Cowley returns to back benches
94 year old Francis Cowley has decided to hang up his baton and return to the cornet playing back benches
One of the great figures of the West of England banding movement has announced his retirement as a conductor after 48 years with the baton in hand.
94 year old Francis Cowley took the decision this week to take a step back from the rostrum and return to the back row cornet section to carry on his commitment to playing with Swindon Brass for as long as he can.
Way of life
A report in the local Swindon Advertiser newspaper said that Francis, whose grandfather was a founding member of Wroughton Band said that to him, brass banding "was a way of life".
Looking back on his remarkable connection to the banding movement he told reporter Daniel Angelini: "It started by chance. When I was nine, I picked up an instrument while no one was around and got on OK with it — 85 years later I'm still playing.
Brass banding is a way of life and it's something I can' t do without. It's been a long journey with plenty of ups and downs."
Francis revealed that as principal cornet he "ended up"taking on the band as conductor, although he admitted that he was "always a bit nervous before a contest or concert but as soon as I started playing or conducting, the nerves went away and I was on top of what I was doing.
He also added: "I could have played for a bigger band but I always wanted to stay here."
Francis spent time in the Army during the Second World War and worked on a building site before turning to teaching at schools. He also set up a pioneering youth, with many former players still in contact with him well over 40 years later.
The band surprised him with a special presentation at the end of his last socially distanced rehearsal as conductor on Monday, with Band Chairman Bruce Hulatt telling 4BR: "It is an end of an era — but not completely as he will now be taking a seat with his cornet on the back row.
His has been a remarkable career and one we hope will continue for many more years to come and with a return to the Area Championships in 2022 after his last contest performance there in 2020."
Under his baton Swindon Brass and Swindon Youth Bands enjoyed considerable success.
The Youth Band won the West of England Area title in 1977, 1985, 1990 and 1991, whilst Swindon Brass also qualified for the National Finals in 2005 and again in 2013.
Swindon Brass is a registered charity, number 1070288. Copyright Swindon Brass 2020