Parc & Dare Band

History of the Band

A brief History

Welcome to the history of Parc & Dare Band

Now over one hundred and ten years old the Parc & Dare Band has a rich and proud heritage.

How it all started

Never Judge a book by its cover

A life Divine

by Avril &Elaine Hawkins.

A full history of the band can be found in the beautiful presented book available in hard and paperback format.

Our history

Originally formed as Cwmparc Temperance Drum and Fife Band in 1893, the band became an all brass band a year later and changed their name to Cwmparc Silver Band.  They later began receiving financial support from the Ocean Coal Company, who operated the Parc and the Dare collieries in the locality.  Subsequently the Parc and Dare Workmen’s Silver Band was born.



It is proudly noted that much of the band’s early funding came from the miners working at the collieries who each contributed one penny per week from their own wages.


With the contraction of the UK mining industry came the closure of the two collieries, and the band’s main source of financial support soon ceased.  Since that time the band has been dependant wholly on its own resourcefulness to support itself, through concert engagements and competition success.  The continuation of the band has also been further assured through the adoption of a policy of training young brass players in the Parc and Dare Junior Band.

Building on its enthusiastic and outward looking policies, the Parc and Dare Band has become one of the leading combinations in the banding world. Its success in competition is legendary with dozens of championship first prizes to its credit. These successes include being the National Representative for Wales on over twenty occasions, attaining the title of Champion Band of Wales on no less than fourteen occasions, and representing the country at the European Championships four times (being placed fourth twice).



The early 2000’s marked a landmark achievement for the band, where they won the First section Welsh Regional Brass Band contest 2 years running, 2004 and 2005.  In 2004 the band came runner-up in the First section of the National Championship of Great Britain brass band contest.


The band’s success continued into 2006, with the band again attaining the right to represent Wales at the Finals of the National Championships of Great Britain, this time competing in the Championship section at London’s Royal Albert Hall.



Over the next few years, Parc and Dare Band continued to compete in contests across Wales, however in 2013, the band found itself in the Second section. In 2014, the band represented Wales at the Second section at the National Brass Band Finals and was awarded a credible 4th place. The band went on to to place 2nd in the Brass Band League 2015, and in 2016 Welsh Champion First Section Band of Wales and represent Wales at the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain.


Parc and Dare have continued to develop and win trophies to work their way back into the first section in 2015.  

In 2018, the band was once again promoted to the championship section, however after not competing for the year, the band once again found themselves in the first section.

In 2019, Lewis Wilkinson took up the conducting baton and the band were placed 5th in the first section at the Welsh Area Brass Band contest in February 2020. 


Following a break due to Covid and Lewis relocating back to the North-East, Dewi Griffiths was appointed as the band’s new Resident Conductor. The band is hoping to continue to grow in strength with the collaboration of Dewi with the aim of once again performing in the Championship section in the future.


How Green Was My Valley.

Before the discovery of its rich seams of coal, the Rhondda was a verdant valley with just a scattering of hillside farms. The valley was thickly wooded and one of its infrequent visitors observed that a red squirrel could travel from the bottom of the valley to the top by hopping from one oak tree to another. Then in the middle of the last century the peacefulness of the rural scene was shattered for ever.

Black Gold.

The lure of the black gold, as the coal was called, brought people flooding into the valley from the border counties, from over the Bristol Channel, from North and West Wales, and from Ireland. The population explosion was one of the largest in the western hemisphere and could be compared with even that of the Klondyke. In 1861 the population stood at 3,305 and by 1911 it had rocketed up to 152,781. Most of the newcomers were hard workers who had been scraping a living by working on farms and saw in the Rhondda the answer to their dream for a better life for themselves and their family. One such person who made his dream come true, and who in the process became one of the first Welsh millionaires, was David Davies, who came from the small village of Llandinam in Montgomeryshire.


Top Sawyer.

David Davies, who was born in 1818, was a sawyer, at first working for a local sawmill, and then working for himself by sawing up trees and selling the planks. By means of frugal expeditions and wise investment he soon owned several small businesses including a couple of slate quarries in Blaenau-ffestiniog. He was attracted to the Rhondda by the stories of its rapid development, and he leased some land from the large Crawshay Bailey Estate and in 1868 began to sink shafts in the Maendy in Ton Pentre and the Dare pit as it was to be called in Cwmparc. However they did not strike coal, and as the shafts went lower, so David Davies’ capital decreased. Finally he had no money even to pay the men their weekly wage, and still there was no sign of coal. The workers held a meeting and decided that they would work for a week without pay, such was their faith in their employer. Happily they struck coal in Maendy colliery before the end of the week and then in Cwmparc. When David Davies received the news about the Dare pit in the form of a telegram, he told his manager, ‘ This piece of paper is worth £40,000.’ His prophetic words were soon to be proved correct. The Parc and Dare pits were the cornerstones on which he built to amass his fortune.



Cwmparc is a narrow ‘cwm’, or valley which is an offshoot of the parent valley – the Rhondda Fawr. It is enclosed on three sides by steep hills, and along its south-west ridge runs the mountain road, the Bwlch, which links the Rhondda valley with its neighbouring Ogmore valley. The Parc River winds its tortuous course down the valley and on its right stood the Parc colliery, while a couple of hundred yards lower down was the Dare colliery. When the pits were in full swing, a constant procession of coal-laden trucks, both night and day trundled down the railway which ran along the left bank of the river. The grey, stone-built houses were built close to the collieries – huddled together as if for warmth. One of the nearest of the terraced streets was Railway Terrace, or ‘Tub Row’ as it was called. Its nickname was derived from the habit of its occupants of leaving bathtubs out on the pavement in the evenings. Thus, endangering the limbs on a dark night of unwary strangers.


Birth Of The Band.

The 1890’s in the Rhondda was a decade in which the separate communities which had grown up around each pit began to achieve respectability, and with it an identity. Many of the Rhondda’s chapels were built at that time. There was also a demand for entertainment. Theatres were built, and choirs and bands were formed. One such band was the Cwmparc Drum and Fife Band, which was formed in April, 1893.

A Sober Start.

The band was originally a temperance band which drew its members from the Parc and Dare collieries. Fines were imposed for drinking, which helped to increase the funds. However, the band soon severed any connections with the temperance movement, they also went ‘all brass’, the following year changing their title to the Cwmparc Silver Band.

A Penny A Week.

The band soon got down to the serious business of practicing, under their first bandmaster, a Mr. Williams from Clydach. One of the first pieces they learned was an arrangement of a march by the bandmaster himself. On Christmas Eve the band sallied forth to demonstrate their ability. They stopped outside the residence of a well-known local businessman. They proudly played their march, but there was no response. It was only when the band decided to practice their scales that the businessman came out with his Christmas offering.


A Christmas Offering.

The band soon got down to the serious business of practicing, under their first bandmaster, a Mr. Williams from Clydach. One of the first pieces they learned was an arrangement of a march by the bandmaster himself. On Christmas Eve the band sallied forth to demonstrate their ability. They stopped outside the residence of a well-known local businessman. They proudly played their march, but there was no response. It was only when the band decided to practice their scales that the businessman came out with his Christmas offering.


First Officials.

The first secretary was Dick Meredith, and the first president was Mr. A. S. Tallis, M. E. Practices at first were held in the Pengelli Coffee tavern, to the annoyance of some of the local residents, particularly a Doctor Barrett, who often complained about the new, not always melodic sounds which he had to put up with. The band soon moved however to the Parc and Dare Workman’s Hall, where Tonic Sol-fa lessons were given by Mr. John Thomas, A.C. for which he received an annual salary of £12


First Contest.

There was a band contest in Pontycymmer in the late 1890’s and the band decided to compete. They walked across the mountains, about six miles, with their supporters sharing carrying the instruments. Their conductor was now Mr. Treharne, a well-known cornet soloist. Fate seemed to be against the band, since when they blew the first chord, the lights in the hall went out. The local P.C. helped to relight them, and the visit ended on a high note with the band winning the first prize.

On The March.

In 1902 the nation was at war in South Africa with the Boers. The Seige of Mafeking was on everyone’s lips and the nation held its breath until finally relief came. The band played their part by taking part in a march which was organised to raise funds for the national cause.


In The Open.

The band’s performances weren’t always restricted to playing in concert halls and in 1904, with the opening of the new bandstand, they were given a permanent outdoor site where they could entertain the public. The Band Pavilion as it was called was a present from the Ocean Coal Company in recognition of the band’s growing stature in the musical field.


A Leap Forward

In the beginning of this century the band competed in brass band contests with undiminished enthusiasm. Their perseverance was rewarded in 1914 when they were promoted to Class A (the equivalent of football’s Premier Division). Since that time the band has always retained its place in what is nowadays called the Championship Section.


Between The Wars.

Competition was to become the life blood of the band, and in 1920 they achieved a very creditable sixth place in the World Championship Competition at Crystal Palace, in the process beating such household names as Fodens and Black Dyke. In March 1931 they secured second place at the Tonypandy Band festival. This was to prove an historic event, since it was the first time the band had competed under their new conductor, Mr. Haydn Bebb. Under his baton they went on to win numerous other prizes in various competitions throughout the country. In 1935 he was appointed full time conductor of the band. The same year also saw the formation of the junior band under the conductorship of Mr. Matt Evans. The junior band, as well as supplying members to the senior band when they became of age, were to be seen regularly at local functions, such as Church Parades on Youth Sundays.

Strife In The Coalfield.

The years between the wars had some serious and depressing aspects at home for the now flourishing brass band. They were the years of the depression. Of conflict in the coal industry. Of miners striking to protect their standard of living. Of the 1926 General Strike which started full of hope with other unions pledging support for the miners. But which ended in a few days with the railwaymen deserting the miners and going back to work. And so through that hot summer the miners stayed out. 1926 – the year when the winding wheels at the top of the Rhondda’s forty six collieries stopped turning. The year when the hob-nailed boots of the Rhondda’s forty thousand miners no longer beat a tattoo as they walked to work. The year when the colliery hooters fell silent. The year when the endless chain of railway wagons loaded quality Rhondda steam coal stopped rolling down to Cardiff and Barry docks. Their families suffered untold hardships. They were hungry and suffered the indignity of the soup kitchens. The coal owners predicted the strike would not last eight weeks. That the miners would be forced to accept their terms which meant a cut in the wages of those miners working in difficult seams. Most of the Rhondda coal, although among the best steam coal in the world, was often difficult to mine, and so most of the miners came into that category. In spite of the coal owners predictions the miners did not stay out for eight weeks they stayed out for nearly eight months. History records that the miners lost their struggle. They were forced to accept the coal owners conditions. But the struggle was not in vain since in a few years time a Bill was passed in Parliament guaranteeing miners a minimum wage for working in difficult seams. During these times of social strife many of the Parc and Dare Band were to be found in various parts of the country. They were the first of the buskers. But the money they were given for playing in the street did not go towards extra pocket money for them, or to buy a few pints of beer, it was sent back to their hungry families in Cwmparc.

A Brighter Note.

Under the influence of Haydn Bebb, the band’s repertoire increased rapidly. He also stressed the importance of sight reading, and as a result the band were able to read on sight a wide range of music which included rhapsodies, symphonies and variations arranged for brass bands. In 1939 the band won three first prizes in contests and second prize in the national Eisteddfod at Denbigh. Then the war came and brought another chapter in the band’s history.

The Band Played On.

Since all the members of the band worked in the colliery, they were not eligible for call-up, and so the activities of the band carried on. However the emphasis of the band’s activities shifted and their first priority was now not in competing, but in holding concerts. They were in constant demand not just throughout the Rhondda, but further afield to provide their particular brand of musical entertainment for a nation at war. It was of national importance that the nation’s workers should have various kinds of entertainment so that the workers’ could relax after their hard graft for the war effort. And so the Parc and Dare Band ‘did their bit’ to help in the struggle against Hitler’s Third Reich.

It was not only in the concert halls, but also on the wireless that the band were in constant demand. By the end of the war they had been on the air no less than eighty eight times. This included several ‘Music while you Work’ programmes where the B.B.C. would bring their mobile unit along and record the band in the Parc Hall. The band also raised several thousand pounds for various charities. Later, in 1976, the band competed for the first time in the BBC2 Best of Brass televised competition and, prior to the competition, the band featured in an article in the Radio Times.

The Horror Of War.

The horror of war struck closer to home on the night of April 29th, 1941 when German bombers dropped incendiary and high explosive bombs on Cwmparc. There was chaos and devastation as the bombs rained down. One eye-witness described the result as a ‘horse-shoe of fire’ on the Bwlch mountain. No-one knows why the bombers attacked the sleepy village, although the most likely theory was that they were off target: their real target being Swansea docks. Some of the inhabitants ran down the valley in their night clothes – the miners having first put on their hob nailed boots. Others cowered in the ‘cwtch-dan-stars’.


Treorchy Cemetery.

The twenty-seven victims of the bombing were buried in Treorchy cemetery later that week. By an ironic stroke of fate four of them were evacuees who had been sent to Cwmparc to escape the horror of the bombing in London. There were not enough hearses available and so they had to use some of ‘Thomas and Evans’ floats, suitably draped for the occasion. The procession was headed by the Parc and Dare Band who played the Dead March. It was the saddest occasion on which the band had ever played.

A Lighter Note.

Towards the end of the war competitions were in full swing again. The band competed wherever possible, travelling by bus. On most occasions they would be waiting for a solitary late-comer: usually the same person. To teach him a lesson the committee decided that at the next contest ( which happened to be in Swansea ) the bus would start and leave on time – no matter who was missing. And so it happened. The bus did leave on time – and left behind three committee members who were forced to walk home! It also recorded that a certain cornet player, being disgusted with an adjudication, and having spent too long brooding over several pints of beer in the Pengelli, on leaving the inn did throw his instrument in the river, having told the world at large what he thought of the adjudicator. And that his friend, Rhys Emrys, fetched it out.


Band uniforms which were regularly being worn to concerts and competitions finally reached the stage when they had to be replaced. For several years after the war clothing coupons were still in use and there was no possibility of the band being fitted with a complete set of uniforms – even if they could afford it. So they obtained a set of ex-police uniforms, added a little braid for decoration and wore them for several years. The uniforms still had a pocket for the police truncheon!


It was several years later when the band, who used to play at the annual garden party held in Llandinam, were presented with a set of new uniforms by Lord Davies.

Albert Hall

In the first contest to be held in the Albert Hall after the war, the band achieved the outstanding position of third place in the National Championships. A couple of years later, Haydn Bebb left to join Enfield Band. Sadly shortly afterwards he died. Parc & Dare’s record in the fifteen years he was conducting the band was a remarkable one. They appeared regularly in the Championship Band Contest of Great Britain sponsored by the Daily Herald – no small achievement since these were the twenty best bands in Britain. Closer to home they set a remarkable record by winning in 1944 every contest entered which included every competitive event open to Class A bands in Wales.