Of the handful of players I knew from the Rimmer/Halliwell era, Hubert Shergold stood out. I found him to be an interesting conversationalist who enjoyed relating incidents of the past to me whenever I visited him at his East Elworth home. He was a Foden pensioner and I, as Head of Personnel, had every excuse.
Hubert originated from Wilton in Dorset where his father was involved in the carpet industry. When still a young boy, the family moved to Bridgenorth in Shropshire, where, under the guidance and tuition of his father, he joined the local Volunteer Prize Band on cornet. His prowess was soon noted and he joined Gossages Soap Works Band of Widnes; one of the crack bands of the day. Within two years he had become Deputy Principal Cornet.
In 1911 Brunner Mond, later to be the basis of chemical giant ICI, bought out Gossages and caused Hubert to be uncomfortable about his job security. It was timely that he heard that Foden's were urgently looking for a flugel horn player. His task now was to make sure Foden's knew about his ambitions.
The opportunity came at a contest where he met William Rimmer who promised to recommend him to William Halliwell and Foden's Band in time for the Belle Vue contest which was only a few weeks away. Such a recommendation was not to be ignored and Hubert was warned to expect a letter any day, inviting him to Sandbach. Meticulous planner as he was, Hubert explained to his landlady in Widnes, where he was in digs,
Early in the morning of Tuesday 16th July 1912, Hubert set off to work, early as usual, and well before the postman had started his rounds. When he did he dropped a letter into his Landlady’s box addressed to Hubert with the distinctive Sandbach postmark. As planned, she opened it and found it contained an invitation to audition at Foden's that same afternoon.
Following instructions, she then went to the local Post Office from where she sent a telegram to Hubert at work. Purporting to come from his family at Bridgenorth it read, ‘Family illness – come home immediately’. Within the hour, and much to Hubert’s excitement, he saw the telegram boy enter the office. Within minutes the foreman relayed the message to Hubert and he was on his way. He knew the timetables and that he could get to Sandbach in time for his audition.
Like a host of prospective bandsmen before him, Hubert had to play before the three Joint Managing Directors, Billy Foden, Edwin Richard Foden and Sam Twemlow, who soon realised that William Rimmer had come up trumps for Foden's Band. Hubert was despatched up the village for some tea and then returned for a rehearsal to be taken by William J Halliwell.
Many years later, when passed his 90th birthday, Hubert recounted his experience.
It was a beautiful summer’s evening, so William Halliwell, on one of his fortnightly visits, took the band outside to play. The first piece he asked them to play was the overture to Yeoman of the Guard. Hubert said when the band struck up, I think every hair on my head tingled; it was such a powerful and rich broad sound.
Hubert started at Foden's on the following Monday and so began a career which was to last for over fifty years.
All this hectic activity was worthwhile as a few weeks later, Hubert played in the Foden's Band which won the 1912 Jubilee Open and received a Gold Medal with a mounted genuine diamond.
When the time came for Bandmaster Tom Hynes to lay down his baton, Hubert described him as a Great Man and a Great Conductor and later told me that, in his opinion, Tom Hynes was a better band trainer than Fred Mortimer. Well he was there.
On the contesting front, Hubert shared a hat trick of wins at the September Belle Vue and with it a gold medal.
In 1936 Hubert sailed with the band to attend and play for twelve weeks at the Empire Exhibition in South Africa. As Hubert recalled, it rained every day and all day. From his visit he gave me a programme as a memento.
On 24th April 1938 Hubert and Foden's Band were invited to play before the King and Queen at Windsor Castle, This was not entirely new for Hubert as he and three other members of the band had played before the previous King and Queen at Crewe Hall in 1913.
Back to contesting, and unbelievable success at London where Hubert figured in the 1930 Nationals success, followed by the Double Hat Trick of 1932 to 1938, interrupted only by 1935 when the band was barred. Not even did the Second World War put an end to Hubert’s medals success, and he was successful in 1950, 1953 and 1958. My only sadness is that I have been unable to trace any of his medals.
Somewhere along the way, Hubert lost an eye so swapped seats with the repiano on the back row of the cornets so as to get a better view of the conductor. He never told me how that came about.
At the end of December 1963, Hubert retired, along with fellow lifelong servant Bob Shepley.
Remarkably he was able to have one more visit to the Royal Albert Hall; the year was 1980. It was the Centenary of Fred Mortimer’s birth, so HM organised an end of contest concert by Foden's; he conducted Fred’s first win, Severn Suite and brother Rex his last win Epic Symphony. I arranged for Hubert and old timer Edgar Spurr to be there, where the crowd rose to them, particularly when Hubert raised his arms in acclamation, just like the Champion he was.
Near the end of his life, and living alone as his daughter lived in Kettering, I was concerned about Hubert looking after himself. Fortunately, not a hundred yards away was a Care Home. Through the matron I was able to arrange, quite unofficially, for Hubert to have his lunch there. His daughter was appreciative, and when Hubert passed away, she gave me his Crystal Palace programmes and some 78 records. Hubert’s wife had long since pre-deceased him, suffering from breast cancer.
Hubert Shergold was a fine player and, above all, was a gentleman. I will never forget him.
Allan Littlemore March 2018