Above: J Irving Thomas was one of the early conductors who led the choir to many county honours until his retirement in 1956 when he was presented with an FM radio, then a very new product. Front row: Mrs Thomas, J Irving Thomas, Leonard Hall, John White, Second row: Gordon Richards, Clarence Wallis, Andy Gendall, Bernard Hitchens, Cecil Weeks. Third row: Clive Nicholls, Jim Renfree, Roy Bersey, Harry Hosken, Ronald Whatley, Gordon Williams, Horton Bolitho, Louis Hunkin, Jimmy Harvey (out of picture). Top row: Leonard Hall, Leslie Sleeman, Dick Sleeman, Bill Simons, Phil Gendall, Dick McLary and Jack Rowe.
Newlyn Male Choir
The history of the choir until 1991 is well recorded in Ivan Balls’ short history Buccas Song published in 1991. The choir had its beginning in Mr William Richards tailor’s shop in narrow Church Street on the cliff above old Newlyn Harbour where a group of men met to sing together. More formally, it began with a Charity Concert in September 1920 organised by William Richards to raise funds for the family of the trammer William John Harvey, who had died in an accident at Penlee Quarry. This led in due course to a concert on 19/9/1921 at Trinity Methodist Schoolroom with William Richards conducting and W Norris Williams as the accompanist.
Over nearly a century the choir has left its mark on the history of Cornish male choirs. Its original logo, which is pictured on its badge (right), consisted of a shield with four quarters depicting a Mount’s Bay lugger, St Piran’s cross, Newlyn harbour lighthouse, and a lyre. Towards the end of 1950 this was modified when ‘voice’ was dropped from its name and the Newlyn Male Voice Choir became the Newlyn Male Choir.
The choir has been awarded numerous certificates to mark its success at the various Cornish Competitions and at times it was considered to be one of the best male choirs in Cornwall. Sadly, the choir disbanded in 2014 but its considerable archive which is part of the heritage of Newlyn, is safe. Here at the Newlyn Archive we have just finished sorting the vast collection of material that has been collected over 94 years and the catalogue is available for you to download as a PDF file from this website. What you need to do is click on ‘Archive Catalogue’. Then click on ‘Leisure’ under the main archive. At the bottom click on the PDF link ‘Leisure’. When the PDF opens click on ‘save a copy’. If your family is from Newlyn no doubt your family name is somewhere in this file!
The physical archive includes two meticulously kept minute books dated 1935-1964 and 1965-1998 and a file of more recent minutes kept by Bryan Marshall who was secretary from 1998 until the choir’s demise in 2014. There are 10 files of letters listed by year and sorted by date and 7 files of photos, programmes and other memorabilia that document in detail the story of the choir. There are a number of miscellaneous items including the NMC Banner ‘Deurnes Mannenkoor’ dated 8/1/1975 and embroidered by Mrs Barbara Hosking. There are also a number of cassettes and videos which we hope to get transferred to CDs and DVDs so that they can be accessed by future generations.
This valuable collection of photos, letters and documents links well with other material in the Newlyn Archive. For example, a letter to the choir from Job Morris at Sentinel Recording Studios dated 3/4/1989 announces the end of Sentinel Records (Cornwall). This venture originated in Newlyn with premises in the Strand (see Place in Catalogue). John Henry ‘Harry’ Matthews (1895-1954), who was one of the founder members of the Newlyn Male Voice Choir, and one of its first conductors was awarded the Medaille Reconnaissance Française for work at Newlyn during the war (see War in Catalogue). Brenda Wooton who was the soloist with the choir for the 11th Inter-Celtic Festival in L’Orient, Brittany in 1981 worked in Peter Ellery’s Tremaen Pottery on the Norrad Slip (see Art Archive: Arts and Crafts in Catalogue). More generally, through the years many of the venues have been Methodist chapels confirming the relation between Methodism and singing (see Organisations in the Catalogue).
The archive holds an amazing record of the choir but there are gaps in its material. We do not have copies of all the programmes or stories for all the events. If you have a collection of material about the choir, why not lodge it in the archive for safe-keeping? We would also like to hold an open day about the choir in 2016 but for this we will have to find funding so please become a friend of the archive (£5 per annum) or send us a donation towards the 2016 event. The Treasurer is Ron Hogg, Wheal Betsy, Chywoone Hill, Newlyn TR18 5AP.