John Hughes: Born in Rotherham, raised in Weymouth and then like so
many of us was made in the Royal Marines. Having moved to Weymouth at
an early age, Phil began his musical career as a choir boy at the local
church. There were ulterior motives of course, one of which being able
to give a little nudge to Joy as he passed her in the church aisle.
She was suitably unimpressed with Phil’s attempts at young courting,
even when he became head choirboy and member of the local Sea Scout
Phil must have decided he needed the kudos of a better uniform to impress
Joy, so in 1956 at the tender age of fourteen, he took his grade eight
music certificate and joined the Royal Marines on Piano & Flute.
Dressed now in what we all know to be the best of uniforms, Phil returned
on leave to Weymouth and with renewed vigor and confidence continued
his pursuit of his young love Joy. As we now know, she succumbed to
whatever it was that Phil said, and their young romance started in earnest.
Phil eventually passed out from RMSM training and like many young sproggs
of his time was drafted onto a Royal Navy ship, HMS Blake. Ships bands
were a great musical learning and life experience, but even during his
eighteen month commission to exotic places, Phil stayed in touch with
Joy whilst at sea and during one particular shore leave they became
Phil’s name and number were now in the lottery drum of the band
service drafting officer. However, by a stroke of good luck and someone
else’s misfortune, there was a suitable vacancy in HMS Raleigh
Band. Phil’s talents and musical skills were noted as over his
early career years he moved between the three West country bands of
the time, Raleigh, Plymouth and CTCRM. His career and promotion slowly
progressed at a leisurely pace until he was temporarily seconded to
Deal Staff band for a musical soiree in Paris with the PDM. So impressed
was the PDM with young Phil’s musical ability that he offered
him the opportunity to leave the backwaters of the West country and
move to the bright lights and big city of Deal.
We shall never know what prompted Phil to decline the PDM’s offer,
but we do know that six months later Phil was drafted, so he and Joy
moved lock, stock and piano to Deal. PDM’s of that era had a habit
of getting their own way and Phil now was firmly in the musical spotlight
amongst the elite of the staff band in Deal. His career now really took
off, or at least as much as it can in such a relatively small branch
as the Band service within the Royal Marines. Gripping tightly to the
slippery pole of promotion, Phil became a SNCO in the band before in
1976 promoted to Colour Sergeant and Instructor of Higher Training.
He must have been very good in this role, as before long further promotion
to WO2 Bandmaster and the role of Chief Instructor rightly became his.
During this time Phil had many hilarious stories to tell about Bandmaster
candidates conducting and foreign student training, none of which are
suitable for printing and will not be for many years to come!
Whatever Phil was doing he was obviously doing it right, as there was
little surprise amongst those in the know when in 1980 Phil was chosen
to become WO1 Corps Bandmaster, a role in which he was held in high
regard by everyone that met him and rightly a rank he was very proud
to have achieved. Of course, all the while Phil was busy getting himself
promoted Joy was even busier running the house and raising their two
children, Mark & Rachael.
All good things come to an end and having done his time at the mast,
in 1983 Phil retired from his successful career in the Royal Marines.
Remaining in Deal, he continued playing music locally in many combinations,
most notably ‘The Phil Hughes Sound’. He also continued
to teach, being a peripatetic at the prestigious Kings School in Canterbury
for over thirty years. Not content with a having a full diary he was
also a partner in a music publishing company called Cinque Port Music
with his partner in crime and music Steve Misson. Then, wanting to give
something back to his musical roots, he became the organist and choirmaster
at St Mary’s Church in Walmer for four years.
His patience was truly put to the test with our annual Deal pantomime,
for which Phil was our resident musical director. So keen was he always
to get things ‘just right’ and so appalled was he at the
acting and singing he was witnessing, I took to circumventing Phil’s
acerbic comments at the performers by actually writing them into the
script. This suited everyone and actually became a funny part of the
show. He did us proud for the last seven years and next year’s
show will be dedicated to him.
Even in semi-retirement, Phil was very active in playing for local musical
shows, being the musical director for dozens of them over the years.
His final show was in the Spring of 2019 when he conducted the Lloyd
Webber Show Cats. Not an easy show to play and conduct at the same time,
made all the more difficult by his worsening medical condition. This
was highlighted on the last performance, when Phil was so terribly ill,
he could hardly stand and was supported by his son until the final down
beat. Then, and only then did his professionalism allow them to take
him to hospital.
One of his last entries in his diary reads “Sixty two years, seven
months and five days, I have finally retired” Phil has done his
final gig, shouted at his last panto singer and finally put down his
baton. However, a big man in so many ways and an inspiration to all
those that worked with him, he will be sorely missed.