Discovering the history of Barrow Upon Soar......

Sam Darby - 1860-1940


Barrow-Upon-Soar Prize Band

The Brass Band was formed in 1847 with nine members under the leadership of William. In 1910 they entered competitions for a period of two years only and won contests at Melton Mowbray and Derby for presentations and marching.

When the First World War broke out 14 members of the band joined up but the remainder managed to carry on until they could properly rejoin. In 1919 Major Martin who lived at the Hunting Lodge in the village and was a keen supporter of the band gave a piece of land in Mill Lane to the village for use as a recreation ground he also erected a bandstand on this open space and the band played there every Feast Sunday.

In 1876 Mr Sam Darby became Bandmaster from the age of 17 for a period of 50 years and on his retirement in 1926 was presented with a purse of money subscribed by the residents and his fellow bandsmen. Owing to the Second World Ward the band ceased playing and finally amalgamated with the adjoining village band of Sileby.

Sam Darby was my Grandfather not only was he the Bandmaster but also Cornet player, Piano teacher and organist at Barrow Catholic Church for over 50 years. My Mother told me that my Grandfather could, in fact, play all the instruments in the band but had a little bit of difficulty when it came to playing the Trombone. These achievements were quite remarkable as he was virtually self-taught having left school at an early age. His son Jack Darby who played drums in the band was also a very good pianist, acting as accompanist at many functions.

I understood from my Mother that Granddad Sam possessed good organisational skills, tact and was very good-humoured.

The Band played in neighbouring villages and at Christmas visited houses playing Carols and no doubt there would be the usual liquid refreshment at each venue. In those days the band travelled around by horse and cart and the story goes that one Christmas whilst negotiating the streets they took a corner quite sharply with the result the cart tipped over and its occupants were thrown out onto the road. Unfortunately quite a few instruments were damaged and I think my Granddads humour was sorely tested as he was convinced that the members of the band had over indulged. 

The villagers ran a collection and through their generosity raised enough money to replace the broken instruments. I seem to remember my Mother saying that the new instruments were silver plated as opposed to Brass but I am not 100% sure of this fact. Never the less I feel that this shows how popular the Band was with the villagers.

Veronica Brown

More Memories of my Grandfather Samuel Darby

Grandfather in his Band Uniform

Sam Darby was born in Barrow in 1860 and spent all his life in the village until his death in 1940. Although I was not fortunate to know him, as I was not born until after he had died, I received stories about him from my Mother, May Darby who after her marriage to my Father became May James.

Granddad was a self- taught musician having learnt to play on the St. Mary's Catholic Church Organ in Loughborough, given lessons by Mr. Antill who was a relation of the family. This led to him giving piano lessons for many years.

As you can see from the photographs and literature he led a brass band which entertained in the villages and surrounding area until he retired in 1926. My Mother told me that he was a competent player of all the instruments apart from the trombone but was mainly a cornet player.

He led the band from the age of 17 for around 50 years and played the organ at St. Albans Catholic Church for around the same time, organising a small choir of family and friends, into which I was inaugurated at the age of around 7 by my Mother.

The family were the first in Barrow to have a radio, which gave my Grandfather a great deal of pleasure, whilst listening to all the famous Brass Bands of the day. He often attended the Band Competition, held at the Royal Albert Hall each year. He would go to London with his son Jack who played drums and was also a very good pianist.

As money was very tight they usually stayed in "Doss Houses" as that was all they could afford. Granddad was on very friendly terms with a lot of the famous bands of the time, one of which being the Mortimer Band. For those old enough to remember the Mortimer Band performed regularly on the radio. My Mother's brother Sam was a very talented cornet player from a very early age and it was Granddads dream to give Sam a chance to join this very prestigious band. Sadly Sam died at the age of 9 so his dream was not fulfilled.

I think he would have marvelled at Television if he had been able to watch his beloved Brass Bands. However, because T.V. had not been invented, the family, like so many families of that generation were quite well equipped to entertain themselves. Most of the 9 children in his family being either singers or players of instruments so they spent many a musical evening together around the piano. The family home still stands in Breadcroft Lane No.16.

Grandfather Sam Darby
Left. My Mother May
Middle. Aunt Rita

My Mother would often go along to listen to the band performing. There was always a collection taken to support band members or other causes and even members of the family were expected to contribute. She told me of a time when the band were performing in Quorn when the only two coins she possessed were 2d and half a crown which was quite a bit money then. She felt that she could not let go of the half a crown and not wanting to be embarrassed letting people see her drop the 2d into the bag she carefully felt for the coin in her pocket and not looking at it she slipped it into the bag. You can imagine' how she felt when she was walking back across the "Slabs", when she put her hand into her pocket only to find that she had in fact put in the half a crown and not the 2d.

Apart from being employed at John Ellis & Sons as a Blacksmith all his working life he was also a volunteer fireman in the village and helped to start the Conservative Club where I understand he served as the Treasurer for some years.

It has always been a big disappointment to me that I did not meet my Granddad, as I inherited my love of music mainly from that side of the family. He firmly believed that the strong musical connection came from his Welsh ancestors who had walked from Wales in the early 1800s to come to Mountsorrel to live and work in the Quarry and Swithland Slate works.

I am sure that the band would certainly have lifted the spirits of the community of that time, so my Granddad contributed such a lot to this village when life was very hard and for a lot of the people it could have been a monotonous existence.

Veronica Brown

Tales of Old Barrow

Barrow Band

As mentioned in Volume 1, the band was formed in 1847 and it had several benefactors during those early years. Among these was Mr. Robert ElIis of the Cottage, South Street, who, on the occasion of the relief of Mafeking, sent a wire from Leicester to the bandmaster, announcing the news. Celebrations were hastily organised for the evening, when a torchlight procession paraded through the village, led by the band.

Major Martin of the Lodge was also a keen supporter, and when his eldest son, Gerald, returned from the Boer War a large and enthusiastic crowd met him at the station. He was played to his home by the band and was carried in triumph on the shoulders of the crowd.

Shortly after this Major Martin presented a piece of land on Mill Lane to the village, now a children's play area. A bandstand was subsequently erected and used by the village band. On one occasion the band obtained the services of 6 extra bandsmen from Loughborough.

A hastily erected extension to the stand was made to accommodate these men. Unfortunately, these measures proved too temporary as part way through the concert the six Loughborough men disappeared from sight, instruments, staging and all!

The same year on Christmas Eve a greater calamity befell the band. It was a cold and frosty night and the band were on their annual tour of the village aboard a horse drawn wagon. The roads were treacherous and on reaching the top of New Street, attempting to turn, the wagon overturned spilling men and instruments everywhere. One bandsman had a seriously damaged shoulder, and most of the instruments were badly damaged, some beyond repair. .

The village responded with a collection raising the sum of £ 100 which enabled the instruments to be repaired and new ones bought.

Barrow Prize Band

The Barrow Prize Band was formed in 1847 with nine members under the leadership of Mr William Hatton. They met for practise once a week in a room opposite the now closed Fox Inn, North Street. Their first public appearance consisted of a march of about two miles along Cotes Road. In 1910 they entered competitions for a period of two years only and won contests at Melton and Derby for presentation and marching. Wben the First World War broke out 14 members of the band ioined up, but the remainder managed to carry on until they could properly re-form in 1919.

Major Martin of The Lodge was a keen supporter of the band and-when giving a piece of land in Mill Lane to we village for use as a recreation ground, he also erected a bandstand on this open space and the band played there every Feast Sunday.

Mr Sam Darby was bandmaster from the age of 17 in 1876 for a period of 50 years and on his retirement in1926 was presented with a purse of money subscribed by the residents and his fellow bandsmen. Owing to the Second World War the band ceased playing and finally amalgamated with Sileby Band.

In the photograph are:

left to right; back row: lack Darby, Burton, Ferrin, Foster Summers, lack Phillips, Ginger Whiteman, Tom Sutton, Ernest Sutton, Gamble, Albert Hansom

Front row: Horace Neal, Ernest Sutton, Wells, Len Chapman, Reuben Lovett. Sam Darby (bandmaster

Death of Mr. Sam Darby, of Barrow-upon-Soar

Fifty-Five Years an Organist Conducted Band for Fifty Years

There are many in Barrow-on-Soar and district who will learn with regret of the death of Mr Sam Darby. of Breadcroft-lane. Barrow-on-Soar, which occurred on Monday after a fortnights illness, within a few days of his 80th birthday. He was buried at Barrow-on-Soar cemetery on Wednesday afternoon, the service being taken by the Rev. Fr. A. Emery. He leaves a widow, a son (a widower) and six daughters, four of whom are married.

Mr Sam Darby was highly respected for his fine character. He was hardworking a man of determination, of kindly disposition and was sincerely devoted to the Catholic cause.

Six years ago he was presented with an upholstered armchair by the congregation of the Catholic Church in Barrow-on-Soar as a token of their appreciation of his services. on the occasion of his retiring from the position of organist and choirmaster after 55 years.

Mr Darby had happy memories of his long association with the Catholic Church at Barrow. and he used to recall with pride the occasions when he played at confirmation services conduct by Bishop Bagshaw a former Catholic Bishop of Nottingham.

The origin of the establishment of the Catholic Church at Barrow is of particular interest, the story of the circumstances having been handed down to Mr Darby by his father. It was built nearly a hundred years ago when the Midland line was being constructed in the immediate neighbourhood. The railway contractor Mr Worswick was living temporarily in the village at one of the cottages opposite Barrowcliffe, which was built by the late Mr W_J. Woolley in the early sixties.

Mr Worswick who was a Catholic was exceedingly anxious to build a church in the village and eventually his desire was gratified. He succeeded in erecting the building right speedily by availing himself of the use of some of his railwaymen who were working on the new line. This railway contractor is buried at the monastery near Whitwick, and his daughter, Mrs Haydock, died at the residence, 'The Towers, close to the monastery.

A curious coincidence.

The organ at the Catholic Church on which Mr Darby had played for 55 years, has been in use since the church was built. By a curious coincidence it was once the property of a former Vicar of Barrow, the Rev. G. W. Gwatkin and was for many years kept at the Vicarage where it was used for choir practices and other purposes. It chanced that this organ was for sale when the building was in course of erection, and it was purchased by a resident of the village for use in the new Catholic Church.

Mr Darby had always been very keenly interested in music, and had been actively connected with several local bands. He was a member of the old Loughborough Town Band, conducted by the late Mr W Vial, and when this was disbanded in 1885 he joined the Volunteer Band, which he often had the honour of conducting. Later, for a short time he be became a member of the Borough Band.

His association with the Barrow-on-Soar Prize Band, however, was perhaps the most striking feature of his musical career. It is nearly sixty years since first joined this band when a lad of 14, and for 50 years he conducted this village band, which, under his leadership earned an excellent reputation in the district.

In a booklet written by the Rev. Aloysius Emery on St. Alban's Church, Barrow-on-Soar, the writer refers to the late Mr Sam Darby. He writes:-

It was a unique occasion for local Catholics when Bishop Bagshaw came on visitation confirmed in the convent chapel. Among the' candidates was Lucy Darby, daughter of_ John Darby who lived at St. Alban's chapel house. She afterwards was married to Mr Henry Taylor. Her brother, Samuel Darby even in those early day, played the organ at Quorn. When he was a beginner he took lessons from Mr. Charles Antill. of Loughborough, for a lengthy period organist of St. Mary's, and he has to his own credit the fine record of 50. years as organist at Barrow.a post which he held till he was succeeded by his son John, in quite recent times. The oldest parishioners remember the days when Mr Start came over from Loughborough once a month and played, bringing with him a number of singers to swell the choir.

Writing of his association with the band. Father Emery says: "Mr Sam Darby acted as bandmaster till 1926. after fifty years in that capacity. He enjoyed the reputation of a very good cornet player and was especially noted for his unfailing tact and good humour in dealing with the men."


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Last Updated. 15-April-2019 By admin