Remembering a fire-destroyed ship and its band

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THERE will no doubt be great interest in this week’s Wednesday Heritage Club talk at South Shields Library on the old Tyne training ship Wellesley.

It’s being given by publisher Andrew Clark and will take in not just the ship herself, which was destroyed by fire in 1914, but also the Green’s Home in Shields, which was a shore establishment of the school.

One of the things the Wellesley was known for was its band and this is a lovely picture of some of the ‘bandsmen’ from the camera of photographer Jimmy Cleet. Some are sporting instruments almost as big as themselves.

It was astonishingly popular in its day, and there is a record of it going on a tour of the south of England, that included the Crystal Palace. At the time, the bandmaster was a Mr Wigg, who belonged to South Shields and was an ex-Wellesley Boy himself.

Venues for the band’s appearances here in Shields included the North Marine Park - when it still had its bandstand, presumably - where the music was accompanied by demonstrations of gun drill and physical exercise.

This picture, however, has been taken at North Shields, I think, possibly on the fish quay. A poster for a film, Count Zarka, would seem to date it to the early years of the First World War. Andrew’s talk begins at 2pm on Wednesday. Tickets are £1, or call 0191 4247864 for further information.