TO say that Castletown Metropolitan Silver Band has been a big part of Edwin Cubbon’s life is an understatement.
He played with the band for an extraordinary 77 years before he stepped down just before Christmas, so when he turned 90 on May 18, most of the guests at his dinner party at the Sefton Hotel comprised band members.
Edwin said he had been brought up with the band.
‘Father was the conductor and a good cornet player,’ he said. ‘Father and his brother were both keen bandsmen. Sixteen relatives of mine at one time were in the band – they used to call it the Cubbon Band.’
Edwin joined the band at 13, just before he left Victoria Road Primary School at the age of 14. He became a message boy before becoming a painter and decorator. Then, in 1941, the Second World War intervened and he joined the Royal Air Force.
‘I was in Burma and India fighting in the jungles,’ he said.
‘It was an experience. I came home without a scratch on me.’ He said that while he was in Burma, ‘for three years we were cut off by the Japs. We had this airstrip. We got supplies by air – they used to parachute them in.
‘We broke out eventually... They were hard, the Japanese. The Japs were nasty – we were in the worst place, they were about five miles away. Japanese patrols used to come down at night and try to set light to the aircraft.
‘I was in aircraft defence – I used to chase them off.’
The war in Asia did not end until August 1945 – three months after VE Day in Europe. He said that extension to their war ‘was hard going’.
He added: ‘I came home, I joined the band again [before Christmas 1945]. I have led a happy life with them ever since. They have given me silver and gold watches and plaques, they have appreciated me. You do feel different [after the war], but you soon get back into it. I appreciated the easier life – I was a painter and decorator for the commissioners for 21 years; 30 years ago I retired. Was life boring in comparison? You get used to it. I married a lovely girl, Margaret Collister. She died in 1999, before what would have been our 50th wedding anniversary.’
In 1960, his dad, Tom Stewart, retired from the band after 60 years of being a member. His son Stewart did not continue the family tradition of being a member, but said of his dad’s involvement: ‘I think if he did not have the band, he would be lost. He has a lot of friends in the band.’
One of the highlights was when the band was led by Major Tommy Thirtle, formerly of the Blues and Royals.
The band is very busy, and gives about 40 concerts every summer alone, meaning Edwin has given thousands of hours of his life to it.
His eyesight and hearing were failing before Christmas Edwin retired, but still he turns up to weekly practice sessions, performances and is the band’s president.
He said: ‘It has given me lots of pleasure, there is no financial gain, just pleasure and enjoyment. I have enjoyed every minute – there have been no arguments... I will carry on as long as I can get about.’
He added: ‘I have had an enjoyable life. I hope I keep going.’
The busy band’s next concert will be at the Castletown Civic Centre at 8pm on Tuesday, June 19. In addition to giving performances on a regular basis around the island, they also play at major events such as Laa Columb Killey on June 28, Tynwald Day on July 5, the town’s World Tin Bath Championship on July 7, the Southern Agricultural Show on July 28 and at Castletown Confetti Carnival on August 4.
To contact the band, see www.castletownband.org.