You could say Jack Grainger's life has been dominated by the two Ms - music and mining. The latter provided the sustenance but it was the music that was the love of his life along with his wife Roslyn and their family. It took a pandemic to stop his musical pursuits which began when he was only three-years-old. Today the 89-year-old is learning to play a new instrument the clarinet to add to his expertise on the trombone, cornet, saxophone and harmonica.
And he has just notched up his 70th Anzac Day march with the Singleton Town Band.
Jack's musical career all began when he used to go to local dances with his parents who were in a mouth organ band.
"I remember watching an old bloke Fred Wilcox playing the drums when I was very young and thinking I could be part of that," he said.
"So about three years of age I started playing tunes on the harmonica and our neighbour used to pay me a penny for each tune I played. Only trouble was I could only play one tune so she must have been a bit death and didn't realise I kept repeating the one song."
He would eventually go on to play in various bands including the Singleton Town Band and establish his own Jack Grainger Band as well as starting bands for junior musicians.
When he left school he started work at an underground mine and while music was an ever present past time and passion mining for Jack provided a local job but importantly life long friendships. In the beginning he was in charge of two horse each shift and loading them with the coal which they carted to the surface of the pit.
"It was before the mechanisation of the underground pits and the horses stayed in the pit for the week carting the coal before spending the weekend on the surface. Eventually they were replaced in the early 1950s by conveyor systems," he said.
After a stint in National Service Jack married Roslyn and seeking job security the couple would spend more than a decade living in Wollongong while Jack worked in the local pits.
He played in the bands in that district and enjoyed his time competing in band championships in NSW. He would return to his hometown having secured a job at Liddell Colliery then owned J & A Brown. After three years he moved to Lemington pit where he stayed until he was retrenched at 54.5 years of age.- after 35 years as an underground miner
"At that time you had to be 55 years to get your pension and entitlements. So I got a job driving school buses for Bert Saxby for five years," he said.
For more than three decades Jack and his band and a group of singers performed regularly at Upper Hunter nursing homes - for him it was something he really enjoyed.
"Some of the residents would ask us to play a special tune for them and it brought back so many memories, they would start to cry, but it wasn't usually due to a sadness rather a joy of remembering those times when they originally heard the song," he said.
"It was a privilege to play in the homes and spend time with the residents."
But as the ages changed in the homes so did the play list going from wartime songs to Elvis Presley. It hasn't quite reached the Beetles yet but no doubt Jack could master their playlist if required.
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