Alan Duckles RIP
Fred & Barbara Burnett
Very sad. Done many gigs with Alan and
Geraldine. It was only last week I asked Barry Marshall about him. Great
character and a nice guy.
Since well into last century Alan played
regularly for three bands (a very busy man!). He was leader of the Lancaster
Riverside Jazzband and did an immense job in popularising jazz throughout North
Lancs. and Cumbria.
When Barrie Marshall told me on Monday that Alan Duckles had passed away at home I hurriedly put together what few photos I have (most somewhat blurry) and added a recording which no one will have heard before. I posted it on Barrie's Facebook page and have now put it on YouTube (below).
I don't think Alan travelled very far from his home ground to play but this is from a session I organised for my son's "New Orleans Food" evening at Bolton College (10th April 1991). Alan was absolutely delighted to participate when I told him that Gabe, whom he'd never played with before, was on clarinet. It's Alan and Gabe Essien with myself, Dave Bateman on guitar and Peter Vickers on bass. It's Pete's recording.
When I put the video on Facebook I was amazed to see that there were already over 50 lovely comments about Alan. There are, as of today, 71 comments. I was then contacted by Carol Snoad who was the landlady at The Wagon & Horses during the 1990’s and was able to send her recordings of The New Riverside Jazz Band which I made on the occasions when Alan invited me to play with the band.
I started to work for the Band 1985/86 whilst
still working the Clubs.
The following photographs were taken on my camera
Click on each photo for larger versions
I've been 'home' to NI and just got the sad news of Alan's passing. Alan's New Riverside Jazz Band helped David and I take the first steps into jazz promotion, and for little money. We did repay much more generously, as promised, when Heysham Heritage Hall Jazz proved popular. Our jazz evenings enabled us to donate our profits to a number of local charities, so indirectly that was thanks to Alan. Condolences to Geraldine and family, and as the Irish Blessing concludes, 'Until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of his hand'
Alan Duckles....happy memories of sitting in on a Sunday at the John o gaunt and Robert gillow. Alan and Gerry came to watch me and give advice when I made my first leap into mainstream jazz whilst at university! Such a presence.....Always forgot how tall he was till I stood next to him on the bandstand. The end of an era...love to Gerry and the family.
Alan and I were colleagues in the English Department at Ripley St Thomas School in Lancaster for many years. Alan was always held in the highest regard by his pupils, many of whom developed a love of drama and poetry because of his teaching. Above all, as a story teller, he was unequalled, which led many of his pupils to a love of literature which has lasted all their lives.
Alan was a very talented actor, a stalwart for many years of Lancaster Footlights Club, which he persuaded me to join, and we shared the stage together in many productions through the 1970s and 80s. Alan could play the full range of characters, from comedy to tragedy, and was equally happy to play supporting roles as he was to feature in the lead.
Alan held us spellbound at lunchtimes in the
staffroom with his tales of the theatre, and when he started playing cornet
again, with stories of the gigs he was playing at The Crown at High Newton,
which eventually led to the formation of The New Riverside Jazz Band - 'New'
because he had played in the Riverside Jazz Band in Lancaster during the 1950s.
It was listening to these stories that eventually led me into jazz, when I was
only able to persuade Alan to play in our school Christmas Review by agreeing to
play banjo - a new departure for a guitar strumming folkie! This led to
Thursday evenings sitting in at The Park Hotel as the NRJB became established in
its residency, and then, when the banjo player moved away, Alan offered me the
chance to join the band. It was a very steep learning curve for me, but playing
with some excellent musicians helped greatly. As a band leader, Alan was
extremely well organised, clear about what he wanted, and always calm! His
extensive knowledge of traditional jazz was always evident, and ensured that the
band had probably the widest repertoire of any band in the region. As a front
man to the band, Alan's quick wit and wide vocabulary was much appreciated by
audiences. There's so much I could say about the wonderful times we had, and the
influence that Alan has had on my life, but I hope it's enough to say that
everyone who knew Alan regarded him very highly as a 'good person' - and surely,
we can leave no better legacy than that.
Alan was very much part of my formative years as a young jazzer in Lancaster in the '50's. There were three bands locally -The Riverside (who knew what they were doing) The Zeta Jazzmen (who half knew what they were doing), and us, The Southside Stompers (young teenage upstarts who thought they knew what they were doing). Later on of course we all fell in as the same crowd and it became a very precious memory for me --the nights at the Plough Inn, Galgate! Bill and Delia Glaister were the landlords at the time and kept us all in copious amounts of Boddingtons ! What a band though - Alan on trumpet-cornet? Mick Unthank clarinet, Arthur Pedder Trombone, George Niven drums, Malcolm Hall double bass, and me, Mike Deighan on banjo. I used to accompany Delia on guitar as she sang her favourite Bessie Smith numbers with that deep, sonorous voice of hers. It was Alan though who kept the whole thing together with his understated but always hot playing. As I said, great memories.
Rest In Peace Alan.
So sad to hear about Alan. I had a most
enjoyable time in Tom Culbert's Quayside Hot Stompers. A great band which,
thanks to Alan's extensive knowledge of the rarely played classics of the jazz
age, allowed me to play tunes I never thought I would get to play. Which bands
ever play such gems as Sweet Emmaline, Bottomland, Whip Me With Plenty of Love,
Walk That Broad ? Alan not only knew them thoroughly but played them in the hot
style of the day. All that talent in addition to being a nice chap as well. What
What can I say about Alan Duckles? - lots but I will try and keep it short.
I first came across Alan when I was playing for The Lune Valley Vintage Jazz Band. He turned up at a gig, and although I didn't know him, my brother in law, Trevor Hodgson, used to play clarinet with him in an early band so I knew the name. He sat in with the band and I thought he was awful, cracking lots of notes, and in one solo he did, he was all over the place. However, at one point he played a beautiful phrase that was definitely not an accident. We began going up to The Albert Inn in Bowness to play at the session there. Dave Wearing played bass and it was his idea to start a band that turned into The New Riverside Jazz Band. Steve Thorn, the new Landlord of The John o' Gaunt in Lancaster, asked me to form a band to play in his pub on Sunday lunchtime, and so The Sun Street Stompers began with Alan on cornet. The band is still going after 31 years.
Later on Tom Culbert formed The Quayside Hot Stompers playing classic jazz with me and Alan, Mathew Woodhouse on tuba, and then when he left, Colin Turner took over. Alan's wife Gerry played banjo and of course we had the wonderful Delia Glaister on vocals. Alan was a massive influence on me, and we played together a lot over the years since 1983. He knew some obscure tunes you never heard other bands play, and he was invited to Roe Island Jazz Club to play with Keith Nichols. Alan took a list of tunes he wanted to play, and some of them Keith Nichols didn't know!
Alan had a great sense of humour and in our early playing together days he came up with one tune which I didn't know, with a strange chord sequence. When we played it, I was really struggling and played a lot of wrong notes. My solo was terrible, and I think I hit every wrong note in the book. At the end of the tune Alan looked at my clarinet and said, "Nice bit of firewood you’ve got there".
He will be missed by so many, I miss him and all those wonderful tunes we used to harmonise on.
RIP old friend.
This video of Alan with the Quayside Hot Stompers was taken at
Just a few of the many Facebook comments
So sorry to hear the sad news about Alan he
gave us so much pleasure over the years with his fine trumpet playing thank you
Barrie for letting us know
Oh dear... know very sad. Alan
was such a lovely man and Mum loved her days with the New Riverside. I always
enjoyed hearing Alan play. A great loss x
A sad loss to the music. May he RIP.
Condolences to his family
Very sad news. So sorry to
hear this. Very fond memories of the many gigs I played on with him. Thoughts
are with Gerry, and all their family at this time.
Sorry to hear that. He was at Ripley school
when I did my teaching practice. Was very helpful. . . . Sad to hear he’s died.
Oh no. What an absolutely
wonderful chap. I'm so sorry to read this. I have a photo of Alan and my father
in sheltered under a pump tower at Slaidburn reservoir in teeming rain during an
abortive fishing trip. Their demeanour of funk in silhouette is immortalised.
Alan was with me when we scattered some of my father's ashes in same said
Alan was such a lovely man and a very talented
cornet player. Such a sad loss to all who knew him.
Such a good musician...just so
good. Loved playing with him. Will never forget.
Very much enjoyed playing with him at your
Sunday gig in Lancaster, so sad to hear he is no longer with us.
Despite the drive up and down
from Bolton, often on a cold and wintery night, I enjoyed playing with the New
Riverside Band so very much. I've lived in Spain & France since 2000 and
regrettably my UK visits never seemed to coincide with dates when Alan was
playing. Luckily I have a few of my recordings from the W&H to remind me of
those lovely sessions.
He was a part of my adult ‘formative years’
and I’m very sad he’s passed away. What makes me happier, apart from many
memories of the musical bond you (Barrie) and he clearly had and which I always
enjoyed, is that like many jazz musicians, he kept playing right on through
senior years until quite recently. That’s the way to do it I think.
God Bless old friend thank you
for giving me that first chance to sit in at the JOG I owe you a lot.
Condolences to Gerry and family
I spent many happy times listening to Alan in
the John O Gaunt and the Wagon and Horses over the years. Times that lifted me
up. A lovely man whose musicianship always held me in awe. What a sound he had
with that horn! Condolences to all family and friends.
Very sorry to hear that,
Barrie. Used to see you playing together every week upstairs at the Park back in
the 80s, good memories
Alan Duckles funeral went very well yesterday, plenty of people attended, and we organised a small walking jazz band to lead the hearse into the crematorium. Steve Duckles did a great Eulogy about his fathers life, which I found very moving. Michael Duckles read Alan's favourite Shakespeare poem, and band members Alan Matthews and Dave Bateman gave dedications. Recordings were heard on which Alan played and sang and afterwards it was off to the receptiion with jazz, drink, food and great conversation and memories, overall a fine send off for Alan.
Eulogy by Alan's son, Stephen Duckles
|This is precisely the kind of thing that Dad was
good at. Finding the appropriate words for an occasion, and then
delivering them eloquently. It's also just the time when I would
normally have asked him for his advice. He had an excellent command
of the English language and he was an accomplished public speaker
who could engage an audience with ease, whether it was a classroom
full of teenagers, a theatre full of patrons, a pub full of jazz
enthusiasts or an informal dinner party with friends.
And he could be relied upon to be lively and amusing.
Or sombre and thought-provoking.
Or fascinating ... he could tell a story and have you hanging on his every word.
Though confident, Dad was never one to blow his own trumpet, if you'll pardon the pun. But the messages we have received from so many people since we lost him speak volumes. Well-known locally, he was a unique individual who was liked and respected by almost everyone who had encountered him. It's clear to me that he will be sadly missed by a huge number of people.
Alan Duckles was born in Settle in 1932. His father Fred Duckles was employed as a signalman on the Settle-Carlisle Railway line and his mother Hilda had been a librarian at Lancaster Library before she was married. The family remained in Settle for about three years before returning to live on West Drive in Lancaster. Alan started at Ryelands School not long before the outbreak of WWII, but then at the age of seven he contracted rheumatic fever. His parents were advised by doctors at the time that he was unlikely to live much beyond the age of thirty. Alan was bed-ridden for about 18 months and he passed this time by becoming an avid reader - he would read every book he could get his hands on.
In 1944 Alan started life at Lancaster Boys Grammar School and, despite the schooling he had lost to illness did very well, but after completing a term in the sixth form, he took the decision to leave school and start working. It was very easy to find employment during the post-war years in Lancaster, and Alan soon began working in the offices at Williamsons factory on St Georges Quay, where he stayed for almost five years.
Around this time, Alan became a musician and taught himself to play the trumpet, piano and harmonica. He began to play locally with his band, The Riverside Jazz Band, who rehearsed at The Gregson Institute on Moorgate. Among his other interests were fishing, birdwatching, climbing and he was also a keen motorcyclist, the proud owner of a Royal Enfield.
It was during his early twenties, whilst on a climbing trip with friends, that Alan had a life-changing conversation with a fellow climber who told him that she was at college doing a teacher-training course. He learned that she had been accepted with the same qualifications that he already had - and to the delight of his parents, he decided to change tack and apply to become a teacher.
He was accepted by the Teacher Training College at Beckett Park, Leeds, where he developed interests in cricket, tennis, badminton and sailing, and where he also became friends with a brilliant pianist and a German accordion player. They formed an unusual musical alliance and went on to play gigs on campus and all around Leeds.
During the holidays, Alan came back to Lancaster and supported himself by driving for Battersbys. This involved driving taxis and he was encouraged to take his PSV driving test, allowing him to become a coach driver. Alan also worked for the Funeral Services branch of the firm, driving their Rolls Royce hearses and collecting the deceased and transporting them from one location to another.
When he qualified as a teacher, Alan's first job was teaching primary school children at Garstang, where he covered for one term for a teacher on maternity leave. Then immediately afterwards in 1956 he landed the job as a secondary school teacher which would prove to become his lifelong career. Initially he was teaching at The National Boys School which was situated on St Leonardgate, but this soon became Ripley Boys School when it was relocated to Ripley Hospital on Ashton Road. At this time there were only eight members of staff in the entire school and Alan was teaching English, Geography and PE.
A few years later Ripley Boys School merged with St Thomas' School for Girls on Marton Street. Dad enjoyed a very long and happy career at the amalgamated Ripley St. Thomas School teaching English and Drama and he became the head of York House. He was a very popular teacher, inspiring countless children with his boundless enthusiasm for poetry and literature, bringing old words to life and giving them humour and meaning.
Not long after beginning his career at Ripley, my Dad met my Mum. Alan was playing badminton for the local civil service team at the time and he'd borrowed his Dad's car to drive to Hornby for a match, but on the way there he changed his mind, turned back and instead attended a tournament held at Skerton School. It was there that the couple first met, as Geraldine was also a keen badminton player. They had an instant rapport and Alan persuaded her to accompany him, the following Saturday, to a dance on Morecambe's Central Pier.
Geraldine had come to The Royal Lancaster Infirmary from the Isle of Man at the age of 18 to train as a nurse and by the time she had reached her final examinations Alan was helping her to revise. She passed her finals with flying colours and not long after she had begun her new role in nursing, Alan took Gerry completely by surprise when he proposed to her on the canal bridge at Deep Cutting one evening.
The couple were duly married at Douglas in the Isle of Man in 1958.
I was born in 1964 and two years later my brother Mike came along. Gerry gave up work and became a full-time mother for a while.
By the mid-sixties Alan had decided to give up playing music and turned his hand to amateur dramatics, joining The Lancaster Footlights Club who run and perform at The Grand Theatre. Alan's skills developed quickly at the theatre and he became involved in many aspects of theatre work over the years. From acting and producing plays to building and painting scenery, and he even ran the theatre bar for a while. He and Mum had many good friends in The Footlights and Alan played leading roles in numerous productions during the sixties, seventies and eighties, including Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, School for Scandal and Sergeant Musgraves Dance, which won an award at Clitheroe Drama Festival. I remember him playing some great characters in Christmas Pantomimes too, such as the Ogre in Jack and the Beanstalk. And following an excellent performance as Fagin at Ripley School he received a special invitation to play a major singing role in La Belle Helene by the Lancaster Red Rose Operatic Society, which was one of the last few parts he took.
In the early eighties Alan's love of Jazz was rekindled and my parents began to travel to jazz sessions at The Albert, in Bowness-on-Windermere every Sunday. As he was enjoying spending much more time playing music again, he took the difficult decision to give up theatre and in 1983 a new band was formed. The band took its name from the Riverside Jazz Band, Alan's original Lancaster-based band of the 1950s, becoming the New Riverside Jazz Band. At this time Mum learned to play the banjo and she too soon became increasingly involved in the music that they had both grown to love.
The band began a weekly residency at The Park Hotel in Lancaster with Alan on cornet, Barrie Marshall on clarinet, Matthew Woodhouse on trombone, Dave Bateman on banjo, Malcolm Hall on bass and Pete Eddowes on drums. Delia Glaister, a singer with Alan's original jazz band and one of the leading blues singers in the North West also joined the band - and with additional vocals from the wonderful crooner John Perella, together they quickly established a loyal and regular following.
Alan had taken early retirement from teaching in 1990 on the advice of his GP. He embraced his new-found freedom from work-commitments during the early nineties. In 1993 his first grandchild, Sam came along and Dad very kindly volunteered to look after him during the day for us.
Grandad did a wonderful job and he really relished the role, building a very special relationship with his grandson. He would walk little Sam around Williamson Park in his pram every morning, sometimes reciting poems such as the Owl and the Pussycat to him from memory as they walked.
During the 1990s, the New Riverside Jazz Band made regular appearances at the Keswick Jazz Festival and a quartet also began to play regularly at the John O'Gaunt in Lancaster on Sunday afternoons, under the name of The Sun Street Stompers. Another offshoot of the band became The Quayside Hot Stompers, when Alan and Barrie joined forces with pianist Tom Culbert to concentrate on classic New Orleans Jazz. During this time all three bands featured prominently at jazz venues throughout the North West, and at several jazz festivals nationally.
The weekly session at the Park Hotel continued for many years, but eventually the band moved to The Wagon and Horses on the quayside at Lancaster. Their weekly Thursday evening sessions were legendary, with plenty of regular support and the band was in great demand for weddings and private functions. They even went as far afield as Germany to take part in the festival at Rendsburg.
But then sadly, within a very short period, the band lost both Delia and Malcolm. With Alan, Barrie and Dave remaining at the core of the band, there were several changes of personnel, including Alan Mathews joining them on trombone. The Sun Street Stompers continued to play a weekly Sunday gig in Lancaster, and they have recently returned to the John O'Gaunt under Barrie's leadership.
In 1999, as a result of the rheumatic fever that he had suffered as a child, Dad successfully underwent a major heart-valve replacement operation. He celebrated his recovery with a long dreamt-about sailing trip around the Ionian Islands with Mum and Mike - and captained by Alan Mathews. Four more grandchildren came along and he was able to see them grow from infants to teenagers. First Colin in 2002, then Fred and Nell both in 2004 and finally Natalie in 2007. Alan was extremely fond of all of his grandchildren and he was never happier than when he had one of them on his knee listening to a story, or just talking to him.
In March this year my Mum and Dad celebrated sixty wonderfully happy and fruitful years of married life together and Alan's long and happy life should today be a cause for celebration rather than grief. But it's also OK to feel sad to lose him ... we are all going to miss him very much indeed. We will miss his kindness, his wisdom, his generosity and his talents. But most of all his warmth, his love and his friendship.
A kinder, wiser and more interesting gentleman you could never hope to have met and we are proud to have been fortunate enough to call him family. Alan Duckles will not be forgotten. He will live on in the hearts and minds of all the many people whose lives he touched.