Onward Christian Soldier

“Right lads, give it plenty of wind. There’s the Boys Brigade, lets give them what for…Onward Christian Soldiers”.

Sundays were a day of rest but it was also the day you went to Sunday School. Our only free day was Saturday and even then you had to keep your nose clean, otherwise your Saturday afternoon pocket money would be stopped.

Sunday dinnertime you were given a penny and your book with pictures of Jesus and his merry men sitting around a table having a chin-wag, my mother would place a coin in the middle of my hand and say “And I want to see another picture in that book and keep away from the fish quay sands!”

The Salvation Army band would be going around the cobbled streets preaching to many non-believers and when they knocked on the doors you could hear a voice say, “See who’s at the door…if it’s the Salvation Army tell them I am not in” and of course the lady with the collecting tin would hear this but still stand her ground until her tin rattled with the sound of copper.

One day the band was making its way back home to Prudhoe Street, marching down Howard Street in North Shields… there was no music as we’d been blowing all morning but the Drum Master kept hitting the drum… bum… bum… bum, the band keeping in step. Suddenly the Band Master heard the Boys’ Brigade coming along Saville Street… Tit Ta… Tit Ta… Tit Tar. Then he shouts to the Drum Master: “Strike up the band!”… bum, bum. “Right lads, give it plenty of wind. There’s the Boys’ Brigade, let’s give them what for… Onward Christian Soldiers”.

Just as we arrived at Saville Street the policeman stopped us at the cross road so the band had to mark time, but still playing with plenty of wind. Bang, bang, bang… Tit Ta… Tit Ta… Tit Tar, the Boys’ Brigade also giving it what for and the Army band playing “Onward Christian Soldiers” the noise was deafening… it reminded me of that picture “The Music Man” – remember the music “Seventy-six trombones”. Sadly the “Sally Ann” band came in second… they were up against young lads of between 12 and 18 years old… no contest.

I did once try and blow a trumpet but with disastrous results… it’s the way you pucker up your lips and wet your whistle.

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