ONE of Swindon’s oldest musical maestros celebrated his 90th birthday last week, proving that music really does keep you young.Francis Cowley, who lives in Wroughton, marked the milestone with a fabulous surprise party in which old friends and former pupils came to wish him many happy returns.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Fran confessed. “It was a bit overwhelming and quite emotional.”
Music lover Fran started playing the cornet at nine years of age and he still finds time to play it every day.
“I used to practise for four or five hours a day, but now I try to make myself play for at least half an hour a day,” he said.He joined the village band, Wroughton Primitive Methodist Band, as a young man before moving to the Great Western Railway Social, Education and Union Staff Association Band, now known as Swindon Pegasus Brass Band.
Conscripted into the Army in 1945, Fran completed his basic training at Colchester, and joined the Gloucestershire Regimental Band before transferring to the Wiltshire Regiment as a musician.
On leaving the Army, he re-joined The Railway Band and spent more than 50 years as player and conductor before moving on.
Fran said: “Playing music is one of the only things I have ever really loved doing. I took to it straight away and I have enjoyed playing and conducting ever since – it all just seemed to come quite naturally to me.”
He is quite the whiz on the cornet and the trumpet and he a dab hand when it comes to conducting an orchestra.
The father-of-two, who has been married to wife Cheryl for the past four years, became known in the area and nationally as a cornet soloist, winning contests on a regular basis.
He took up teaching school children to play brass instruments at various schools in Swindon in the early 1960s and was a founder member and tutor of Swindon Instrumental Music Club, now Swindon Young Musicians.
“I consider myself very lucky to have been able to do something I love for most of my life,” he said. “And I have loved every minute of it.”
Evening Advertiser Reporter Thomas Haworth