Harry Heaver Retires 12th January 2012

93 years old Harry Heaver, erstwhile forester and bee-keeper extraordinaire, has retired from Creetown Silver Band after playing with them for an astonishing 64 years. Harry joined when he settled in this part of Scotland in 1947, but his playing career began long before that, in Widnes, where he played the bugle in the Boy’s Brigade Band. A few years later at 15, by which time he was working on a colliery winding machine in Langwith on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border, Harry discovered that the members of the colliery band enjoyed concessions: they got off early in order to rehearse, and when there was a concert on. So Harry joined the Colliery Band and started with the cornet.

Sadly, his colliery closed down in 1978, in common with the majority of others, and with the loss of many fine brass bands nurtured amongst the pits in the region. But long before this, in 1939, Harry had been called up into the army and experienced an eventful war, initially as a member of an anti-aircraft battery where he became a driver, serving first of all in Blandford, Dorset and then in France where, in January 1940 he became one of the troops evacuated from Dunkirk. Back in the UK he served in London throughout the blitz, then in Belfast, where his unit’s role included the protection of the shipyards in which the aircraft carriers were being built. In 1942, Harry joined an early-warning radar station at the point where America joined the war, and he found himself in a training camp devoted to teaching the US soldiers about radar. Towards the end of that year, Harry volunteered to serve abroad, and it was whilst en-route to North Africa that he had his first experience of south west Scotland, staying in Newton Stewart where the army had actually taken over Kirroughtree.

In North Africa, Harry’s regiment joined up with the 8th Army, went through Tripoli, invaded Salerno, then became attached to the American 5th Army, continuing through Naples and Rome. By this time Harry was working as a radio operator in the Royal Armoured Corps, and he went on from there to become a member of the famous 5th Queen’s Royal Lancers. By the end of the war in Europe, having driven up through Austria, his regiment was patrolling the borders of Czechoslovakia and Romania looking for ex-Nazis attempting to flee.

Harry was demobbed in 1946 and took a job with the Forestry Commission in Kirroughtree. A house he was allocated was one of three made of timber sections, and the joiner who had come to put the sections together – a man from Gatehouse – was in the habit of whistling tunes which were very familiar to Harry because they were brass band marches that he recalled from his colliery band days. The joiner, it soon turned out, was Jimmy Gilmour a playing member of Creetown Silver Band, and it was not long before Harry, too, became a member, playing cornet under the baton of Welsh conductor Robert Hughes.

Since that time, in 1947, Harry has played cornet, flugel horn, tenor horn and finally baritone, under five different conductors before the current one, Mr Stuart McNab. Full of praise for Stuart, Harry says that he has done more for the band than any previous conductor.

But Harry too, deserves huge praise for his 64 years of loyalty to Creetown Silver Band….and for his astonishing energy. A forester until his retirement, he was also a prolific beekeeper, with at one point, over 60 hives, but he still found time to play not only his brass instrument, but also piano and double bass as well.

Left Harry Heaver right Leo McClymont Galloway Pageant 2011