Bernard passed away in hospital on Sunday 23rd October, 2016
It was with great
sadness that I learned of the death of Bernard Callaghan. He was a true
gentleman, and he certainly knew not only how to run a jazz club efficiently and
businesslike, but more importantly he knew how to make the patrons feel welcome.
With his wife Marjorie looking after the door, Bernard was free to mingle with
his guests as he liked to refer to them, and chat about their well-being, and
their likes and dislikes when it came to their music preferences. He told me
that it was important to make sure the bands were chosen carefully, and he
always looked for good musicians before booking them. To me he demonstrated such
a good example of how a jazz club should be run that I asked Andrew Liddle if he
would consider doing an article on him for Just Jazz Magazine, which he did, and
this is reproduced below.
sad news about an old friend – Bernard Callaghan.
I remember him as a thoroughly nice gentleman with a wide ranging and
comprehensive interest in all things jazz. Many times - and in many weathers – I
made the long trip up to Bolton from Whitchurch to play piano with another old
friend, Jim Wilkes (and his Hot Stompers). Bernard
always made me welcome at Eagley Jazz club in Dunscar Conservative Club, and
they were merry
days. Thank you Bernard – you are not forgotten.
For many years
Bernard ran a brilliant and rewarding regular gig for so many of us
As musicians, turning up to play, setting up gear, indulging ourselves in the
display of whatever talents we have, enjoying the applause and pocketing our
fees, it is easy to take the Bernard Callaghans of this world for granted.
People who devote such a lot of their time and energy to ensuring that jazz
clubs such as Eagley survive and, indeed, thrive are priceless. Amongst such
individuals, Bernard was a titan. He was indeed a true gentleman and a fine
organiser, determined to "get it right" and passionate in his quest to provide
his audiences with the very best jazz around
His was the first venue to offer a gig to my Prohibition Six Band so I was
naturally, grateful for that.
Bernard's illness has meant that many have missed him for quite some time. May
the great man rest in peace
Sad news about
Bernard Callaghan. I lived in Bromley Cross when he started the Jazz Club (just
about staggering distance home after the gigs) and I got to know him quite well.
I have some recordings on YouTube.
The French Quarter Band
is from 1993 at the original Sports Club venue; not a brilliant video as I was
playing that night and had to put the camera somewhere I could just leave it
running all night. The
Spirit of New Orleans recording is eleven years later recorded during one of
my UK visits at Dunscar. My old mate John Brunton plays clarinet & sax on both
Really sad to hear of
Bernard's passing. When starting out as a jazz player in the mid nineties I went
to Eagley to listen and learn and met many great people and musicians who helped
me on my way. Bernard was always friendly, interested and encouraging, greeting
me in his inimitable style with the words "Hello, dear boy, how are things
going?". One of life's true gentlemen.
Bernard Callaghan: the Lion of Eagley Jazz Club
Written by Andrew Liddle before Bernard retired from
running the club
Bernard Callaghan has been presenting Jazz at the Eagley Jazz Club, Bolton, for something like 18 years. I visited him at his home in Didsbury to find out what drives a man on, in his late seventies, to work so tirelessly for the enjoyment of others - and what the job entails.
He is a tall, imposing figure, a retired accountant, and it quickly becomes obvious that whatever this man were to organise, it would
be done with a combination of entrepreneurial skill and human warmth, two qualities leading to maximum efficiency.
'I always loved music,' he begins, by way of explanation, 'and came of a musical family. The three children were expected to learn the piano. We used to put on musical evenings. My mother was a wonderful classical contralto. These days she would have been snapped up as a star.' He goes on to explain how his father thought him 'quite decadent', when his teenage interests turned to dance band music and he began to try to croon like Bing.
He did in fact, by all accounts, possess a pleasing light baritone and took up singing with the local big bands, notably at Levenshulme Palais and at the Ritz ballroom, Manchester. His favourite band to perform with was the Percy Pease orchestra, which played at the famous High Street Baths, in Manchester. It gives Bernard great pleasure, incidentally, to know that these premises are presently being restored for their historic interest. Inevitably, his musical involvement ended when he had to concentrate on his studies to be an accountant.
Bernard explains how he came to acquire the original premises for his jazz club by a rather circuitous route and suddenly the story fast-tracks to the 1980s when his children, David and John, were growing up mad on sport. David went on to become a top sports journalist - to whom I can personally offer the gratuitous compliment that I find him the best Radio commentator on Rugby League since Keith Macklin. John, as a goalkeeper, had trials with Manchester United and played for their youth team.
'The opportunity arose to buy Eagley Hall, part of the old Eagley Mills,' Bernard continues, 'and we decided to develop it as a sports club, with squash courts and gymnasium. John ran the place and we developed all kinds of functions, and David helped establishing the sporting connections.'
I tease out of him information on the charitable work which they also undertook, using the premises for Children In Need and ultimately raising over £30, 000 for that worthy cause.
It is a remarkable fact how many things in life come apparently by chance. It so happened that in 1988 a Dave Donohoe fan, holding a retirement party, suggested that the Club should hire the great trombonist's band for the occasion. 'It was such a success and it gave us the idea of how we could fill the club on a permanent basis.'
The club was established as a Monday night venue and went on to host many of the great traditional jazzbands. 'We had a very nice lounge, the acoustics were very good and we used to call it the "Jazz cellar in the sky". We stayed there until we sold the sports club at the end of 2000, having built up over 12 years a very loyal clientele.'
At that point, with Bernard well past retirement age, it would have been very easy to call it a day, look back with satisfaction on a job well done and take the plaudits. However, the love of Jazz persuaded him to try to run the club elsewhere, with the help of a committee, as a non-profit-making organisation charging a small annual subscription
Out of a possible dozen premises he finally chose the Dunscar Conservative Club as his new venue because of its proximity to the old club and its excellent furnishings and acoustics. With a certain pardonable pride, he reflects on year on year success. 'It's just grown and grown. We now put on two concerts a month and sometimes three. Occasionally if a special band is touring we might even do four. We have over 250 members, genuine jazz fans, and always get an audience of around 100.'
What is the secret of its success, I ask, when some jazz clubs, appear to be contracting. He pauses for thought and then says deliberately, 'We've learned a lot about it. We pick the bands that are not only attractive and popular but also add some variation.'
It seems, then, there is lot more to it than simply booking top bands. 'I watch the audience very carefully and see how they react to a band. I watch their reactions. If I see the shoulders going and the feet tapping, I know we can book this band again.' In a more quantifiable way, they also keep precise records on audience figures, which enables them to grade bands into three categories of popularity.
I remark on the fact that unlike some jazz clubs, Eagley seems to do much more than simply recycle the same names. 'We recruit bands mostly from the north down to the Midlands, with occasionally a top band from the south. Every year we like to bring in one or two overseas bands. Over the years we've had some fantastic names from Europe, Russia and the States. We're spoilt for choice, really.'
Recently a fitting tribute to Bernard came from Radio Manchester. He took John Reid, Harlem Hot Stompers' wonderful pianist, with him to do a broadcast from Manchester Cathedral, and discussed at length and to acclaim Eagley's enduring success as a Jazz Club.
Before we finish the interview Bernard is at pains to point out the inestimable help he receives from many individuals: Frank Croft, the secretary; Ted Watton;
Jeff Gilpin ('one of the leading band marshalls in the country'); Neville Mills; Phil Turner; and not least his wife, Marjorie.
Finally, what makes a good jazz concert? 'Two ingredients - a good jazz band and an appreciative audience of jazz lovers. As the programme proceeds, a good audience automatically show their appreciation and, in turn, the band rise to this and play their hearts out.'
It is true to say that everybody gets a great reception at Eagley. Long may it continue!