Jimmy Howe – Death of Eastbourne’s ‘Mr Music’


Eastbourne Herald

Published on Tuesday 29 March 2005 16:42

RENOWNED conductor and Eastbourne’s ‘Mr Music’ Major Jimmy Howe has died at the age of 87.

Throughout the 1960s and most of the 70s, Jimmy Howe brought the Scots Guard Band to Eastbourne for two weeks every year.

The band would open the concert season at Easter and follow it with a further week in the peak of the summer.

He joined the army as a band boy in 1933 and saw active service in Palestine in 1938.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Jimmy went to France with the Royal Scots serving as a stretcher bearer.

At Le Paradis, near Bethune, his battalion was overrun by troops of the SS Totenkopf Division and he was taken prisoner in the Regimental Aid Post.

After a march of 300 miles through France, Belgium and Holland and a three-day rail journey in a crowded cattle truck with 50 other prisoners of war, Jimmy finally arrived at Stalag VIIIB, Lamsdorf, in Upper Silesia.

To occupy his time, he formed a dance band in the camp. Musical instruments were obtained through the British Red Cross and some were bartered from Polish prisoners and German guards.

After the war he studied at the Army School of Music at Kneller Hall and was appointed bandmaster of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in 1949, serving in Hong Kong, British Guyana, Berlin and the UK.

In 1959, Jimmy was commissioned as Lieutenant director of music, Scots Guards, and with this band he toured Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Japan.

He was appointed senior director of Music, Guards Division, in 1970. He was responsible for the music on Trooping the Colour, the Festival of Remembrance, the Cenotaph Armistice Parade, and for providing orchestras for state banquets at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

For his services to military music, Jimmy was awarded the MBE.

Such was the popularity of the Scots Guards Band at Eastbourne that when he retired from the Army in 1974, he was given a special send-off.

Peter Bedford, then entertainment manager, brought Kenneth McKellar, who was doing a summer season at the Congress Theatre, down to the bandstand where he sang Will Ye No’ Come Back Again.

Gifts were presented, including a clock and a huge cake made in the shape of the bandstand.

A piper marched on playing his Regimental March and he was presented with a huge bottle of whiskey.

Jimmy’s musical career then went in another direction. While working for the BBC, he directed its concert orchestra in the programmes Friday Night is Music Night and Melodies For You, among others.

He made several appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, conducting several of the country’s symphony orchestras.

He also made several tours of the USA and Europe as a guest conductor.

Having made friends in Eastbourne during his visits with the Scots Guards Band, Jimmy decided to move here and in January 1983. He settled in Pashley Road with his wife Peggy, whom he married in 1948.

Jimmy was a vice president of the National Ex-Prisoners of War Association and president of the Eastbourne Branch of the Dunkirk Veterans’ Association, the Eastbourne Guardsmen’s Club and the Combined Ex-Servicemen’s Association.

His cornet playing activities continued by playing in the Cooden Royal British Silver Band and the Eastbourne Silver Band. For many years, he sounded the Last Post at the War Memorial and in St Mary’s Church on Remembrance Sundays.

He was especially fond of 1940s Big Band music. He conducted the BBC Big Band in 1995 and was a regular member of the Johnny Spice Swing Orchestra.

Jimmy was well-known in Masonic circles, having been a Freemason for more than 50 years, and was the organist for several lodges in the town.

Commonly known as Eastbourne’s Mr Music, he will be greatly missed on the bandstand where he regularly appeared as a guest conductor.

His autobiography, A Conductor’s Journey, was published in 2002.

Masters of the March Volume 2
(JH Howe and Kenneth Alford)
Regimental Band of the 1st Bn The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s) / Droit DR 92
Conducted by: Major JH Howe MBE and WO KG Lamb FVCM BBCM
(Major Howe Bio is taken from record cover)

Jimmy Howe comes from a Brass Band family. A native of North East England, he began his musical career playing the cornet in local colliery bands. In 1933, he joined the Royal Scots as a band boy, and served with his regiment in Palestine in 1938, and also in France at the outbreak of World War Two. Captured at Le Paradis, he was a prisoner of war in Poland and organized a Stalag Ban with instruments obtained through the British Red Cross which helped to sustain the morale of the men in captivity.

After the war, he studied at Kneller Hall and was appointed bandmaster of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in 1949, serving with them in Hong Kong, British Guyana, Berlin and the United Kingdom. In 1956, he took the Band to Helsinki, playing at the British Industries Fair.

He was commissioned Director of Music to the Scots Guards in 1959 and was subsequently appointed senior Director of Music Household Division in 1970. The following year he was awarded the MBE for his services to Army Bands.

Since his retirement from the Army in 1974, he has conducted many leading Symphony Orchestras and the radio programme Friday Night is Music Night and Melodies for You. He is still active as a guest conductor and adjudicator of music festivals making appearances in the USA, Canada, and Europe. As well as the marches on this album, he has compositions of light music to his credit, also many arrangements of popular works are to be found in the military and brass band repertoires. He is a Vice-President of the national ex-Prisoner of War Association and an active member of the Dunkirk Veterans  Association.

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