Seco's New Zealand Diary

The Manx National Youth Band returned to the Isle of Man from a memorable tour of the North Island of New Zealand, during which it played a series of concerts warmly appreciated by packed audiences on the other side of the globe.

The party of 50 toured New Zealand’s North Island, taking time to view the spectacular scenery and finding that there are many strong Manx links with the Kiwi people.


I know what you’re thinking, the Tour started on 28th July but myself and Dave Pendlebury left the Island on the Friday, our mission (should we choose to accept it) to track down the Band’s instrument’s which had been making their way to Heathrow on various flights thanks to Manx Airlines since the previous Tuesday. 36 brass instruments plus timps and the rest of the percussion meant it wouldn’t be possible for it to travel down on the same flight as the party. Fortunately all the instruments were located in a warehouse by late afternoon on the outskirts of the airport.


The tour party were delighted that His Excellency, the Lieutenant Governor and Lady New were present to wish them well as they boarded the early morning flight to Heathrow. A welcome passenger on the flight was the Band’s Musical Director, Ian Clague, who despite being unable to travel to New Zealand, joined the party for the first 2 legs of the trip to Heathrow then Gatwick. Myself and Dave met up with the rest of the party at the luggage carousel at the Terminal in Heathrow where everyone collected their baggage and loaded the coach (after much debate with a less than helpful coach driver!!) for the transfer to Gatwick where we would depart for Auckland.

After saying our farewells to Ian (who then became a trusty plane spotter for the afternoon), we left mid-afternoon for our first destination which was actually Denver as we had to go through immigration before boarding the plane again to fly to Honolulu (at least that was the plan!).

The landing at Denver airport wasn’t the smoothest to say the least and after going through immigration we were informed that we weren’t going back on the plane we’d flown across the Atlantic on. Another plane was chartered and we were taken to Los Angeles, the original departure point of the flight we were to join at Honolulu. We left Los Angeles and departed for Honolulu where we had a couple of hours to stretch our legs and buy a genuine Hawaiin shirt (or skirt depending on your preference!).


Over 12000 miles and four chicken dinners later, we landed at Auckland around 7.00a.m. After collecting our luggage (minus my suit cover containing blazer and trousers) and getting through customs, we met our coach driver for the Tour, Trevor. We loaded up the coach and set off for our first destination in New Zealand, Rotorua. Famous the world over for it’s hot springs, but not so pleasant because of it’s strong smell of sulphur in the air. The Tour of a lifetime was now under way.

We arrived at the band room of Trust Bank Rotorua Band about 11.00a.m. where we were introduced to our billets for the next 2 two nights. No prior notification had been received of who our billets were or which party members were staying together. Myself and Gary Maddocks were billeted with an elderly couple, Mr & Mrs Moore.

The long journey had taken its toll, and after a delicious lunch, probably like most other members of the party, we were keen to get our heads down and not wake up until the next morning. That was the plan, however, Mr Moore had different ideas. At 4.00p.m. prompt (after 2 hours sleep) he woke us in order to take us for a drive around Rotorua and then up to the local bowling club to meet his pals. Don’t remember too much about the drive, as I sat in the back of the car and fell asleep. Poor Gary sat in the front and had to stay awake. Still, we got a few free beers at the Bowling Club at the end of it.


Our first full day in sunny Rotorua and the first port of call the local sports shop where many of us purchased genuine New Zealand All Blacks rugby shirts (except Gary who decided to get the Australian one instead??). Jet lag was still evident when the Band had an early morning rehearsal at the Rotorua Brass band room before their first concert at the local intermediate school at lunchtime followed by a buffet tea.

The afternoon was free for sightseeing and we were taken on a cable car ride just off the main Rotorua - Hamilton highway. The journey 900m up Mount Ngongotaha was slow but the view was breathtaking which was a complete opposite to the journey down on a concrete track astride luge carts which was great fun.

The Tour’s first major concert took place at the Civic Theatre in Rotorua with the Manx Youth Band playing the bulk of the music and joining with the Trust Bank Rotorua Brass for a combined segment at the end of the evening. An additional item to the programme was James Mayles having a nap, the jet lag had obviously still not worn off! The concert was followed by a reception at the band room of Rotorua Brass.


The Band left Rotorua for an all day coach trip to Hastings through beautiful scenery, especially at the lakeside stop at Taupo with its snow-capped mountain in the distance. Included was a stop at the geysers at Whakarewarewa where we were given a demonstration of what happens when a bar of soap is dropped in to an inactive geyser (it soon becomes very active!).

Again when we arrived at the local band room, the billeting had already been sorted by our hosts and after meeting the new billets well, we were treated to a traditional Maori welcome. The band had a brief rehearsal with Hawkes Bay Representative Band before heading off to our accommodation for the next two nights. Also billeted with me were Dave Pendlebury and Bernie Hughes. I knew we must be staying somewhere grand when we were collected by Mr Franssen’s chauffeur no less. We were later informed that he had a considerable amount of shares in a well known brewery.


This was probably the most exhausting day for the players when they had to perform 3 concerts, beginning with a mid-morning one at the Lindisfarne Collegiate Boys School. This was followed by a short time of relaxation at the local Fantasyland Park however, I think that our hosts thought the Band members were a lot younger than they actually were. The Park was aimed mainly at the under 10’s which meant many of the ‘attractions’ were not available to the majority of the party although some did their best to squeeze their oversized frames in racing cares etc. After a couple of hours at Fantasyland it was back to business with a lunch-time blow in the main shopping mall in Hastings centre.

At 3.00p.m. the Band was given a Mayoral Reception at the local civic centre, which was followed by a trip to the top of Mount Te Amata with it’s magnificent views over the whole area out towards the Bay of Plenty. After this most enjoyable interlude, the Band returned to the Hastings Civic Theatre for a concert which again ended with a massed band segment with the Hawkes Bay Representative Band. On top of all this my missing luggage arrived.


Another day of scenic travel on Friday, August 3rd took the party from Hastings to the southern town or Porirua, with a stop at Palmerston North. Again all the billeting had been sorted by our host band and I found myself staying with Tim Callow who had left the Isle of Man to work in New Zealand the year before. Tim and I used to play in the Manx Youth Orchestra. He was a trombonist (I use the term loosely!) whilst I strangled the trumpet! Our billets in Porirua had arranged a pot-luck tea before we dispersed for a welcome sleep, in my case on an air bed (well it was full of air when I went to sleep, not so come the morning!!). After being treated to home cooking for the past 4 days, this wasn’t Tim’s strong point, so I was dependent on the local hostelries and buffets after concerts.


It was an early start for a trip to Wellington for some shopping and sightseeing including a trip on the local cable car. Our coach driver, Trevor, took us to most of the best and spectacular views over this large city and they were truly memorable.

With almost religious fervour, most of New Zealand ground to a halt on the Saturday afternoon as the All Blacks played, and fortunately, beat the Australian RU tourists in the second test match. Many of the party had gathered in a local pub in Porirua to watch the match. We were resplendent in our new All Blacks shirts (apart from Gary in his Australian top!!). The match was brilliant however, a couple of minutes before half-time, the lure of McDonalds was too much for some and off they dashed to be first in the queue. What a shame, as several minutes later the landlord produced a mountain of food - all for free!! Not only were they first in the queue, they were also the last!

In the evening, and playing with the Metro Ford Porirua Band, the Band performed at the newly-built theatre at a nearby motor museum complex and received a standing ovation from the most enthusiastic audience.


Yet more travel as we moved from Porirua to Wanganui, this journey being made through heavy rain and strong winds. Tea and biscuits were served in the band room, and then a joint rehearsal with Warnocks Wanganui Brass. Myself and Paula Magee were billeted with Mr & Mrs Rudhall much to their surprise. A bit of swapping had been going on so Mr & Mrs Rudhall had been expecting me and another male member of the party and had put 2 beds in the same room. To their credit they said they were broad-minded and didn’t mind if Paula and I wanted to share however, as they had enough space we managed to get a room each.


The Band played another school concert, this one at Wangannui Boys College followed by a reception given by the Mayor of Wanganui. Another superb evening concert (the best to date) with the Warnocks Wanganui Band in the local opera house was followed by another social evening. This was probably the first night of the Tour that the Band really let their hair down and a chance for a first rehearsal of the Haka. It was during our stay in Wanganui that Duggie learnt that there is more than one way to get in to a fridge full of beer. It was also during this evening that our coach driver, Trevor, decided that we should learn the Haka.


Our nomadic habits continued as we had an early start to the journey from Wanganui to New Plymouth. After a quick lunch in the New Plymouth band room, the Band played a lunch time concert at New Plymouth Boys High School to an audience on its very best behaviour and showing its appreciation of the music.

A free afternoon in wet and windy New Plymouth and it was back to my billets, Mr & Mrs McCall for a nice hot shower before the evening concert with the New Plymouth City Band at the new State Insurance Theatre.


New Plymouth was the shortest stop of our Tour so the next day saw another early start for the trip to Hamilton where we arrived in the late afternoon to be met by our new billets. For the third time I was billeted on my own, this time with a very understanding elderly couple, Mr & Mrs Woodward. The Band had a short rehearsal with the Telecom Hamilton Band.


The girls of the Sacred heart High School gave the band (or was it Spikey) their undivided attention and a marvellous reception for their lunch time concert. A free afternoon was followed by an evening concert at the Hamilton Salvation Army Citadel.

After the concert members of the party were invited to a party at the home of one of the players from the Telecom Band. Whilst it gave people a chance to have the odd beer and socialise, it gave some the opportunity to make complete fools of themselves. An ingenious device filled with flour was given to members to try. The idea was to blow through a tube, and make the wheel turn without covering your face with flour. Sounds simple – not for some as one after the other they covered themselves.

Not wanting to upset my hosts, I decided to have an early night and rang for a taxi which was outside the front door before I had chance to put the phone down (or it was someone else’s taxi!!). I was fortunate enough to get a taxi driver who hadn’t got a clue where he was going (or he was trying to pull a fast one?). However, after what seemed like a tour around Hamilton, I arrived at my billets address well after midnight. Before I had chance to start the climb up the steps, there they were, waiting up for me , how kind!


We moved on to the ‘big’ city of Auckland, which we had a quick look around before spreading out to our billets for the rest of the day. Paul Martin & Bernie Hughes joined me at our billets up in the hills around Auckland. Whilst Bernie had the luxury of a centrally heated room in the house, Paul and I had wooden ‘hut’ at the bottom of the garden. To call it a hut was unfair as it was a well constructed building with en-suite facilities however, no central heating! It was a bit cool at night to say the least.


What was hoped to have be one of the highlights of the Tour, playing at the country’s finest racecourse at Ellerslie, turned in to a battle with the rain, one we unfortunately lost after about 3 races, as the rain turned torrential. This did not however, stop the racing itself, and gave members a chance to have flutter. Some had better luck than the others however there is no truth in the rumour that when cash was running low, the odd cornet was used as a wager!


Started with a free morning during some brave souls decided to go bungy jumping. This involved jumping from a cage secured by a crane high above Auckland harbour. The prize for bravery would have to go to bass trombonist Mark Crellin who suffered from travel sickness on boats, planes and the coach however, breakfast stayed down on this occasion. Lunch was with Continental Airlines Auckland Brass at their band room before a short rehearsal of massed bands items for the afternoon concert.

The concert was held in the Centennial Hall, Auckland Girls Grammar School with the Auckland Youth Symphonic Band, Manx Youth Band and Continental Airlines Auckland Brass. The Manx tunes ‘Ellan Vannin’, ‘Little Red Bird’ and Manx Youth were all well received by the audience, which had a number of ‘Manxies’ in it.


Another lunch time concert was played at St. Kentigern’s Boys School followed by a civic reception given by Dame Catherine Tizard, Mayor of Auckland and Governor General elect, at which greetings and plaques were exchanged between the two Islands.

A free afternoon followed and some members sat in on a rehearsal that Derek Broadbent conducted with the Continental Airlines Auckland Brass. In the evening the Auckland Manx Society held a reception at the band room of the Continental Airlines band room where members had the chance to meet former Island residents as well as those who just had Manx connections. Continental Airlines Band were kind enough to give some members a souvenir of their visit, the most disgusting Hawaiin shirt in the Continental Airlines colours.


We set out for our final destination, Whangarei where, after lunch, we were given a Maori welcome by the pupils of Kamo Intermediate High School, followed by a concert. In the evening there was a short rehearsal with the Wangarei Band, followed by a social evening. It was at Whanagarei that myself and the Band’s conductor for the Tour, Derek Broadbent, were due to be billeted with conductor of the Whangarei Municipal Silver Band. Unfortunately his wife had taken ill so we ended up staying in a motel.


A free day, which was used as a relaxation from the rigours of playing. A boat trip was arranged to the beautiful Bay of Islands around which we sailed in a smart, if not unstable, catamaran, which didn’t suit everyone’s stomachs.

Kamo High School for Girls was the venue for the final concert of the Tour, and the Band again received a standing ovation from the audience. This was one of the quieter places we visited with everyone very laid back.


After sad farewells, it was time to leave this beautiful country and head for home but not before a stop-over for a couple of nights in Los Angeles. Trevor our coach driver for the trip stopped en-route to give us an opportunity to practice the Haka, soething which would come in useful later.

It was at this point that members also said farewell to their instruments for a few days. These were transported back to the Island and thus reduced the amount of baggage to worry about. Again we had a couple of hours in Honolulu especially for those to buy the genuine Hawaiin shirt they hadn’t managed to buy on the outward journey.

We arrived in Los Angeles late afternoon and went to our Hotel for two nights. The Quality Hotel. That evening for the first time for over two weeks, the older members of the party had their freedom from a timetable of coach journeys, concerts, receptions etc. to let their hair down and a night on the town was in order.


Most people were up early to make the most of the now glorious weather and head to Disneyland for the day. This proved to be the perfect way to round off what had been a memorable trip. Getting back to the hotel the only thought was getting sorted for the final journey home, but there was one last twist. Everyone was safe and sound back at the hotel, except one.

One of our younger members was missing so it was back to Disneyland to see if she was there. To our amazement there were many others there looking for children/friends they had got separated from. The Park had closed and it was the responsibility of the staff to do a complete ‘sweep’ of the place. Apparently this sort of thing happens every day and we were relieved to say the least when the member concerned came out of the gates. It would appear that she had felt tired and just curled up on a bench and fallen asleep.


We departed Los Angeles at lunch time for Houston before flying back to Gatwick. Unfortunately, for Dave Pendlebury, as he was to find out later, it was at this point that he said farewell to his luggage, permanently. He was keen to be the first member of the party to check in at Los Angeles however, this proved to be a wrong move as his luggage disappeared to that great carousel in the sky.


We arrived at Gatwick mid-morning and soon transferred to Heathrow where we spent most of the day before flying back to the Island that evening. Arriving back at Ronaldsway, party members were met by family and friends as well as members of the local press. The Band was also pleased that His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor and Lady New were there to greet them.

Almost time to go home, but not before one last performance of the Haka in the terminal at Ronaldsway especially for those who had come to meet us.

The Isle of Man can be justly proud of it’s young musicians, who played so well throughout the Tour, and the people of New Zealand were certainly surprised and delighted at the standard of their playing. Guest Conductor, Derek Broadbent, certainly brought out the best in the younger players and must be thanked for all his hard work on the Tour.

Trevor Thomas, our coach driver, throughout the trip, was a brilliant asset to the enjoyment of the Tour, as he took us to many of the most memorable sights of his marvellous country.

The two things most memorable to everyone were the Kiwi hospitality and the Manx Connection. At each of our stops, the local people were so good to us all, opening their homes and making us so welcome in them. We were amazed at the number of people who came forward at each venue to speak to us about their connection with the Isle of Man, and this made it very exciting for us all.