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From Private to Bandmaster

ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


ForeverMystified Report 20 Apr 2013 10:08

Please can anybody who is interested in Military research answer a query.

I have discharge papers 1849 for my grt grt grandfather age nearly 40 years old enlisted age 12, highest rank appears Corporal but demoted to Private for being drunk.

All documents I have after his discharge states he was a Military Bandmaster, children's birth, marriage certs etc., his marriage cert 1846 states he was Corporal.

It appears to me that he was maybe a Walter Mitty and tried to link himself to another Bandmaster who was quite noted and had a brother of same name as my ancestor.

My grt grt grandfather Thomas (Henry) Smyth/e born 1812 Middlesex London, he gained middle name after his discharge.

Could he have enlisted in 1850's as Bandmaster, 1851 census shows him in Liverpool, next census 1881 in Manchester in between 1860 and 1865 four children are born Ireland.

One of my long time mystery's that keep coming back to haunt me.

Lots of people have picked this info up and added it to their trees without verifying or putting notification that both these Bandmasters are brothers.

Thank you for reading this and would appreciate any comments.

Frances :-S :-S


KempinaPartyhat Report 20 Apr 2013 10:17

There was a case on Heir hunters some months back about a guy who couldnt go into the army ...but got into the band!!! there seemed to be a "way" to be in the army band .............with almost any problem !!!!

Someone here must know more


ForeverMystified Report 20 Apr 2013 10:24

Thanks Kemp

He had been in forces got his discharge papers, but cannot find him re-enlisting later as a Bandmaster, my instincts are he was a Walter Mitty and fooled one and all in his civilian years. Love to be proved wrong. :-D


Andysmum Report 20 Apr 2013 12:34

From Wikipedia.

In the British Armed Forces, a Bandmaster is always a warrant officer. A commissioned officer who leads a band is known as the Director of Music. Directors of Music are all former Bandmasters who have been commissioned. All Bandmasters initially joined the Armed Forces as musicians and were selected for Bandmaster training from non-commissioned rank (usually having reached the rank of at least corporal). However, unlike most NCOs, Bandmasters are promoted directly to warrant rank on completion of their bandmaster training and have not necessarily worked their way through all the available ranks.

If he was a Corporal in 1846, the above is a possibility, but I would have expected it to be shown on his discharge papers.


GlasgowLass Report 20 Apr 2013 12:52

Having a look at this family who do indeed seem to be missing at 1871.
I can see the mother's name is Susan, but can you tell me her maiden name?

I have looked at and 2 of the children,( Susan and Robert Edward) seem to match births/baptisms in Roscommon, where the parents were Thomas and Susan.
Have you looked at these?
Without the mother's last name, I cannot guarantee that it is the correct family.
If tt was. perhaps these records would give a better indication of the father's occupation at the time of these births?

( I wonder if he was a "Civilian Bandmaster" ?)
I see now that you will already have this info, as the couple married in Ireland in 1846.


ForeverMystified Report 20 Apr 2013 13:15

Hi GlasgowLass

Thomas's wife was Susan MacElroy they married in Boyle Roscommon on Dec 23 1846

Verified by Marriage certificate states Parish Church of the United Church of England and Ireland after licence Boyle County Roscommon on the 23 Dec 1846 Thomas Smyth Bachelor age 35 Corporal 19 Foot Regiment father Thomas Smyth Tailor, Susan MacElroy Spinster age 23 father William MacElroy Pensioner. Residence at time of marriage Boyle.

Not got the birth certs but marriage certs for the children state father BM.

Thank you

Frances :-)


ForeverMystified Report 20 Apr 2013 13:19

Will check back later, have to go out for awhile this afternoon.

Thanks to one and all.



Reggie Report 20 Apr 2013 14:05

I would suggest that he had a vivid imagination, and that his children believed his stories.


GlasgowLass Report 20 Apr 2013 14:13

Hi Frances,
I expect he was possibly a Bandsman or Bandmaster during his Military Career

1846 marriage.. Serving Soldier
1848. Discharge
1851 Army Pensioner in Liverpool
1860-c1871 lived in Ireland.
1881 Army Pensioner in Manchester

The birth certs of either Sarah or Robert Edward may provide an insight into his occupation at the time.

As the info relating to Bandmaster came from his children's marriage certs, (unless their was a birth of a child after 1848, stating his occupation was Military Bandmaster) this would be the children's own interpretaion of their father's former occupation rather than Thomas's own.

My OH's great grandfather was a carter/ delivery man who worked for a soft drinks company, although he did progress to a managerial level/
Half of his children described him as Soft Drink "Manufacturer" on their marriage certs.

Have had a few unused credits sitting in my acct for well over a year.
I looked at the baptisms for both children Susan and Robert Edward Smyth.

Susan was baptised in Boyle Church of Ireland 20 Aug 1863
Thomas's Occupation is: Pensioner
Robert Edward was baptised in same church on 9 Nov 1865.
Thomas's occupation is: Labourer ( address is Rockinham Boyle)


ForeverMystified Report 20 Apr 2013 15:30


Thank you so much for the birth info, and yes my grt grandfather was registered birth in Seacombe 1873 and his father is listed as Bandmaster.

Me still thinks he was a Walty Mitty. :-D :-D


wisechild Report 20 Apr 2013 15:51

Could he have been "saved" & become a bandmaster with the Salvation Army rather than in the forces?


ForeverMystified Report 20 Apr 2013 16:25

Hi wisechild thank you for that suggestion but I wouldn't have thought so, but who really knows what they did. :-|


GlasgowLass Report 20 Apr 2013 16:34

That 1873 birth in Seacombe. Does it say Bandmaster or " Military" Bandmaster?

In Roscommon in the 1860's, he was a pensioner or Labourer, yet at 1874, he states he is a Bandmaster?

As I mentioned before, he was quite possibly a Bandmaster, just not in the Military?
Perhaps in Seacombe? Borourgh Band or something similar?

My relative and his son were both Bandmasters.
I found a huge amount of info on them in the local newspaper of the time.
Both worked on the railway, but both were masters of various Brass Bands in Ayrshire


ForeverMystified Report 20 Apr 2013 17:46

Hi GlasgowLass

Sorry only just replying to your post above, on the birth cert for youngest child it states Bandmaster .

Will try looking for civilian bands etc.

Thank you



ForeverMystified Report 20 Apr 2013 17:50

Thank you for your input Reggie most likely, many members of said family issue think they are a cut above the rest.

My grandad used to say 'that lot are 2bob gentry' could never understand what he meant at the time. ;-) ;-) ;-)


Jacquie Report 20 Jun 2013 19:08

A little late but the book History of Military Music in England by H.G. Farmer has a section on James Smyth which mentions his brother Thomas becoming Band Master of the Royal Marines soon after James became Band Master in the Royal Artillery. The National Archives has Thomas' attestation papers into the Royal Marines dated 1856 when he was 44. From the NA website:

Reference: ADM 157/84/612
Folios 612-613. Thomas Smyth, born Middlesex.
Attestation papers to serve in the Royal Marines at Woolwich 1856 (when aged 44).
Discharged [discharge date not given] as Service no longer required.

The website says the document hasn't been digitized.

I'm not related to this family - I just came across your post when doing some look-ups for someone else regarding James Smyth.



jansmith Report 21 Jun 2013 15:41

You could try asking at Kneller Hall the Royal Military School of Music for the Army


ForeverMystified Report 21 Jun 2013 21:19

Thank you Jacquie and jansmith your input is most appreciated.