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Harold Mellor


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Around a century ago the concertina and concertina bands were at the peak of their popularity with working men in the industrial towns of the North of England. The following recollections by Harold Mellor of Ashton-under-Lyne2 —‘an amateur player of the English [concertina], having learned this instrument as far back as 1899’—take us right back to that time. But it should be remembered in reading them that they are written in the first person, and that they were first published almost sixty years ago:

Two of the best-known players in the North, some thirty years ago, were the Astley Brothers, Joe and Arthur. It has been said that Joe could get more out of the 48-key Treble than any other man in England. I have heard that he never played any other than a 48-key.

Arthur Astley3 (who, incidentally, was my old teacher) was a grand exponent of the Baritone and, on one occasion, won a Baritone Edeophone at the Crystal Palace,4 offered by Lachenal’s for the best Baritone solo. He died recently, but this particular instrument which he won is still in the possession of an Oldham player. I saw it quite recently, and it is still in good condition.

Joe Astley5 died many years ago. He kept a cycle and music shop in Manchester Street, Oldham, where one could always obtain the best models [of concertina] and Concertina music. I should say that quite 50 per cent of the instruments sold in the North about thirty to forty years ago passed through his hands. He was, incidentally, the founder and leader of the Oldham Concertina Band.6

The concertina scene in Oldham seems to have been a flourishing one in the late nineteenth century, and in 1888 the concertina artist ‘Professor’ John Hill Maccann was able to name the following concertina dealers and teachers there:7

Oldham, Lancashire. --James Pallitt [sic, read Pollitt],8 131, Yorkshire Street, (Dealer); Collins, 23, Mumps, (Dealer); J. Taylor, 92, Round Tom Road (Teacher Anglo); J. Astley (Teacher, Dealer Duet and English).

He also noted that a successful band already existed by mentioning that ‘Mr. Joseph Astley, of Oldham, Lancashire, has—a Band who can give a good account of themselves’.9

In that same year (1888) Astley was elsewhere listed as a ‘concertinist’ at 1, Pendleton Street, Oldham,10 though at the time of his marriage five years earlier he had been employed as a ‘Cotton Piecer’.11 In 1891 he was a ‘Music Dealer’ at 21, Railway Road12 and by 1895 a ‘cycle agent & professor of the concertina’ at 4, Railway Road.13

Soon afterwards, Astley moved to 188, Manchester Street, where the business was to remain, and this is the address overprinted on a Price List of

PICA, 4 (2007) Page 27

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