‘MY AN­CES­TOR WAS A MU­SI­CIAN WHO LED A DOUBLE LIFE’

Colin Ward’s tree in­cludes suc­cess­ful per­form­ers and com­posers, but un­rav­el­ling the se­crets of their double lives re­quired some im­pres­sive de­tec­tive work, says Gail Dixon

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

heir hunter con­tacted Colin Ward in 2011, fol­low­ing an in­tes­tate death in his mother’s fam­ily. “I was cu­ri­ous to dis­cover more about this,” Colin ex­plains, “and some mu­si­cal roy­al­ties that my mother re­ceived from the Per­form­ing Rights So­ci­ety. These were used to pay to­ward my ed­u­ca­tion.” But delv­ing into his fam­ily his­tory opened a Pan­dora’s Box.

Colin was born in Il­ford, Es­sex, in 1936 to Henry and Mar­garet Ward (née Bid­good). “Mum never talked about her father Al­bert, so that side of the fam­ily was a mys­tery. She knew that he lived in New Zealand, but the only con­tact they had was via so­lic­i­tors.

“One an­ces­tor she did speak of was her grand­fa­ther, Thomas Bid­good, in con­nec­tion with a mil­i­tary march called Sons of the Brave. This turned out to be a piv­otal clue.”

Colin re­called that his brother Roger was con­tacted in 2003 by a Dutch jour­nal­ist, Jan Van Din­teren, who was writ­ing an ar­ti­cle about Thomas. “Jan had a wealth of de­tail about my great grand­fa­ther, and I was thrilled to dis­cover that he had been a suc­cess­ful mu­si­cian and com­poser.”

Fol­low­ing the pa­per trail

Thomas was born in Wool­wich in 1858, to Wil­liam and Jane Bid­good. Wil­liam was a plumber, and there are no hints of mu­si­cal con­nec­tions at this point. For­tu­nately Colin’s mother Mar­garet had kept fam­ily pa­pers that proved to be a gold mine of in­for­ma­tion.

Thomas showed a flair for mu­sic from an early age. He be­came a cho­ris­ter at his lo­cal church, learnt to play the vi­o­lin and reg­u­larly at­tended band con­certs at the nearby Royal Ar­tillery Bar­racks in Wool­wich. He joined the 9th Kent Ar­tillery Vol­un­teer Band when he was 14, adding brass in­stru­ments and the clar­inet to his reper­toire.

Although Thomas earned his liv­ing as a painter and dec­o­ra­tor, mu­sic was un­de­ni­ably his pas­sion. Around 1870 he en­rolled at the pres­ti­gious Lon­don Academy of Mu­sic (now known as the Lon­don Academy of Mu­sic and Dra­matic Art), to study vi­o­lin and mu­si­cal har­mony. News­pa­per re­ports re­vealed that he won the academy’s gold, sil­ver and bronze medals. The fam­ily has do­nated the medals to the Royal Mil­i­tary School of Mu­sic, at Kneller Hall in Twick­en­ham, where Thomas is ven­er­ated as one of the orig­i­nal Bri­tish march com­posers.

In his twen­ties he be­came con­duc­tor of the Beck­ton Gas, Coke and Light Com­pany Band and band­mas­ter of the 4th Vol­un­teer Bat­tal­ion Es­sex Reg­i­ment. Both en­sem­bles gar­nered awards for their per­for­mances.

The zenith of Thomas’s ca­reer came in 1898 when he com­posed the stir­ring march Sons of the Brave. “It was a ma­jor hit and was played in mu­sic halls, in con­certs

Colin wrote Thomas Bid­good’s bi­og­ra­phy for this dis­play at the Mu­seum of Army Mu­sic

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