We have a wonderful team in the band and everyone hops in and helps.”
It’s hard to keep a good band - or building - down.