In 1905 the band toured France to promote the Entente Cordiale.

The Bandsman produced a set of postcards showing some of their activities. There were at least 14 of these and we only have the six below so can you help? Do you have any of the missing pictures or do you have one of the medals that were presented?


There was a glorious banquet
This was taken at a concert in Marseille
No this isn't Blackpool!
Marching to play for the president
The President of France arriving.
All the band received medals so they must have played OK!

Besses Newspaper Reports and images of L’Entente Cordiale Windsor/France – June 23rd 1905 – July 4th 1905


  • 23/06/1905 – Windsor
  • 24/06/1905 – Paris
  • 25/06/1905 – Paris
  • 26/06/1905 - Paris
  • 27/06/1905 – Marseilles
  • 28/06/1905 – Marseilles
  • 29/06/1905 - Lyons
  • 30/06/1905 – Lyons
  • 01/07/1905 – Dieppe
  • 02/07/1905 – Dieppe
  • 03/07/1905 – Dieppe
  • 04/07/1905 - Dieppe
  • The Chronicle Paris correspondent telegraphed June 25th: "Paris never welcomed a foreign band with greater enthusiasm than that showed this afternoon by the tremendous audience at the Salle fetes, Trocadero Palace. The men played the program from start to finish without a hitch."
  • Of the playing at the Tuileries Gardens by the "Besses" band, The Leeds Daily Mercury writes: “Their performance was wonderful and they nearly brought down the house. Their success was astonishing.”
  • Evening Star. July 1905: "Those who were familiar with the ability of instrumentalists had their admiration deepened. To those who were not, the performance was a delightful revelation.
  •  The Paris correspondent of the London Dally News said: “I have never heard the 'Marseillaise played more splendidly than It was played by 'Besses' at the opening of yesterday’s concert the audience rising to Its feet." (June 25th 1905)
  • The Lancashire Post. October. 1905: "The band is great in expression, and the way It can work up a crescendo Is almost a revelation. Its performances are finished in the highest degree, and represent the utmost that brass Instruments are capable of."
  • Midland Dally Telegraph, October, 1905: "From the soprano cornets, who soar into the clear piercing upper octave with such a shrill brilliancy, to the big basses, who move about at a subterranean depth of profundity, they are a grand combination."
  • Brighton Herald. October. 1905: "The superb tonal finalities Impressed one perhaps more than anything, though the flexibility and precision with which the brilliant passages of execution were compassed betokened highly skilled mechanism."
  •  Southampton Times, October 1905: "Several of the pieces were vociferously re-demanded, and there was but one opinion as to the perfect precision in Instrumentation, and delightful effect of the performances.”
  • Essex County Chronicle, October, 1905: "Its playing is a revelation In the possibilities of this particular instrumental combination, and the effects gained were extremely fine.”
  • Barrow-in-Furness Herald, October. 1905: "The Besses is unquestionably one of the finest musical combinations in the world.”
  • The Music Hall, London, September, 1905: "Olympia, Scarborough, was put to a test on the occasion of the visit of the famous Besses o'th' Barn hand, no fewer than 4,200 persons paying for admission. More than 3,000 came by the early door, whilst hundreds were unable to gain admission.”
  • Society, August, 1905: "Among the band there are many clever soloists. Those who did not go to the pier on Sunday missed an Intellectual treat."
  • On one occasion when Besses were playing; Wagner's "Tannhauser" overture, the late Sir Arthur Sullivan remarked: "I have never heard such a performance before in my life, either in this country or nay other." Remarks like this from so great a genius as Sullivan show what this band is capable of, and musical repertoire. Under no circumstances miss hearing this famous combination, a treat which unfortunately does not often present itself.
  • London Dally Telegraph, August, 1905: "Thousands of people visited Camborne yesterday to listen to the Besses o’th’ Barn band." The effect when heard at a short distance was that of a great organ. Indeed, it can be likened to nothing else



The following is from the special report which appeared in the “British Bandsman," of the tour of the " Besses-o'-th'-Barn Band in France: —

The visit of this celebrated band to France is not “only an event of the greatest interest to English bandsmen alone; it has become a national event, for the Besses are “making history."

It is an event in the annals of brass bandism unprecedented and unique, for what brass band has ever been, or could even dream of being. Commanded to play before the King and Queen and Royal Family of England, at Windsor, on one day, and before the President of the French Republic on the next day.

And yet this supreme honour has been conferred on the Besses o'th' Barn Band. And to their credit be it said, they have come through the ordeal with flying colours. Brass bandsmen in all parts of the world will look up to Besses with pride and gratitude for so nobly sustaining the honour of their cause. Everyone will be eager to read all about this notable tour, but pen will fail to describe the wild enthusiasm with which the band is being received everywhere. It must be accepted as a fact that this record will understate rather than overstate the success of the tour in its many phases.


To commence at the beginning, the band started on Friday, June 23, 1905, by playing its first programme at Windsor on the occasion of the cricket match between Eton boys, each side being captained by a grandson of the King Edward V11 (Edward Albert, whose 11th Birthday it was and who later became King Edward V111, and his younger brother, Albert Frederick, who later was crowned as King George V1 after his brothers infamous abdication. The King and Queen were present, together with the Prince of Wales (George Frederick who was crowned in 1910 as King George V) and other members of the Royal Family.

This means that Besses played for the reigning monarch as well as the next three monarchs in one concert - four kings is a great hand in anyone's book!!


The band played the following programme —

"God Bless the Prince of Wales"

"El Capitan" march

"Faust" (Berlioz), selection ;

"Bridge," Valse (Behrens);

"Pirates of Penzance" selection;

"Ora Pro Nobis" (trombone) ;

"Stars and Stripes" march;

"Beauties of England" selection

"Bohemian Girl” overture;

"Blue Danube" valse;

"Earl and Girl" selection;

"Ida and Dot" cornet duo;

"British Songs" selection;

"Marseillaise" and "God save the King."


At the close of the performance his Majesty said to Mr Owen, the conductor: "I am very glad to see you, Mr Owen. I must congratulate- you on the excellent performance of the band

and on their smart appearance." He asked Mr Owen how long he had been bandmaster, and on his replying that he had been with the band over twenty one years, his Majesty remarked: "Indeed, then, I suppose you came from the Army?" To which Mr Owen replied: "No, your gracious Majesty, I have only been a civilian musician, but often connected with the Yeomanry and Volunteers." "Ah! Then the playing of the band reflects the highest credit on you and on each member. As a little souvenir of this visit, I present you with this pin, and I sincerely trust the men are enjoying themselves. They play magnificently. I know you've a long way to go. I hope you will not be over-fatigued with the journey, and I wish you every success in your undertaking on behalf of the French charities." Her Majesty the Queen then said: "I am more than charmed with the playing, and highly delighted with the band's visit to Windsor." His Majesty asked whether the band was composed of working men, and when Mr Owen assured him that they were, her Majesty exclaimed: " Do you hear that; is it not marvellous " His Majesty concluded the interview by enjoining Mr Owen not to forget to give his highest compliments to each of the musicians, and both their Majesties again thanked Mr Owen, for the attendance of the band.

Mr Owen, on behalf of the band, expressed his great gratitude for their Majesties' appreciation -and hospitality, and also sincerely thanked his Majesty for the most beautiful souvenir, which he would cherish so long as he lived. The kindly recognition of the band by his Majesty would, Mr Owen said, be taken as a compliment to all the brass bands in his Majesty's dominions.

The- band proceeded from Windsor almost direct to Charing Cross, where the 9 p.m. train was taken for Dover, and on arrival there the Calais boat was boarded. It took barely an hour to transport the men to our neighbour nation, but for a few on that short voyage it was fifty-nine minutes too long!

The band is under the supreme direction of Mr J. Henry Iles, who has during the past five years done so much in bringing into well-deserved universal notoriety the brass bands of England. With him are Mr Henry McNeil, who has worked like a Trojan in obtaining local financial support for the undertaking, and the people of Lancashire, justly proud of their band, have responded loyally to his appeal, recognising not alone the merits of their champion band, but also the good that would result in bringing the two nations closer together. Accompanying the party, also, are two of the vice-presidents of the London and Home Counties’ Brass Band Association (of which Mr Iles is the president.) This Association has a membership of nearly 2000 bandsmen, and both Mr S. Cope and Mr W. S. Pearce take the keenest interest in the progress of brass bands.

(To be continued.)




The following is the continuation of the accounts of the Tour of the Besses o'th' Barn Band in France after its Concert at the Trocadero in Paris. The information is from The British Bandsman.....

On the Band arriving at Calais a telegram was waiting for them from Mrs Martha F. Besson, a name familiar to every Bandsman in the North of England and in Scotland and Wales. A Lady that has earned the respect and Esteem of every Bandsman with whom she has come in contact.  Madame welcomed the Band to France and undertook to meet the train on arrival at Paris, which capital was reached at six o'clock on Saturday morning. After a friendly reception by Mrs Besson, a move was made to Hotel Moderne Place de la Republique, where breakfast was partaken, and a rest until twelve o'clock. After luncheon 'buses' were taken to the Trocadero, the "Albert Hall" of Paris, sacred to the classical music of the celebrated French orchestras. Here the band and party were formally received by the president and committee of the charity fund for which the band was that afternoon to perform, and by Mr Walter Behrens, the gentleman to whose disinterested and kindly interest, the success of the band in Paris is (apart from the merits of the band itself) largely due. Mr Behrens is an Englishman settled in Paris, where he is well known and highly respected as a good citizen and a composer of no mean ability; indeed, a valse composed by him is one of the chief features of the programmes played by the Besses on their tour. Very cordial was the welcome of the committee, the president, in his speech, commenting on the kindness of the Band in undertaking this great journey in the good cause of charity, feeling assured that the people of France would appreciate this kindness at its full value. Mr McNeil replied, and Mr Owen also spoke, and showed he could make a public speech just as easily and effectually as he can conduct in public. After the reception the band attended at the Trocadero and gave its first concert.



It consisted of the usual contesting combination, the following being the full list of bandsmen: —

Soprani — J. Lownds and C. Anderson

Solo cornets — S. Pyatt, E. Mather and J. Ellison

Repiano cornet - J. Hardman

Second cornet - N. Riley

Third cornet - W. Jackson

Flugel horns - S. Potts and F. Barlow  

Tenor-horns - W. Brearley, W. Bogle and A. Bleakley

First baritone - R. Kay

Second baritone - J. Elton

Euphonium - F. Berry

Euphonium (second) - J. Hewitson

Trombones - Tom Bowling and J. Schotson

Bass trombone - Thomas Wolstencroft

E-flat basses - J. W. Smith and S. Lord

B-flat bass - J. Fish

BB-flat bass - J. Knowles

Drums, tympani, etc - S. Massey


Up to the time the band played the first tune doubts were freely expressed as to whether the performances would be appreciated, because of there being only twenty-five performers, whereas the French bands number some seventy to eighty, and also because of the combination being purely a brass one of cornets, trombones and saxhorns (including in this term all the larger bore instruments of the same form as the tenor saxhorn), but directly the band struck up the " Marseillaise" a cordial reception was assured, for the compliment was appreciated, as was clearly demonstrated by the hearty applause. Thus a friendly feeling was engendered from the first, and Mr Owen wisely led the audience from the initial sentiment "L’Entente Cordiale" through varying phases of bewilderment and surprise to the culminating point reached in the performance of "William Tell" selection, which fairly electrified the hearers. Such playing was never heard before in Paris. The attacks, the shot chords, the massive tone, the mellow liquid tone, the crescendos, the absolute precision; those were the mechanical attainments to which add the artistic temperament, and you have the result, Besses at its best.



The programme was as follows:

"The Marseillaise"

" Beauties of England" (Gems from old Engish airs) 

"Zampa," overture (Herold)

Trombone solo (selected)

Berlioz's "Faust" (arranged by A. Owen)

"Rosamunde" (Schubert)

New waltz "The Bridge"or "Le’Entente Cordiale"

Dances from "Henry VIII" (German)

"William Tell" (by request) arranged by A. Owen

English and French National Airs.

Encores were prohibited, but there were several recalls, including Mr Tom Bowling for his trombone solo. The audience numbered about 3000, and_ included Sir Francis Bertie, the British Ambassador, Lady Feodorowna Bertie, and the Embassy staff.

(To be continued)...................................

BESSES-O'-TH'-BARN. . (Continued).

The following is the continuation of the account of the tour of the Besses o'th' Barn Band after its concert appearance at the Trocadero In Paris. The information is from "The British Bandsman”

After the concert the Under-Secretary of Fine Arts conferred upon Mr Owen the decoration of "Officier de Ifinstruction Publique", a decoration that has been conferred upon men who have distinguished themselves in the fine arts. In music it has been bestowed upon such men as Saint-Saens, Massenet and Elgar, so that this distinction may be looked upon as a much coveted one, and Mr Owen doubtless felt a very proud man as the recipient on this occasion.

On Sunday morning the band attended the English Church, at which Mr Lawrence officiates as organist. The arrangements were left in his hands, and were carried out perfectly.

The church was crowded to excess, and the band played as an opening voluntary the "Pilgrim's Chorus" and "Star of Eve" ("Tannhauser"), as an offertoire “Comfort Ye" and chorus "And the Glory of the Lord" and, as a concluding voluntary, the "Hallelujah Chorus" They also accompanied the two hymns "Saint Annes" and "Onward, Christian Soldiers"


Mrs Martha F. Besson had been assiduous in her attention to the comfort of the band from the time of its arrival, and on Sunday morning the whole of the band and accompanying party accepted her most kind invitation to a lunch at the Alcazar d'Ete, where a most recherché

Luncheon was provided. After luncheon the band called on Mrs Besson for a speech, and being prevailed upon to respond, Mrs Besson spoke most feelingly on her past association with the bands of Yorkshire and Lancashire. She had been estranged by family ties (by the way, her second daughter was but recently married) for some ten years or so, but the knowledge that she was once more among, the Lancashire lads stirred her heart to its innermost depth, and in a voice broken with emotion, which struck the human chord of sympathy, she told her guests of the deep gratitude she felt for the many kindnesses she had experienced from the bandsmen during the many years of association with them. Good wishes and hearty cheers were lavishly disposed on Mrs Besson, who was soon herself again, smiling and solicitous.


The President's engagements prevented him inviting the band to his official residence, so he conceived the happy idea of inviting them to take part in a public function at which he was to preside in the Gardens of the Tuileries.

During church hours a message had been received to this effect, so immediately after the luncheon a move was made to the Tuileries. Here there was an obstacle. Up to the present moment nothing but courtesy was extended to the Musique Anglaise, and “open sesame" was the order of the day, but no orders, coaxing, threats or bribery would avail to induce the officers on duty to permit the band to pass the line of soldiers guarding the entrance to the avenue in which the grand stand was situate, notwithstanding they had an order to pass.

The music, drums and stands were taken to the Kiosk, and how to get there was the problem. Mr Iles, Mr Owen, and in fact everyone was in despair.

The occasion called forth the greatest efforts in the art of diplomacy. It was English civilians versus French officials.

The English civilians rose to the occasion. The first concession' obtained was a permission for one or two of the party to pass through after the President had gone by. Then came in due time the President and his retinue, and soon after the representative of the “Manchester Guardian" and Mr Cope proceeded to find the rest of the band with the music etc.

They had not gone far before they were turned back again. Dodging the soldiers and police on their way back, they got to the rear on the opposite side of the avenue, and thence still by the rear to the Kiosk, and luckily found the men with the music and effects. It was a great treat seeing two of the officials threading their way back between the trees, borne down by the weight of thirty band-stands and bundles of music. The anxiety of the band can better be imagined than described.  However, "all's well that ends well"

The function was a review of the Athletic Societies, and before the last corps had marched past the Besses o’th’ Barn men were formed in order, music in lyres, and "ready for the fray."

Each of the previous bands had played up to and past the grand stand, from the bottom of the avenue to the top.

Not so the Besses. They marched up to almost close upon the grand stand, silently and proudly.

If any doubt existed as to how the crowd was going to take the English band, it was at once dispelled, for shouts of greeting proved how popular was their visit. All at once the band struck up playing.

The march selected was "The President" (most apropos), and well it was rendered. The men played up to the grand stand and smartly formed a circle in good old contesting style, played the march through and finished, when cheer after cheer rang out from along the line.

The band then played the "Marseillaise" this, of course, being the signal for further cheers.

At the close of the National Anthem the men were about to form up for marching onward when the President sent a request to play "God Save the King”

There was an overwhelming shout from tens of thousands of throats, and hats were raised by those on and near the stand.

The President sent a order down hurriedly for the regiments to bring their rifles to the salute, which they at once did. Altogether it was a most impressive moment.

Then came the presentations. Mr Behrens acted as presenter, and introduced to the President Mr and Mrs Iles, and Mr and Mrs McNeil. The president said to Mr Iles: “I welcome your heartily

for France, and wish every success to your worthy efforts on behalf of our charities"

To Mr Behrens he said: "I am delighted at the magnificent way in which the band played, and at the splendid appearance of the men”

When the crowd saw the ladies retiring from the President backward they cheered them lustily. The band had formed up and marched on to the end of the avenue, and as they played past the people they had a most hearty cheer of welcome and goodwill. And thus ended the third great event of this notable tour.

At five o'clock the band had to play in the Tuileries Gardens for an hour and a half, but long before that time all seats (and there must have been quite 8000) were occupied. At five o'clock prompt Mr Owen led off with "The Marseillaise" the audience standing the while. At the conclusion there was another demonstration of popular favour.

The following programme was then performed:

March "Tannhauser"  

"Bridge” valse


“Ida and Dot"


"Poliuto", the last item, had to be omitted because of the encores, and the National Anthems.


During the performance the crowd was- growing larger and larger until there must have been at least 50,000 persons present. It was a grand sight, and amongst the audience there were people of all classes, including many of the best musicians of Paris, who had been attracted, out of curiosity by the Press reports in the daily papers. Besses seemed to know they were on trial, and played their best.

It was a remarkable tribute to the discrimination of the audience that they applauded most those parts which were most effective or novel. The solos and cadenzas in the selections received special recognition in this way, and at the conclusion of each item there were salvos of applause. The band played under the trees and on a level with the people, so Mr Owen had to stand on a chair to bow his acknowledgments.

Encores were, of course, the order of the day, and in some instances were responded to.

"William Tell" selection was again the piece de resistance, and its reception was unprecedented, and one must believe will never be eclipsed.

The applause had not died away, when shouts were heard "The King" "Le Roi, Le Roi"

Mr Owen responded by playing "The Marseillaise" and, in further response, the Russian Anthem; but this was not what the French people wanted, and they insisted again on "Le Roi" and the English in the audience shouted hoarsely in conjunction, "God Save the King".

Mr Owen intended to play this at the close of the performance, but the audience would not be put off any longer, and "The King" was accordingly played.

The wild enthusiasm this provoked it is impossible to describe.

"Vive Ie Anglais" was the cry from the vast assembly, mingled with the good old English "Hurrah" and "Vive la France" from our own countrymen.

The outburst was spontaneous, and should do more to promote the cordial relations between the people of the two nations than columns of newspaper articles.

For an encore for "Ida and Dot" the band played "Sandon" and the broad, sustained, and subdued tones of the band were most impressive.

At the close of the performance everyone crowded round to see the band, children were raised by their Parents, and the men had to push through the crowd in single file.

(To be continued.) ......................................................................







Back to England

Besses Back in England after French Tour

Behind a silvered and shiny trombone, with one eye on the conductor and the other on a little slip of music sat a Bronzed and Bespectacled Tom Bowling – not the unfortunate Mariner that went aloft, but a member of the combination that blew Lancashire into Royal and Presidential favour as the Besses o’th’ Barn Band.

He was enthralling an audience of Londoners at the Agricultural Hall on July 6th after the Bands return from France with a performance of his famous Solo “The Death of Nelson”

“Did you,” a mischievous representative of the Daily Despatch, asked him, after an encore had been acknowledged and the applause hard tardily subsided, “Play the Death of Nelson whilst in France?”

Tom Bowlings rugged face expanded in a broad but deprecating grin.

“Nay Lad” he responded in mild reproof. “What are you taking us for? We’re Lancashire we are, and we know what’s what”


It is quite evident that they do, England’s latest Diplomatic Asset is quite alive, both individually and collectively, to the International Status it has assumed, but the Men are not puffed up with overwhelming vanity. They are pleased with themselves, with those whom they have met, and with what they have seen

It was great for instance to hear the wholehearted praise that some of the men gave to several of the Bands they heard in France – Notably, one at Dieppe, and another at Lyons. “Magnificent” was applied to the latter

“The French are a fine race of people” declared Mr Bowling. “We shall all be delighted to go back again”

That the “Besses” will return to France is almost certain. They have had a definite offer to play at Dieppe for a week in August, though it is probable that prior engagements will prevent this. But the French People seemed disinclined to take “No” for an answer and it may be arranged

“You must come for a week every year” said Mr Bloc, the enthusiastic millionaire that entertained the Band at Dieppe

There is a proposal too, that the Band shall visit America next year but this is very much “In the air” as yet.

The risk is too great to permit such an undertaking without mature consideration


One little incident of the visit to Paris may be worth telling. There are Lancashire Girls working in Paris, it appears, and some of them went to special trouble to speak to the Bandsmen.

“How are ta Owd Lad?” came consequently the familiar but unexpected greeting upon the Instrumentalists ears.

“Eh, but that’s a bit of Lancashire” some of them responded turning round delightedly.

Then there ensued such a shaking of hands as charmed the emotional Parisians who looked on.

It will be October before Manchester can expect to see the “Besses o’th’ Barn again. Meanwhile they will be touring the East and South of England, including a round of three weeks in Devon and Cornwall and a fortnight in South Wales. They begin at Yarmouth.


The Loyalty of the Besses o’th’ Barn to the Band and to each other is immense.

It was Tom Bowling who was soliloquising, not he of “Sheer Hulk” fame, but the Solo Trombonist of the Band

“Ah’m not sayin’” quoth he “that there aren’t other good Bands, but if a Band maade oop of Angels from Heaven was to go to Blackpool, when we was playin’ there , the chaps ud’ all come to ‘ear us.”

“And if ah was asked to go on Tour wi’ an Angel Band, blowed if ah’d go without they gave me a written guarantee to send me back to Blackpool.

I wondered what the writer was comparing Tom Bowling and a quick search on the web revealed an old poem/song called Tom Bowling that explains the references to Sheer Hulk and the Mariner gone aloft

Tom Bowling

(Charles Dibdin)

 Here a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling

 The darling of our crew;

 No more he'll hear the tempest howling

 For death has broached him to.

 His form was of the manliest beauty, his heart was kind and soft;

 Faithful below, Tom did his duty

 And now he's gone aloft

 And now he's gone aloft

 Tom never from his word departed

 His virtues were so rare:

 His friends were many and true hearted

 His Poll was kind and fair;

 And then he'd sing so blithe and jolly

 Ah! Many's the time and oft;

 But mirth is turn'd to melancholy

 For Tom is gone aloft

 For Tom is gone aloft

 Yet shall poor Tom find pleasant weather

 When He who all commands

 Shall give, to call life's crew together

 The word to pipe all hands:

 Thus Death, who kings and tars despatches

 In vain Tom's life hath doff'd

 For tho' his body's under hatches

 His soul is gone aloft

 His soul is gone aloft

Charles Dibdin (1745-1814)

Dibdin wrote a great many popular songs in his time (over 1000, apparantly) and contributed more than most to the development of the Pantomime.

Selection of other press comments upon the playing of the Royal "Besses o'th' Barn Band,” which Manager “Walker” will present during concert at the Drill Hall, Monday evening. Dec. 3rd 1905

Bandsmen medals presented on Tour

This medal was awarded to Joseph Hardman when Besses played in Paris after playing for the British King and Queen at Windsor in 1905 (cricket game at between two teams from Eaton both being captained by male descendants of the King)

The inscription reads as follows

  1. Around the edge
    1. Souvenir of the visit of Besses o’th’ Barn Band to France under the Direction of Mr J.Henry Iles”
  2. In the centre
    1. “L’Entente
    2. 1905
    3. Cordiale”
  3. On the reverse
    1. French and British Flags in the middle
    2. Small inscription at bottom that looks like “OGC 9375???”



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