The sight, and the sound, of brass bands are evocative of industrial, working-class Britain. The Cyfartha Band, established in Merthyr as early as the 1840’s by the “iron king” Robert Thompson Crawshay, was amongst the foremost of its day. In the years that followed many smaller bands were set up in local communities. These included the Troedyrhiw Town Silver Band which was founded in the autumn of 1920.
Saron Graveyard contains an interesting link with Troedyrhiw’s brass band heritage as this is where the Silver Band’s long serving conductor Joseph Williams is buried. As this grave is in a state of disrepair Friends of Saron volunteers have targeted this for restoration work in the near future.
Under Joseph Williams baton the Troedyrhiw band enjoyed considerable success. They were regular prize winners, most notably at Belle Vue Gardens, Manchester, the National Eisteddfod at Pontypool in 1924, the South Wales Band Festival at Pontypridd in 1931 and at the British Championships at Crystal Palace in the same year. The Merthyr Express reported that “there was great jubilation in the village when the news of the band’s achievement at Crystal Palace spread through the streets and the greeting that it received on its return to Troedyrhiw was beyond description.”
The Silver Band played a full part in community life in the village and beyond. Overcoming recurring financial problems, particularly through the economic depression of the 1920’s and 1930’s, they performed at many notable events and celebrations. These included fundraising concerts during the coal trades dispute and General strike of 1926, other charitable events, funerals, fetes, sporting fixtures, mayoral inaugurations, street parades, eisteddfods and radio broadcasts.
The early 1950’s saw Troedyrhiw take the lead in the Borough in organising celebrations for the Festival of Britain (1951) and the Coronation (1953). An extremely successful International Music and Art Festival was held in 1952. Despite their involvement in these events as the decade progressed the Silver Band experienced increasing difficulty in retaining and recruiting members and, by its end, the sad decision was taken to disband.
Many thanks are due to Paul Williams for the photograph of his great grandfather Joseph Williams in his bandmaster’s uniform.
It should be noted that Troedyrhiw had, at one time, two additional brass bands the Salvation Army Band and the Mission Band.