125 Years of Banding

A brief history of Castletown Metropolitan Silver Band

The band was never good at keeping paperwork.  No minutes of meetings have been discovered and, in all probability, never existed! It was Dennis Spooner, the band historian who first compiled a history of ‘’The Mets’’.  He spent a good deal of time at the Manx Museum poring over microfilm records of the Manx Newspapers and he managed to compile two volumes. A third was in the works and sadly was never completed. With the advent of the iMuseum, research has become much easier and so we have been able to add slightly to Dennis’s fantastic work.

The first mention of a band in Castletown can be traced back to 1824.  It’s unclear what instrumentation this was made up of, but it was unlikely to be a brass band exclusively.  It’s in 1859 that a newspaper article first mentions ‘’The Castletown Brass Band’’ and the instrumentation is happily listed in the form of an account of instruments.  Although it features flute and clarinet, the majority of instruments are cornets and various types of Saxhorns, the forerunners to today’s tenor horns, baritones, euphoniums and tubas.  The musical director was Henry Carran, who is mentioned in ‘The Manx Wedding’ as ‘Karran the Cornet from Malew’. 

There then follows a period where nothing is mentioned of any ‘Castletown Band’ however an Arbory Band is mentioned in 1857, and then a Ballabeg Band in 1874. Both were led by Henry Carran and were most likely the same ensemble but experimenting with different names. 

We now know from the list of players and early pictures that the Ballabeg Band, moved rehearsal premises to Castletown and became the Castletown Band around 1872.  The Musical Director at this time was a Mr Paul Collister and he conducted the band when Brass Band Contests first came to the Isle of Man in 1880.

It was around Christmas of 1896 that a disagreement led to a split in the Old Castletown Band.  It appears that a section of the band, led by the Cubbon Family (Several of whom played with the band), wanted to hire professional conductors to tutor the band for contests, whereas another section wished to remain loyal to Paul Collister. Overall, the band voted to retain the services of Mr Paul Collister who was put in charge of the instruments and uniforms. The rebels were not happy with the decision and decided to form a new band with Mr John Cubbon as their leader.  They named themselves ‘The Metropolitan Band’.

For a while, both bands existed and competed against each other in a kind of “Anything you can do, I can do better…” rivalry. WH Cubbon was named conductor in 1899 after being recommended by a visiting professional, Thomas Valentine.  He was only 17 when he took the baton and led the band until 1932.  Under his leadership the band picked up numerous prizes with highlights being two first places at the Isle of Man Brass Band Contest in 1901 and 1902.  The winning march on both occasions being ‘’The North Star’’ by W Rimmer. WH Cubbon was succeeded by Tom Stewart Cubbon, a talented cornet player who would go on to conduct the band for nearly 30 years. 

The Old Castletown Band seems to have simply faded away during this time and The Metropolitan Band evolved into the Castletown Metropolitan Silver Band.  Contesting seems to have become less of a priority for the band after the 1920s and whilst there is the odd appearance, including one in Birkenhead, the majority of engagements were concerts and community events. Subsequent conductors were Charlie Cubbon, Henry Mylchreest and Jack Ollerenshaw who all left their mark on the band.

In 1978, Major ‘Tommy’ Thirtle became the band’s musical director.  Having just retired from an illustrious career as a military musician, ‘The Major’ conducted the band until 2005 and during that time saw the band undertake two tours to the Rhine Valley, take party in numerous massed band events including a military tattoo, celebrate its centenary in 1896 with the famous Sun Life Band as well as undertaking a huge number of engagements every year. He taught a huge number of young musicians across the island and his achievements led to a bridge in Castletown being named after him. 

Mr Rodney Evans became Musical Director in 2006. Rodney had been a cornet player with the band in the times of TS Cubbon and helped organise several high-profile events, the tours to Germany and the extension of the band room on Queen Street.  His son and daughters played within the band and his son Jason has pursued a successful career as a professional musician.   

CMSB Upcoming Events

Last Night of the Proms

Date: 03.10.2023 19:30 - 21:00
Calendar: Castletown Metropolitan Silver Band

Annual Poppy Concert

Date: 10.11.2023 19:30 - 21:00
Calendar: Castletown Metropolitan Silver Band

Remembrance Day - Castletown

Date: 12.11.2023 09:30 - 11:30
Calendar: Castletown Metropolitan Silver Band