Since the tragic Christchurch, N.Z., earthquake, just over a year ago, I have been asked by several people whether Calderdale has any significant 19th Century links with that city. One local family’s connection is particularly interesting in that it shows how local emigrants helped nurture the Brass Band tradition - then so popular in the West Riding - in the Antipodes.
Henry Tankard was born at Towngate, Northowram, in 1824, and baptised at St. John’s Church, Coley, the only son of Daniel Tankard, grocer (1802-71), and his wife Ann Platts. A wheelwright by trade, on 14th October 1845 Henry married Sarah Pearson of Hipperholme at Coley; they were to have three sons and two daughters. By the mid-1850s, business was poor, and Henry and his wife determined to emigrate. On 11th June 1858, the whole family embarked for New Zealand on board the “Zealandia,” arriving at Lyttelton, the port for Christchurch, on 21st September.
Henry initially settled at Papanui, a suburb of Christchurch, where he set up as a wheelwright, and also seems to have run a pub; he later moved up the coast to Amberley. From his earliest years in New Zealand, Henry became in involved with the Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry Band, based at Christchurch, as did his three sons Fred, Charley and Tom, a little later.
Henry died in 1883, and his widow, Sarah, in 1897.
Their eldest son Fred, born at Northowram in December 1847, initially worked for his father as a wheelwright, also training as a smith. Subsequently he became a journeyman blacksmith in Christchurch, for Cobb and Co. Later on, he established his own smithy in St. Asaph Street, Christchurch. In 1878 he decided to move to Napier in the North Island, where he was employed for ten years as a journeyman by Joseph Parker. He then started his own smithy in Napier.
When he moved to the North Island, Fred joined the Napier City Band, of which, just two years later, he was appointed bandmaster. In this role he proved very popular.
In 1872 Fred married Alice Warman; they had a large family; he died in 1920.
Fred’s youngest brother Tom Tankard was baptised at Coley on 15th April 1855. At the age of thirteen, he began playing the b-flat cornet with the Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry Band. Almost thirty years later in 1897, he was still noted as a very fine performer on the same instrument, then with the Canterbury Garrison Band, of which he was deputy-bandmaster. In 1880 he married Louisa Blanche Jackson. He died in 1932, leaving several children
Tom’s eldest son, Tom, junior (1881-1947), was also very musical; he became a noted violinist. In 1906 he played the organ at one of the big concerts at the Christchurch Exhibition.
The Brass Band tradition still thrives in New Zealand today. The Tankard family out there, were still in touch with relatives in the Halifax area less than 100 years ago.
David C Glover