Now in his 80s, former Mexborough man Brian
Kelly recalls DIY entertainment
Brian writes: This
is a shot taken in our street (Lorna Road) of the VE Day street
party - May 1945. The ladies are being waited on by the men. The
figures hanging high across the road are effigies of Adolf Hitler
and Eva Braun - yes we had been brainwashed sufficiently to hate all
things German by that stage. Funny how it evaporates with time -
I've had some nice holidays in Germany since then. I'm standing on
the right displaying a clean collar for the occasion and my mother
is seated alongside. Can't imagine trying to stage this sort of
thing in present day Lorna Road - too many cars.
At intervals I like to keep in touch with your website. I am now
over 80 and live in Cornwall (since retirement) but was raised in
Mexborough 1930's - 40's - a schoolboy during WW2.
After reading a couple of your newsletters - an old one from Sept
1993 (good heavens - 20 years ago!) which gave details of
Mexborough's cinemas and one of Jan 2013 on the old Hippodrome
Theatre (which I can just remember) I was reminded how, especially
during the WW2 years, Mexborough folk had to make their own
Of course during the war travel was discouraged unless absolutely
necessary for the war effort ("Is your journey really necessary?"
was the slogan at the time) and because of that we all felt pretty
much confined to our home towns.
Consequently any local groups which encouraged any amateur talent
available out into the open thrived. Yes the cinema was the main
source of entertainment during the war and most of us had radio sets
in our homes but if you were a decent singer with a good voice or if
you could play an instrument to an acceptable standard then why not
join a group and perform for the local community.
The two decades between the wars (1920's and 30's) had probably been
the heyday for amateur music-making - choirs, orchestras, bands,
music festivals and contests, local 'Messiah' performances, etc.
etc. Many homes had a piano (lessons/teachers were readily
available) and many young people, prior to the later takeover by
electronic keyboards, guitars, amplifiers, learned to play the
traditional instruments, whether it be for classical music or jazz
Mexborough Choral Society
The Mexborough Choral Society shot
contains three of my mother's family - called Meek. Mother's uncle
Jim Meek (another railwayman), his daughter Ethel and Mother's
younger brother Douglas (yet another railwayman). In fact there are
a good number of railwaymen and their wives, daughters on the photo
including a two from Lorna Road. I remember several faces on there
but unfortunately can no longer put names to them. The photograph
appears to have been taken in front of the Schofield Tech College -
I would guess the late 1940's. Alderman Schofield is standing front
Brian Potts adds the
following (December 2013):
photo my father George Potts is on the back row far left. He was the
secretary of the choir under Conductors Arthur Butler followed by
Frank Carnelly Lea. George was the organiser of the Celebrity
Concerts which were held in the Methodist chapel adjacent to
Chapelwalk Steps or in the Grammar school. We would often put up for
the night a celeb, I suppose it would have been to help with
expense? George served over 45 years on the railway ending his
career as a motive power inspector based at York. On retirement he
wrote a book of his memoirs called Bankers & Pilots, by G C
Potts The guy third from left is Ron Fareham another railwayman.
So prior to WW2 Mexborough had some well-established musical
societies of one sort or another. At the outset of the war of course
these societies began to lose young men to war service. One of the
groups (for whatever reason) that suffered at this time was the old
Barnburgh Main Orchestra, well-known and established and made up
largely from Mexborough players. It had been conducted by 'Billy'
Williams from Alexandra Road but it ceased to function around the
outbreak of war (but as I say I don't know the actual reason). I
well remember being taken by my father to one of their practices in
Jack (son of aforesaid 'Billy') Williams' car - a little square
Morris 8. Jack played the trumpet. After the demise of the Barnburgh
Orchestra another orchestra was formed and run by Mexborough
violinist John Farnsworth. This was based at one time in the
Schofield Technical College and later in Park Road School.
Instrumental "blowers" (i.e. woodwind and brass) were catered for by
Mexborough's Military Band - the term 'military' referring to the
band's instrumental make-up only, no connection with the army. This
group was conducted in the post-war period by Fred Tupling.
Mexborough's Salvation Army had its own brass band, which used to be
seen regularly on Sundays around the town's streets.
Mexborough Salvation Army Band
I have no knowledge of any jazz group in Mexborough. The small dance
band played at the Empress Ballroom under the guidance of well-known
Mexborough bassist Bert Clegg. Singers practised their choral skills
after the war either with Mexborough businessman 'Venny' Chambers'
Male Voice Choir or with the mixed-voice Mexborough Choral Society
under conductor Arthur Butler. The choirs were regular performers at
musical festivals (competitions) around the area (and sometimes
further-afield). Mexborough's used to be held in the Grammar School
hall, which because of its high ceiling, balcony and wooden floor
was accoustically quite good. I have attended both the festival and
Messiah performances in the 1940's there.
Amateur Thespians satisfied their desire to perform at J. Verdi
Popple's Green Room Club - started, I believe, before the 1930's.
After WW2 local school attendance officer Harry Dobson saw a need
for a second theatrical group and formed the Mexborough Theatre
Guild which, as we all know, attracted the young Keith Barron and
Brian Blessed through its doors.
Perhaps as a side issue here - did the post of School Attendance
Officer, or "School Bobby" as we all knew it, hold some attraction
for those of an artistic bent since H.Dobson's predecessor in the
job was Charlie "Bobby" Smith. He played the double bass and
encouraged his two sons Cyril (double bass) and Leslie (violin) in
string playing. Leslie went on to become headmaster at Roman Terrace
Junior School. 'Bobby' Smith was held in fear by us young kids
probably as a result of the parental threat with his name if we even
considered scrounging off school. Later when I encountered him I
found he was actually a nice old chap.
On re-reading this I recognise a link between the name Verdi Popple,
Alexandra Road and the role of headmaster. Verdi Popple lived in
Alexandra Road as did his two brothers who were both headmasters -
Billy Popple at Dolcliffe Road School and Eddie Popple at the
National School. Edward B. Popple, to give him his proper name, was
a singer of some note in the area with a good baritone voice. He
sang in the Parish Church Choir and often as soloist in public
performances of Messiah and the like. He taught me, among other
things, to read music and play the recorder at the National School
during the war years.
Now I want to hark back to those war years. Does the Society have
any record of the wartime productions by the Mexborough Musical
Comedy Society (before later being known as the South Yorkshire
Musical Comedy Society) presented in the Empire Cinema - converted
to theatre just for these weeks?
I remember being taken to most of these shows and as I recollect
they were (I only guess at the years):-
No No Nanette - 1941?
The Arcadians - 1942?
Rose Marie - 1943?
The Desert Song - 1944?
Merrie England - 1945? (with Walter Midgley, celebrated Yorkshire
Among the participants I remember were - Lynette Chappell (musical
director), Milton Fowler, several railwaymen - Jack Snelgrove, Ron
Fareham, Henry Tyas, Frank Smeaton, Alf Llewellyn, Albert Wood,
Deborah Mann, Ethel Meek, Ethel Richardson, Freda Woofenden,
An orchestra of local players numbered about 12-15 and included
Ethel Straw, pianist, who kept the music shop down by the market.
Mexborough Concertina Band
The Concertina Band shot contains a
couple of characters I knew well. In the centre of the middle row,
wearing medals, is Edwin Purshouse and on his right (our left as
viewed) is Sol Jeavons. On Edwin's other side I believe is his
brother. Both the Purshouses were railway engine drivers. Edwin
Purshouse conducted Mexborough Military Band in the early 1960's
when I played with them. It was a good period when we re-equipped
with new uniforms and played many engagements such as the Yorkshire
Miners' Demonstrations, Durham Miners' Gala, civic parades and
Remembrance Day in Mexborough, concerts in Clifton Park Rotherham,
Rosehill Park, Castle Hills Mexboro ---etc. Sadly it was relatively
In this 'memory extravaganza' does anyone
recall the wartime charity cricket matches played on Mexborough
Athletic Ground? These were staged in the summers of, I think, 1942
and 1943. The sponsors were Mexborough butchers Percy Beaumont
(1942) and H.G. Constable (1943) and we lads were thrilled to see
the star names such as West Indians Learie Constantine and A.E.
Martindale, Yorkshire and England players Herbert Sutcliffe, Len
Hutton, Maurice Leyland and Arthur Wood and Lancashire and England's
Eddie Paynter, together with the Derbyshire bowlers Bill Copson,
Tommy Mitchell and George and Alf Pope. What? playing on
Mexborough's ground? Yes indeed - there were big crowds each year
and I enjoyed every minute of it.
A word of warning - all of these recollections are from my memory
only - and I readily admit it isn't what it used to be. I don't have
any actual records to help so there may be errors.
Well what a long wander down Memory Lane. Hope it jogs a few
Best wishes - Brian Kelly.
have any memories of the topics raised here, or photos, please