DEREK Martin knows exactly where he was when King George VI died because the event has two strong associations for him.
The first was the death of his father Byron, when Derek was just ten years old, and the other was of picking up his dad’s trombone and joining Kirton Brass Band.
This year, Derek, of Dennis Estate in Kirton, celebrates 60 uninterrupted years with the band, although he has switched from his father’s tenor trombone to a bass trombone.
The 70-year-old has served without a break for longer than the other band members. He says simply: “I just enjoy doing it. It’s been my hobby all my life.”
Recognition for his tremendous loyalty to the band was made publicly in auspicious circumstances: the band was playing in Leeds with what might be called the world’s most famous brass band, the Black Dyke Band, who Derek says are “British, European and world champions”. It was the third time Kirton Brass Band had been invited to play with them.
Derek says: “People leave and you get new faces, but we usually manage to keep a full band. I should think we are as good now as we have ever been while I have been in it.”
The band members have become familiar with playing far and wide, a far cry from what Derek describes as a “proper village band” when he joined it.
Playing in the village band was something Derek’s father had done as well as his grandfather George, who played bass. His sister Mavis Jewitt played cornet with the band at one time.
Derek was able to read music from being five years old, having had piano lessons, and when he took his father’s trombone to band practice one of the cornet players taught him all the shifts. His first public appearance was in Kirton for the Queen’s coronation a year later.
Then, practice nights were twice a week, but when they started going in for contests in the 1960s and 1970s there were three sessions a week. The band meets once a week now at Kirton Methodist Chapel, under bandmaster Gary Hewlett and conductor Nick Tudball.
It has enjoyed success, getting through to the national finals in brass band competitions on two occasions. There is also a junior band with about 12 members, helped by some of the senior members.
Derek said: “When I first joined it was a small village band, more or less a full band with 20 players. They all knew my dad and grandad. I played the E-flat bass at one time, but the trombone is my favourite. I have always been interested in music.”
Derek, a former construction worker, has continued playing despite rheumatoid arthritis and now emphysema – in fact his specialist has said the puff required for playing is positively helpful exercise, although Derek admits he struggles to play a number of bars without taking a breath in between.
Derek describes the skill in playing the trombone as “feeling the movement of the slide and using a lot of intuition, using the ear to listen to the tune, as opposed to the instruments with valves”.
He has served his stint as bandmaster for several years and has done most jobs, apart from that of secretary, and still serves as a trustee. While his wife of almost 50 years Ann doesn’t play, she was part of the fundraising committee when it existed, and of their two sons, Tim and Nick, Nick was a member of Kirton Brass Band “until football took over”, says Derek.
Derek says: “I love the sounds of the brass instruments. I shall keep going while I can.”