Inauguration

The idea of a Federation of Cathedral Old Choristers was discussed at a reunion of the Peterborough Association in September 1910. Present as guests at that reunion were Arthur Hardgrave (York) and William Calladine (Lincoln). It was agreed by members of the three associations that Charles Dack (Peterborough Hon. Secretary) should write letters to the Precentors of every Cathedral in England and Wales with full details of the proposed FEDERATION which was....

'To bring together individual associations into closer touch with one another and to further in every way possible the interest of these associations. The members of any association shall be received as honorary members by the association wherein they may be resident.'

Peterborough CathedralLetters supporting this project had already been received from the Worcester and Durham Associations. By November 1910 Charles Dack had received so many encouraging letters that he sent out a second letter intimating that a small provisional committee had been formed, made up of:- Chairman, Arthur Hardgrave (York); Vice Chairman, Edward Laws (Durham); Hon. Secretary, Charles Dack (Peterborough); and Hon. Treasurer, William Calladine (Lincoln).

The purpose of this provisional committee was to establish a National Federation of Cathedral Old Choristers. Twenty associations had already expressed their approval and so draft rules were prepared for the inaugural meeting, which was held on 29th June 1911, in the Deanery Garden, Peterborough. At this inaugural meeting representatives present were:-

Canterbury
A Grundy
Durham
E Laws
Lincoln
W H Calladine
Manchester
Revd RM Tuke
Peterborough C Dack
Norwich R S Minns
York A Hardgrave - with other local cathedral ex choristers.

So on this delightfully hot day in June, the National Federation was officially formed, with the officers enumerated above unanimously elected, and only nine months after the original idea was discussed in September 1910.

Altogether there were sixteen founder Associations affiliated to the new Federation.  These are listed below with their Hon. Secretaries.

Bristol Miss Pigou
Peterborough C Dack
Canterbury A S Grundy
Rochester B Luard Selby
Carlisle C S Mason
Salisbury Canon F B Sowter
Durham E Laws
Truro Canon C E Cofe
Lichfield E W Allport
Winchester C Stuart King
Lincoln W H Calladine
Worcester Revd E H Tupper
Manchester Revd R M Tuke
York A Hardgrave
Norwich R S Minns
Melbourne F S Howes (Australia)

This information was obtained by a former Hon. Secretary of the Federation, Frank Hewitt (Chester) and confirmed by Arthur Grundy (Canterbury) who was, at that time, the only official representative alive who had attended the inaugural meeting at Peterborough.

The Early Years

The first Festival was held in York in 1912, to be followed by a second in Rochester in 1914.  An AGM was held each year and things were moving well until war broke out in 1914.

After the First World War, Arthur Grundy was responsible for setting the Federation in motion again. Not only did he perform the duties of both Chairman and Secretary, but he organised the first Federation Festival to be held after the war - at Canterbury in 1920. In 1925 Harold Cattley (Chester) took up the office of Hon. Secretary and was involved in organising the Festivals from 1925-31.  Festivals (incorporating the AGM) took place every year from 1920 until 1938 (with the exception of 1923 and 1924), but again things were interrupted by the outbreak of WW2.

After the Second World War it was Frank Hewitt (Chester) as Hon. Secretary 1931-75 who got the Federation moving again. He worked extremely hard and under his aegis membership grew to 38 associations. Frank, however, ran things very much his own way, since he was, in effect, his own Chairman - the position of chairman was mainly nominal, being filled each year by the Dean of the Cathedral who was hosting the Festival; the host Bishop was President.

This was changed in 1953 when George Tarbutt (Westminster Abbey) became Chairman, and the Dean of the host Cathedral was made President for the year, an arrangement that is still in place today. George Tarbutt was instrumental in giving the Federation new direction and laid the foundation for Canon Gordon Berriman (Durham) to become Chairman in 1957, an office he held, with great distinction, until 1977.  It was during his Chairmanship that the Federation protested strongly to the BBC, when they threatened to cut the broadcasts of Choral Evensong on Wednesday. We like to think that the Federation's efforts did something to bring about a happy outcome.  When Gordon retired, the position of Hon. Chaplain was created for him to continue an active role in the Federation, a position he continued to hold until his sudden death on Christmas Day 1981. It would appear that the position of Hon. Chaplain died with him, as it has never been filled since.  

During the period 1978-80 events turned a complete circle; the Chairman elected was Sydney Skinner, again from York, and the Hon. Secretary was Cyril Laxton, again from Peterborough (as in 1910). These two worked extremely hard for the Federation which continued to flourish and now had 49 affiliated associations.  Together Sydney and Cyril kept an eye on the national scene. For example; if the 1976 Education Act had been adopted in its entirety, it would have spelled the end of Cathedral Choir Schools. Led by Chairman, Sydney Skinner, the Federation fought this issue with all its strength. Protest letters were sent to Government Ministers and M.Ps, outlining the essential position which a choir holds in the life of a Cathedral and emphasising the great choral tradition in the British Isles that went back nearly 1000 years and was the envy of our American and Continental friends. Many letters were received from M.Ps who were serving on the Standing Committee dealing with this matter, thanking the Federation for their help and information.

In 1980 Cyril Laxton (Peterborough) was elected Chairman and John Bowdler (Gloucester) became Hon. Secretary. These two officers worked tirelessly and gathered a wealth of knowledge between them on Federation matters which has been invaluable to succeeding officers.
In 1982 John Phillips (Worcester) became Chairman. John was a talented musician and adjudicator, he was also a good chairman and worked hard to strengthen the Federation.
Frank Thomas (Edinburgh St Mary's) took over the Chairmanship in 1987 to 1990. Frank was a dedicated chairman and made many visits to Associations during his short term in office.

All change in the 1990s

The 1990s saw many changes, especially on the Executive Committee with John Holt (Wakefield) elected Chairman, Stan Packman (Wakefield/Exeter) Hon. Secretary and David Horwood (Eton College) taking over as Hon. Treasurer from David Frost (Derby). Under the leadership of John Holt the Federation was streamlined and took on a more modern approach. Rules were updated, yearly financial statements presented and minutes and administration were computerised, making the Federation well placed for the new Millennium.

In 1992 Geoffrey Mitchell (Exeter) became Chairman. Geoffrey continued the modern approach, visited many associations, added further association badges to the Chairman's Chain of Office and was instrumental in arranging and 'guiding' successful foreign tours for the Federation. In 1995 Basil Saville (St Albans) took over as Hon. Secretary, with Robert Woodcock (Norwich) as Asst. Hon. Secretary.

A Membership Card system was launched in 1993, and to date well over 2500 had been issued.

A Federation Shop was opened in the same year selling sweatshirts and pens and now has a wide selection of stock available at Federation events and by mail order (see Merchandise page). In 1998 a new post was created on the Executive Committee of Marketing Officer. David Horner (York) took on this position after relinquishing the editorship of the Once-A-Chorister magazine, which he had published for ten years.

With the office of Chairman now limited to five years, 1997 saw Dennis Townhill (Lincoln and Edinburgh) elected to take over from Geoffrey. During his tenure, Dennis has visited many associations and also wrote a book entitled 'The Imp and the Thistle' - the story of his life of music-making, from chorister in Lincoln to Organist Emeritus of St. Mary’s Cathedral Edinburgh.    Dennis very generously donated the proceeds from the sale of this book to the Federation.

A New Century

In 2001 Andrew Orland (Lincoln) was elected Secretary, probably being the youngest person to hold this office in the Federations history.  The following year, Alan Oyston (Durham) took over as Chairman.  Alan had a gift for being able to say just the right thing at any occasion, be it a quick thank you to a Dean or host Association, or a full blown speech at a Festival Banquet.  During this time the Federation moved into the new century with computers and a web site.

2007 saw Gordon Hughes (Christchurch Oxford) elected Chairman followed by Ian Henderson (Rochester) in 2010. 

All past and present Officers of the Federation must be thanked for the devoted and loyal service which they have given. So, as was said nearly a century ago, may it continue
'To bring together individual associations into closer touch with one another and to further in every way possible the interest of these associations'

 

1912 YORK
1914 ROCHESTER
1920 CANTERBURY
1921 BRISTOL
1922 RIPON
1925 CANTERBURY
1926 CHESTER
1927 WORCESTER
1928 LIVERPOOL
1929 NORWICH
1930 BRISTOL
1931 MANCHESTER
1932 CANTERBURY
1933 LINCOLN
1934 RIPON
1935 ROCHESTER
1936 DURHAM
1937 WESTMINSTER ABBEY
1938 YORK
1950 WESTMINSTER ABBEY
1951 CHESTER
1952 ETON COLLEGE
1953 DURHAM
1954 NORWICH
1955 SOUTHWARK
1956 LINCOLN
1957 RIPON

1958 CARLISLE
1959 CAMBRIDGE S J
1960 YORK
1961 CANTERBURY
1962 LICHFIELD
1963 CHESTER
1964 PETERBOROUGH
1965 MANCHESTER
1966 WESTMINSTER ABBEY
1967 GLOUCESTER
1968 WINCHESTER
1969 LLANDAFF
1970 DUBLIN S P
1971 LICHFIELD
1972 DURHAM
1973 OXFORD CH CH
1974 CAMBRIDGE KGS
1975 ST PAUL’S
1976 LEICESTER
1977 YORK
1978 LINCOLN
1979 EDINBURGH S M
1980 WORCESTER
1981 CHESTER
1982 SHEFFIELD
1983 EXETER
1984 NORWICH
1985 WINCHESTER

1986 CANTERBURY
1987 ST ALBANS
1988 WAKEFIELD
1989 MANCHESTER
1990 RIPON
1991 CHICHESTER
1992 YORK
1993 DURHAM
1994 ELY
1995 WESTMINSTER ABBEY
1996 GUILDFORD
1997 BLACKBURN
1998 CHESTER
1999 EXETER
2000 CANTERBURY
2001 NORWICH
2002 EDINBURGH
2003 CARLISLE
2004 LEICESTER
2005 DURHAM
2006 LINCOLN
2007 CHELMSFORD
2008 RIPON
2009 WINCHESTER
2010 WESTMINSTER ABBEY
2011 GUILDFORD
2012 YORK
2013 ST. ALBANS

1910 PETERBOROUGH
1911 PETERBOROUGH
1912 YORK
1913 PETERBOROUGH
1914 ROCHESTER
1920 CANTERBURY

AGM's as Festivals until

1977 LEICESTER
1978 GLOUCESTER
1979 BIRMINGHAM
1980 LEICESTER
1981 HEREFORD
1982 NORWICH
1983 WESTMINSTER ABBEY
1984 LICHFIELD
1985 YORK
1986 WELLS
1987 ELY
1988 CHICHESTER
1989 DERBY
1990 GUILDFORD

1991 BRISTOL
1992 CHESTER
1993 SHEFFIELD
1994 GLOUCESTER
1995 ROCHESTER
1996 WAKEFIELD
1997 ETON COLLEGE
1998 LINCOLN
1999 CHELMSFORD
2000 YORK
2001 TRURO
2002 BLACKBURN
2003 OXFORD
2004 ST PAUL'S LONDON
2005 WAKEFIELD
2006 SALISBURY
2007 GLOUCESTER
2008 ETON COLLEGE
2009 ST EDMUNDSBURY
2010 PETERBOROUGH
2011 WARWICK
2012 PORTSMOUTH
2013 CANTERBURY

PAST OFFICERS OF THE FEDERATION
SINCE ITS COMMENCEMENT IN 1910
HONORARY CHAIRMEN
1910 ARTHUR HARDGRAVE YORK
1914 - 1918 FIRST WORLD WAR YEARS
1921 ARTHUR GRUNDY CANTERBURY
1925 HAROLD CATTLEY CHESTER
1937 ARTHUR GRUNDY CANTERBURY
1939 - 1945 SECOND WORLD WAR YEARS
1946 FRANK HEWITT CHESTER
1953 GEORGE TARBUTT WESTMINSTER ABBEY
1957 GORDON BERRIMAN DURHAM
1978 SYDNEY SKINNER YORK
1980 CYRIL LAXTON PETERBOROUGH
1982 JOHN PHILLIPS WORCESTER
1987 FRANK THOMAS EDINBURGH ST. MARY'S
1990 JOHN HOLT WAKEFIELD
1992 GEOFFREY MITCHELL EXTER
1997 DENNIS TOWNHILL LINCOLN
2002 ALAN OYSTON DURHAM
2007 GORDON HUGHES CHRISTCHURCH OXFORD
2010 IAN HENDERSON ROCHESTER
HONORARY SECRETARIES
1910 CHARLES DACK PETERBOROUGH
1914 - 1918 FIRST WORLD WAR YEARS
1920 ARTHUR GRUNDY CANTERBURY
1925 HAROLD CATTLEY CHESTER
1931 FRANK HEWITT CHESTER
1939 - 1945 SECOND WORLD WAR YEARS
1946 FRANK HEWITT CHESTER
1976 CYRIL LAXTON PETERBOROUGH
1980 JOHN BOWDLER GLOUCESTER
1990 STAN PACKMAN WAKEFIELD/EXETER
1995 BASIL SAVILLE ST ALBANS
ROBERT WOODCOCK NORWICH(ASST SECRETARY)
2001 ANDREW ORLAND LINCOLN
2009 RICHARD BELTON LEICESTER
HONORARY TREASURERS
1910 WILLIAM CALLADINE LINCOLN
1914 - 1918 FIRST WORLD WAR YEARS
1920 ARTHUR HARDRAVE YORK
1921 ARTHUR GRUNDY CANTERBURY
1925 HAROLD CATTLEY CHESTER
1931 FRANK HEWITT CHESTER
1939 - 1945 SECOND WORLD WAR YEARS
1946 FRANK HEWITT CHESTER
1973 DAVID FROST DERBY
1990 DAVID HORWOOD ETON COLLEGE
2002 MICHAEL LAKE CHELMSFORD
PUBLICATION OFFICERS
1931 FRANK HEWITT CHESTER
1939 - 1945 SECOND WORLD WAR YEARS
1946 FRANK HEWITT CHESTER
1973 ROSS HICKLING DURHAM
1978 GRAHAM WOODMANSTERNE WESTMINSTER ABBEY
1988 DAVID F. HORNER YORK
1998 ALAN WHEELER LINCOLN
2001 MICHAEL BARRY GUILDFORD
MARKETING OFFICERS
1998 DAVID F. HORNER YORK
2009 ANDREW ORLAND LINCOLN