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Eli Shaw (centre of front row of image) is one of the most significant musicians ever to be associated with Tredegar Band.
His 30 year tenure as conductor may not have brought the type of contest success that was to be enjoyed in later years, but he was without doubt the man who built the foundations on which the band was built.
The Shaw family connection also lasted well over 70 years, with both his sons (Eli Jnr and Vic) playing for the band well into the 1960s.
Born in Barnsley on 9th November 1882, Eli Shaw was the youngest of five brothers, all well known in the banding world.
His eldest brother was the conductor the Oldham Rifles Brigade Band (made famous by the Charles Anderson march O.R.B.), whilst his father Eli Shaw Snr, played with the Denton Original Band.
An article about the Shaw family in ‘The Contest Field’ newspaper of March 1900 gave the first written indication of his talent - described as being, ‘…a very brilliant player and is much sought after’ - not surprising perhaps as he was taught by two of the greatest figures in late 19th and early 20th century banding world; Alex Owen and William Rimmer.
Later that year he played repiano cornet with Denton Original when they won the first ever National Brass Band Championship of Great Britain title at Crystal Palace.
Owing to a lack of work as an apprentice with the Ferranti Works near Manchester, he advertised his talents in the weekly British Bandsman newspaper, and in May 1904 he came to Tredegar.
He was found employment at Tredegar Works (where he stayed for the rest of his life) and was appointed solo cornet and Bandmaster of Tredegar Workmen’s Town Band.
The handwritten letter he gave to the band to help advertise his appointment, ‘…to pitch out what you think best to put in your papers’ now forms part of the band’s Heritage Lottery Fund project.
The British Bandsman of April 1905 also gave details of his appointment and stated that; ‘Young Eli is of a quiet and unassuming disposition and has made many friends, and if blessed with good health has a bright future.’
He resigned from the role as Bandmaster in 1934 owing to increasing ill health.
Eli Shaw had led the band through a World War, the General Strike and the following terrible economic depression that had devastating effects on the south Wales valleys.
He also led the band to their first appearance at the Crystal Palace contest in 1911 and to a number other contest appearances and successes. His last victory came at the Fairford contest in Gloucester in July 1934, playing ‘Gems of Melody No 2’.
A local newspaper report of the time noted that during his tenure, ‘...the band had won 20 prizes and had fulfilled many important engagements at public functions over a wide area’.
It went on to say: ‘Under his able tuition, notwithstanding the difficulties of war time and of subsequent years, the band have been highly successful.
The band has established their place as a permanent institution in the town. Their services have been freely given at local functions, pubic and otherwise often gratuitously, while it also occupies a respected position among the bands of South Wales and the West of England.’
Eli Shaw lived the rest of his life in Tredegar.
He died on 14th January 1945 and was buried following a service at St James Church at Cefn Golau Cemetery in the town, four days later.
The aim of this Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) supported project is to provide an on-line multi-media resource that will celebrate and interpret the historical importance of the social, cultural and musical achievements of Tredegar Town Band over a time-line of the past 170 years – from the earliest reported origins in 1849 to date.