GERALD SEYMOUR THIRST MBE.
A legendary music man who stood at the helm of the oldest band in East Anglia, Stalham Brass Band, in Norfolk for a record-breaking 50 years, died suddenly, on 1st April 2000, aged 84.
Born in Stalham, Norfolk he devoted his life to music, taking up the cornet at a tender age, continuing playing euphonium, at band practices up until the last.
A former Paston Grammar School pupil, he spent his working life on the railways, starting as a clerk in 1932. He was one of only a few remaining Midland & Great Northern Joint Railwaymen, who started their careers before the big four grouping in 1936 when it was taken over by the London & North Eastern Railway. Subsequently as relief Station Master his work took him to every station throughout the region. When he retired he was Head of the Technical Section, at British Railís, Grosvenor House, Norwich.
In September 1940 in the 24yr. age group, he was called up for war service. The Royal Navy urgently needed radio operators, and his knowledge of Morse Code, used then extensively on the railways, determined his posting. Initially based at Campletown, on the Mull of Kintyre, he was posted to HMS Tuscarora a submarine detection vessel. After promotion to Petty Officer Telegraphist he spent the remainder of the war on HMS Coldstreamer which was mainly used as escort for the Ďfastí North Atlantic convoys. His ability to send and receive fast morse stayed with him, and he trained many students in the art during the 1980ís.
The thrill of making music had not dwindled during the war years, and on his return to Stalham, he not only set about rebuilding the Stalham Brass Band, as its players gradually returned from the war, but also providing entertainment in the area with his own dance band the ĎSkylinersí. It was through their joint love of music, that he met his wife Yvonne, when she joined the dance band.
Gerald continued to rebuild the Stalham Brass Band, realising that musicians must be given opportunities at an early age. For the last 22 years he had given encouragement and help with the Stalham Middle School Brass Band, going in each week on a voluntary basis. The only reward he wished for was to see a young musicianís progress. Some of the young players even bestowed on him the title of Honorary Grandfather! During this time he also helped the Norwich Lads Club Band, Sprowston Band, and Taverham Bands in Norfolk.
With the Stalham Brass Band he had notched up more than 1000 performances, leading the players in charity concerts, Armistice day appearances, and Christmas carol tours. In all 50 years as Conductor, and 76 years as a player. In November 1999, he was awarded the Guinness World Record as longest serving musical conductor. In the New Yearís Honours list 2000 he was made an MBE for his services to music, and Stalham Brass Band. He died before he could receive his medal. Later in 2000 his widow Yvonne, son Tim, daughter-in-law Tricia and grandson Robert travelled to Buckingham Palace to receive his MBE personally from the Queen.
His last engagement with the Stalham Brass Band, was to take part in the recording of their new CD of Hymns of Praise, and only two days before his death he was once again helping the youngsters in The Stalham Middle School Brass Band.
He leaves a wife Yvonne to whom he was married for 50 years, a son Tim, who is the present Musical Director of the Stalham Brass Band, daughter-in-law Tricia and grandson Robert.
Gerald was a real gentleman, a man of quiet humour, and a good friend to all. He is sadly missed.