Olive Endersbee was "the mother of our orchestra". We were sorry when she had to leave us in July 2014 when she moved to live with her daughter in Essex. This is an article about her from the East Anglian Daily Times of 12 February 2014.


EADT article about OliveEADT Article about Olive - Click to get larger version

Nothing can keep me from my violin

Olive Endersbee had to stop her violin lessons aged 10 when her father l lost his job. But, the 92-year-old tells Mariam Ghaemi she intends to keep playing forever...

She played through the war, through her marriage, and now at the age of 92 still nothing will separate Olive Endersbee from her violin.

Mrs Endersbee, from Bury St Edmunds, has a deep connection with the instrument, which she first began learning to play at the age of about seven - and is still playing in an orchestra now.

The great-grandmother of five said she may forget things, “but not where to put my fingers on the violin”.

She was given the opportunity by her parents Ethel and Ernest Harvey, and cites them as the key reason why she continues to play today.

When she was at school in London, where she grew up, a lady from a music academy got in touch with the headmistress and asked if there were any children who would like to take up the violin, learning at the academy after school.

Mrs Endersbee said: “There would be a payment of a shilling a week and sixpence for a lesson and sixpence towards paying for the violin. So when I went home and asked mum and dad ‘somebody is going to teach the violin, can I play?' they agreed.”

The grandmother-of-two spoke of how much she enjoyed playing with her first orchestra, the academy orchestra, at the age of about 10. However, the economic slump forced her father to lose his job, and with it her violin lessons, and she was never to have lessons again.

But, Mrs Endersbee, who picked up her only qualification for the violin while with the academy, did continue to practice, and when she was about 16 she joined a Co-operative orchestra which rehearsed in a restaurant in East Ham.

When the war came, she was due to be called up, but rather than working in a factory she wanted to be on the land.

She was told there were no places left, but determined as ever Mrs Endersbee cycled to Chelmsford and, after a number of rejections, was accepted onto a farm which was only a few miles away from where her aunt lived.

She said: When I got down there I made enquiries about where there was an orchestra, but nobody knew about one and I thought ‘I'm not going to give up the violin'. I did a thing I wouldn't do today if I was younger - I hitched a lift.”

Armed with a packet of cigarettes to pay her way on the lorry, she would go home to London and walk to her East Ham orchestra, which had depleted numbers due to the war.

The next day she would get up at 4am and catch the 'milk train' back to Chelmsford, where she had to be at the farm for 7am. “I did that every Thursday,” she said.

Mrs Endersbee's determination to continue playing the violin did not lessen when she met her husband Don.

“When we got married I said to him 'my mum and dad never let me stop playing, they wanted me to carry on because I enjoy it and when we get married I still want to go to my orchestra' and he said 'yes, of course'. That was a stipulation."

Don, who died in 2011, always encouraged his wife's interest, even insisting she continue to go to orchestra when he was ill.

At this time Mrs Endersbee was with the Bury Friendly Orchestra, which was formed in 2006, the couple having moved to the area in1969.

She said: "When he was ill I said 'I won't go to music, I won't go to orchestra' and he said 'I shall be alright'."

On his insistence, Mrs Endersbee went, but she made sure to phone him up at the break at half-time to check on him.

Mrs Endersbee, who used to play with the St Edmundsbury Orchestra, said she would continue with the Bury Friendly Orchestra for as long as she is able.

"I enjoy it. It's nice meeting other people and it's nice playing music together."

Picture caption from article:

Olive Endersbee with her beloved violin and, top, with the Co-operative orchestra in East Ham (she is on the left of the picture). (picture by Sarah Lucy Brown)

Left, Olive with husband Don on their wedding day.

Inset, the certificate for the only exam Olive ever took for the violin.

Website picture (above) by Stephen Oliver


(last updated 6 July 2014)
© 2014 Bury Friendly Orchestra