It was an evening of nostalgia, musical memories and laughter in Rastrick.

Former members of half a dozen different bands gathered for a very special reunion at Rastrick Bowling Club, to celebrate the 60th birthday of Stuart Farley.

As bandsman, bandmaster and corps director, he was responsible for much of the Brighouse band sound in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

But the occasion also provided the perfect opportunity for ex-band boys and girls, many now in their 40s, 50s and 60s to reunite and perform for the first time in three decades.

Kevin Stock and Allan Varnham, of 5th Halifax (Elland) Boys’ Brigade Old Boys Band, drew together former members of Brighouse St John Ambulance Brigade Corps Band,

Brighouse Royal British Legion, Northern Skyriders, Conquest Alliance and Warrington Scouts for a 12-minute routine to honour Farley as he arrived at the surprise party.

Stuart Farley accepts a boquet from drummers Linda Wheatley (left) and Hazel Stilgoe-McCombe
Stuart Farley accepts a boquet from drummers Linda Wheatley (left) and Hazel Stilgoe-McCombe
 

The set included a fanfare as well as traditional tunes drawn from the collective repertoire of the various bands.

The event was planned and coordinated over more than a year by Helen Fieldhouse, who sent out invitations across the length and breadth of the UK, and beyond. Visitors came from as far afield as Warrington and Nottingham, from all over West Yorkshire and from the United States. More than 120 people attended and many had not seen one another for more than 30 years.

It was an emotional night for Farley who thanked those present. “I’m just stunned,” he said. “I really had no idea.

“When I walked in the room I saw the band and thought it was a band reunion. Then I saw family, friends, my old bandmaster and I knew something was up. It’s a wonderful surprise.”

Among those who praised Farley was organiser Helen Fieldhouse, who said: “Stuart deserves this tribute. He guided banding in Brighouse in the ‘80s and was instrumental in Conquest Alliance winning the Drum Corps UK finals in 1987.

“He had the drive to succeed, and he was the inspiration for scores of young bandsmen and women, many of whom came to the party. Some of them are still active on the band circuit today.”

At the age of 13, Farley was briefly a trumpeter in Brighouse St John Ambulance Brigade Corps Band (BSJAB) before becoming its Drum Major. He was appointed Bandmaster at 18 and guided the band throughout the late 1970s and performances at Wembley Arena and the Royal Tournament, at which he was presented to the Duke of Gloucester.

In 1980 the BSJAB morphed into the Northern Skyriders. Five years later Farley was instrumental in amalgamating the Skyriders and the Brighouse Royal British Legion to form Conquest Alliance, a 120-strong “superband” which became a major presence on the British drum corps scene.