Cecil's brassy birthday surprise

THE only reason Cecil Carter joined Gislingham Silver Band was that his young sweetheart was one of the players. The group's senior statesman's eyes last night misted with tears as band members gathered at his hospital bedside to celebrate his 90th birthday.

THE only reason Cecil Carter joined Gislingham Silver Band was that his young sweetheart was one of the players.

The group's senior statesman's eyes last night misted with tears as band members gathered at his hospital bedside to celebrate his 90th birthday.

It was a wonderful moment for Mr Carter as the strains of happy birthday filled the ward at the West Suffolk Hospital at Bury St Edmunds. Patients and nursing staff joined in a rousing chorus, and clapped and cheered as the 15 musicians gathered round to wish him well.

"I was a boy of 16 when I joined the band and I've been a member of 73 years," Mr Carter said with pride.

"And I really had no idea this was going to happen," he admitted.

Mr Carter, who was born in Ipswich, has lived in Gislingham since childhood.

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He bought it for £3.10shillings after saving his pocked money from milking and other jobs around his parents' farm.

He was a farm boy when he met Lily Ruffels, whose father and brother also played in the band, and was not at all musical by nature. An added problem was that the trombone he needed cost seven times his weekly wage of 10 shillings. But true love found a way, he saved hard, became an accomplished musician, and he and Lily were married.

Band secretary Diana Kearsley said they had planned to hold the surprise birthday celebration at Mr Carter's home in Gislingham. And they were determined he wasn't going to miss out when he was taken ill.

She said: "Cecil was born on March 28 1913 and he is our oldest member. So we got in touch with the hospital and they gave permission for us to play there."

The group performed a medley of rousing tunes including Old Comrades, his favourite march, Congratulations, The Young Amadeus and Black Rod.

Mr Carter's daughter Rosemary Boast from Stowmarket said: "We knew this was going to happen but we didn't let on at all, and it really has been a lovely surprise for him.

"The band is his life, the main thing in his life. He taught himself the trombone and has always played it.

In December 21 a book, Cecil Carter and the Gislingham Band was published. It tells his life story and how he has devoted time and money over the years to become the group's greatest benefactor.

The band meets every week in a hut, a former Wesleyan chapel in the village.

The band has been going for at least 125 years and Mr Carter has been the mainstay of the group, formally called Gislingham Brass Band, for many years. He was its secretary for 40 years and without him, members believe it would have folded.

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