Chance encounter after 60 years leads to reunion for musicians
A CHANCE encounter at an RAF club led to the reunion of two musicians who had not seen each other for 60 years.
Cyril Skeen and Norman Nicholls were two of the key members of The Tilley Brothers Band, which kept Cheltenham swinging in the 1950s.
But Norman moved to Australia, where he still lives, and lost touch with his band mate.
However, a random conversation with a friend of Norman at the RAF club in the Royal Crescent three months ago set the wheels in motion for the pair to reunite.
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And the two musicians finally met again at Cyril's home in Kempton Grove, Hester's Way, yesterday, after more than half a century apart.
Cyril, 84, who played piano in the band, said: "I haven't seen Norman for 60 years and the last photo of us in the band, taken in 1952, was actually the final time we saw each other."
After Norman arrived at the Cheltenham home, Cyril said the feeling was indescribable.
"I am shocked by it all," he said. "It does feel strange, of course it does."
The meeting came about after Norman's friend Gordon Roberts, 76, happened to ask members of the RAF club in Cheltenham if any of them had attended Naunton Park School and Cyril said yes, he had.
Gordon then mentioned he had a good friend in Australia who also went to the school and that he used to be in a band. Cyril said he was in a band too and then the pieces fell into place.
Cyril and drummer Norman exchanged letters and eventually spoke on the phone.
Norman, 78, said: "When Gordon rang me in Australia he said that he had to tell me how he had met Cyril in the RAF club and that's how this happened.
"I come over every year for the Gold Cup and also because all of my friends still live here, so I am always looking for an excuse to come back.
"Seeing Cyril again is an extra highlight – it is a bonus."
Norman went on to have a successful career as a session musician, including playing for Frank Sinatra.
He now lives in Sydney having had a stint in Helsinki. He also worked for the Echo as a photographer in the 1950s.
Twins Peter and Paul Tilley continued their big band until 2000.
Other members of the band were due to meet up at the RAF club yesterday.