REGARDED as the Spice Girls of their day, The Ivy Benson All Girls Band was among the top entertainment acts of the last century.

And Nora Coward, from Ramsbottom, who died last month at the age of 83, was one of those girls who earned themselves a place in British musical history by playing trombone in the band.

Born in Lytham in 1934 and growing up in Blackpool, Nora Lord, as she then was, was surrounded by music from childhood as her father, Cyril, ran a brass band.

When she was aged 14, Nora picked up a trombone for the first time and so began a hobby.

“Her father didn’t really take her seriously,” explained her daughter, Lee Ure. “He paid for trombone lessons just to humour her really.”

Others viewed Nora’s musical passion with more disdain.

She was ridiculed by boys in her father’s band when they heard about her, ostracised by girls at her convent school and condemned by the nuns who thought it was “unladylike”.

But Nora was not only determined, she was talented — so much so that her trombone teacher contacted Ivy Benson who was on the look out for female trombonists.

Ivy Benson was the glamorous and famous driving force behind 20-strong Ivy Benson All Girls Band. Formed in 1939, the band was hugely popular and Ivy and the girls quickly became household names, especially after being contracted by the BBC in 1943.

Mrs Ure remembers her mum telling her she was “terrified” about the audition, but she obviously impressed Ivy.

A telegram arrived inviting her to join the band and Nora gladly chucked in her job working on the counter in Boots and embarked on an adventure.

In recordings she made last year, Nora said her only focus was to play this trombone as well as she could because being in the band meant more to her than anything.

Back in those days, life for a teenage girl was very different from today.

Nora said she was very sheltered and very naïve when she first joined the band. Fortunately, Ivy became a mother figure to her, teaching her the ways of the world.

As well as touring holiday camps, Nora and the rest of the band entertained the forces at bases in Germany and Egypt. They even got permission to enter the Russian-controlled zone of Berlin.

Besides enjoying experiences usually denied to working class girls of the time, Nora also learned some valuable life lessons from Ivy during her years in the band.

“She was always very strict with us and she would be demanding but she never asked us to do anything she wouldn’t have done herself musically,” she said.

“It didn’t matter if you had a bad cold or a sore throat or whatever, you’d have to be really on your knees. The show must go on. And that in a way was a good thing because it sticks with you for life. And she was a role model – you just get on and do things.”

But after just three years in the band, Nora was obliged to leave when she married professional musician Frank Dixon.

“That was the way it was then,” said her daughter. “I don’t think mum was the sort of person to wallow. She expected it.”

Marriage didn’t impact on Nora’s husband in the same way and he continued his own career a professional musician.

“My dad played trombone in Stanley Black’s Dance Band,” said Mrs Ure. “Later, he was in the Northern Dance Orchestra where he met Syd Lawrence, who went on to give him a job when he formed his own orchestra. “

Nora and Frank, who had three children — Lee born in 1957, Laura born in 1964 and John born in 1966 — and moved to Layton Drive, Bury in 1964 then Manchester Road and Nuttall Hall Road, Ramsbottom, in 1984.

Although she was a stay-at-home-mum, Nora did give singing and percussion lessons to children at her home and, as times became more enlightened, she set up The Nora Dixon Band in the late 1960s.

As its band leader, Nora collated and arranged all the music, but, occasionally, she was sometimes able to play her beloved trombone in concerts at venues across Bury.

Nora died of cancer on June 16 but her funeral on Friday was a celebration of a remarkable life.

And during the service at East Lancashire Crematorium in Radcliffe, her 22-year-old grandson, James played the sousaphone she had bought him.