Contributor Ron Clark (ex-Student and Old Boy)

During a SBC Reunion in 2002, I met up again with Warren Holmes (R.I.P). We were classmates. Warren was a Boarder and one of those positive and enthusiastic blokes that you remember. He was an excellent bugler, and totally devoted to the SBC Cadet Band and its success. In due course, he led the Band as Bandmaster. During our catchup, a gap of well over 45 years, Warren told me of a particular fond memory as Bandmaster. It was during the Sydney Waratah Festival in 1960 or 1961, and I think I can almost quote Warren verbatim :

" I told Mum to stand near the corner of William Street, opposite The Australian Museum, down from St. Mary's Cathedral. As we approached, I saw Mum in exactly the right spot, as requested. I hurled the Bandmasters Baton or Mace into the air with an extra twirl ! Too high ! Too high !, Too much twirl ! I thought. I kept my eyes on that Mace...and caught it, and gripped it ! Mum was very close now, and my look to her was: For you Mum!"

BUGLERS (continued)

It appears SBCK was not short of truly great buglers. The names of Dutchie, (Piet Van Vliet), and Warren Holmes come up in conversations constantly. There is a photo of Jim Madden, Eric Munster, Gerry Curley, Killer McCoy and Dutchie Van Vliet all looking very smart in their cadet uniforms on our FB page. Dawso remembers Dutchie from when Dawso was Drum Major. And lets not forget that Les Young was a pretty good bugler as well (when he wasn’t being Drum Major that is)!

Official Opening of Cahill’s Lookout in 1959

It was reported in the 1959 Annual that Ian McIntosh was the Drum-Major that year and Mick Carmody was a ‘new’ drummer.

At The Cenotaph 1959

The Buglers who played The Last Post at the Cenotaph on Anzac Day were Warren Holmes, Les Young, R. Junge and G. Mitchell. This was the first time SBCK had done this and a great honour!

Contributor Mike Burke (ex-Student and Old Boy)

The most memorable drum major during my time at St Bernards was Chocko (Yves Darbon - then Offlaville). He had real style. I was a drummer (very average, verging on the barely competent side). Dutchie, Piet van Vliet, was a bugler that year, and a good one. I think Peter Dawson was drum major then. Not sure. I thought Dutchie was at one point, but maybe I got confused. I spent my last year at school as Sergeant Major.

Contributor Peter Lavis (ex-Student and Old Boy)

My brother, John Lavis was at St Bernard’s from (I think) 1963 until closure in 1966. He was a cadet and band member, playing the bugle (pretty well too). I remember at home when he was down the backyard practicing the bugle our dog used to follow him down and howl along with the music! Very entertaining.


Here are memories submitted by two Old Boys of a very exciting incident with the SBCK Band.

Ron Clark kicked off with:

From memory, in 1960 and 1961(?) St. Bernard's won the Final of the NSW Schools Cadet Band Championship. I had left SBCK in 1959, so I heard about this extraordinary achievement from Old Boy, David Rumsey, a keen member of that Band. Bro. Eric was in charge of the Cadet Band. (We had a mutual dislike of each other, however credit where it is due, he was a driven fellow, who did wonders with the SBCK Cadet Band.)

The story goes that in 1960 (?) St. Bernard's met The Kings School, Parramatta, at King's, in the Final of the NSW Championship. As you know, The King's School was a Military School in Ye Olde English tradition. King's were super confident...but St. Bernard's really "turned it on" and whipped the toffy King's School to be NSW Champions.

The King's School were in a state of shock SBCK knew who they were, however they had no idea who we were.

In a re-match in 1961, King's decided to "throw everything that they had at us". Evidently the Band Leader came out with something like a "Wild Beast" outfit. Dressed to impress in all their "feathers" & military ornaments.

To no avail. We whipped them again!

There must be Old Boys who were members of this famous Cadet Band who remember the exact details and can tell the story far better than I can. I reckon that it is quite a story! Warren Holmes (RIP) would have been a great resource person.

Les Young wrote:

I can't remember too much about our band days. I think I wrote an article in the 1961 school mag about our band. I remember leading a block of bands through Sydney CBD in '61. We also won a championship at singleton in 1961 where I was lucky enough to win the Drum Majors’ Award.

The most remembered outing occurred when Ian McIntosh was Drum Major and we were invited to play the last post at the RSL. We left a hundred men in tears.

And just to add to our band story. The college had a visit from some Army Brass earlier in the year to view the entire Cadet Corp. Everything the band did turned to s--t. However we won the schools’ comp and received a special visit from the same Army Brass who congratulated us, presented the awards and said he couldn't believe the improvement.

I've got to say in 1960 Bro Eric created a standard for the College Band that was unbelievable. He left SBCK at the end of 1960. I became Drum Major for 1961.

We became good but Bro Eric was missed. Unbelievably he turned up at Singleton Army Camp in Sept 1961 and in 10 days changed the band from good to great. Bro Eric was a Maestro!

One last memory In recognition of our school comp victory SBC were given the honour of leading a mass of block bands (which included the GPS losers) through the CBD celebrating the Waratah Festival in Oct-Nov 1961 There were 10 to 15 school bands in the block, it was massive!


Contributor Mike Yeo (President, ex-student, Old Boy and Long Term Committee Member)

Circa late 50's early 60's

Not sure of the year but the Waratah Festival was on in Sydney. Our Cadet Band used to compete in a band competition in the Domain and then join as a massed band for the march through Sydney streets. This particular year, 2 weeks out from the event, the guy that was the bass drummer left the school. I think his father was moved with his job. This role and the Drum Major were pivotal, as there were multiple drummers and buglers. The passage of time dims the memory but names that come to mind around that time are Mike Carmody, Ken Andrews, Chris Doogan, as possible in the roles.

It takes a long time to learn to be a bass drummer, but the drum major at the time was previously the bass drummer. So the decision was made to “fast track” someone to be the Drum Major. One of the criteria was someone tall (not essential but a good idea so people could see what he was doing). It seems that knowledge of music was not essential as they would have picked someone from the band. At the time, I was a CUO and tall so I undertook a crash course in how to be a Drum Major. It was agreed that the band was so good that they did not really need a Drum Major anyway, other than for appearance.

So two weeks of hell, learning to understand how the band works, how to march with the mace and swing it around a bit to make it look like I knew what I was doing. I decided not to try and throw it up in the air – that would be tempting fate. We made it to the festival and did not win – not due to our musical ability, but marked down on dress that year.

Travelling down on the train was not the best for our uniform. Unlike the rest of us with khaki belts and gaiters, the band had white ones. White sandshoe cleaner was the go. I would have thought that there would be a spare set somewhere but no. Only option was to clean off all the “blanco” right back to nothing and make them white, with black straps and brass buckles. Then when it was all over, return them to their khaki state.

Who wants to be in the band anyway?