In May 1910, Mr Henry Binsted was appointed headmaster of Puhoi Public School. He immediately became involved in all aspects of community life, as well as achieving unparalleled results with the children’s education and behaviour.
He became secretary of the tennis club, refereed football for the Rodney Association, was captain of the Puhoi Cadets and gave ‘extras’ on his cornet at the local dances.
With the golden jubilee of Puhoi coming up in 1913, he suggested forming a brass band.
By October 1912, 10 band members had started practicing, and Mr Binsted was their honorary conductor. They began with scarcely any idea of music, although most families played the button accordion by ear, keeping the traditional music they brought from Bohemia alive.
By November, subscriptions had covered the cost (£52) of all the instruments: four euphoniums, two cornets, a trumpet, one tuba, one sousaphone and one trombone. The original 10 members were joined by two young drummers.
The ship ‘Kotiti’ arrived on Sunday, June 29, 1913, bringing many passengers to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Puhoi settlement. They received a musical welcome from the Puhoi Band. Playing from the balcony of the hotel, they contributed a pleasing programme. At the formal meeting in the hall, they played several overtures including the Austrian National Hymn.
Throughout the year, the band played at dances, weddings and to welcome Parliamentarians. They organized concerts in aid of the Patriotic Fund and Red Cross.
Towards the end of the year, the band members and the community arranged a social and presentation to honour Mr and Mrs Binsted “in appreciation of their most valuable services”. They were given a gold watch and chain, suitably inscribed, and an enlarged photo of the band in a stained oak frame. Father O’Hara read an address from the school committee expressing their gratitude. The children, it appears, were delighted with him as their headmaster. Their parents were also greatly pleased, and the Education Board inspectors made increasingly favourable reports of his work.
At the annual picnic of the Puhoi, Ahuroa, Waiwera, Upper Waiwera, Mahurangi Heads and Pohuehue schools in February 1914, Mr Binsted announced that this was his last public appearance at Puhoi as he had been appointed to Te Papapa School, near Onehunga. Mrs Binsted was presented with a marble clock inscribed “from her Puhoi friends”. They had made a tremendous contribution in their three and a half years.
Ben Schollum, an original member of the band, took over as bandmaster. The Puhoi Heritage Museum has been given Ben Schollum’s cornet. It is a good quality instrument made by Boosey & Company. A stamp on the bell indicates it was made in 1914.
We are having this instrument restored to top condition. We have also been donated the violin that was brought to Puhoi by the first settlers, several button accordions and a dudelsak (bagpipes).
A new display, planned for the near future, will show the great importance of music in the life of Puhoi, a legacy that continues to this day.
Jenny Schollum, Puhoi Historical Society