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The Defenders

- Geoff Miller (front centre)

Lead Guitar
- Alastair Duncan (back centre)

- Tony Brannan (front right)

Rhythm Guitar
- Dave Weir (back left)

- Eddie Nicholson (top right)

- Tony Maxfield (front left)

The Defenders were formed in Workington Cumbria in 1962 and originally featured Geoff Miller on lead guitar and vocals, Brian Holmes (later to become proprietor of the Northern Sounds group of music shops) on drums, Alan Stubbs on rhythm guitar and Geoff Coleman on vocals.

The name "Defenders" came from sticking a pin in the local greyhound racing league table!

They were joined later in 1962 by Tony Brannan and Raymond Hendren on sax and Alastair Duncan on bass.

This lineup used to play regularly in the Fox club in Fox lane (off Portland square) on Sundays and sometimes at the Westfield welfare club.

Giving it some "welly" with the "Can Can"

Dave, Eddie and Tony in action

The Defenders' popularity grew when they started to play in the "Tin Mission" on Queen street for the Saturday dances run on behalf of the Workington Amateur Operatics Society by Ron Hill.

<Click the picture to revisit the Tin Mission.

Geoff Miller was known for his legendary instrumental numbers "Night Vigil" and the improvised "Summat in E" and also for his vocal number, which had no words, but consisted of him mumbling into an echo chamber (nobody ever noticed there were no words!)

One of the earliest successes for the Defenders came at Bothel where the lineup for the one night only consisted of two guitars, bass, drums, piano
and two saxes all wearing "shades" (in December and long before the Blues Brothers)
This gig was fondly remembered by the band as the first time they got paid (10 shillings or 50p each)

Raymond Shaw and The Defenders

Dave and Tony


The "All Burns guitars " lineup
Tony Maxfield, Dave Weir, Alastair Duncan
and Eddie Nicholson
Early in 1963 the group split, with Brian Holmes, Raymond Hendren (left) and Alan Stubbs (below) becoming founder members of The Electrons.
The remaining Defenders were joined by Tony Maxfield on drums and Dave Weir on rhythm guitar.

This lineup played for some months with Tony Brannan becoming player/manager and securing bookings farther afield, particularly in the Keswick area.
The Defenders were the first proper rock and roll band to play at several of the Keswick venues, where in the past local "Orchestras" had played.

Early in 1963 Geoff Miller became the vocalist and Alastair Duncan took over on lead guitar, with Eddie Nicholson joining on bass. This is the lineup illustrated above.

Geoff Miller eventually left the band later in 1963 and for a time they concentrated solely on instrumental numbers in the styles of the Shadows, Duane Eddy and the Ventures.
The band became very popular in the Keswick area, playing regularly in the Albion Hall (which was an upstairs ballroom in the main street), at the village halls in Threlkeld and Portinscale and at the Keswick Pavilion ballroom beside the river.

The most successful venues for the Defenders were the "Tin Mission" in Workington, and the Keswick venues above. Scores of people made the trip from Workington to Threlkeld with special buses being laid on and many more people "thumbing it" along the old Workington to Keswick road (now replaced by the A66).

Raymond in Jerry Lee Lewis mode

Eddie in "I could play this in my sleep" mode

Threlkeld was a favourite venue for the band (and others like Wee Willie Henry and the Wanderers) as they got fed as well as paid! There used to be around 400 people crammed into the tiny hall where they were previously getting around 30 people in when the resident "Orchestra" played.

The Defenders "Orchestra" !

The Defenders were banned from playing certain numbers (such as The Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers version of the CanCan) which caused the audience (many wearing climbing boots) to jump up and down and stomp their feet, as the management feared for their hall. They were probably right in this as the Albion hall in Keswick, where the band played regularly, had to be closed for extensive repairs when the floor was found to have moved!

The final change in lineup came with Raymond Shaw being added on vocals. Raymond appeared on Border TV's talent show "High Hopes" singing "That'll be the day" but the band were not allowed to accompany him as all of the contestants had to have the same musicians backing them.

The Defenders finally broke up in September 1964.

Arguing again!

Did the Shadows ever kick Cliff up the backside?

One of the highlights of the Defenders career was playing as support band to Millie of "My Boy Lollipop" fame at the Palace in Maryport.

By an odd twist of fate in 1967 Alastair Duncan of The Defenders and John Voce of The Meteors found themselves working together in the same department of Littlewoods in Liverpool.

In a small department (averaging eight lads) it turned out, being Liverpool in the sixties, that at least half of them had been, or still were, in bands. As a result temporary bands would be formed for Christmas parties and other occasions.

At different times here was Jim Blakemore (who had been with Ian & The Zodiacs) and Alan Bushnell (Lee Curtis and The All Stars ) who lived next door to Lennon's Aunt Mimi and used to practise with the young John in Mimi's vestibule as she wouldn't allow "that racket" in the house.

When I was trying to put a group together for one event I went round the lads in the department to see who could play what. The lad at the desk behind me was Eric Griffiths.
Eric said he used to be in a skiffle group at one time but could only play guitar by tuning it to an open chord and moving one finger up and down the neck. I said I didn't think that would work for what we had in mind.

A Littlewoods party in Bootle Golf Club with
John Voce (Meteors), Peter Leggett,
Jim Blakemore and Alastair Duncan

A Littlewoods event at the State Ballroom in Liverpool. Alastair with his Gibson J45 & Jim Blakemore on vocals

We had rehearsed enough numbers to play during the 20 minute interval - the band failed to turn up so we played all night!

Some weeks later, out of the blue, I asked Eric "what was the name of your skiffle group?". He replied The Quarrymen (with John Lennon and Paul McCartney) - and I had turned him down !!!

Eric is on the right.

Early days. Alastair and Rick Wareing with their home
made guitars with Dave and Tony in Dave's attic


Raymond & Alastair

Dave and Alastair meet up for the first time since 1966 in 2012. Dave is wearing Alastair's well preserved jacket!
Tony Renney, professional guitarist, a good friend of both.
Over the years we have now lost
Geoff Miller, Raymond Shaw
and in 2009, Alan Stubbs.

Tony Brannan has passed away on the 24th November 2012.