Above: Ken McMahon ready to play!
Above: Ken McMahon receiving the Senior Citizen of the Year Award from Tony Zappia.
Above: Ken McMahon with Malcolm Wright, Mary Wright and friends
Above: L - R, Ken McMahon, Bette McMahon, Ron Arthur, Jean Arthur, Aubrey Gannon, Irene Gannon.
Above: Salisbury Band, Early 60's
Above: Salisbury Junior Band 1973
Above: A young Ken McMahon in unfamiliar dress!
A man is only as good as his word.
If this was the only thing I could remember from all the years, 53 ½ in total, that I have known Kenneth Percival George McMahon it would still have been worth the effort. The advice he received from his dad, which was passed on to me, has stood the test of time. When you give your word, that’s it, there’s no turning back, even when turning back is an attractive option.
In his early thirties Ken Mac made the transition from fleet-footed wingman to trombonist and brass band devotee. I doubt that when he first dipped a toe into the community banding world, he would have seen what was coming. His life for the last 60 years has been profoundly influenced by brass band music. He, in turn, has influenced it. The superhuman level of determination, dedication and devotion, which he is noted for, has enriched the lives of people, young and old for the previously mentioned six decades.
When his time as conductor of the Salisbury City Band came to an end in early 1998, he made his final speech to the band in which he described his weekly banding schedule. All his spare time seemed to be occupied with teaching people, organising band functions, rehearsals etc. He gave everything he had to give, sometimes to the detriment of his own family, something that he freely and honestly admits. I think he probably just couldn’t help himself, apart from being a very “Human” human being , he is also a(n) humanitarian.
When I took over conducting the band in early 1998, he mentioned in a private discussion that I was the one who he wanted to conduct the band into the future. I said that I was happy to do it but wouldn’t be mortgaging my whole existence around it. He responded in a resigned tone that had a hint of sadness in it also, “Not like I did”.
The Salisbury City Band went through a period of significant growth under Ken Mac, culminating in highly respectable performances at a National B grade level. All this was achieved through honest toil and effort using whatever talent was available.
Here is a selection of the awards that have been bestowed upon him.
He was also a co-founder of the SA Band Conductors fraternity and a member of the Salisbury Cultural Board.
These awards came after he had already made his mark on sport, football in particular. Ken McMahon is a life member of Salisbury Football Club and was one of the five original founding members of Central Districts Football Club. He has also supported his family’s interests which have included Marching Girls, Irish Dancing and sport.
As his son-in-law I have a strong personal connection, which means that he has had to put up with my antics over the journey, some of which would have tested the patience of a saint! I am very pleased and proud to say that we are all still here and care deeply for each other.
When Ken McMahon took over as conductor of the Salisbury Band, the band chairman Malcolm Wright gave him some advice, in a Yorkshire accent! “Walk tall lad, walk tall”. He has earned the right to walk tall.
Ken McMahon has been as good as his word.
Heartfelt thanks, Geoff Meikle, 2020.
Born in Jamestown SA to Victor and Wilhemina McMahon on 24th August 1929.
Geoff, thank you for including me in your proposal.
First thoughts made me wonder if my memory would be good enough, however on reflection I was reminded of a quote my father gave to me at the time of early adulthood, “A man is only as good as his word”……..So here goes mate.
My story begins in Gawler at a time when my Mum gave me some cultural tuition. She was a very good singer of some repute in W.A. Here in Gawler she was content to sing contralto in a church choir, but at times she would be asked to perform a solo, for this she would need an accompanist. As fortune would have it, up the hill from us lived a young lady named May Francis, she was a member of a musical family, including a brother who taught violin. Mum said this was great for me and would put me on the road to a famous future. Well, something went wrong. Violin playing and me were like oil and water. Ne’er the two shall mix. It all finished one day when I went for a lesson and saw him duck out of sight up the hall passage. His sister told me that he wasn’t home!
I decided not to continue the violin, but it did not deter Mum's determination to have me playing something, be it piano, percussion, singing, bagpipes, mouth-organ etc. She only gave up when I took up football, though she did mention Uncle Hugh and trumpet playing, but oil and water was still in the background. Sport became my main interest, football, cricket, tennis, pushbike racing, running and gymnastics (note, no swimming). Sport, particularly football, was my main recreational activity both as a player, coach and administrator until my early 30’s.
Upon retirement from footy and after many and varied efforts to do something cultural, I was persuaded to join the learners class of the Salisbury and Elizabeth Band. We had a very good bandmaster in Ernie Alderslade, a member of the South Australian Police Band. In later years he was a person that I turned to for advice (he and some others). Ernie had a very busy music life and had to retire.
Playing an instrument was a challenge, as I married into a family where five males were brass players of considerable talent. During my courting days, several of my future spouses’ brothers played in the Henley and Grange Band, which was an A grade band of some repute. In the summer the band played regular concerts in the local rotunda. You know what I mean when I say I was “invited” to attend one of these concerts. We caught the train from Salisbury to Adelaide and then to Henley Beach on a fresh Sunday evening. “Deep Harmony”…What a sound! So began my life in Brass Culture.
I think Mum was proud. It’s all your fault Bette!
I worked hard to improve and play my chosen horn, the trombone. Rick, the youngest of the five brothers was a great help. He was to become our future bandmaster.
Things were going wrong with the membership of the Salisbury and Elizabeth Band and it’s numbers were down to a half a dozen…..maybe?.....plus me!
I took on the job of librarian and teaching the learners class. For the young this was a very interesting time. The learners class really started when Rick Errington was Bandmaster. He took anyone with any talent, I took the new learners, since I was one myself! I had made strides ahead and after much effort made it through Deep Harmony on 2nd trombone, a lovely hymn. Playing my part in the band rehearsal was a major step for me. No more “Elephants with wind” sounds! More study to keep ahead of the learners class was a must. We had a good committee lead by Malcolm Wright, I was providing students for the Senior Band who were holding their places as older members were leaving. We also had the makings of a Junior Band, lead by Geoff Meikle, Stuart Pickett and the rest of the Pickett family, who took all before them in the solo and party comps.
Rick Errington was lost to the band when he was transferred to Darwin with his employment. My rise to the position of Bandmaster happened accidentally. We had a band engagement at Carisbrooke Park, over the road from the Old Spot Hotel. After a forty minute delay and still no Bandmaster, Malcolm Wright the band chairman said to me, “Right Ken, no messing about, you take the juniors, so get on with it. Leave the ex-Bandmaster to me”. So began my life as conductor.
27 years of constant, dedicated hard work and study. I am proud to be a member of a team that has moved, over the years, from a Sunday morning learners group to the present ensemble. I am proud of the part that I have played in creating the bands standing, musically. We play good enjoyable music of any type, there is a great team devotion to the task and loyalty to the cause. We were good enough to work our way through the grades from Junior to top B grade.
I was fortunate to have those 27+ years, they brought me great joy and satisfaction.
These days playing my trombone in the Fun Band has brought me a great deal of pleasure. I also attend every rehearsal of the Salisbury Band and provide moral support for my daughter Adrienne, who conducts the band.
Thank you, Ken McMahon.