Monday 13 May 2013

Forest Hall Royals -Thanking God for memories of my youth..!

I have lots of things in my life for which to thank God, beginning with my Faith, my family and my friends. I thank Him for time in my previous professions, and for whatever good I have been able to do as a priest -especially for the privilege of offering the Holy Sacrifice, of Anointing those about to leave this world, of Reconciling sinners to the Lord in Confession, and all the times I have been able to support folk in life’s crisis events.  In speaking of thanking God for things in life, I was recently shown photographs of days from my youth...

Bear in mind that the area in which I grew up was not an affluent area. Most of our dads were miners or labourers, while many of our mothers picked up a few bob (shillings) cleaning here and there. Few of us were from families with cars or telephones, and few of us took holidays in the UK, never mind abroad. Money was short; times were tough. For the most part my family and those kids I grew up with we played in the old field at the bottom of the lane, or we played ‘Canon’ with tin cans and a ball in the street -or simply “Knocking on Doors”. (I think children today miss out by playing with computer games instead of playing with other children). The photographs I was recently shown depicted a time when a good number of us from the area found a happy and useful focus: taking part in a Juvenile marching band. We were the Forest Hall Royals. We practised two nights a week and competed every Saturday during the summer.

Before we began competing  -notice the absence of medal sashes

We ‘Royals’ won a good number of our competitions. For this we have to thank our manager Jacky Rowe, and our successive trainers: Mr Moody, Mr Hunter and Mr Mowett. Not to forget our ‘Committee Women’ and our loyal supporters, from brothers and sisters to mums, dads and Granddads.

There was a healthy sense of competition among the many bands of North East England, and it was always an exciting time to arrive at a competition and see who we were up against that day. If we didn’t win first place we would simply said “we’ll get them next time!” –though without real animosity. There were many bands to compete against, and I remember well those with whom our competition was most evident: North Shields Grenadiers; Byker Imperials; Walker Majestics; Longbenton Vikings; Newbiggin Harlequins; Meadowell Dragoons; Willington Revellers, Felling Fusiliers et al. Competition was tough; all of these bands and more besides, worked hard to achieve whatever wins were gained in competitions, which might take place in glorious sunshine, bleak drizzle or even rain. Whatever the weather, picnic lunches were eaten with enthusiasm, though sweaty, sodden buses on wet days were not the ideal environment...  

North Shields Grenadiers -Local Rivals, well respected, at the Sunday Sun Final.

Certainly we  Forest Hall Royals truly felt like royalty as we marched ‘On Parade’ through the streets in our bright red uniforms, or proudly executed our intricate display routine in the Display Arena. Our Drum Majors and Band Majors were skilled with the mace (I know Marie never dropped her mace once!); our Drum Section was spectacular and noted among the other bands; and military men brought in to judge competitions would comment on how well our kazoo section marched –though one or two never seemed to get their arm to shoulder height! 

I can't say that all the band members got on even with each other -there was normal teenage rivalry even within the band about who would be Drum/Band Major, Lead Drummer or Mascot. It was certainly a prestigious thing to be a member of the Drum Section such as the Royals had, or to be Band/Drum Major. Still, we all stumbled along together as kids do, and enjoyed every bit of our 'Royal Days'!

And who could forget these little ditties we used to sing on the bus?

We had to join! We had to join! 
We had to join the Forest Hall Royals!
Fifty pence a week! Hardly owt to eat!
Carnivals ev'ry Satu'day 
with blisters on wa' feet! We had to join!


We were out one day
against the Grenadiers
we won 'Overall'!
We kicked them over the wall!
And when they shouted 'Jip!'
we miffed them angrily, in
Gilly, Gilly, Ossenfeffer

My Retirement Day: Me, Gail and May Retired together

Though we might laugh at ourselves now, we learned a lot during that time: team work, finding and losing friendships, a sense of responsibility for turning up at practices and events, taking care to keep a clean and well-pressed uniform and spotless white plimsolls. All of this played a part in the life of the Jazz Band member in any band. They were great days; and in fact, though few people know it, I still own a double-snare drum and a mace! A man of many talents...not!

Me filling in the for Band Major at gateshead Stadium(winning First Place on Parade!)
and with my beloved silver (lead) drum, my usual role

On my Retirement Day with a very dear friend

Some of Our Loyal Royal Supporters: Mam, Florrie, Maude and Anne!

Marie Langlands, one of our most successful Drum Majors,
her mace was never once lost (dropped)

Why am I posting this on a blog with a religious theme? Because it was a truly happy time that was God-given, and I want to thank God for the six years of my life I spent in ‘The Forest Hall Royals’ during my teens. They are some of the happiest days of in my life; something I thank God for every day -as I do for my family, friends, former careers and priesthood.

Here are some of the Forest Hall Royals at a recent reunion (alas, I could not make it so you will not see me here) now parading as Forest Hall Debonaires...Oh the memories!


  1. Didn't recognise you Father Gary (unless you had your blonde wig on!) LOL

  2. It looks a great night but unfortunately I wasn't there.

  3. Failed to recognize an individual Papa Gary (unless you got a hairpiece on!) Hehe!!

    1. No hairpiece 'coz I wasn't there, but I do wish i had been..!

  4. Father, they look like glorious days. Its a pit there are not still such things around for the youngsters these days -perhaps a Catholic parish might set one away?

    1. Thanks for the comment. I hope you don't think THIS parish could do it -though I'd love to!

  5. you should watch how you poke when you tell people off gary, you have hard fingers! :)

    1. Cheers for the comment, help.

      I can't help wondering if I told you off for something at some point and who you are... I'm not aware of actually poking anyone...
      At any rate, if you were in the Royals, weren't they great days?

    2. Remember the two lead drummers who took over from you? Andrew and Paul? I'm Paul :)
      Yes, great days, pity some things have to change so much!

      Why have I been named 'help'? Strange! I'll have to look into that!

    3. Of course updating my profile would help with the name! :)

    4. Cheers Paul!

      How goes it all for you? I hope life is treating you well.

      Oh if only we could go back...I do would do a lot of things differently over the year. Couldn't we all?

    5. Differently? I think we'd all just end up wishing we'd done things differently all over again. Same old thing, different mistakes :)

      I can't say I recognise many people in that you tube video, is that Barry in the middle? People change way too much in 30 years!

    6. I think it is Barry but like you say, we've changed so much in thirty years (which makes me feel like a very old man...)
      I struggled to recognise anyone in the video but I do recognise Delia Armstrong, Karen Fisher and Marie Langlands. And it goes without saying, I recognise my own sister, Sandra.
      I wish I'd gone along on that Reunion night, but maybe they'll have another one and I'll make an effort to get there.
      I hope a few of us lads who were in the Royals can make it; it might be nice to be surrounded by those lovely ladies but its not got quite the same thrill now that we're all struggling to get the lungs working, the glasses on and the arthritic bones moving... but hey, to re-capture our youth after all these years...!
      By the way, I like the hat!

    7. I usually wear the hat when I go out on my 'bike' :)

      I got involved with some new band in Washington (involved as in I offered to teach them to play the drum). I bought a practice pad and a pair of sticks. I'd not played for decades, yet within 30 minutes I was playing better than ever! Practice? Who needs it :) The band never really got going properly and ended up folding, but it wasn't a bad thing, from what I hear a lot of people that were in it went to another band (haven't a clue which). That must have been about four years ago now.

      I didn't know anything about the reunion, but if I had went I would have needed a drum. I'd want to actually do something :)

      What's this about Debonairs?

    8. Well, from what I gather, that great gal Janet (Scullion, as was) is setting up an adult band in Forest Hall called the Debonairs. I'd love to see that happen and give them my support.
      That's as much as I know I'm afraid, and I have no way of finding out more as I don't know how to contact Janet, sadly. She's a girl in a million that one. If by any chance I find out more though, I'll let you know! Sad the band at Washington didn't take off. Hope the same doesn't happen to the Debonairs.

      Hmm...if you are riding a bike you are much fitter than me...

    9. Fit? Me? Don't bet on it :) I always liked bikes but stopped riding them many years ago. My job means I get to sit in a chair for most of my life, now, after a loooong break, the bike has become a means to do a bit exercise now and then.

      I remember Janet :) Let me know if you hear anything, I might just call in on a practice one day!

    10. There's me with my busbie as mascot ,god I loved this band x

    11. Thanks for this...I am right in thinking you are Fiona?
      These were truly great days. Thanking God for Jacky Rowe leaving Low Willington Revellers behind!

  6. Hi all ...i found this by total accident but im so thankful i did ! I was in the Forest Hall Royals dad was Mr Moody Janice in my 50's now i recall this time of my life with fond memories

    1. Well, hello Janice! Forest Hall Royals was a brilliant thing and great time for us all. I had so many memories rushing in when writing this post that i didn't know which to put in and which to leave out.
      I obviously remember your dad very well, also Mr Rowe, Mr Hunter and all the ladies on the committee. I don't suppose many of them are around now, but I would lobve to be able to tell them how much they gave us as kids -I don't think we appreciated it back then. But weren't they just the best of days?
      Really glad you found the post and enjoyed it, bless you.

    2. Hi again...sorry for late reply ! Very busy at the moment ..i work in pharmacy now so as you are aware as part of the NHS we are stretched to the max ! I just wanted to say that those days were the best Father & my Dad was very proud of his not so little family ...we moved to Gibraltar in 1979 but he always spoke of the Forest Hall Royals to everyone he met ! I lost him 14yrs ago & he lies at rest in Gibraltar with my mam xx

    3. Hi Janice, no need to apologise. I'm sorry to hear about your dad; it seems at our age (mine anyway) everyone from our lives is moving onto and leaving us with precious memories. And we do have great memories, no?
      So you are in pharmacy now? I hope you are enjoying it. I miss my work as a nurse but with my severe COPD, Bronchiectasis, Coronary Artery Disease, Left Ventricular hypomotility and periodic AF I'm worse than many I'd be supposed to be looking after! I retired from work a a priest four years ago because of my health, so nowadays I'm no good to anyone -not even myself. Stay Well!


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