Hungarians, not Bidefordians.

I was rather surprised to see the photograph (see above) on the first page of the July ‘Buzz’ labelled ‘An early Bideford Town Band’. The gentlemen shown went by the name of the ‘Hungarian Band’. They were a group of itinerant musicians who regularly turned up in Bideford during the Summer tourist season and played for anyone who would pay for them. The earliest reference I have is from May 1892 when the North Devon Journal carried a small mention –

Two months later they were playing at a fete held by St.Peter’s church at Chudleigh Fort and a month after this they provided the music at an outing to Westward Ho! for 70 inmates of the Bideford Workhouse. In September members of the Westleigh Sunday Schools marched through the village headed by the Band.

The next year they played for the Bideford Foresters’ and Oddfellows’ Friendly Societies at their fete held in the grounds of Porthill. Also in 1893 they appeared at the Regatta and also at the Bideford Horse Show though here they ‘augmented’ the Town Band –

This wasn’t one of their happiest events as during their return the carriage they were riding in crashed and both they and the Town Band members were thrown out, though luckily no-one was badly injured.

One notable occasion was when they appear to have been hired to play at the opening of the Bideford-Westward Ho! railway in May 1901 with at least three of their members, attired in military style uniforms being pictured in a photograph of the event –

The band re-appear year after year in the local newspapers though I haven’t seen any mention of them after 1910, which would seem to have been the date at which they either disbanded or removed to a new site.

Peter Christie.


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