BNDSTR ~ THOMAS HAROLD HUGHES
BNDSMAN ~ THOMAS HENRY HUGHES
You may recall a story I posted in April 2019 about a New Zealand Defence Service Medal named to Malcolm F. Lines that was found by the staff of the SPCA Op Shop in Nelson, and MRNZ’s subsequent success in reuniting the medal with a son of the deceased recipient.
Kaye M. is a volunteer at another Nelson Op Shop, the Salvation Army’s Family Store, who alerted her manager Margaret to two medals she had found in clothing that had been anonymously donated to the store. It has become a nationwide practice for Op Shop donors to leave items outside the doors of the shops after hours which had been the case with a large box of clothing in which Kaye had found the medals. Being an anonymous donation, unfortunately there was no way of determining who the donor had been and there were no useful leads from the items in the box, with the exception of the two medals – both were named to: T. H. HUGHES. Kaye phoned MRNZ to see if we could help.
The medals I recognised immediately as medals for volunteer/territorial service. One was the New Zealand Volunteer Long & Efficient Service Medal (NZ LESM), and the other the New Zealand Efficiency Medal (NZ EM). The names of the recipients were impressed on the edge of the medals together with the unit to which the recipient had belonged. The names were inscribed with font styles consistent with the time period that the medals represented. In other words they appeared to be genuine, and not duplicates.
- NZ LESM – a circular silver medal which still had the original crimson ribbon with two central white stripes attached, together with a pin brooch bar. The earliest medal awarded in New Zealand for long and efficient services was instituted in 1887 for 12 years of Efficient Service.** The first medal was awarded to a member of the 1st Westland Rifle Volunteers and was recorded on 8 September 1887. In 1891 the Statute was to include Volunteer Officers who completed 20 years of broken (not continuous) service. Further Statute amendments were made in 1917 to include Territorial Officers permanently appointed to the New Zealand Staff Corps or Permanent Staff of the NZ Military Forces. From 1920 the medal was extended to ALL RANKS of the New Zealand Military Forces. The NZ LESM was superseded in 1930 by the NZ Efficiency Medal.
- NZ EM – recognisable from its unique oval shape, the New Zealand Efficiency Medal has a distinctive Scroll Bar bearing the words NEW ZEALAND spanning the arms of the ribbon suspender. Instituted in 1930, the NZ Efficiency Medal replaced several long service medals rendered obsolete. The medal is awarded for 12 years of Efficient Service. This medal when found incorrectly had a length World War 1 Victory Medal ribbon attached.
Note ** Efficient Service – required attendance at a specified number of parades and training days per year for a soldier to be deemed “Efficient”.
Both medals were in very good condition considering their age and an unknown period of neglect however the medal ribbons had rotted and were disintegrating.
Number, Rank, Name, Unit ..
My initial thoughts were that the medal recipient(s) was from the Nelson–Tasman area owing to the location of Family Store where the medals were found and the fact Nelson had a lengthy history of military service as part of the Canterbury Regiment. The unit title on the medals alludes to Canterbury however from knowledge of that regiment’s general organisation at the time the medals were possibly issued meant the catchment area for its soldiers was not confined to Nelson and Tasman. The Regiment’s territory also included Central and North Canterbury up to and including Kaikoura, Marlborough (included all areas down to Kaikoura), and the West Coast (all of Westland) plus South Canterbury.
The NZ LESM (issued from 1889-1930) was impressed with non-blackened, small block capital letters – HON/LT. (BNDSTR) T. H. HUGHES. CANT. REGT. NM & WC. Interpreted, the medal was named to: Honorary Lieutenant (Bandmaster) T. H. HUGHES, and the unit title stood for: Canterbury Regiment, Nelson, Marlborough & West Coast. It should be noted that when these medals were issued there was no standard format for naming so a variety of initials and number combinations could be found that represented rank, name and unit. This also depended whether the medals were named in the UK, by NZ Defence, or a contracted jeweller that was frequently used during the militia and volunteer period up to 1911.
The NZ EM was also impressed with non-blackened capital letters – BDSMN T. H. HUGHES N.M. & W.C. RGT. – Bandsman T. H. HUGHES, and the unit title stood for: Nelson Marlborough & West Coast Regiment. One helpful clue with this medal was that it had a Scroll with the words NEW ZEALAND fixed to the arms of the medal ribbon suspender. That immediately placed this medal in the post 1931 issued medals category, the year NZ instituted the NZ Efficiency Medal. Prior to 1931, Efficiency Medals were awarded in only some countries of the Empire and were of the Imperial design, i.e. No scroll.
From the outset I realised identifying the person to who these medals had been issued could be difficult as unlike service medals issued during WW1, there was no Service Number of the soldier in the impressed name details around the edge of either medal. Only the rank, initial(s), last surname and unit were evident. Had there been a number it would have identified a specific individual who would have been listed somewhere in a the NZ Defence medals database.
When it comes to identifying a specific individual whether it be to do with medals or any other aspect of military life, a person’s rank, initials and name is somewhat secondary when a specific individual needs to be identified – it is only the Service/Regimental Number that identifies an individual service person precisely. Unfortunately volunteer and territorial soldiers were not assigned identity numbers until First World War, with the exception of those who went to the Boer War (1899-1902). Having said that, it was also an Imperial practice for officers’ NOT to have a service number; these were considered for identifying the men only. This has changed only in so much as all Commonwealth officers now have a service identity number however the medals of officers from the United Kingdom still do not have their service number included in the naming of their medals.
Having not previously encountered a medal awarded to a Bandsman or the rank of Honorary Lieutenant, I would need to find out more about both including the history of the military band in NZ. While HUGHES is not a particularly common name, as say ‘Smith or Brown’ is, past experience has also taught me that TWO medals apparently named to the same person, does not necessarily mean they both belonged to one person. On the face of it, the naming appear to logically suggest they belonged to the same person BUT … until the recipient’s name (initials) on each medal could be identified, there existed room for error. What may appear to be obvious is not always the case, and could become highly embarrassing were a medal sent to the wrong descendant.
Added to the above, the difficulty in determining the identity of T.H.HUGHES was further exacerbated in that volunteer/territorial soldier records from the 1890s to the 1910 up to the beginning of World War 1 are notoriously incomplete, or simply do not exist. When it came to bandsmen’s records I felt even less hopeful of finding anything useful as bands from this era were cobbled together from a mixture of civilians and volunteer/territorial personnel and often transitory. I was beginning to feel weary just thinking about the prospect. There was little option but to work through a process of elimination once I had figured out who exactly T.H.HUGHES was.
The two medals by virtue of the dates they had been instituted and made obsolescent, indicated that they could have been issued at any time between 1889-1931+. That meant T.H.HUGHES had both pre-1900 (Volunteer Corps) and post 1937 (NZ Territorial / part-time) service, the detail of which is shown later in the post. Whilst the Cenotaph website has limited entries for soldiers with pre-1900 service (other than for the NZ Land Wars and Boer War), the same also appears to be true for volunteer or territorial soldiers who did NOT have Active Service.
A cursory check of the War Graves records and Rolls of Honour confirmed the above and that no person in the NZEF named T.H.HUGHES of the Canterbury Regiment had been killed or died on Active Service. This meant the answers would hopefully be found from bandsmen who had served only in New Zealand with the Canterbury Regiment’s band.
One down, one to go …
A check of Cenotaph Records for relevant entries under these circumstances (service, but none of it Active Service) would normally not produce anything useful however given the era and the numbers of men known to have served as Volunteers, or transferred/enlisted into the Territorial Force when it was formed in 1911, meant Cenotaph was worth a check. The Cenotaph archive generally holds the records of military persons, soldiers up to the end of the First World War (plus some Naval and Air personnel) and a smattering of a single page profile of World War II, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam and Peacekeeping Operations personnel.
Inclusion in the Cenotaph database means that each person whether Army, Navy or Air Force, has been on Active Service. It is not necessary to be killed or have died during that service. An ex-military service person who lives an entirely routine length of life will be added to Cenotaph together with the details of their Active Service, after their death. In this particular case, without only the initials of T.H.HUGHES, by randomly guessing the first name of T.H.HUGHES was not hard … whether Terrence, Terry, Tom, Thomas etc etc. I got lucky – a Territorial Force file appeared that was named very similarly to one of the impressed medals: Hon/Lt. Thomas Harold Hughes.
The contents covered the period from 1918 to 1927 only which was something. Again as luck would have it, Thomas Hughes’ file contained records confirming his promotions from Bandsman, Sergeant, Warrant Officer and the appointments of Conductor and Bandmaster plus the award of TWO medals – the New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal (NZ LESM) which accounted for one of the found medals, but not the other. The second medal Hon/Lt Hughes had been awarded was the New Zealand Territorial Service Medal (NZ TSM), a medal that was issued for Volunteer and Territorial service, and which had preceded the issue of the NZ LESM. Regrettably the Salvation Army Family Store had not found this medal with the other two in the box of clothing. With that identified, job done ? … not just yet.
I still had the NZ Efficiency Medal (NZ EM) named to Bandsman T.H. Hughes yet had to prove the ownership of. With this medal not listed on Thomas Harold Hughes file, only by comparing the date from which the NZ Efficiency Medal was instituted, with his dates of of T.H.HUGHES’s service in the Territorial Force, would I be able to determine if Thomas Harold Hughes had been the recipient of both medals – much to my consternation I was about to find out he was NOT! You can see were the error of assuming similarly named medals to the same surname an be a trap. Proof of identity and ownership was required if the Efficiency Medal was to go to the correct descendant family.
Searching for T.H. HUGHES – but which one?
I next turned to the public records to trace T.H.HUGHES to see if I could find some clues to ownership. Having identified Thomas Harold Hughes as one medal recipient, by working backwards I found he had been born in New Plymouth which allowed me to identify a second T.H.HUGHES, Thomas Harold’s father, Thomas Henry Hughes (1851-1937) plus his mother Julia Ann Hughes. There were a number of other HUGHES named men who were born in Taranaki and appeared to be related but without proof of who their parents were (not shown – BDM would likely produce these results).
Fortunately some of these names had re-appeared in the Nelson records after 1905 which confirmed a link between Taranaki and Nelson. having found these details I made the assumption that as both medals turned up in Nelson and referenced band appointments in the Canterbury Regiment, although maybe not awarded to the same T.H.HUGHES, there was a very good possibility both men had lived in Nelson, Marlborough, Tasman or the West Coast areas, the catchment areas for soldiers of the Canterbury Regiment and if so, were probably from the same family given the identical initials and surnames.
The next task was to ascertain the relationship of each man to the other and see where that led. If related, I would then be able to start assembling each man’s ancestral and descendant family trees. Once I had confirmed which HUGHES men had been bandsmen in the Canterbury Regiment, and their dates of service, I would then be in a good position to hopefully identify the Efficiency Medal recipient and to locate a living direct descendant.
What’s in a name ?
The Nelson Electoral Rolls from 1910-1980 contained a considerable number of HUGHES. The earliest reference to a “Thomas Hughes” was 1850. Thereafter there was a proliferation of persons with names resembling and/or possibly related to Thomas Henry and Thomas Harold Hughes. Aside from Thomas Henry and Thomas Harold, it was difficult to make the familial connections without full birth names. Those I concentrated on had appeared variously as: Thomas HUGHES, Thomas Hugh HUGHES, Thomas Henry HUGHES, Thomas Harold HUGHES and Thomas Harold Mamby HUGHES. There was also a number of Henry HUGHES and Harry HUGHES plus additional names of George, William, and Reginald Hughes, all of who appeared to be related to families containing at least one T.H. Hughes, but which one .. confused ? – I certainly was.
Having assembled the possible Hughes family contenders, I scrutinised the birth dates and locations of each which produced FOUR possibilities: Thomas Hughes, Thomas Harold Hughes, Thomas Henry Hughes AND, a second Thomas Henry Hughes. While trying to unravel these connections help arrived in the form of a locally produced history reference book I was lent – The Nelson Band – A History of Nelson City Brass (Inc) by author and former Nelson Garrison Bandsman, the late Pat W. Win. Immediately it clarified the muddied waters of the HUGHES men’s identities.
Pat Win had compiled some excellent material on the careers of the Hughes men among others, and their contribution whilst members of the Nelson Garrison Band and Band of the 1st Canterbury Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast Regiment. The book confirmed all four had been bandsmen as well as several others named Hughes. It also alluded to the confusion Garrison Band members must have had in referencing any particular T.H.HUGHES (that’s a surprise!) bandsmen with TWO having identical names Thomas Henry Hughes, and THREE with the initials of T.H.HUGHES.
The use of short names to identify a person could also not be discounted which added another dimension to the identity issue. As is common with family members who have the same names or initials, short names are often applied to differentiate one from another. Accuracy in recording birth names was not a priority in colonial New Zealand record keeping with many people being recorded by the short name they were most commonly known, and second or middle names not recorded at all in many cases. For instance: a name such as “Harold” is normally shortened to “Harry” or sometimes “Henry“, or might be something completely unrelated, e. g. Jack, Hank etc. Matilda was frequently known and recorded as “Tilly” while a birth name such as “Eliza” was sometimes recorded as Lizzy. Eliza, Betty or Beth were common short names for “Elizabeth” and so on. Much of the recording depended on the spelling skill level (or lack thereof) of the recorder. I think you get the drift how easy it is to be derailed in the search for a particular name if only a short name or single first name was recorded where there were two given at birth.
But wait, there’s more …. to further confuse me identifying the T.H.HUGHES relationships even further, I found that three of them had been involved in the same occupation – joinery/carpentry/building industry AND, at some point two of these had owned a joinery/building company, Thomas H. Hughes & Son (no longer trading), but to which “Thomas” did the title refer ? – and as there were three T.H.HUGHES, any two might be the son?
As all of the men in question were deceased, proving their family connections was just as important if their present day descendants were to be correctly identified. Without these I would not be able to prove which family branch I should pursue for a living descendant for each of the medals.
Evolution of the Garrison band
As I got my head around the Hughes story, it was as unique as it was fascinating. To understand how collective contributions to military bands in both Taranaki, and the Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast territorial forces, is to know their backgrounds and the influence they had on the various bands they were involved with, in particular the Nelson Garrison Band.
All of the Hughes men were members of one or more brass bands during their playing careers, also teachers and administrators, but their loyalty and focus was first and foremost to the Nelson Garrison Band. My search for the T.H.HUGHES men’s first names started with the two bandsmen I had identified in Taranaki, one of whom “Thomas Harold” later became a long standing member of the Nelson Garrison Band. The history of this band was long and convoluted as the number of name changes (see below) it under went over the decades tends to indicate.
The Garrison Band had its foundation in the earliest days of the settlement when a Militia was required to provide protection of the settlers. In the late 1830’s The New Zealand Company (NZCo) was formed originally for philanthropic reasons, however Britain’s labour force was almost idle due to the severe depression that gripped the country following the Napoleonic Wars. The NZCo saw an opportunity to purchase cheap land from natives in countries and resell it for profit. To do this it was in their interests to establish a population and therefore demand for the land which it would sell at inflated prices to English capitalists. This was also an opportunity to make use of the large numbers of lower and middle classes who were unable to find work in the country’s depressed state. This also had the effect of relieving the labour surplus in Britain which had led to political and civil unrest.
The NZ Company had successfully established the first colony at New Plymouth and sought to establish a second in Nelson. The ‘carrot’ to attract skilled men to kick start the new colony was FREE passage and land. Once the colony was established, the Company would then transplant all that was considered the best of English society, including its far share of entrepreneurial “toffs”.
Commander Arthur Wakefield RN (the brother of Edward Gibbon Wakefield – the ‘architect’ of the New Zealand Company), having recently retired from the Royal Navy, was the man chosen to command a new colony (the second, the first being New Plymouth) on the West Coast of the South Island, left Gravesend on 27 April 1841. The first three ships – Whitby, Will Watch and Arrow loaded with goods to establish the colony arrived at Port Nicholson, Wellington in early August. Survey parties were then despatched to scour the coastline for a suitable location for the new colony, finally settling on Te Wakatu. The colonists, migrants selected by the New Zealand Company in England as suited to establishing the new colony, followed in the first immigrant ship, the Fifeshire, which arrived in Nelson’s Haven harbour on 1st Feb 1842.
When Heke’s war broke out in 1845, Governor Fitzroy ordered the Militia out. The Militia Ordinance Act which had been passed in 1845, authorised the formation of compulsory militia units to supplement the British Regiment’s soldiers. The Act required all men between the ages of 18 and 60 to enrol who could be called out for training or service within 25 miles of their town. Those required to serve were selected from the roll by permanently appointed officers. For the new colonists in Nelson, whilst the local Wakatu Maori appeared friendly, nothing could be taken for granted. The migrants fears were again heightened in the wake of the June 1843 Wairau Massacre (Affray), barely 100 kilometres away, when Wakefield and a party of men were executed after they had attempted to arrest Te Rauparaha and his Ngati Toa warriors for resisting the the survey of land at Tuamarina Wakefield erroneously believed belonged to the NZ Company.
Fearing the Nelson (Wakatu) Maori may try to imitate Heke and his warriors, a scratch garrison Militia of citizen volunteers was quickly put together. One hundred men were balloted and formed into two companies of fifty in each. The Church Hill fortification, later named Fort Arthur, was built atop the hill where Nelson’s Christ Church Cathedral now stands, and where the Militia readied itself with regular training sessions should it be needed.
The makings of a band
A number of the recently arrived migrants on the Fifeshire had shown during the voyage that they could play a musical instrument and while not professional musicians, this mixture of labourers, artisans and the odd ‘toff’ were able to entertain the passengers in some fashion during the voyage. It was from these men, a small three man Fife & Drum Band was assembled to assist the Militia (two fifes and a drummer) music being essential for marching cadence. The drummer was no less than Governor Fitzroy himself who had experience with service in the Life Guards. Since that time, militia/garrison and bands formed in the Marlborough, Nelson, Tasman and West Coast regions have been inextricably linked to the local military forces with the continuous presence of a band of some sort.
The feared Maori attack never eventuated in Nelson and the militia was stood down on 28 November. From then on, the settlers expressed their animosity towards the ill-paid and disruptive militia service. However the band endured in some shape or form thereafter, meeting every immigrant ship to arrive in the bay and being present at all anniversary events in town, such as new Years Day, Easter, Christmas, St Georges Day, various galas and fetes. The population in Nelson in 1850 was approximately 2000. It was reported to relatives in the “old country” that there were 50 houses, a church, school and a band. The band still small in number had endured to provide civic accompaniment at all civic events.
By 1859 and still with the memory strong of the Wairau Massacre, news of the brutality and death toll from the Taranaki land war that had broken out in 1860, alarmed the Nelson population and so met with some urgency to discuss the formation of their own Volunteer Rifle Corps. On 16 Feb 1860, the first company (No.1 Company) of the Nelson Volunteers Rifles was formed at the Whakatu Hotel with 75 rank and file. By the end of 1861, the province had eight volunteer rifle companies and a Volunteer Naval Artillery Brigade.
The commander of the Volunteer Rifles, knowing the importance of martial music to achieving quality military drill, immediately began to court the Nelson Brass Band. Within two months the band had been recruited into the Corps. In addition to the annual capitation paid to each volunteer, the band was likely promised some other financial support as an inducement to remain loyal. The band at this time consisted of nine playing members.
Nelson Garrison Band (1844 – 1974)
It was from these humble beginnings that the Nelson Garrison Band was formed, alternating between civic and military employ. While there were issues surround leadership of the band – civic and military, pay issues, and juggling commitments of competing civil and military interests, use of the band, and a most controversial tussle over the retention of the band’s name. For all this, the band endured producing some outstanding national championship solo performers successes whilst lifting the bands overall standards to championship status, from a group of very dedicated musicians – T.H.Hughes times three were all such bandsmen.
The HUGHES Bandsmen dynasty ..
Bearing in mind that some of the following information did not become apparent until my research was almost complete, after much sifting, comparison and piecing together of the Hughes family, five Hughes men were identified around who this story unfolded. Three of the men were named Thomas H. Hughes, one being Thomas Harold Hughes and all five had enjoyed illustrious band careers that spanned three generations during a 100 year period from 1870-1970+.
T.H. HUGHES – “Tom the Elder”
Thomas Henry Hughes (1851-1937) – The patriarch of the Hughes family “Tom the Elder” was a musician, tutor, conductor, bandmaster and musical instrument maker. Of Welsh extraction, Thomas left his home in Sutton Valance near Maidstone, Kent at the age of twenty. Thomas and his newly married 19 year old bride Julia Ann AUSTEN (1852-1892) of Maidstone, emigrated to New Zealand in 1874. Under the command of Captain Greeves, the Hughes left the London docks bound for Wellington on 27 August 1874 aboard the East Indiaman** HOWRAH, the first of three chartered immigrant voyages the ship made to New Zealand. An iron ship of 1,098 tons, Howrah made good passage to Nelson in 96 days despite encountering some very rough weather.
The ship with its 286 largely single immigrant passengers aboard, dropped anchor at Nelson’s Haven on 9 November 1874 to disembark 200 of the immigrants. The remaining 86 (including Thomas and Julia) were landed at Lambton Harbour (later Port Nicholson) Wellington on 18 November. During the voyage 10 deaths had occurred, mainly of infants from diarrhoea. One young mother-to-be died as a result of a miss-carriage, and a teen-aged girl had died in the midst of an asthma attack.
Note: ** An East Indiaman was the general name for any sailing ship operating under charter or licence to any of the East India trading companies of the major European trading powers of the 17th through the 19th centuries. The term is used to refer to vessels belonging to the Austrian, Danish, Dutch, English, French, Portuguese, or Swedish companies. HOWRAH is a city in the state of West Bengal, India, also the site of the largest railway complex in modern India.
Military music in his veins …
Being a musical talent from an early age (a trait that was to run through his descendant family), Thomas Hughes was a B-Flat Bass player who by the age of 15 had become the Bandmaster** and Conductor of the West Kent Volunteer Buffs Band. During the voyage to New Zealand Tom would cobble together a fellow passenger instrumentalists and entertain with impromptu musical interludes, much to the delight of the passengers. Julia his young wife was also an accomplished player of the pianoforte, together with another young female immigrant passenger who played the harp, they also entertained the Howrah passengers on numerous occasions during the voyage. Julia and the harpist continued to entertain the new immigrants after their arrival albeit Thomas and Julia’s stay was short. By the end of December 1874, Tom and Julia Hughes had transferred to their intended destination – New Plymouth, the first immigrant colony in New Zealand.
In 1879, George William Hughes (1879-1950), the first of Thomas and Julia’s six children was born at New Plymouth. Three daughters – Julia Elizabeth, Rose Amelia and Florence Louisa Hughes, plus two more sons followed, Thomas Harold Hughes (1882-1961) and Henry Hughes (1885-1949) completed their family. All three sons grew up to be very tall, well built men who started there brass band careers at an early age under the tutelage of their father. All were multi-instrument capable, each being accomplished bandsman winning multiple solo and regional competition medals including a number of national championship titles.
Note: ** For the purposes of the following text, the terms Bandmaster (military band) and Conductor (civil band) may be regarded as one in the same. The Conductor generally had charge of the music (selection, musical arrangement) and the Bandmaster, a title applied to all military band leaders, responsible for all marching/drill routines and the overall discipline and management of the band. In many cases both jobs were fulfilled by the same appointment.
Back into uniform
Not one to let the grass grow under his feet musically speaking, Thomas Hughes joined the Taranaki Volunteer Corps and using his experience from his days with the Band of the West Kent Volunteer Buffs Regiment, set about forming the Taranaki Cavalry Volunteer Band. By 1880 the band had hit a rather low ebb of motivation and discipline and so Thomas reformed it into the New Plymouth Town Band and took over as its Conductor. Capable of playing a variety of instruments, particularly adept as a Cornetist, Thomas could turn his hand to the Bass and the String Bass when required. The Town Band fulfilled the roll of both a civil and military band.
In 1882 Thomas Hughes was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Egmont Volunteer Rifles Taranaki Corps. One of Thomas’s early recollections as a Sub-Lieutenant was of accompanying Sir George Grey with the Volunteer Cavalry Band to Waitara, to play at a hui where land matters where to be discussed. Most of the Maoris present were from the hostile Hauhau tribe. These were the radical members of the Maori Hauhau or Pai Marire religion (Maori: “Good and Peaceful”) founded in Taranaki in 1862. Ironically their impact upon both Maori, and the European settlers was neither good, nor peaceful and resulted in random massacres of both for all sorts of nefarious and mostly unjustified reasons.
In 1885, Thomas and Julia Hughes moved to Waitara and a residence in Smart Road. Whilst in Waitara Thomas taught music for brass instrument players, and formed the Smart Road Band. The records show he was still the Bandmaster of this band in 1888 whilst also the Bandmaster and Solo Cornetist of the Waitara Brass Band . Thomas’s three sons William George, Thomas Harold, and Henry were all born in Taranaki and introduced to playing brass instruments from their earliest years. All three became excellent brass musicians in later years, Thomas Harold Hughes becoming the most successful of them all.
In 1892, Julia Hughes died unexpectedly at Waitara aged 39 years, leaving children ranging in age from six to 17. Thomas’s daughters managed the running of house and looked after the younger children. George the eldest worked as a Baker while Thomas Harold Hughes was employed as a Painter, with the remainder of the children still at school. Thomas continued teaching music in Waitara until 1895 when he moved to Stratford, his occupation there listed as a Musician. He remained in Stratford until 1899 before moving to Hawera and joining the Hawera Brass Band. In 1905, while Thomas was visiting England, he re-married at Carthurst, Berkshire to 52 year old Martha ASHTON (1853-1941) and returned to Hawera. No children resulted from their union.
During the Great War 1914-1918, Thomas Hughes played Bass in the New Plymouth Citizens Band and also became its Conductor. Promoted to Warrant Officer 1st Class in the 11th Taranaki (Rifles) Regiment by 1920, Thomas became the Bandmaster of the Hawera Brass Band for several years. Being a String Bass player, the Hawera Star records him as still playing in Hawera Brass in 1921 when he was 71 years of age. The New Plymouth Citizens Band evolved into the 1st Battalion, Taranaki Regimental Band of which Thomas was Bandmaster from 1924-1928 finally relinquishing the appointment when he was 77, he and Martha retiring in Hawera. Bandmaster (WO 1st Class) Thomas Henry Hughes died at Hawera on Anzac Day, 25 April 1937 aged 81 years and was buried with his wife Martha in Waitara.
The Sons of “Tom the Elder”
1. George William HUGHES (1879-1950) known as “Bill or Billy” a Cornet player who had a number of solo competition medals to his credit. A Baker by trade, Bill Hughes originally worked for G. Adam Day, a fellow Nelson Garrison bandsman and owner of the Vienna Bakery at 144 Bridge Street in Nelson. Bill Hughes was the Deputy Conductor of the Nelson Garrison Band and when his brother Tom resigned in 1924, he became Bandmaster & Conductor for a period. Bill Hughes married an English girl from Boston Line, Caroline Susannah “Carrie” DOUGHTY (1876-1932) and had a family of three: Alma Doris, Bertha Elizabeth and George William Mamby Hughes. Widower Bill Hughes re-married in 1943 to Dunedin widow, Florence Adelle KNIGHT (1876-1959), an Australian from Horseham, Victoria. Bill died at Dunedin in 1950, aged 71.
2. Thomas Harold HUGHES [Snr] (1882-1961) known affectionately as “Old Tom” by the Nelson Garrison Band members, he was also known variously as: Tom the Older, Tom Snr, TH Senior. By far the most successful of the Hughes bandsmen, Tom had a long and successful band career that spanned 55 years, with 21 years as the Bandmaster & Conductor of the Nelson Garrison Band. Tom played the E-Flat Bass, B-Flat Bass, Double B-Flat Bass and the Euphonium. He devoted all of his spare time when not working, to teaching pupils on brass instruments, coaching solo player performances, as well as attending competitions as Bandmaster, Conductor and Competitor. Whilst never an A Grade band, the Nelson Garrison Band became a Champion ‘B’ Grade band in several disciplines under the baton of Tom Hughes [Snr].
Tom Hughes was married at Nelson in 1904 to Hamburg born Marie Melisse HUSE (1887-1953) and together had three children, a daughter and two sons. The Hughes brothers were encouraged learn an instrument at an early age and had joined the Nelson Garrison Band while still at primary school. In later years the brothers enjoyed individual success both as solo contestants and champion bandsmen. Each had deputised on occasions for their father as the Bandmaster and/or Conductor of the Garrison Band as well as some of the small regional brass bands in the Nelson & Tasman areas. After Tom Hughes Snr retired from the band, his sons again stepped into the breach as required to provide the continuity as Bandmaster or Conductor. Tom and Marie Hughes family were as follows :
- Viva Rose HUGHES (1905-1989) married Edgar Charles COLEMAN.
- Thomas Henry HUGHES [Jnr] (1908-1981), known by the Garrison Band members as “Young Tom” or Tom the Younger, Tom Jnr, TH Junior and on occasions Henry, to differentiate him from both his grandfather (Tom the Elder) and his father (Old Tom). Young Tom was well known in the band for his pet black dog which he took everywhere with him. At band practice the dog would lay quietly under his chair – that is until the band played ‘Colonel Bogey’ when the dog always howled for the duration it was played. Like his father before him, Young Tom made a huge practical contribution to the band over a significant number of years. A builder by trade, Tom Jnr designed and built the present band room in Hathaway Terrace, assisted by voluntary labour from band members. It is understood Tom worked for wages only on this project while making extensive use of the family’s carpentry and house building business facilities, of which he had become a Director.
In June 1932, Tom Jnr married Rita May CHANEY (1905-1995), a young lady from Wellington. Tom and Rita had two daughters: Lynne Elizabeth Hughes (b1937) and Kaye Maree Hughes (b1941). Sadly Kaye passed away in 1975 at the age of 35, the result of childhood meningitis. Lynne married Bernard Francis “Frank” COLEMAN, the parents of Tom and Rita’s three grandchildren: Murray Thomas, Gayle Andrea and Paula Dianne COLEMAN.
Also like his father, Young Tom was made a Life Member of the Nelson Garrison Band for his musical and practical contributions over an extended period of the band’s contemporary history. When Thomas Henry Hughes [Jnr] died in Nelson on 25 Oct 1981 at the age of 73, his well-attended funeral service included the Garrison Band which paid tribute to his band and war service in its own inimitable way – with music.
- Reginald Karl HUGHES (1914-1976), known as “Reg”, a school teacher by profession who was also a very competent E-Flat Bass player. Reg served as the Band Secretary from 1939-1941 until mobilised as 391901 Private Reginald K. Hughes for overseas service with 2-NZEF. Enlisted as Reg’s prowess as a bandsman in the Band of the 1st Canterbury N.M. & W.C. Regiment did not go un-noticed. He embarked in 1944 with the NZ Infantry Brigade for duties with the 2-NZEF band. On arrival at the Maadi Camp in Egypt, Reg joined with other territorial and regular bandsman to swell the ranks of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force Middle East Band which toured NZ unit locations extensively in North Africa and Italy to entertain the troops. The band also played for numerous visiting dignitaries including parades, regimental dining occasions, dances, theatre shows, sporting events and for funerals.
Prior to going on Active Service, Reg married Rona Maud SOWMAN (1908-1978) and after the war later raised a family of three: Hilary Mary, Julia Katherine and Donald Hughes. Reginald Karl Hughes died in Tauranga on 19 Sep 1976, aged 70 years.
3. Henry HUGHES (1885-1949) was known as “Harry” by family, band members and work colleagues. Harry, like his elder brother Tom Snr played the Double B-Flat Bass and Euphonium. A mechanical engineer by trade, Harry moved to Bainham near Collingwood in the early 1920s where he opened his own garage at Bonnie Doon in 1929, specializing in the repair of American Studebaker vehicles. Whilst at Bainham, Harry’s pursued his musical interests as a member of both the Collingwood Brass Band and the Takaka Citizens Brass Bands. Drawing on his brother Tom experience, Harry became Conductor of the Collingwood Brass Band until the late 1940s whilst also playing the Euphonium for the Takaka Citizens Band. Harry married English lady Georgina WATERS (1878-1919) who came from Boughton, Monchelsea in Kent. Their only son Jack (1910-) worked in Nelson during the 1930s and early 1940s during which time he boarded with his Uncle Tom Snr and Aunt Rita. Having learned to play the Tenor Horn, it was a natural step while boarding with his musically skilled teacher uncle and aunt, to become a member of the Nelson Garrison Band. His playing no doubt benefitted greatly while living under his uncle’s roof – what better coach could a young bandsman possibly wish for? Henry “Harry” and Georgina Hughes in due course moved back to Nelson in where he died in 1949 at the age of 64.
T. H. HUGHES [Snr] – “OLD TOM”
In the brass band world Thomas Harold Hughes was a legend in his own lifetime. Tutored by his father, Tom’s instrument of choice was the B-Flat Bass, one he gained many championship medals with. Fiercely competitive, Tom quite simple became one of the finest Solo instrumentalists in the country.
At 19 years of age Tom had joined Taranaki Volunteers Corps in 1902as a bandsman with the Taranaki Garrison Band. The following year (1903), Tom then 20 and making his first attempt to win a New Zealand championship at the National Band Championships in Masterton, gained 2nd Place in the B-Flat Bass Solo competition. In 1905 he won the National Double B-Flat Bass Solo competition after which he was recruited by the Nelson Garrison Band that he remained closely associated with for 56 years until his death in 1961. Tom went on to become the Garrison Band’s Bandmaster and Conductor for 25 years, winning numerous solo and band championship medals with a variety of instruments. A Carpenter by trade, whilst Tom realised earning an income was necessary, he was offered a carpenter’s position by fellow bandsman Charles Leaper of Leaper Brothers (a Nelson building firm) which ensured both income and devotion to the band were never far apart.
Re-organization – 1911
The Defence Act of 1909 replaced the old Volunteer Force with the Territorial Force which recruited by compulsory service. In February 1911 the Nelson Army Area comprising Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast, was absorbed into the Canterbury Army Area. The newly formed Nelson Territorial Force, named the 12th (Nelson) Infantry Regiment, was inaugurated on 17 March 1911 with the Nelson Garrison Band also being absorbed into the Regiment.
Why “12th Nelson” ? This came about as a result of historical circumstances. Although Nelson had an active Militia in 1845 and a Volunteer Corps founded in 1860, all existing corps were disbanded in 1865, and then the next year, all were invited to re-register. No service prior to 1866 was recognised so the seniority of the local Corps was established according to the speed with which the replied to the military authorities. The Nelson Volunteer Corps happened to be the 12th reply received for re-registration.
Nelson Garrison Band >> Band of the 12th (Nelson) Infantry Regiment
With the formation of the Territorial Force, the Band adopted the hat badge of the 12th Nelson (Infantry) Regiment which remained in use for many years after Tom Hughes death. Throughout his life Tom Hughes fought an on-going battle as Bandmaster and Conductor, for the retention of the name Nelson Garrison in the band’s name which others, including military authorities, attempted to have changed. With the re-organisation, the Nelson Garrison Band had also adopted the hat badge of the 12th as its own permanent identity badge, a tradition Tom Hughes held to be extremely important even as unit badges and crests altered over time. As far as Tom was concerned, the hat badge and band’s name were two non-negotiable traditions as long as he remained in charge of the Nelson Garrison Band! This was a fight Tom prevailed in, at least until his death, after which the band’s name was eventually changed in 1974.
From 1843 to the present day, the Nelson Garrison Band has operated under 20 different names:
- 1843 – The Nelson Band
- 1857 – Nelson Amateur Band
- 1859 – Nelson Brass Band, and The Nelson Band
- 1860-1862 – Nelson City & Volunteer Rifles Band
- 1863 – Nelson City Band
- 1867 – The Nelson Band
- 1873 – The Nelson Band & The Town Band
- 1873-1878 – Nelson Artillery Band
- 1878-1881 – Nelson Battalion Band
- 1881 – The Nelson Town Band
- 1881-1884 – Nelson Battalion Band
- 1884 – 1912 – Nelson Garrison Band
- 1912-1917 – Band of the 12th (Nelson) Regiment
- 1917-1920 – Band of the 12th Nelson & Marlborough Regiment
- 1921-1923 – Band of the 2nd Battalion, Canterbury Regiment
- 1923-1950 – Band of the 1st Battalion, Nelson, Marlborough & West Coast Regiment
- 1949-1950 – Nelson Garrison Band (Incorporated)
- 1950-1974 – Nelson Garrison Band [Municipal] (Incorporated)
- 1974-1992 – Nelson Municipal Band (Incorporated)
- 1992-current – Nelson City Brass (Incorporated)
Tom Hughes Snr was ‘old school’ – an imposing six foot plus, well built man, a hard man but also a fair man, one who could certainly demonstrate his ire on occasions especially when he felt he had been wronged. His imposing height and build projected authority and the standard he expected his band to aspire to – he would settle for nothing less. For all that, he was a devoted musician and tireless teacher, to both his band and to his bandsmen whom he constantly sought to raise the standards of, and very successfully did so. Tom was a traditionalist, a man’s man in a man’s world (no room for women in a military band!) and one who was greatly respected by his contemporaries. A brilliant instrumentalist, Tom confidently ‘walked the talk’, his passion for brass bands demonstrated by going the extra mile for the bands and numerous soloists he coached to national championship honours.
A band room is needed …
The Garrison Band had for some years needed a purpose built band room. Practices were usually held in an available church but these were far from acoustically satisfactory whilst otherwise convenient for a penniless band. A project to build a dedicated band room had been started in September 1903 but progress had been slow due to the lack of funding to start the building. With no financial assistance available from Army, the onus to raise sufficient funds to start the building was up to the band to raise by public donation. But not everyone was keen about hitting up their neighbours, friends and colleagues for money in the still growing town of Nelson where money was short at the best of times, but that all changed when Tom Hughes came on the scene.
When twenty two year old Tom Hughes arrived at Nelson in 1905, he immediately sank himself into the band room project with characteristic drive and enthusiasm. He innovated ways of using the band to raise funds in all the traditional ways – raffles, competitions, musical events etc and promoted their cause whenever the band appeared at public events, official openings, galas, fetes etc.
1907 was a big year for the Garrison Band. Finally, a site was selected in Albion Square for the band room to be built and action commenced when the foundation of an octagonal structure was laid. The octagonal shape of the band room was considered acoustically ideal for brass instrument music practices. Much of the materials were provided by fellow bandsman and employer Charles Leaper, a director of the Leaper Brothers building firm. Tom contributed his carpentry skills to Charles Leaper’s materials contribution and project managed the build with the assistance of other bandsmen. As money was raised, a little more of the building was added to.
During the next few years while the band room was under construction, band practices were often conducted in the open air on the wooden floor sitting on top of the foundations. It was a relief to all concerned when finally in 1911, the octagonal band room was completed. It was a resounding success and Sergeant Tom Hughes was offered of the paid appointment of Bandmaster of the Nelson Garrison Band, which he accepted. Shortly after his appointment, Tom was joined in the band by his older brother Bill (George William) Hughes and younger brother Harry (Henry) Hughes.
New Zealand declared a Dominion
On 26 Sep 1907, New Zealand’s status officially changed from that of a British Colony to be declared a Dominion, with ‘Dominion Day’ becoming a national holiday that was celebrated country-wide. In Nelson the Declaration of the Dominion was a dual occasion. Not only did the Garrison Band perform in acknowledgement of the country’s ‘coming of age’ but it was also an opportunity for the band to present it best in military music with the Consecration of the Colours of the 1st Regiment of Nelson Mounted Rifles & 1st Battalion, Nelson Infantry Regiment ceremony being the visual highlight of the day.
Also during the year, Tom had taken time out to coach and rehearse the Nelson Garrison Band Quartet which he took to the National Championships in Wellington. The Quartet was the Garrison Band’s first representation at a National Championship and to their credit, they returned with a well deserved 2nd Placing.
The war years
‘POINT of WAR’
The First World War years were extremely busy for the Nelson Garrison Band. Commitments to departing Reinforcement Drafts, returning soldier drafts, visits to training units at Tapawera, military and civil official occasions kept the band engaged on a full-time basis. In 1915 the Band adopted the blackened hat badge of the 12th (Nelson) Company as a tribute to the Officer Commanding of the 12th, Major Cyprian Brereton, a Motueka territorial officer who had ordered his Company to blackening their brass badges in February 1915 prior to the Turkish assault at the Suez Canal. Blackening the hat and collar badges reduced their visibility in an endeavour to avoid attracting Turkish rifle fire. The badge remained blackened for the length of time the band worn military uniform.
In 1917, the regiment and band were reorganise with the inevitable re-naming. The band became known as the 12th Nelson & Marlborough Regiment & 2nd Canterbury Regiment Band. Tom at this point had almost 12 years playing and leading bands and was highly regarded as very experienced brass instrument practitioner – he was 29 years of age. In September 1918, Sgt Tom Hughes was promoted to Warrant Officer 1st Class and formally gazetted as the regiment’s Bandmaster. He was also awarded the NZ Territorial Service Medal for 12 years service.
Barely five months later Tom was again promoted by special recommendation of the Officer Commanding District, to Honorary Second Lieutenant & Bandmaster of the regimental band. More re-organisation by the Army in 1923 saw the band’s name changed yet again, adding to a growing list – the Band of the 1st Battalion Nelson, Marlborough & West Coast Regiment was a title that lasted until 1936. Needless to say, 2Lt. Hughes was re-appointed the Bandmaster, and in June 1919 he was awarded the NZ Long & Efficient Service Medal for 20 years ‘efficient’ service.
In 1923 the Army was in post-WW1 re-organisation mode and as a result had issued a direction that the band’s name was to be changed to no longer reflect its association as a military band. To Tom that meant only one thing – the re-organisation was readying to dispense with the services of the Nelson Garrison Band. Since the formation of the Volunteer Corps, the band had cost the Government very little other than arms, uniform accoutrements and capitation. The Corps had found its own uniforms and met its own general expenses. Fundraising by the units and their bands therefore had been necessarily continuous. Since that time little had changed.
The Nelson Garrison Band had more than met all the demands Army had placed on it through the First World War and beyond, and provided most of the members of the 1st Canterbury N.M. & W.C. Regimental Band. Tom saw this as dismissive of the band’s years of service and hard work, a slap in the face and a lack of gratitude for its contribution. The penny-pinching in not wanting to pay for a Bandmaster and the Bandsmen’s capitation, plus equipment and facilities, simply reinforced Tom’s belief the band was no longer wanted. Moves were also afoot to have the 1st Canterbury N.M. & W.C. Band located at the Canterbury Regiment’s Headquarters, Burnham Military Camp which would cause many bandsmen to resign as their families and workplaces were mostly located in the Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast areas.
In due course a direction was received from Army to make the necessary changes to the band’s name and structure. Tom staunchly refused to comply with the direction. This was the final straw for Tom, there was no way he was giving in to this demand which forced him to take the only stand he could. Tom resigned from the Garrison Band in 1924 and went to Christchurch. The band’s historian Pat W. Win tells us in his book The Nelson Band – A History of Nelson City Brass (Inc) that Old Tom left the band in order to support his daughter who was training to be a teacher at the Christchurch Teacher’s College. My impressions on reading this train of events for the first time, I doubt that this was the real reason.
Tom Hughes Snr’s resignation and disappointment may have also presented him with a ‘silver lining’ of sorts. As the bands Conductor and Bandmaster for a considerable number of years, Tom had not had the opportunity to further his own instrumental interests in perfecting his ability with additional instruments. Perhaps Tom had an ulterior motive, the band name and restructuring issue finally giving him the push? Christchurch was the home of the very highly rated Woolston Brass Band, one that possessed a long history of fostering excellent musicians and a reputation for championship success. It was with Woolston Brass that Tom could see himself fulfilling his interest. He joined Woolston which resulted in his switching from B-Flat Bass to the Euphonium, an instrument he had taken up purely to assist his brother Harry learning some years earlier. The Woolston Conductor being only too aware of Tom’s reputation as a champion player, bandmaster and conductor, offered him the position of Deputy Conductor, which he accepted. With the appointment also went the position of Bandmaster.
Whilst with Woolston Brass, Tom Hughes excelled with the Euphonium, winning the National Euphonium Championship titles in 1926 and 1928. His son, 17 year old Tom the Younger also competed for his first time in 1926 and under his father’s guidance tied for 4th Place in the Double B-Flat Solo. Tom had been with Woolston Brass for four years at this point and after the 1928 title, was offered a position with his alma mata in New Plymouth as Conductor of the Taranaki Regimental Band that had evolved from the Taranaki Garrison Band he had joined as a boy in 1902. Tom accepted and re-located to his hometown of New Plymouth and in 1929. Further solo competition success followed when he again won the National Euphonium Championship title for the third occasion in 1929. Later that year Tom returned to Nelson after being offered the position of Conductor of the 1st Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast Regiment (1st NMWC Regiment) Band, a position he retained until his retirement in 1939.
Like most voluntary organisations, from time to time they struggle financially. The Garrison Band was no different and was heading towards a suspension of its activities in the mid-1930s following the effects of the Great Depression that followed the 1929 Wall Street Crash. By 1937 the band had reached ‘peak funding deficit’ and unfortunately, without any significant help from the NZ Military Forces, desperate measures were called for to keep the band going. Leading by personal example, Hon/Lt Bandmaster Tom Hughes, ever the professional and always with the best interests of the band at heart, refused to take his salary for the whole of 1937! Later in the year, Tom had been honoured to conduct the band for King George V’s coronation celebrations held in September 1937, however, when he was again re-offered the Conductor position, he declined. Despite repeated efforts to bring the plight of the Garrison band to the notice of authorities, their seeming lack of interest in addressing the shortfalls essential for the band’s continuance, Tom was of the opinion the band was simply being used as a convenience. The lack of support was a clear indication to Tom that the band was under appreciated by Army and apparently not needed …. and neither was he!
1937 was also Tom Hughes last year as Conductor of the Nelson Garrison Band. Then 57 years of age, Hon/Lt. Tom Hughes’ decided at short notice without any practice, to enter a solo competition at the Christchurch Band Contest as his ‘swan song.’ Tom placed 7th in the Euphonium Solo with a total of 84 points of a possible 100, just 10 points behind the winner!
1939 was a Hon/Lt. Tom Hughes’ last year as a member of the band. After almost 30 years with the Nelson Garrison Band (and four with Woolston Brass), Tom announced his retirement. To say that the ‘band was Tom’s life’ in no way overstates his passion and devotion to the Garrison Band. The bandsmen and their welfare, especially those who he personally mentored, were always his priority to the extent that after retirement, Tom found it difficult to let go.
Unless there were special circumstances, it had always been Tom’s custom to play with his band when on the march. For contest quickstep competitions he often ignored his rank and wear the uniform of a Private. Whilst a perfectionist and hard charger, Tom was also of an older generation who did not approve of females in bands. A story is told while Tom was judging at a national contest, a Baritone Soloist had been placed second by Judge Tom Hughes. Later when speaking to the competitor whom he knew well, Tom said “ if I’d known it was you Ernie, I’d have placed you first.” The winner had been the woman.
Even as he advance into his 60s and 70s Tom seemed to be indestructible, remaining available to play for contest bands in his retirement. For the Nelson Garrison Band, if short of players or a player was ill, Tom was invariably ready to step into the breach. In 1940, the year following his official retirement, Tom was again playing with the Garrison band, volunteering to replace a bandsman who had been sent overseas with 2-NZEF.
Retirement & Accolades
You could be forgiven for thinking that Tom Hughes Snr was involved in nothing but brass bands – but you would be wrong. During his early years in Nelson, Tom played senior rugby for the Rivals Football Club. He was connected with boxing for many years and also a boxing judge. His other favoured sport was Coursing: greyhound racing, and was the Judge at the Australasian Waterloo Cup fixture in Auckland in 1931.
In recognition of his leadership and years of valued service as bandsman, tutor, coach, conductor and bandmaster of the Nelson Garrison Band, Hon/Lt. Thomas Harold Hughes was honoured with Life Membership of the Nelson Garrison Band (1st N.M. & W.C. Regt), the first of three such Life Memberships he was awarded.
Tom continued to play well into old age no matter how much or little practice he did. He resumed conducting for two short periods when the Garrison Band was without a permanent Conductor: the first was in 1949 and then for a year in 1956 when he 74 years of age. From time to time Tom had also conducted and mentored members of the Wakefield Band and Takaka Citizens Band, as had his elder brother G.W. “Bill” Hughes. Tom’s association with the Takaka and Woolston bands also resulted in additional Life Memberships bestowed upon him by both the Woolston Brass Band and the Takaka Citizens Band .
In the years following his retirement, such had been his influence and the esteem with which Tom Hughes had been held by both past and present members of the Garrison Band, an official portrait of him was commissioned that now has an honoured position in the band room, fittingly designed and built by his son Thomas Henry Hughes Jnr. (Tom the Younger).
End of an era
Tom Hughes’s brass band career had spanned 1905-1947: 42 years during which he had been the Conductor and Bandmaster of the Nelson Garrison Band and Band of the 1st & 2nd Battalions, Canterbury, Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast Regiment, for at least 25 years. Aside from the dozens of bandsmen he had trained and mentored, Lt Tom Hughes personal record of excellence with his chosen instruments, spoke for itself. He had been an outstanding soloist and in the course of his brass band career had won 17 medals; eleven of which were GOLD. Tom was most proud of winning three New Zealand Championships on three different instruments: the E-Flat Bass, Double B-Flat Bass, and the Euphonium – and, on three occasions he scored the possible 100 points.
“Old Tom” – the Carpenter
Tom Hughes [Snr] had a singular dedication to the brass band which remained his focus even out of work hours however he still had a living to earn and did so as a Carpenter in Nelson for 19 years, eventually recognised by the authorities as a qualified Master Builder. Tom had a carpentry and joiners workshop in what is now the Buxton Square. As well as being active in the Volunteer Corps, the Leaper Brothers also became significant contributors and supporters of the Garrison Band, maintaining a long association with the band to the present day.
Thomas Henry Hughes Jnr (Young Tom) entered the house building trade from school, became a Master Builder and joined his father as a co-director of T.H. Hughes & Son Ltd. What had begun as a small carpentry and joiners business expanded to eventually specialise in domestic house, and a company the was a highly regarded with a reputation for quality workmanship. Tom Snr remained with the business until the early 1960s when he retired to his and Marie’s home at 65 Cambria Street in Nelson. Tom Jnr took over as the principle director and maintained the business with a staff of eight tradesmen. In spite of having two daughters who were obviously neither male, carpenters nor builders, Tom Jnr. continued to trade as T.H. Hughes & Son Ltd.
Sources of the above text from which extracts have been taken include:
1. The Nelson Band – A History of Nelson City Band (Inc) by Pat W. Win (Band Historian)
2. New Zealand Electronic Text Collection: History of New Zealand
One last note …
On 20 August 1961 in his 79th year, Hon/Lt. (Rtd) Thomas Harold Hughes (Old Tom), late Conductor and Bandmaster of the Nelson Garrison Band (and all its derivatives until 1939), died in his sleep at 33 Cambria Street, his home in Nelson. After his funeral service in the city, the massed bands of Nelson, Richmond, Motueka and Takaka escorted Old Tom’s hearse through the streets of Nelson to the Wakapuaka Cemetery where he was farwelled with full musical honours.
“Young Tom” – the Builder
A proposed re-development of the Nelson’s CBD in the 1970s which included Buxton Square, sounded the death knell for T.H. Hughes & Son’s central own premises. The Town Council forced the sale of the land which by then was almost wholly occupied by the T.H. Hughes & Son workshops, vehicles and yards, inclusive of Fiddlers Lane and the area now occupied by the Buxton Square car park. The loss of this facility largely curtailed the commercial house building contracts. Undeterred, Tom Jnr let seven of his eight tradesmen go, whilst the one remaining handyman assisted him with the construction of two flats on land next door to Tom’s home at 5 Collingwood Street. When he had originally bought the land to build at No.5 he acquired the section next door at No.3 for his and Rita’s retirement. Tom planned to build two flats at No. 3A & 3B Collingwood Street, and then to sell No 5. Tom and Rita would live in one of the flats and rent the other. Sadly this was not to be. Whilst the flats were still under construction, Young Tom passed away at home on 25 October 1981 at age 73, before he and Rita were able to move in to their flat.
Thomas Henry Hughes Jnr’s well-attended funeral service included his band which farwelled him in its own inimitable fashion – with music.
Confirmation from ‘Winterstoke’
Having made an inquiry of Mr John D. Wills (‘Winterstoke’), a former Police Officer and noted authority and author of specialist medal books,** John was able to locate the initials, surname and most importantly the date of award for every New Zealand volunteer/territorial soldier who has been awarded a long and/or efficient service medal, including three entries for T.H.HUGHES:
- NZ TSM BNDSTR. T. H. HUGHES – 12th (Nelson & Marlborough) Regt. 08 Oct 1918
- NZ LESM HON/LT. (BNDSTR) T. H. HUGHES – 2nd Bn, Canterbury Regt. 18 Aug 1922
- NZ EM BNSMAN. T. H. HUGHES – N.M. & W.C. Canterbury Regt. 1936
Unbelievably, none of the entries revealed any of the first names of any T.H.HUGHES the medals were award to. After seeing the above, it seemed fairly obvious to me who the medals belonged to, but gut instinct or even an educated guess, is not good enough if errors of attributing a medal to the wrong person are to be avoided. The only way to eliminate these is to prove which person a medal was awarded to. I believed I now had sufficient information to do this.
Note: ** John D. Wills has written several books on medals, including Zealandia the Brave, the awards made by the NZ Royal Humane Society, and The NZ Police Medal, a history of its institution and modifications, inclusive of a list of recipients of the medal. A soon to be published history of the Volunteer and Territorial Service Medals will also be a welcome addition to his works.
Proving the medal recipients
As mentioned above the key to solving the recipient mystery was knowledge of the dates of service for each of the T.H. Hughes men, the history of each of the medals since their issue, and the qualification requirements including length and type of service. Of the three T.H. Hughes men who could have received the NZ EM, I would have to manually coordinate, compare and cross reference the known data of each medal with that of each man to determine who the recipient was.
NZ Efficiency Medal (NZ EM) – known data:
- The NZ EM is named to BNSMN T. H. HUGHES N.M. & W.C. RGT (the rank and unit are the important considerations here)
- The NZ EM is awarded to Warrant Officers (WO1 or WO2), Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs = L/Cpl – S/Sgt) and Private soldiers of the New Zealand Military Forces, Territorial Force (now called the Reserve Force) upon completion of 12 years continuous & efficient service**
- The NZ EM was instituted in 1930 following the standardisation of a number of long service awards. The NZ EM replaced the the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal (CAFLSM), the NZ TSM and the NZ LESM.
- T.H.HUGHES was gazetted for the medal in 1936 although may have qualified earlier. 1936 was the year GVI succeeded the throne and therefore the first year the NZ EM was issued. This meant T.H.Hughes had to have qualifying service from no later than date year 1919.
- Prior service that had previously counted towards one of the obsolete long service awards (NZ TSM and NZ LESM), was considered reckonable and carried forward for any newly instituted award if not previously recognised by another long service award. This meant T.H.Hughes need to be serving no later than 1924 to achieve the gazetted award date of 1936.
- The NZ EM bears the effigy of King George VI who succeeded to the throne in 1936, the first year the medal was issued. These medals are known as the effigy GVI, First Type.
- The NZ EM with effigy of GVI, Second Type did not appear until the 1947. Since 1953, the medal bears the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II (EIIR).
- The NZ EM named to T.H.Hughes bears the GVI, First Type effigy, thus proving it was issued from 1936 onwards although qualifying service may have been accrued earlier from 1924.
** Efficient Service = requires attendance at a prescribed number of training days and parades per year.
Analysis of Eligibility
T.H. Hughes (Tom the Elder) could be discounted as the recipient of this medal as he resided in Taranaki and was never a member of the Canterbury N.M. & W.C. Regiment Band.
T.H. Hughes Snr. (Old Tom) had been promoted to Warrant Officer 1st Class and appointed Bandmaster in Sep 1918. Five months later in Feb 1919 he was made an Honorary 2nd Lieutenant of the 12th Nelson & Marlborough Regiment & the 2nd Canterbury Regiment Bands. Whilst potentially time qualified for the NZ EM in 1930, Hon/Lt. T.H. Hughes could be ruled out by virtue of his officer rank, being no longer an eligible NCO or Warrant Officer after Feb 1919. In 1924, Hon/Lt T.H. Hughes had resigned from the band and joined Woolston Brass for 5 years and Taranaki City for one year before re-joining the Nelson Garrison Band. Even if he had remained eligible by rank, because of his six years of broken service (1924-1930) he could not have met the criterion of completing the required 12 years of continuous service to qualify for the award.
T.H. Hughes Jnr. (Young Tom) had joined the band as a youth and was 23 years of age at the time the NZ EM was instituted in 1930. This meant he would have had to serve continuously as a Bandsman from 1924, the year he turned 16 years of age, until completing the requisite qualifying service by 1936 at the earliest – this he had done. Therefore, Bandsman Thomas Henry Hughes Jnr. is the proven recipient of the NZ Efficiency Medal.
Although the service file of Thomas Harold Hughes (Old Tom) confirmed his awards of both the NZ LESM and the NZ TSM, had that data not been available I would have had to apply the same process as above, which I have done here for the purposes of the exercise.
NZ Volunteer Long and Efficient Service Medal (NZ LESM) – known data:
- The NZ LESM was named to: HON/LT T. H. HUGHES CANT. RGT. NM & WC. (rank and unit are the important clues to identity here)
- The NZ LESM was instituted in 1887, was awarded to Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and Private soldiers of the New Zealand Volunteer Corps for completion of 16 years continuous service.
- In 1891 the Statutes of the award were amended to include Volunteer Officers who completed 20 years of broken service – Tom was commissioned in Feb 1919.
- From john Wills’ information above, T.H. HUGHES qualified for the NZ LESM in 1922, therefore the recipient would have to have been serving prior to the date year 1906 (the start of a 16 year period) – Tom joined the Nelson Garrison Band in 1904.
- Names on medals until 1921 were engraved, the letters blackened upright CAPITALS or sloping CAPITALS. After that date, medals were impressed in SMALL SANS SERIF CAPITALS – the medal is named in small sans serif capitals, therefore assume it was issued after 1921.
- The NZ LESM was rendered obsolete with the standardisation of long service awards on 23 Sep 1931. It was replaced by the NZ Efficiency Medal – the recipient would have to had qualify service for the medal before this date.
Analysis of Eligibility
T.H.Hughes (Tom the Elder) had been a Warrant Officer 1st Class, Sub-Lieutenant and a Bandmaster while with the Taranaki Rifles and New Plymouth City bands however, he was never a member of the Nelson Garrison Band, ergo the Canterbury N.M. & W.C. Regiment Band therefore could be discounted as the recipient of this medal.
T.H.Hughes Jnr. (Young Tom) was not born until 1908 making him barely 14 years old when the recipient was gazetted for the medal in 1922, thus also ruling him out (he was unborn at the start of the qualifying period in 1906).
T.H.Hughes Snr. (Old Tom) was 30 years of age in 1922. He enlisted with the Nelson Garrison Band in 1905, serving continuously and was promoted from WO 1st Class to Honorary Lieutenant in 1919. Minimum qualifying service of 16 years from 1905 made him eligible from 1921 (he did not resign from the band until 1924). Therefore, as the medal had been instituted in 1887 and Tom had served continuously from 1905 to 1921, and held the rank impressed on the medal, Hon/Lt. (Bandmaster) Thomas Harold Hughes was the proven recipient of the NZ Volunteer Long & Efficient Service Medal.
I mentioned above that medal specialist and author John Wills had advised me T.H.HUGHES had appeared in his records (and book to be published in 2022) on THREE occasions, the third record being confirmation that a T.H.HUGHES had been gazetted for the award of the NZ Territorial Service Medal on 08 October 1918. John however could not define exactly which one of the three T.H.Hughes the award applied to at that time as not all first names of recipients were listed. His file subsequently recorded this award but again, I have gone through the exercise of comparison to prove him as the recipient.
NZ Territorial Service Medal (NZ TSM) ** – known data:
- The medal was named to BDMSTR. T. H. HUGHES – 12th (Nelson & Marlborough) Regt.
- The NZ TSM was awarded to officers and other ranks of the New Zealand Territorial Forces (formed in 1911) upon completion of 12 years service.
- The NZ TSM was gazetted to T.H. Hughes on 08 Oct 1918, the 12 years of reckonable service needing to have been accrued between from a minimum date year of 1906 until 1931, the year the medal was rendered obsolete.
- T.H. Hughes held the position of Bandmaster with the rank of Warrant Officer 1st Class WEF Sep 1918.
- The NZ TSM replaced the NZ Volunteer Service Medal (NZ VSM 1902-1912) in 1911.
- The NZ TSM was in turn replaced 20 years later in Sep 1931 by the NZ Efficiency Medal following the standardisation of all long service awards. The NZ EM was a new award which replaced the the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal (CAFLSM), the NZ TSM and the NZ LESM.
Analysis of Eligibility
T.H.Hughes (Tom the Elder) again was ruled out as the medal was named to T.H. Hughes, a member of the Canterbury N.M. & W.C. Regiment Band.
T.H.Hughes Snr. (Old Tom) was recruited to the Nelson Garrison Band in 1905 at age 23 and resigned after 20 years in 1925. His eligibility for this medal commenced in 19o6, the year after he was recruited to the Nelson Garrison Band, and ceased in 1931 when the medal was rendered obsolete. T.H.Hughes Snr. was the only Bandmaster of the 12th (Nelson & Marlborough) Regiment able to achieve completion of 12 years of qualifying service that coincides with the gazetted award date of 08 Oct 1918, therefore, Bandmaster (WO.1) Thomas Harold Hughes was the gazetted recipient of the NZ Territorial Service Medal.
T.H.Hughes Jnr. (Young Tom) joined the Garrison Band in 1931, the year eligibility for the NZ TSM ceased, so is therefore ruled out of contention for the medal.
Note: ** The whereabouts of the NZ TSM named to T.H. Hughes Snr. remains a mystery but theoretically should not have been far from the two medals found, therefore is very likely still in Nelson. If any reader has knowledge of its whereabouts, please contact Ian at MRNZ.
Having proven to who each medal had belonged, it remained now to locate a near descendant to return these to. A check of the ever shrinking local telephone directory (soon to be obsolete in favour of electronic information) revealed many HUGHES families living in Nelson and Tasman regions. Before I took the long road and started to phone prospective numbers in an attempt to connect with the family, I spotted one address which resonated that I had seen in the Electoral Rolls concerning Thomas Henry Hughes (Tom the Younger) who I noted had lived at an address in The Wood for some years before his death in 1981 – No 5 Collingwood Street. The address showed the occupant to be L. E. Coleman.
I had also posted an inquiry on the “Top of the South” Facebook page which engages people from of the Upper South Island and West Coast who have an interest in local history and genealogy. I enquired if anyone could identify a living descendant of any of the Hughes families. Within days I received several helpful replies including one who linked the name of Mrs Lynne Coleman (nee Hughes) with No 5 Collingwood Street, Nelson.
I called Mrs Coleman ….. to my very great surprise Lynne Coleman confirmed she was only living daughter of Thomas Henry Hughes Jnr. (Tom the Younger) and, that No 5 Collingwood Street was the Hughes family home which her father had built. We arranged to meet to discuss the detail and unknowns of the Hughes men, their band careers and families.
When I met with Lynne she explained her ancestry, that her parents, Tom and Rita had lived at No 5 most of their married life. Her father had built their double story, art deco styled house in the 1970s and had run his builders business of T.H.Hughes & Son Ltd., from an upstairs room he converted to an office after his Buxton Square premises was acquired by the council for redevelopment. Tom Hughes had also built two flats on a section he owned next door to No 5. His intent was when he retired for Rita and himself to move out of No 5 and sell it, and occupy one flat while renting the other for additional income, a comfortable arrangement in their pensioner years. Sadly the plan did not eventuate as Tom passed away in 1981.
Lynne’s mother Rita, being rather elderly and on her own at that stage, had asked Lynne and her husband Frank if they would return to Nelson and stay with her? Unfortunately the house was too small for Lynne and Frank’s growing family of three so her mother offered to have an extension added to accommodate Lynne and Frank’s family. The modifications were duly made and Rita moved into one of the flats next door while Lynne’s family moved into No 5. The following year, 1982, tragedy struck the family again when Lynne’s husband Frank unexpectedly passed away. Lynne coped with this and remained with her mother Rita until she to passed away in 1995. Lynne said she was then in two minds whether to return to the North Island where all her friends were, or to take the opportunity of owning the Hughes family home – she chose the later where she remains to this day.
Lynne’s father and grandfather’s brass band activities were relatively unknown to her as she had been just a young girl growing up in the 1940s and 50s by which time much of her family’s brass band successes were past. As a female, I doubt Lynne would have had any chance of joining the band even if she had been interested given her grandfather, Thomas Harold Hughes, was a staunchly ‘men only’ type of Bandmaster. Lynne confessed that she was never particularly musically inclined anyway. Her mother Rita had been a pianist and attempted to teach Lynne the piano but again Lynne was not overly interested and gave it away. She showed me some of her grandfather’s surviving band championship medals, regrettably none of the 11 gold medals were in evidence as these had apparently been gifted to various Hughes descendant children as jewellery heirlooms. The remaining medals were displayed in rows on a black chest apron designed to be worn over the uniform, on the right hand side of the chest (see photographs).
All things considered, having spoken with Lynne on subsequent occasions before writing this story, I was very happy to hand over the two medals, the NZ Long & Efficient Service Medal having belonged to her of her grandfather Hon/Lt (Bandmaster & Conductor) Thomas Harold Hughes, and the NZ Efficiency Medal which had belonged to her father Bandsman (Conductor) Thomas Henry Hughes. Lynne’s son Murray expressed interest in the finding of the medals and will no doubt ensure they remain securely in the possession of the family ever-after.
As to why, how or from who the medals were left in the anonymously deposited clothing at the Nelson Family Store remains a complete mystery. The other enduring mystery this case has highlighted is the whereabouts of Hon/Lt T.H. Hughes’ missing New Zealand Territorial Service Medal. The medal will be impressed with details similar to following: (rank ? – probably BNDSMAN) T. H. HUGHES. 12TH N. & M. RGT & 2ND CANT. RGT. Please contact MRNZ if you locate this medal.
My thanks to the Nelson Family Store staff, particularly to Kaye who alerted the medal find to her manager and me. Mrs Lynne Coleman has been the key to unravelling the Hughes story which has enabled me to write this post. I am indebted to Lynne’s daughter Gayle for the loan of her copy of the late Pat W. Win’s book, The Nelson Band – A History of Nelson City Brass (Inc). Thanks also to John Wills for his timely input which resulted in the early identification of the recipient of an additional T.H. Hughes medal. Finally, to Nelson Brass Executive Member & Treasurer David Todd, I am very grateful for the assorted photographs and portrait of Thomas Harold Hughes for this post.
NEW milestone >>> 400 medals reunited
with descendant families