Historic baton back in band’s hands

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YVONNE O’HARA
yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz

Brass band Roxburgh Pioneer Energy Brass was last week given a ceremonial silver-tipped baton once owned by one of its early conductors.

Myrine McMahon, of Green Bay, Auckland, was in Roxburgh last week to give the baton to the band.

The baton is made of black wood, which may be ebony, and has silver tips.

“It was presented to my father, Michael McMahon, in 1926, during the [New Zealand and] South Seas [International] Exhibition in Dunedin,” Ms McMahon said.

The Roxburgh Municipal Brass Band won the C-grade competition at the exhibition.

“He was the bandmaster and conductor for the band from 1925 to 1926.”

Her father moved to Cambridge in 1933, taking the baton with him.

Later, it was lent to another band’s conductor in Auckland.

Her aunt told her who was using the baton and Ms McMahon contacted the man.

“I rang him and said my father would like it back and I said I would pick it up the next day.

“He said he had lost the silver inscription plate but I said ‘Don’t worry about it, I will pick it up tomorrow’.”

And she did, retrieving both the baton and its case.

She replaced the plate from Pascoes The Jewellers and gave it to her father.

“Dad was delighted when I presented him with it and he was in his 80s then.

“He died in 1980 at 91 and I have kept it ever since.”

She had wondered what would become of the baton if something happened to her, so decided to visit Roxburgh during her holiday to give the baton to the band, Ms McMahon said.

“It is part of its history and it is what my father would have wanted,” she said.

Band members Doug Dance and Alex Gordon were delighted to receive the piece of the band’s history.

“The band has been going since 1882 and is one of the older bands in the country,” Mr Dance said.

“It is a ceremonial baton not used for practice.”

The band had a photo taken of the winning band in 1926, complete with Mr McMahon and the baton, he said.

Mr McMahon posed for the photograph and then went straight to hospital to have his appendix out.

The band also bought a set of instruments from the same exhibition, which are now on display in the band’s rooms.

Roxburgh Pioneer Energy Brass will perform a selection of pieces at a concert at the Roxburgh town hall at 2pm this Sunday, April 9, in preparation for the national champs in Wellington later this month.

It will play its test pieces as well as a selection of other music, and cornet player Sarah Wright, of Galloway, will also perform.

She will give a solo performance at the national contest and is a member of the National Youth Brass Band and the New Zealand Secondary Schools Band.

The New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition was a world fair held at Logan Park, Dunedin, from November 1925 to May 1, 1926. It celebrated New Zealand and the South Seas and attracted more than three million visitors.