Edwin J Williams and his Music

Edwin John Williams (1881-1945)

Edwin J Williams is a major figure in Cornish brass band history – as a player, conductor and composer. His list of compositions is extensive and hundreds of his pieces have been “rescued” and are now preserved in digital and hard copy.

This article has been written using information and photographs from many sources – too many to list here. Notwithstanding that, the CNMA wish to record its thanks to Alison England, Edwin Williams’ granddaughter, for granting permission for his compositions to be included in this archive and deposited at Kresen Kernow.


Edwin John Williams was born on the 24th February 1881, at Crowles (sic), near Penzance. He began his musical career at the age of eleven when he received his first lessons in cornet playing from his father, Zacharias Williams, a noted euphonium player. Edwin’s first band was Marazion Artillery where his uncle, R J Williams, was bandmaster and within 12 months, Edwin was playing third cornet when the band took first prize at a contest.

This 1881 report in the Cornish Telegraph of Thursday 10th November refers to a mine accident and whilst we cannot be certain, it seems likely that the person involved was Edwin’s father. “Zachariah Williams of Crowlas was last week working underground in Wheal Sisters, when a large rock weighing several hundredweight fell away from the side. It broke his collar-bone and leg, besides badly bruising him. W H Glasson, his comrade, soon obtained help, and Williams was carefully carried home and attended by Mr Madge, Hayle, the mine surgeon. The injured man has since made satisfactory progress.”

It seems that work was difficult to find and in 1900, Edwin moved to Gilfach Goch in South Wales and it seems a reasonable assumption that his brother either left with him or joined him soon after. However, it seems that their father remained in Cornwall – in Goldsithney. The brothers joined the local band but it’s possble that it soon folded as we next find them in the Great Western Colliery Band, Pontypridd. They took their place amongst the front row cornets. Mr A O Foxhall was conducting and at the next contest they took second place with Edwin winning the soprano medal.

Following Mr Foxhall’s retirement, the baton was taken by Mr J Roberts from Durham and he persuaded Edwin to transfer to solo horn where he won many solo awards. Success followed and rapid progress saw the band climb from Class C to Class A with Edwin now on solo baritone, an instrument on which he made a name for himself. Having said that, he was very versatile and having played cornet, soprano, tenor horn and baritone, we find him playing principal trombone in the Ponypridd Orchestral Band where he broadened his experience by playing oratorios and opera. At some point he also played trombone in the Clarence Theatre Orchestra before moving to start a band [possibly a youth band] in connection with the Great Western Colliery, where he taught music as well as playing euphonium.

Edwin was clearly a valued member of the Great Western Colliery Band and he was soon appointed assistant bandmaster as confirmed in this Cornish Telegraph report of Wednesday the 19th March 1902: “At a smoking concert and presentation meeting held at the Holly Bush Hotel, Hopkinstown, Pontypridd, on Saturday evening, under the auspices of the Great Western Colliery Silver Band, the chairman, Mr W James, manager of the Great Western Colliery, presented Mr Williams, the assistant bandmaster, with a very valuable and well-bound musical tutor on the cornet plus a purse of gold to enable him to further his tuition. Mr Williams thanked the bandsmen and committee for their kind present adding that he would always do his best with the band when in need of a bandmaster as he had done in the past. Mr Williams, who is quite a young men, is well known at Goldsithney (where his father, Mr Zachariah Williams, resides) where he played the cornet in the Wesleyan chapel choir to the time of leaving for Wales, some two years ago. The Pontypridd band, in which Mr Williams is winning his laurels, has recently purchased a set of silver instruments a cost of £225.” 

Edwin played solo euphonium in Lewis Merthyr Colliery Band under Mr J Lockyer and on the 22nd February 1908 they won Class C at the third South Wales Bands’ Association Band Festival at Pontypridd with Edwin receiving complimentary remarks from adjudicator W Halliwell. At that time he was also playing euphonium with Albion Colliery Band.

We can put a date to Edwin’s perambulations as the British Bandsman states: “Just over four years ago he removed to St Ives, and soon started a band of youngsters, which has now become the Town Band“. That would place his return to Cornwall as 1910 so he had been in Wales for 10 years.

At some point Edwin played solo euphonium with Camborne Town Band but whether this was before his move to Wales, or on his return, we cannot be sure. This report in the The Cornish Telegraph / Cornishman on 3rd December 1914 is our only reference to it:… many years ago [he] was a member of the Camborne Band”.

In 1912 Edwin took his band (St Ives) to compete in the first West of England Bandsmen’s Festival at Bugle and despite being five players short, they won second prize in Class B playing Apollo and the march Magnific. Edwin conducted and played solo trombone and also competed in the evening solo contest when he was placed first and collected the gold medal. This began a very successful period for the band as evidenced by the results of the various contests around Cornwall.

The date of Edwin’s marriage to Martha May Beckerleg eludes us but we do know that she was born in St Ives on the 23rd of November 1896 and was 15 years his junior.

Edwin and Martha May’s marriage certainly included a mutual love of music: Their support for each other is clear with Martha May playing baritone in St Ives Town Band (including in 1912 and 1913 at Bugle) and when they accompanied each other at the various solo contests across Cornwall.

Before they met, Martha May had been a member of Helleaveor Wesleyan Choir and later the Primitive Methodist Choir. She had a good contralto voice but it was Edwin who encouraged and tutored her in an instrumental career, first on the organ and then on the euphonium on which, it was said, she made rapid progress. She made her first appearance in a sacred concert at the Wesleyan Chapel where she played Gounod’s Nazereth and received calls for an encore. Her first solo competition was at Fraddon in 1912 when she played In my Cottage and apparently, delivered a good performance. The article in The British Bandman states: “Like her husband, Mrs Williams has a good repertoire for the euphonium, and they have been in great demand as solists at concerts, where they play each other’s accompaniments. Her favourite solo was said to be The Village Blacksmith”.

Edwin’s wife, Martha May née Beckerleg, playing euphonium


Just a few of their many successes at solo contests:

1911: Edwin placed 2nd in the Fraddon Coronation Band Solo Contest on Euphonium playing Rule Brittannia. He also competed with his wife in the duet section (Euphonium and Trombone) playing Wind and Wave.

1912: Edwin placed 3rd and Martha May placed joint 4th in the Solo Contest in aid of the St Austell Cottage Hospital Maintenance Fund.

1913: Edwin placed 1st out of 20 entrants in the Foxhole Temperance Band Brass Solo Contest on Euphonium.

1913: Edwin placed 1st out of 20 entrants in the St Austell Solo Contest.


Edwin had been composing for some time and The British Bandsman referred to his knowledge of harmony and counterpoint and to the fact that St Ives Town Band had a number of his compositions in its repertoire. It also said that he was a good accompanist on the piano and organ and had even done a little violin playing.

In 1914 Edwin left St Ives to take over the baton at Camborne Town Band: he succeeded Will Layman.

In 1915 he had a major success in his composing career. The Cornish Guardian of Friday the 5th of February 1915 reported: “A competition for the best original quick march promoted by the Editor of the Brass Band News (Liverpool) with the object of encouraging young composers, attracted 161 entries. The prize was awarded to Mr Edwin J Williams. conductor of Camborne Town Band, and professional trainer to the Bugle Silver Band. His composition entitled The Thunderer, is described as an interesting and good march, with character and strength. The march is included in the repertoire of the Bugle Band, to whom it was presented by Mr Williams.”

Camborne Town Band under E J Williams

Camborne Town Band 1916 under Edwin Williams (Photo: courtesy Leonard Adams)

Camborne Town Band 1919 under Edwin Williams

Edwin had been composing brass band and other music for some time and on the 16th June 1921, the Cornubian and Redruth Times reported: “Mr. Edwin Williams, bandmaster of Camborne Town Band, won the first prize in Lincolnshire in a march-composing competition in connection with Richardson Band Journal”.

In 1921 Edwin left Camborne Town Band to take over Bugle Band. There is nothing to suggest any falling out, indeed, this report of the 22nd September 1921 in the Cornubian and Redruth Times suggests that the circumstances of his leaving was entirely amicable: “A concert was given by the Camborne Town Band in Commercial Square on Sunday evening for the benefit of Bandmaster E J Williams, who Is leaving for Bugle this month”. A further report in the Cornishman newspaper of the 7th September 1921 stated: “Mr Edwin J Williams, a native of Goldsithney and who has been the bandmaster of Camborne Town Band, is this month leaving for Bugle, near St Dennis”.

Bugle Silver Band 1922 with E J Williams MD (Photo: courtesy CCHS)

Edwin was in great demand by bands and choirs but he remained loyal to Bugle Silver Band as this Cornish Guardian report of Friday the 24th March 1922 shows: “Mr Edwin J Williams, bandmaster at Bugle Silver Band, has declined invitations to become conductor of the Town Band, and choir master of male voice and Wesleysan choirs, at Truro.”

There seems to have been many happy moments while Edwin and Martha May were at Bugle but one, in particular, in 1923, stands supreme. The birth of a son, Eddie J Williams who would later carve out a glittering career in the brass band world.

In June 1923 the Cornubian and Redruth Times reported that Camborne Town Band had given a concert at the Recreation Ground when Mr E J Williams, the former Bandmaster, was the conductor. Perhaps this was a special guest appearance or perhaps Edwin was covering for absence or maybe, just maybe, Camborne were trying to entice him back. Indeed, the Guardian (presumably the Cornish Guardian) of the 28th September 1923 recorded that he had been invited to return to Camborne but that he had decided to remain at Bugle.

However, by 1924, Edwin decided on a move and the Cornish Guardian of Friday the 4th of July 1924 reported that he had accepted the position of bandmaster to Camborne Town Band, a band which he had previously conducted. It stated that he would move to live in Camborne as soon as a bandmaster is appointed for Bugle Band.

By September 1924 Edwin and his family made the move to Camborne to take over the Town Band again. Once again, the leaving had been amicable, or so it seems from this  Cornubian and Redruth Times report of the 25 September 1924: “Mr Edwin J Williams, who has left Bugle to become resident bandmaster of the Town Band at Camborne, has rendered valuable service to the advancement of instrumental and vocal music at Bugle”.

Edwin was welcomed back into the Camborne band room but his stay was much shorter this time. We have no way of knowing if it related to his health or if his appointment was made in haste because of discontent in the band, but there does seem to have been an underlying wish to appoint a top man from upcountry.

Whatever the reason, Edwin made a return to St Ives Town Band where it was hoped for a return of the good days of his previous tenure.

1924 Edwin J Williams of St Ives Band giving some instructions to his wife, Martha May née Beckerleg (Photo: courtesy China Clay History Society)

Considering the following newspaper report, we assume that Edwin’s father, Zachariah Williams, died in Wales where, it seems, he had joined his sons.

“Death of Mr Z Williams: Mr Zacharias (Zachariah) Williams, one time solo baritone player of the Great Western Colliery Band, passed away on Thursday, January 29th, at the age of 71 years, The father of Mr W J Williams, resident bandmaster of Great Western Colliery Silver Band, and also of Mr Edwin Williams, the well-known West of England band trainer, and Walter Williams, late solo cornet of Great Western Colliery Band and Taylors Town Band. Mr Z Williams was a native of Cornwall, and was in his younger days noted for his euphonium playing and as the composer of Cornish carols. Mr Williams was laid to rest in Glyntaf Cemetery on Monday, February 2nd. A large gathering of friends and bandsmen attended the funeral, and many floral tributes were sent in token of respect, amongst which was a wreath sent by the committee and bandsmen of the Great Western Colliery Silver Band. The family wishes to thank all for the kind letters and sympathy shown in their bereavement.” (British Bandsman 14th February 1925)

A report in the Marazion and District Advertiser on the 30th February 1926 refers to Edwin’s participation in Richardson’s Open March writing competition in which his three entries were awarded third, fourth and fifth amongst hundreds of competitors. It added, “With the march Good Luck, Mr Williams recently won first prize, when no less than 260 competed. Mr Edwin Williams, it will be remembered, first placed a cornet to his mouth at Marazion Drill Hall many years ago when he was hardly tall enough to reach the bandstand. His eagerness to learn and the progress he made will never be forgotten by the old bandsmen of this town.”

Edwin’s second period at St Ives lasted about five years following which he was appointed Musical Director of Reduth Band. He was now approaching his 50th birthday and, presumably, still active. He was there for a couple of years before moving to conduct Carharrack and St Day Temperance Band, a tenure which lasted five years. It was there that his son, Eddie, began his brass band career and, when Edwin stepped down, Eddie joined Camborne Town Band on tenor horn.

1933: Carharrack & St Day Silver with MD Edwin J Williams fourth left in front row and 10-year-old Eddie, his son, left sitting on ground

Edwin died on the 21st November 1945, at Redruth, he was about 64 years old.

Martha May died in January 1958.

Quite apart from his involvement as Musical Director of his various bands, Edwin was in great demand as guest conductor for bands taking part in local contests and his name appears extensively throughout Cornish Contest history.

He was undoubtedly one of Cornwall’s most prolific composers and at least two of his compositions, both brass band marches, have been published: On The Road by Wright and Round  and Good Luck by F Richardson. Copies of some of the instrument parts for these have been deposited at Kresen Kernow.

Two of the files in this archive, Unnamed Hymns and Unnamed Marches, include multiple compositions without names. Perhaps unnamed because he was composing faster than he could think of titles or maybe because they were drafts of later pieces of work which he did name. Careful examination of all his work would be needed to determine if the latter is the case.

The condition of some of the sheet music is not good but this is understandable considering its age. It has been sorted, scanned, cleaned and uploaded in what could be described as reasonable condition. Further improvement may be possible but the imperative was to get it recorded so that Edwin’s work is not lost to future generations.

Tony Mansell (Bardh Kernow)


The following titles in blue are links to specific pages

A1 (Quick March)

Acton Castle (Brass Band March)

Ambrosia (Waltz)

Andante & Allegro for Organ

Angelic Messenger (Carol)

Angels from the Realms of Glory (Carol)

A Prayer (Hymn Tune)

Arise and Hail (Carol)

Autumn Breezes (Concert Valse – Horn Solo)

Autumn Breezes (Cornet or Euphonium Solo)

Awake, Awake the Lofty Song (Carol)

Awake With Joy (Carol)

Awake With Joyful Strains (Hymn Tune)

Awake Ye Nations (Carol)

Barn Dance

Behold a Lucid Light (Carol)

Bluebell (Piano Solo and Duet)

Bravo the Reds (March)

Bude (Hymn Tune)

Bugle (Hymn Tune)

Buy A Broom (Euphonium Solo)

Cape Cornwall (Hymn Tune)

Celebrations (Carol)

Cardiff (Hymn Tune)

Carharrack (Hymn Tune)

Chrysanthemum (Piano Solo)

Creation (Carol)

Crowlas (Hymn Tune)

Crowlas (Hymn Tune for Male Choir)

C T B (March)

Dauntless (Quick March)

DCM (Hymn Tune)

Drinking (Euphonium or Trombone Solo)

Drinking (Tenor Horn Solo)

Eddie (Hymn Tune)

Edwin (Hymn Tune)

En avant (March)

Esther (Hymn Tune)

Evening (Hymn Tune)

Galop – Tally Ho (Piano Solo and Duet)

God is Love (Sacred Song)

Goldsithney (Hymn Tune)

Hail Sacred Day (Carol)

Hail Sacred Day, Auspicious Morn (Carol)

Hark, Hark, What News (Carol)

Hark the Herald Angels Sing (Carol)

Hark! What Mean These Heavenly Voices (Carol)

Heamoor (Hymn Tune)

Hellesveor Band (Carol)

Heroes of the Deep (March)

Home Sweet Home (Cornet or Euphonium solo)

Home Sweet Home (Cornet, Trombone or Baritone Solo)

Home Sweet Home for Cornet

Humility (Hymn Tune)

Jesus Lover of my Soul (Hymn Tune)

Joy to the World (Carol)

Joy to the World (Carol – Brass Band Score)

Kehelland (Hymn Tune)

Kennall Vale (Hymn Tune)

Land’s End (Hymn Tune)

Lanner (Hymn Tune)

Launceston (Hymn Tune)

Lead Us Heavenly Father (Hymn Tune)

Light & Shade (Cornet Duet)

Looe (Hymn Tune)

Ludgvan (Hymn Tune)


Lydia (Hymn Tune)

Lydia (Brass Band Score)

Marazion (Hymn Tune)

March for Organ

March in F

March No. 7

March No. 28

March No. 29

March No. 30

March No. 31

March No. 34

March No. 36

March No. 37

March No. 38

Martha (Hymn Tune)

Maud (Hymn Tune)


Mercer (Hymn Tune)

Mizpah (Hymn Tune)

Mortals Awake (Carol)

Nikopol (March)

Nikopol (March – Piano Duet)

Nikopol (March – Piano Solo)

Nearer My God To Thee (Hymn Tune)

North Parade (Hymn Tunes)

Nos da (For Piano and For Male Quartet)

Now Begin the Blissful Theme (Carol)

Old Hundred (Hymn Tune)

On This Auspicious Morn (Carol)

Onward (Quick March)

Organ Voluntary

Pantygraigwen (Hymn Tune) Edwin’s 200th hymn tune.

Paris (Hymn Tune)

Peace (Hymn Tune)

Pendeen (Hymn Tune)

Penlia (Hymn Tune)

Penzance (Hymn Tune)

Perthia (Hymn Tune)

Petite Fantasia

Pet O th’ Juniors March

Piano Duet Played Forward and Backwards

Polperro (Hymn Tunes)

Pontypridd (Hymn Tune)

Praise (Hymn Tune)

Praise For Him From Whom All Blessings Flow (Hymn Tune)

Praise Ye The Lord (Hymn Tune)

Prelude (Hymn Tune)

Quick March for Piano No. 1

Quick March for Piano No. 2

Rastrick (Hymn Tune)

Redruth (Hymn Tune)

Remember, O Thou Man (Christmas Carol)

Rest (Hymn Tune)


Reverie in F

Rock of Ages (Hymn Tunes)

Rosebud Waltz

Rosebuds (Piano)

Rosevale (Hymn Tune)

Roskear (Hymn Tune)

Sabbath Eve

Sacred Song

St Agnes (Hymn Tune)

St Day (Hymn Tune)

St Hilary (Hymn Tune)

St Ives (Hymn Tune)

St Just (Hymn Tune)

St Keverne (Hymn Tune)

St Paul (Hymn Tune)

Scenes That Are Brightest (Cornet & Trombone)

See the Morning Fair and Bright (Carol)

Semper Paratue (Quick March)


Shadows (Hymn Tune)

Shadows (Cornet Solo No, 1)

Shadows (Cornet Solo No. 2)

Shadows (Tenor Horn Solo)

Shepherds Rejoice (Carol)

Snowdrop (Piano Duet)

Snowdrop (Piano Solo)

Sound Your Instruments of Joy (Carol)

Stalingrad (Hymn Tune)

Step Along (March)

Step Along – March No. 33

Step Along (Piano Duet)

Step Along (Piano Solo)

Sunnyside (Hymn Tune)

Sunset (Cornet Solos)

Tambourine Dance

Tarnopol (Piano Duet)

Tarnopol (Piano Solo)

Tarnopol (Quick March)

Tempo de Gavotte

The Big 3 (Piano Duet)

The Butterfly Dance (Piano)

The Cornubian (Cornet Solos)

The Finch (Cornet Solo)

The Finch (Cornet or Euphonium Solo)

The Glider (Trombone Solo)

The Gliders (Cornet Duet)

The Lark (Cornet or Euphonium Solo)

The Linnet (Cornet Solo)

The Pilot (Trombone)

The President (Orchestral March)

The Spinning Wheel (Tenor Horn Solo)

The Star of Bethlehem for Organ

The Thunderer / On the Road (Quick March)

The Wizard (Cornet or Euphonium Solo)

The Wizard (March)

The Wizard (Tenor Horn Solo)

The Wren (Cornet Solo)

Trafalgan (March)

Trepolpen (March)

Unnamed Cornet Air Varie

Unnamed Cornet Duet

Unnamed Marches (PDF File)

Unnamed Orchestral March

Unnamed Piano Piece

Unnamed Piano Solo

Unnamed Solo for Cornet, Baritone or Euphonium

Unnamed Trombone Solo

Unnamed Vespers (PDF File)

Vale (Hymn Tune)

Victor (Hymn Tune)

Voluntary – Andante

Voluntary – Andante Pastoral

Voluntary for Organ

Wadebridge (Hymn Tune)

Walter (Hymn Tune)

Wanderers (Hymn Tune)

Wanderers From God (Hymn Tune)

Watch and Pray (Hymn Tune)

Western Lad (Brass Band March)

What Melody (Carol)

When I Survey (Hymn Tune)

While Shepherds (Carol)

Worship (Hymn Tune)

Xmas Joy (Carol)

Yankee Doodle (Air Varie)

Zennor (Hymn Tune)

Unnamed and Unnumbered Hymns Tunes (PDF File)

Unnamed but Numbered Hymn Tunes (PDF File)



The following titles were too large to be scanned and included in our archive but have been deposited at Kresen Kernow

More titles have yet to be added.


A Little Dance Suite (Brass Band Score)

Adante & Allegro (Brass Band Score)

A Perfect Day (Brass Quartet Score)

Arise and Hail (Carol – Brass Band Score)

Autumn Breezes (Horn Solo – Brass Band Score)

Cardiff (Hymn Tune – Brass Band Score)

Carharrack (Hymn Tune – Brass Band Score)

Cornwall (March – Brass Band Score)

Euphony (Hymn Tune – Brass Band Score)

Frisky Sambo (March – Brass Band Score)

Go Lovely Rose (Brass Quartet Score)

Good Luck (March – Brass Band Score)

Launceston (Hymn Tune – Brass Band Score)

Lily of the Velley (Gavotte – Brass Band Score)

On the Banks of Allan Water (Brass Quartet Score)

On the Road ((March – Brass Band Score)

Onward (March – Brass Band Score)

Organ Voluntary (Brass and Score)

Osmunda (Valse – Brass Band Score)

Praise (Hymn Tune – Brass Band Score)

Sleep Gentle Lady (Brass Quartet Score)

St Agnes (Hymn Tune – Brass Band Score)

St Day (Hymn Tune – Brass Band Score)

St Hilary (Hymn Tune – Brass Band Score)

St Just (Hymn Tune – Brass Band Score)

Sandon (Hymn Tune – Brass Band Score)

Sevastapol or On Parade (March – Brass Band Score)

Simplicity (March – Brass Band Score)

Snowdrop (Minuet – Brass Band Score)

Tarnopol (March – Brass Band Score)

The Collier (March – Brass Band Score)

The Glider (Tenor Horn Solo – Brass Band Score)

The Glider (Trombone Solo with accompaniment)

The Glider (Trombone Solo – Brass Band Score)

The Lark (Polka, Horn Solo)

The Linnet (Cornet Polka with accompaniment)

The Scout (March – Brass Band Score)

Trefalgan Hill (March – Brass Band Score)

Tre-Pol-Pen (March – Brass Band Score)

Unnamed March (Brass Band Score)

Unnamed March 1942 (Brass Band Score)

Victory (Matrch – Brass Band Score)

Wadebridge (Hymn Tune – Brass Band Score)







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