While serving in the Royal Artillery Band in 1965 The Lord Mayors Show was to be one of my first big engagements with the band.
This is a show which is an annual parade that marks the inauguration of the Lord Mayor of London. This parade is a very precise event and every band, float, horse; car etc in the procession had an exact gap between each other which was measured out by one man. The event was also timed to perfection; the procession would take over 1 hour to pass any one point. The three mile procession fits into 1.7 mile route. It travels via St Paul’s between 11.05 and 12.30 and returns by the Embankment between 1.00 and 2.30 which makes this a street parade on a massive scale.
So back to 1965, the assembly area for all the various bands which included mounted bands, pipe bands, majorette bands and service bands was a huge six acre grass area in the grounds of the Royal Honourable Artillery Company. Oh boy was it cold on that day, we all lined up in order for the parade, hundreds and hundreds of musicians, with only a few toilets. I recall standing around for well over an hour before the first band was called forward to join the parade with the floats etc.
It was now our turn to join the parade with a band of over sixty musicians
all in full ceremonial dress. This included a Busby with plume and gold chain. New blues jacket, which was tight around the neck, a gold cross belt and sword this meant that underneath the jacket you had to wear a leather strap that would come out the back of the jacket through a slit which meant the sword and scabbard could hang from it, all very uncomfortable. The trousers were made to fit like a glove and at the bottom of them there was a buckle and strap which meant they could be fastened under your new George boots which had spurs on. So when you put your braces on you had to pull them up as far as they would go so that your trousers were as tight as possible. Then a new pair of white gloves which had to be buttoned up at the wrist.
So there I was in all my glory holding my cornet which had all 12 double sided march cards attached to a music lyre.
My embarrassing moment was about to begin. On this occasion the RA was using a very large band of about 80 I was at the very back with the other cornets. We had been waiting a good hour before it was our turn to march off I was very excited to be involved knowing that all the streets would be full with thousands of spectators. Here we go The Drum Major brought us all to attention and shouted Band by the Centre Quick March. At this everybody brought their instruments up to start playing as I did but I brought mine up too quick and the whole twelve marching cards splattered all over the road the band was now playing and marching off away from me there I was bending down to try and pick up my cards with my gloved hands which was nigh on impossible, when I felt the ping of my braces coming off their buttons then at the same time my bloody Busby fell off landing on top of the cards I could see the band getting further away. And panic came washing over me I was now trying to remove my gloves which was proving to be impossible then to make matters worse I heard a booming voice above me say FOR GOODNESS SAKE GUNNER MUSICIAN WHATEVER YOU ARE HURRY UP YOU ARE HOLDING UP THE WHOLE LORD MAYORS SHOW. As I looked up I saw this officer astride a huge horse looking down at me with pure distain, and at that point to make matters even worse I felt a warm wet trickle run down my neck which was the horse’s saliva. Saying sorry sir sorry sir I gathered up all my stuff and tried to run back to the band while wiping horse saliva off my neck trying to put my cards in some sense of order and putting my Busby back on my head. I could hear the crowd laughing and pointing at me. I caught up with the band not knowing which march we were playing and winging it until we got to the halfway point where I could put myself back together again. I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole. The back line of the cornets could not stop laughing and telling everyone about the new lad who had just joined the band. Luckily for me my drum major never found out.
It was quite an experience and I was well knackered at the end of it. While serving with the Royal Artillery Band I performed in 19 Lord Mayors Shows plus one with the Royal Yeomanry Band and one with Thames Fanfare Brass Dixie Band, which was a lot of fun, we were working for Esso Blue, playing their advert music theme ‘Esso Blue For Happy Motoring’ and Dixie numbers in between for 3 miles.
So to finish this story I never dropped my march cards again it really was very embarrassing and I will never forget it.
I am still involved with the Lord Mayor, not in his show but performing with my brass ensemble Thames Fanfare Brass at banquets held in the Mansion House, the home of the Lord Mayor, which he attends. I have now been performing at the Mansion House for 50 years, how time flies when you’re having fun.