Gary Miller Songs

"As a song poet there are few in the world today to match him"
Green Man Review, USA


Euphonium and Cornet



Step forward two brothers in tunics of red

Polished buttons and boots, postman’s caps on their heads

Hard as nails, from the coalfields they came

Colliery bandsmen George and Joe Mains

Now step forward two soldiers, these khaki-clad sons

Sporting Durham Light Infantry tin hats and guns

Their music proved stronger than bullets or waves

As they played their hearts out while an army was saved

So strike up the band, let the D.L.I. play

The euphonium and cornet will each have their day

They’re shelling the beaches, while the boats fight the spray

And the band plays on, until the last boat sails away

George was proud of the medals he wore

In the street, in the pub, he would fist to the floor

Any man daring to mock the vain ways

Of this bold as brass bandsmen, fearless and brave

The Shakespeare’s finest, bandleader Joe

When his cornet blew all of Brandon would know

On the beach at Dunkirk it blew loud and shrill

That I bet back at home they could hear it still

So strike up the band, let the D.L.I. play

The euphonium and cornet will each have their day

They’re shelling the beaches, while the boats fight the spray

And the band plays on, until the last boat sails away

And step forward two fathers, back home from the War

Neither one spoke of the horrors they saw

As back to the coalfields they carried their fame

In two instrument cases, battered and stained

Now they’ve passed from this world and each note that they played

On euphonium and cornet has faded away

But the trumpets of Heaven resound to their name

Where the band plays on

The band struck up, the rearguard played

The euphonium and cornet each had their day

When the beaches were shelled and the boats fought the spray

Yet the band played on, until the last boat sailed away

Now step forward great-nephews, these two brothers too

Like their forebears, their music rings clear and true

They’re telling their stories and singing their songs

Ensuring the family tradition lives on

So strike up the band, let the instruments play

The guitar and accordion are now having their say

Until the next generation grasps the baton one day

Let the band play on, until the last note fades away

(Gary Miller)

© 2017 Whippet Records

Copyright Control MCPS/PRS



The apocryphal story of my paternal great-uncles, Joseph (Joe) and George Mains, County Durham coalminers, who worked at Browney and later, when Browney Pit closed in 1939, Brandon Collieries, of which they were also colliery bandsmen; Joe was bandleader, playing cornet, while George played euphonium.

In the Second World War, they both joined the 11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, also becoming members of the regimental band. As part of the 23rd Division, they were amongst the last survivors of the B.E.F. to be evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940.

When I was a schoolboy, my father regaled me with the apocryphal tale of how, as members of the D.L.I. band, they kept up the morale of the troops awaiting embarkation, throughout whole of the Dunkirk evacuation. Whether there is any truth in this tale, how could I ignore such a great theme for a song!

Having later taken part in the Icelandic Campaign and D-Day, they both survived the War, returning to Brandon Pit.

As an aside, younger brother George also spent time on the Coldstream Guards and in his extreme vanity took great delight in strutting peacock-like from pub to pub on weekends in Durham City, fully bedecked in his Coldstream Guards dress uniform, in the process causing great interest and hilarity amongst the other weekend revelers. If any of them ridiculed him, however, which apparently was quite often, he would offer to take each of them on outside for a beating, always emerging the victor. He was, according to my father, a rebel and extremely hard man. He was pressured into marrying Rosie McColl, an Irish woman, after “getting her into trouble, as my father puts it, and proceeded to give her and their family “a rough life”. In my vague memories of visiting him during my school days with my twin-brother Glenn, at his final home in Newton Hall, just outside Durham City, I still can picture a large intimidating figure smartly dressed in suit and medals, who would, with great affectation, hand each of us a fifty-pence piece, whilst declaring, “Here’s a medal for you!”

In contrast, elder brother Joe was a much gentler soul, pretty much the exact opposite of his younger brother, George. Joe was very happily married with five daughters. Following an accident in the mines in 1925 in which he was maimed, he relocated for a while to Paisley, before returning to Durham, living in Browney and Meadowfield. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, he had been bandleader for the Durham Shakespeare Band. After the War, he led the Brandon Silver Prize Band throughout the late 40s, the 50s and the 60s.

(Taken from Gary's notes about the song)

Written in 2003, the song was shelved until October 2017, when Gary was approached and commissioned by the DLI Research and Study Centre to contribute a series of songs about the music of The Durham Infantry for 'When the Bugle Calls', a DLI Collection touring exhibition.

The song was recorded as part of Gary's 'From Coalfield to Battlefield' project, which developed directly through the exhibition and was one of four songs from the project to be performed at the 'When the Bugle Calls' launch event at Bishop Auckland Town Hall on 5th December 2017.

Also, as part of these respective linked projects, Gary's creative partner, artist, designer and illustrator Helen Temperley produced a series of three illustrations to accompany the song (see above images).

Other songs from the project 'From Coalfield to Battlefield' include 'Ballad of Lance-Sergeant William Stones''The Durham Light Infantry', 'The Final Letter of Jimmy Durham''Miss Nightingale's Man'.


Helen Temperley's illustrations to accompany the song (above).


Joe Mains (above - front row, 6th from left).


George Mains (above - back row, 7th from left).


Joe Mains (far left) and George Mains (front row, 5th from left) (above).


Brandon Colliery Band signing on for the Daily Herald Brass Band Contest

at Newcastle City Hall, circa 1948 (above).

George Mains (back row, 5th from left), Joe Mains (middle row, far right).


Brandon Colliery Band and the Miners' Lodge Banner starting towards the Durham Miners' Gala led by band master Joe Mains in 1968 (above).


Releases (on Whippet Records unless otherwise stated)


Video Clips

Gary performing 'Euphonium and Cornet' live at The Cockpit,
Pickering, North Yorkshire, England, on 15th August 2019.

Gary performing 'Euphonium and Cornet'
with Friends and members oFerryhill Town Band
live at Bishop Auckland Town Hall, County Durham on 5th December 2017.


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