Maj. William Tilley (right) is applauded by Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie after Tilley received his 85-year service bar during a ceremony at the Anglican Cathedral Sunday afternoon. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
In a career filled with highlights, it was yet another proud moment for 96-year-old William G. Tilley of St. John’s.
On Sunday afternoon, he stood before a near-capacity crowd at the Anglican Cathedral beside Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie, who lifted Tilley’s arm during a well-deserved standing ovation.
“That was a proud moment,” said Tilley.
Crosbie presented Tilley with an 85-year service bar Sunday afternoon, a first-time achievement within the Church Lads Brigade’s Eastern Diocesan Regiment.
The service at the church was part of the CLB’s 119th anniversary parade and annual awards presentation.
Albert Pelley became the new governor and commandant colonel for the CLB in Newfoundland and Labrador during the event.
CLB ‘my life’s journey’
Tilley, who was named senior of the year by the City of St. John’s in May, applied to join the brigade on Nov. 12, 1925, and became a formal member of the group on March 26, 1926 following recruit training.
His involvement with the group has kept him busy ever since.
“The CLB has actually been my life’s journey,” he said following Sunday’s festivities.
In 1939, Tilley took on the role of Drum Major, leading the CLB band in countless parades for 63 years. The role gave him a public profile in St. John’s, as Tilley was always the first person anyone would see when the band took part in a parade.
That duty supplied Tilley with some of his proudest moments, including his participation in parades in Montreal and Vancouver during the mid-1980s for the Canadian Football League’s championship, the Grey Cup.
“In Montreal we got second place in the marching band (category), and the following year we got first place. They were very proud moments.”
Over the last 30-plus years, Tilley has proven his worth to the CLB through his involvement with maintaining its archives. After retiring from a 44-year career working for the Canadian National Railway, Tilley became the CLB’s first-ever archivist.
His work may have been essential in the lead up to the CLB’s 100th anniversary celebrations in 1992, but that year also proved tumultuous, as a fire on Dec. 21, 1992 destroyed the 82-year-old CLB Armoury on Harvey Road.
The building was replaced within two years, but the fire cost the group immensely when it came to archival materials. Undeterred, Tilley started from scratch in rebuilding the CLB’s archives.
He collected anything and everything CLB related, and with the help of summer students hired by the CLB, he gathered old news clippings from the library at Memorial University.
Tilley’s work paved the way for the opening of a CLB museum at the armoury in 2006. According to Pelley, Tilley still comes to the armoury each day to continue his work on the archives.
“He’s an inspiration to all brigade members,” said the CLB leader, who added its current archival collection is larger than it was in 1992.
“We lost everything in that fire, and he was just determined to rebuild it.”