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Alaska.
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I came across a great many of these over the years, as I suspect people reading this will have. The old man who rode a three wheeled bike singing hymns. The man who survived the great War, but lost both legs, and was reduced to begging. ( Everyone had a shock when he died, over how much money he left behind ) Did you know one who sticks in your mind, did you have one in your family.? Would you like to share the memory ? Where possible, I have included a picture or Photo in the " Images from the Forums " album, in the Gallery.


:)

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 31, 2011 at 4:36 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Gornal, Plants Green, The Cross Guns, Tipton.


During the 1970s, so I am told, resided in Gornal a man called Sam Jeavons. All his life had been spent with horses, and at the time, his only form of transport, indeed,  his first choice of getting about, was his Pony and Trap. So well known around the area was Sam, that he was asked, on many occasions to turn out for Charity events. Being of the old school, Sam duly obliged, and helped to raise many thousands of pounds, for local good causes. He never expressed any wish to join the modern way of travel, and one of his favourite boasts, was that unlike most of us, he had never suffered a puncture, or run out of petrol. A bit further down the road, inOld Hill, was to be found Billy Sidaway, who lived in Plants Green. His main claim to fame, at the public house he frequented, " The Cross Guns ", was as one of the areas legendary Chain Strikers. The family were well known at the pub, Billy's father having been a famous "rat catcher" who had kept the place well supplied with the vermin, for the many rat killing contests, that were a feature of life in the 1900s. On to Tipton, where there's the tale of two local " tatters ", who, after a few beers, got to talking to a man who claimed to have the best trained dog in the Black Country. It would, he said, only obey his commands, and it was true, they could not entice the animal away from him. After making the man a bet that he could do it easily,  one of them then threw the dog on to the hot stove, and shouted,  " come off ", which the dog did, at a great rate of knots. There was no argument about paying the bet.


:)

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 3, 2011 at 3:25 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Tipton, George Baker, Hampstead Mine, Dudley Port Explosion.


The Region has had a few Black Country Poets as well over the years, and I've been reminded, that Tipton also had a home grown talent. George Baker, who was born in the town in 1881, wrote his lines, mainly to raise funds following a few local disasters. His Family, well known in Tipton, ran a Hardware business, form a shop in Owen Street. He was a familier sight around the town, delivering houshold essentials, and lamp oil. It was on these rounds, that he also sold his poetic Ballards, at a penny a time. Goerge, and his brother Joseph, also served as Councillors, where they preformed their duties, for the benefit of all. His best known, and probably longest work, was a ballard covering the terrible accident at Hamstead Mine. Many men from West Bromwich and some from Tipton, lost their lives at the mine in 1908, when the pit suffered a severe fire. All the proceeds, from this and one written about " The Dudley Port Explosion, 1922 , went directly to the disaster fund. George Baker passed away in 1955, not the worlds best Poet, but a man with a heart of gold.


I have copies of both Ballards, should anyone be interested. Available via e-mail. No charge of course.


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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 12, 2011 at 11:25 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Dudley, James Whale,


Another man of many parts, and one whom some of us, of a certain age, will surely remember. James Whale, from a well established Dudley family, was born in 1889. He follwed his father in the Iron trade until 1914, when he volunteered, and joined the Worcestershire Regiment. Probably recognising a bit of talent when they saw it, he was offered officer rank, and in 1915, he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant. Sent to France in 1916, the Worcesters were in the thick of it from the word go. James was fortunate, until late in 1917, during an abortive attack, he was captured, and spent the rest of the war behind barbed wire. Coming home, he decided to become an actor, and at the same time try his hand at production and direction. His career expanded, when he went to the USA, where in 1931, after a few minor success'es, he directed.  Possily his best known film, Frankenstein, 1931.  This was followed by The Old Dark House,1932, The Invisible Man,1933, and the Bride of Frankenstein,1935. James Whale, as everyone is aware, was what is now called, " Gay ". He did not, like many others, hide this, but was very open about his relationships. This may have caused him to miss out on a great deal of work. He completed another great film, Showboat,1936, and Hells Angels, in the same year, and The Road Back,1937. This was to be his last major film. He always kept in touch with his family in Dudley, and was seen frequently in the district, whenever he was rquired to attend events. The last years though, were not happy ones for James, and on 29th May 1957, he committed suicide. A sad end for one the best Directors of 1930s Hollywood. Photo in the Gallery.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 15, 2011 at 3:32 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Rowley Regis, George Barrs, Vicar of Halesowen, Saint John the Baptist Parish Church.


Now lets take a trip back in time, a long way back as it happens. The Vicar of Rowley, George Barrs was renowned for arguing with his flock, and the local bigwigs, but if memory serves, he never appeared in Court. Oh, if only that could be said of the rascal William Eggbaston, the long established Vicar of Hales (owen). He took up the position in 1425, ( I said it was a long time ago ) and from the start, was in trouble.  Now it can't be said he was truely a very bad man, but he was no angel either. He was a familier sight in the Manorial Court, and for a variety of reasons. He was assaulted several times, once, in 1436, in the Vicarage itself. Geoffry de Cradley, the alleged attacker, was a bit tight lipped about the reason. William took to keeping, close at hand, a Bow and a Quiver of arrows, until in 1438, someone stole them. As he was supposed to be a good archer, Richard Milward, who was accused of the theft, probably looked upon it as a justifiable act. Now it's been suggested, and it's a plausable possibilty, that William was a bit of a ladies man. Playing a game of fast and loose with the wifes of the local Gentry would have been a dangerous game. In 1440, he was again attacked in the Vicarage, this time by John Farrer. This attack seemed to have had the effect of damping his ardour somewhat, and the next we hear is in 1457. Now even today, they don't pay Vicar's a great deal, do they, so you can't blame poor old William, for getting into a bit debt, and for his efforts to get out of it. Saint John the Baptists Churchyard, was quite large compared with others, so what harm could there be, he must have thought, in keeping a few Pigs and Geese in it. Plenty as it turned out, as both the Church Wardens, Thomas Parkes, and John Barker, ( again ) hauled him into Court, and added debt to the charge as well. It's not recorded how it finished, but later that year, he was find for piling up a veritable mountain of Dung, in front of his house, in the High Street. ( I presume that was the Vicarage )  No air fresheners in 1457, and the fetid stench must have been truely awesome. Now everyone knows there's a brook in Halesowen, it's at the bottom of the hill, on which the church is built. It didn't miss William Eggbaston's attention either, for in 1468, he diverted it's course to water his own fields. This action again, and for the last time, as he isn't mentioned in the records after this date, got him back into Court. It probably cost him a great deal of money this time, and possibly his job as well. Still, 43 years in the same post, he must have some qualities that made him popular, or some very influencial friends. I wonder if they were men, or women.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 18, 2011 at 3:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Bilston, The Blazing Stump,


Religion played a large part in our ancesters lives, although it could, on occasions, be taken a little too far.  The region has had more than a few characters, that were to be avoided at all costs, from what I'm told, we still do. Bilston was renowned for one of it's characters, his fame had spread, far beyond the town, more for his religious fervour, than for the skill he possesed.  Taking up his fathers trade, Jackie Wack was known as the, " Demon Barber ". Having non of his sons tendencies, old ' Razzer' Wack was reputed to give the closest shave in Bilston, so young Jackie had the task of keeping up the families good name. He seems to have managed quite well. The Barbers shop was not far from the " Blazing Stump " public house, so trade was pretty good, and Jackie was always good for a laugh. His religious mania however increased over the years, and there were times when he could be found, at 3 and 4 am, roaming the streets of Bilston, ringing a high pitched bell. He was always early for church services, and was determined everyone else would be as well. When the Town was crowded, on Market day, stallholders would keep a sharp eye out for Jackie. He could suddenly appear, as if by magic, holding up a set of scales, and telling all and sundre, that he had weighed their souls, and found them wanting. Most of them took this in good spirit, but a few did not take kindly to being called slightly dishonest. ( although in some cases, it was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. ) But it was in his shop where he was at his best, or worse, depending whether or not you were sitting in his Barbers chair at the time. A stranger to the shop, was always in for a fright. He would tilt the chair back, tell the unfortuate man he had swore to cut the Devils throat, and ask him if he was indeed, Satan. Faced with a man holding a cuthroat razor, what would any of us have done? Stayed for a shave, or hightailed it down the road at some speed. It gave the customers a laugh, but lost Jackie another client. It's said, that one day, a new member of the Bilston police force came in for a haircut and a shave. Just because he was in uniform, did not put Jackie off his stride, and looking directly into the young coppers eyes, he asked him if his soul was pure, and was he prepared to meet his maker? Still with the lather on, the policeman took to his heels, and fled back to the Station, where no doubt, he was the subject of some conciderable humour. Such folk have long since disappeared from our Towns, it's all so much more bland and lifeless than it used to be. Unless anyone knows different.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 24, 2011 at 10:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Dudley, Music Hall, Clarkeson Rose.


Listening to the radio the other day, I came across an interview with Roy Hudd. Now Hudd, as you might know, has spent a lifetime on the stage, and on numerous Television shows. He is, apart from a great entertainer, also a bit of an expert on Music Hall and Pantomine  performers. Among many that he mentioned, was probably the greatest Pantomine Dame of all time, Clarkson Rose. Now " clarkie" as he was known, was born in Ednam Road, Dudley, in 1890. His parents were very much middle class, and it must have come a shock when the youngster began to show an interest in the Music Hall. He was to be found, at Halls around the region, soaking up the atmosphere created by the likes of George Roby, George Lashwood, and the imortal Dan Leno. Clarkie was well and truely hooked, and on one occasion teamed up with another as yet unkown talent, Billy Russell . Although this time, selling programmes. From small beginnings, at the "Miners Arms"and "The Market Inn",  in his home town, his expertise grew, and in 1919, he joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Serious stuff on stage though, was not for clarkie, and he hit the boards for a life of variety. He had huge success at the Theatre Royal in Birmingham, was invited to appear at the Royal Variety Performance in front of Queen Mary, and started his own Summer Show in Eastbourne. Calling it "Twinkle", it ran for the next 43 years, and played host to many of the great acts of the time. Max Wall, Max Miller, Arthur Askey, Jack Warner,  his sister's, Elsie and Doris Walters, and Bud Flanagan to name just a few. It was for his Pantomine dame though, that he was aclaimed, becoming the inspiration for many more that followed. Roy Hudd accorded him with the title of the finest Pantomine Dame he had ever seen. Clarkie never let any of the fame go to his head, he was a quiet unasuming man, who never forgot his roots, and was a frequent visitor back in the Black Country. He did, when asked, put on Sunday shows, much to the delight of the locals, supported by his wife Olive (nee Fox ). Sadly, Clarkson Rose passed away on 23rd April, 1968, leaving behind not just memories, but an undisputed legend.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 6, 2011 at 3:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Halesowen, Rose and Crown, Williamson, The Woodman.


Halesowen this time, and not to leave out the ladies, does anyone remember Susan Willimson ( nee Hulston ). " Suzie ", as she was known, was the licencee of  " The Rose and Crown ", in Halesowen, for almost 28 years, moving out in 1954. She had been born in Spring Hill, in 1883, and when still in her teens, became a regular barmaid at " The Forge ". This is proberly her below, at the controls of a 1907 Motor Cycle, with her neice, Daisey Falkner, as a passenger.



She liked the trade that much, that in 1908, she married her boss, Frederick Williamson. He came from Norfolk, as a salesman, and somehow, forgot to go back. One Son, and 18 years later, they decided on a move, much to the pubs customers sadness, they were very popular hosts. They didn't go far, just down the road to the Rose and Crown. Sadly, after just 3 years there, Fred died suddenly, and Suzie had a big problem on her hands. Like all the other Brewers, Plants of Netherton, were not keen on woman running their pubs. After protracted talks, aimed at getting her to move out quietly, they were forced to seek a Court Order, Suzie Williamson had dug in her heels. It wouldn't happen today, discrimination is against the Law, but in 1929, it was a bit different. They got the Order. A good old fashioned fighting woman was Suzie, and it drew a great deal of respect from the locals. She stocked up on essentials, nailed the shutters up, heavily barred the doors, and refused to budge. She resisted all the attempts by the Brewery to evict her, in a dispute that lasted 3 months. In the end, taking her case to the high Court, she won the case, and the Rose and Crown once again opened for business. With Suzie firmly in control. She became a bit of a local legend, but even she would have been surprised, to still be charge, for the next 28 years. Mind you, she ruled with an Iron hand, nobody ever crossed or swore at Suzie. The pub became famous for her sandwiches, the fillings for which came from the livestock reared  in the back yard. Pigs, Ducks and Chickens, all " home-fed ", as she called them. Annual trips were also a feature of life at the Rose and Crown, and Suzie always came up with the grub, to keep them all happy, while on excursions into the countryside. 78lbs of beef was not unusual on these ocassions, and trust Suzie, she managed to buy it at 4d a pound. Her son Thomas took over the Tenancy in the early 1950s, Suzie by now getting on for 70. In 1954, Tom took on the licence of  " The Woodman ", another old and long established Halesown Pub, and Suzie's long stay was at an end. She did though, move with Tom to the pub, where the family stayed for another 7 years. Tom was by know also knocking on a bit, and in 1961, he retired from the trade and bought a nice comfortable house in Halesowen. Suzie of course moved with them. After another 14 years of peaceful retirement, in 1975, Suzie Williamson died. There were a great many of her old customers at the funeral, she was a well loved local character. It's a much changed area now, but I bet there are still a few, who remember, with affection, the long serving Landlady of the old Rose and Crown. Cheers Suzie. Picture in the Gallery.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 24, 2011 at 3:44 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Netherton, Windmill End, Joseph Darby, Albion Hotel. Dudley.


No tales of the Black Country Characters though, would be complete without mentioning the regions Champion Jumper. Born in Windmill End, in 1862, and from an early age, the endless grind of nail or chain making, was never going to be the fate of Joseph Darby.  Better known in the area as " Joesy the Jumper ",  he went on to acomplish some remarkable feats. The trick to it all, was not just his fitness and cordination, but his ability with a set of weights, one in each hand. There were orthers, both before and after him, but non of them ever gained the prestige that followed Joe, no matter where he went. He was even requested to put on a display for Queen Victoria, her comments have not been recorded. Why though, would anyone want to reach such heights, of trick jumping ? Gambling, thats why, there was nothing, ( with the exception of drinking ) that the native's of the region enjoyed more, than a good gamble. Cock Fighting, Bullbaiting, Dog Fights, Bare Knuckle Boxing, in fact, anythink that would attract a crowd, and see bets made. Some examples of what he could do; Jump off an upended brick, over a chair and onto another upended brick, over another chair, and land on yet another upended brick. All without knocking the bricks over. He could jump over several chairs, forewards, backwards, and sideways. On and off an mans face or head without injuring him, and include a chair in the act as well. All this of course for money. Joe was born in a deprived area, he knew well enough the poor side of life, and he wasn't going back to that. It's recorded, that in 1882, he beat another local jumper, Thomas Hartshorn, for a bet of £20. The following years saw him defeat, Hughes of Dudley, for the same sum, Kirk of Ilkeston, for £40, and many others for sums of up to £100. In 1887, he defeated William G Hamlington, an American, and the acknowledged  World Champion Jumper, for a prize bet of £200. In total, Hamlington and his backers lost over £450 in the next 3 months, vainly trying to regain the title. Joe however, needed a base, from which to train, and stage his many tricks, so he bought the " Albion Hotel, Dudley ".  His fame spread rapidly, and the pub was nearly always full and taking money. This enable Joe to go on tour around the many  fetes and fairs, as well as performing in the bars of many public houses. Non of this fame ever went to Joe's head, he was a generous and quiet man, although at times, subject to being rather too generous. All of Joseph Darby's many contests were recorded in " The Sporting Life ", and other papers, so there's no doubt of any mis-claims. His jumps, listed in the hand bills advertising the events, are also beyond dispute, they were watched by many people. I will leave you with this one; Jump 36 feet in three successive jumps, and in the third jump, drop onto a mans head whilst he is sitting in a chair, and off again without harming him. And all this while wearing Hob Nailed Boots. Would you have volunteered ? Photo in the Gallery.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 25, 2011 at 3:28 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Sedgley, Homer, Bull Ring, Mission School.


Now here's a man who made himself quite unpopular, at least with the hardened drinkers of Sedgley. Frederick Augustus Homer, born in Sedgley in 1828, and saw both his elder brothers die from the effects of too much booze. Charles Homer, somehow managed to drive the horse he was riding, right through a large plate-glass window in Birmingham. Double vision no doubt. The other brother, Richard Homer, contrived to shoot himself while hunting, maybe he was in a confused state, and couldn't count how many barrels the Gun had. In any case, Frederick gave up drinking, and took the pledge. Preaching against poverty and drinking, he now devoted his life, to helping those in the parish less fortunate than himself. In 1862, at the tender age of 34, he founded, in Sedgley, a Mission and Ragged School. The Bull Ring, surrounded by many drinking dens, would never be the same again. Opposition was plentiful and vocal, but Frederick, undaunted, carried on with his work. Both the School and the Mission were a great success, on Sundays, the latter place was usually packed. On hot days, so the story goes, Frederick would go round the building, breaking windows to let in more air. Great pay days, for the local glazier and carpenter. His wife meanwhile, complimented his work, by training some of Sedgley's young girls in Domestic service, even finding them jobs. Frederick, a much loved and respected man, found time to serve on the local Council, and was made a Justice of the Peace as well. I wonder what some of the hardened drinkers were feeling, when they were put up before the bench for their mis-deeds, knowing his views on the subject. Some of them weren't above a bit of petty damage either, on one notable occassion, tearing down the notice board outside the Mission. Sometime in the 1870s, he also founded, The Sedgley Band of Hope, made up of mainly reformed miners, with a smart uniform to wear. As well as the religion and preaching temperance, he was an outspoken critic of the Truck System, and agitated for it's abolition. Frederick Augustus Homer died in 1901, a man greatly mourned by the population of Sedgley. Well, maybe not all of them, I'm sure there would have been a few quiet toasts drunk in many pubs, not all of them complimentary.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 8, 2011 at 11:32 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Oldbury, Jack Judge, Williams, Public House, Tipperary, Balsall Common.


Off to Oldbury this time, 2 years before the start of the Great War, January 1912. Two men, both artists, one, a comedian with a way with words, the other a pianist and composer. The common denominator, they were both born in Oldbury, and lived in Low Town, just off Birmingham Street. Their names, Henry James Williams, better known as Harry, and Jack Judge, jointly credited with producing the famous song, " It's a long way to Tipperary ". It's become accepted though, that the words were written by Jack Judge. Harry Williams, who since birth had been crippled, who wrote the music, lived with his parents at The Malt Shovel, and played the piano for the customers. Jack Judge lived a stones throw from the pub, and the two were great friends. There's a story, that while on tour, Jack Judge, for a bet, of 5 shillings, wrote the words to the song in just 5 minutes. The likelihood however, is that it had been written some time before, and was already in the pairs act, and they had won a few bets of a similar nature before. The story however, did make the song more well known, and the copyright was bought by Messers Feldmans, who published it extensively. Harry appears to have been a bit brighter than Jack, for Harry got the lions share of the royalities. After the War, Harry's parents moved to a new pub, " The Plough ", at Mere End, Balsall Common. A fairly quiet little Warwickshire place, and possibly in order to drum up a bit more trade, the pub was renamed. There was only one name they could possibly use, they called it " The Tipperary Inn ". It wasn't to be a long stay, well at least not in the pub. His mother, Mary Ann Williams, sadly died in 1922, aged 69. Harry himself passed away in 1924. His father, Henry Sketchley Williams, followed him three years later in 1927. A visit to the pub today,where they are well remembered with lots of memorabilia, will also get you directions to their final resting place, not far away, in the Churchyard at Temple Balsall. The old tombstone is a bit faded in places, and if, at first you have a bit of trouble locating the site, you can always hum a little tune to yourself, It's a long way, to Tipperary, might be appropiate. There is Photo of both Jack and Harry, and of course the Pub, in the " Images from the Forums " , in the Photo Gallery.


Added to this post, 20th February, 2014.


Now it's been almost two and a half years since I posted the above, and I am sad to say, at the time, I got a few letters telling me I was wrong. We all like to believe that a story that has been around for while, tends to be true, and it's hard, at times, when we find out all is not as it seems. The people of Oldbury, having cast aside long ago, the real facts, praised a native of the Town, Jack Judge, with the sole credit for writing and composing the Song. I am glad to report, that the piece I wrote back then, was far nearer the truth than some were prepared to admit. It's a long way, from Oldbury to Craven Arms in Shropshire as well, but there dwells Harry Williams grand niece, Meg Pybus, complete with the real history of the famous marching song of the first World War. Henry Sketchley Williams, Harry's father, moved from Oldbury to Balsall Common, Warwickshire around 1900, and took over as Licencee of the Plough Inn. The two men had known each other for years, and performed their co-written work around the entertainment venues of many provincial towns. Needles to say, they didn't make a fortune. "It's a long way to Connemarra ", the original title of the song, was probably penned at the Plough in 1909, and with a swift change of title, performed on stage for a bet , at  Stalybridge's Grand Theatre. A London publisher, Albert Feldman, had the words and sheet music published in 1912, and although popular, it was another two years, before George Curnock, a jounalist, heard it being sung by the 2nd Battalion, Connaught Rangers, as they marched ashore at Boulogne on 13th August,1914, to re-inforce the British Expeditionary Force. He was on holiday, and when war broke out five days later, he reported what he had heard. The song quickly spread around the Army units, and pretty soon, around the Empire. It was estimated, that the pairs royalties from the song hit over £165,000 in 1915 alone. Harry Williams, purchased, outright, the Plough Inn, and the name changed to what it still is today, " The Tipperary Inn " Meanwhile, back in Oldbury, Jack Judge was experiencing a few difficulties paying the bills, and, on a visit made by Harry, sold his share of the royalties. The song, to which the family still own the rights, is 112 years old this year, which no doubt, will earn a lot more money this year, sustained, through music, the spirits of the fighting men as they manned the trenches during the terrible years of Warfare. Harry Williams, unable to take part in the conflict, died in 1924, having played a bigger part than he would have thought possible.  The Annie Othen Show, BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire, February 25th, 2014.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 18, 2011 at 4:43 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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West Bromwich, Charles Rowley, The Great Seqah


Charles Frederick Rowley, was born in Union Street, West Bromwich, in 1867. His father was an Ironworker, who had come to the area, from Newcastle-under-Lyme. His older brother, William Henry Rowley,  became a Travelling Showmen, and it's likely that having been on several tours with him, Charles, taking a liking to life on the road, decided on the same career. In 1884 he married, but not here, but in London. During his life of Fair grounds, Side shows, and Circus, he must have picked up many skills, one of which was Tooth Extractions. He employed this skill, dressed in Buckskin Jacket, and calling himself " The Great Seqah ", at performances of a Wild West show. They even had genuine Red Indians, which all added a bit of realism to his acts, in the 1890s. Later on he developed a travelling Auction show, from which he sold all kinds of stuff, including a few patent medicines. ( called Snake Oil no doubt ) In 1907, he was touring with one of the new fangled Bioscopes, complete with a big Organ, powered by an 8 horse power Steam Traction Engine called " Maude ". It is still around today, in full working order. ( I bet he could have pulled out even the most deep rooted tooth with that ). Then he suddenly sold up, went to Australia, and never contacted his family again. He died about 1935, no one as yet knows where his body lies. There's a picture in the Gallery, of him in "action", fair gives you the willies just looking at it.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 24, 2011 at 11:31 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Walsall, James Bridge.


And on with a subject of Politics, can anyone in Walsall remember a man called Joseph William Harper, who contested the Election in the Town, in 1935. It started off as two horse race, Joseph Leckie for the Liberals, and William Graham, for Labour. It was only on nomination day, that Walsall realised, a local man had entered the competition. Little did they know it, but a fair bit of entertainment was on the way. He started by printing and selling his own leaflets, and they all soon discovered, Joe Harper's strong point was not spelling. He had no help either, this was strictly a one man campaign. As this election was in November, most of the meeting were held indoors, and they turned out to be hilarious. Arriving late at one meeting, Joe had to climb in via a window, this got him a standing ovation, although not many votes it seems. Now Joseph Harper had never heard of political correctness, nor for that matter, the pricipal of telling the truth. He slandered and libeled the other candidates unmercifully, earning for himself a whole mountain of legal writs. At one stage he declared himself to be Staffordshire Joe, the Human Cocktail, and he certainly mixed up the issues. How he found out, that Graham had been a conscientious object in the great War, is anyones guess, but find out he did. Joe himself had lied about his age back in 1914, and the information about Graham inflamed his passions. He called him " unbritish, lousy, yellow," and advised him to take a large dose of caster oil, and " b****r off ". Leckie, who may have smiled at this, soon got a dose as well, being discribed as a " gangster, a jewish crook, and taking bribes ". His leaflets became known as Joe Harpers tuppeny comics, well he had to raise funds somehow. He promised the crowds that when he was elected Prime Minister, he would turn the country into a paradise, and that no citizen of Walsall should work more than 3 or 4 hours a day. He must have raised a great cheer when he declared he would take the countries entire wealth, Thirty Thousand Million Pounds, and give everyone an equal share, ( about £2,000, to be invested at 5% )which should give an income of £2 a week. ( The national wage was about £2.10s ) He wasn't shy about telling the voters of his marriage problems either. He called his wife Solicitor a " Blackmailing imitater of the Legal Profession ". All this of course had to come to an end, and thankfully for his long suffering competitors, on 14th November, it did. Joseph W Harper lost the election, and also lost his deposit. It was now, that the chickens he had recklessly thrown all over the place, came back to roost. His wife's Solicitor alledged 8 counts of libel against him, and Joe was hauled into court. Wriggle as he might, he was unable to get off this hook. First came an order for his wife, of £2.10s a week, Joe then offered a one off payment of £260. He increased this by £40. if he could have custody of both his children. Now came his battle with the Solicitor, and he fought it to the end, making a tearful plea to the jury. All to no avail, they found him guilty. When it came to awarding damages, they set the figure to be paid to the Solicitor at £500. Joseph Harper left the court in tears. He never paid a penny of it, for at 4am next morning, Walter Round, a railway worker, found his body on the track near Bradley Lane Bridge in Bilston. In his pocket was a note, beligerent to the last, and laying the blame of his downfall elsewhere. He was laid to rest in James Bridge Cemetery, the funeral attended mostly by relatives. He had given the folks of Walsall a good laugh, but he left the world to the sound of tears.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 13, 2011 at 4:20 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Bilston, Steeplejack, Public Houses,


Now I will always be a fan of the late, and great, Fred Dibner. His down to earth presenting style, was a pure joy in later life, and his approach to the dangers of his chosen career could best be described as, " casual ". You only, as in mining, every make one mistake when Steeple Jacking, the last one. Such a man as Fred, was Bilston born John McCann, otherwise known to the population as simply " Steeple Jack ". For many years, should you have cared to look up, he could be seen on many tall chimneys, doing repairs and maintenance. The family, for his father had started the firm sometime in the 1820s, where responsible for the rather unusual method of actually getting up a stack. They used a large kite, to pass a line across the top of the chimney, and secured it to the ground on the other side. A block and tackle would be attached, and the young John would haul himself up on this pecarious contraption. On days when they had a good crowd, he would entertain them with a dance or jig. Now John had many faults, and he must also have had many fears, so one fault, Drinking, would in his reckoning, cancel out the other. Wednesbury Oak Iron Works, was in need of repairs to it's hundred foot stack, so Mr Williams, the firms owner, engaged John McCann to carry out the work. On Thursday the 11th May, 1865, the apperatus was set in place, and the block and tackle made ready. Work could not begin however until the chimney had cooled down a bit, it was, after all, in service 24 hours a day. McCann, had a very able assistant in Thomas Hacking, who, early on the Sunday began installing all the scaffolding that would be needed. His boss however, was in the local Pub, "The Mitre", dispite the early hour. Even when he did appear, he made several trips back down, to keep his " refreshment levels up ". They made steady progress through out the day, both of them now making several other trips to the same friendly hostelry. They had both planned on spending the night close to Mr Williams warm furnace, but about 8.30pm, John McCann decided to spend the night actually up the stack. Drunk as he was, Hacking tried for some time to persuade his boss against such a stupid and reckless act, as it transpired, all to no effect. Giving him the slip, McCann hauled himself up the rope and reached the small makeshift platform on the top. Ignoring Hacking's repeated shouts to come down, he next settled down, and with his legs hanging over the edge, he went to sleep. He remained in this position for over 2 hours, and then just after 10.30pm he awoke, and staggered to his feet. Before Hacking could shout , his boss fell from the perch, and  crashed through the roof of the works. Now you would have thought, a fall of over 80 feet would have killed him stone dead, it must have been all the beer he had drunk, for when they reached him, he was still alive. It was reported, that almost every bone in his body was broken, so it's not surprising, that the next day, he died in South Staffordshire Hospital. Now everybody knows old Fred liked a drink, but never when climbing tall chimneys, the two just don't mix, as proved by the different ends of both Steeple Jacks. So sadly, Bilston lost a colourful character, and the Pubs lost a good customer. One man I bet, who was never allowed " drinks on the slate ".

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 17, 2011 at 3:58 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Wolverhampton, Villiers, Thornely, Snow Hill, West Park.


Charles Pelham Villiers, born in 1802, and died in 1898. Remembered for two things, his participation in the repeal of the Corn Laws, and his representing of the town of Wolverhampton, as an MP,  for 63 years. Educated in London, he chose the legal profession, as befits a member of the aristocracy, and entered, at Lincolns Inn Field, as a Barrister in 1827. He was included in the Poor Law commission in 1832, which subsequently made great improvments to the lives of the " Lower Classes ". Interested in politics, he stood for election, in 1835, as one of the two MPs the town was allowed. The other was Thomas Thornely, another well known local name. At the time, not many people had the right to vote, and they both polled the same number, 776 votes each. Wolverhampton, then had a population of nearly 68,000. Villiers was re-elected in 1837, ( population now 77,000 ) as was Thornely, and went on to hold the seat for the rest of his life. They produced a joint statement thanking the people of the town, which was issued, ( no mention of them being present ) at the The Red Lion Hotel. In the 1870s, a statue was commissioned in his honour, and erected in Snow Hill, in 1879. Some thought it was bit over the top, being made from the best Sicilian Marble, and over 9 feet tall. The grateful towns folk had it moved in 1931, and dumped it in West Park. I say " dumped ", because at least one prominant member of the town, suggested it would look better behind a very large bush. He was always given the support of the town, which allowed him to gain a reputation as a first class Parliamentary figure. Now it's a strange thing, but this rather larger than life MP, may have yet another claim to fame. He was reputed to have never visited Wolverhampton, in the whole 63 years he was it's MP.  It takes a bit of a character to get away with that.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 17, 2011 at 11:13 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Old Hill, Lion Colliery, Ghost,


Back to a time, when the neighbourhood of Old Hill, was very different to what we see today. The area was noted for it's large Orchards, mainly Cherries, as the land, unsuitable for most crops, was largely given over to pasture. Hence the name given to one small part of Old Hill, Cherry Orchard. Into this area, in 1811, was born Thomas Morris, unaware, that at a future date, he would become a well known Character. The Blackcountry was not a place known for the longevity of it's inhabitants, certainly not from the " working class'es " of the time anyway, the conditions in which they lived, precluded a long life. He started his working life at 9 years old, at the only mine in Old Hill at the time, in 1820. The Lion Colliery though, would very soon be followed by many others. Wagon Street, where he was probably born, was to be his home for at least the next 90 years, and he watched a steady stream of inventions and new fangled gadgets pass before his eyes. You would have been concidered old and wise at 60, but as Tom showed no signs of decay, and still with a prodigious memory, he became the font of all local knowledge. He must have lucky at mining, an acknowledged expert on explosives, it was still unusual for a " powder - man, to last so long. At 70, he knew all the herbs and potions required for the relief of all manner of complaints, and at 80, he could virtually recite most of Cherry Orchards various family trees. Oh for such a man or woman today. He had by this time though, given up on the bane of most Vicars lives, the demon drink. His favourite Pub was " The Old Lion," but with the coming of the railway line, he was faced with the hazedous crossing of the line, which passed at the end of Wagon Street. Not his most favourite invention was the railway. The well worn photograph in the gallery, was taken around his 90th birthday, and he still looks hale and hearty, although I suspect the clothes are not those he wore for every day use. He was, as you would expect, fond of telling tales from the past, one of which concerned the fabled Cherry Orchard Ghost. The tale, told to him by his grandfather, goes even farther back in time. It would appear, that in the area lived an old and rich Scotsman, either an Iron Works owner, or a successful farmer, it doesn't say which. One day, he was waylaid by a farm servant, one Richard Aynsworth, who proceeded to batter the old man, and then robbed him. The Old man latter died, and it was said that for years after, his restless shade was seen near the spot, searching for his missing gold. Even after they built houses on the spot, in 1808, his ghost was still seen, haunting the new house, with the sound of dragging footsteps, and horrible moaning. From time to time, some strange things have been reported from Cherry Orchard, like the ghostly outline of a man who walks through walls. The old Scotsman is apparently, still looking for his stolen gold. Tom Morris died in July 1911, and his funeral, at Netherton Parish Church, was attended by hundreds. There are many people today, who reach the 100 mark, and beyond, but then, it was something of a rarity. Searching through the records, I did find a Richard Aynsworth, buried at Oldswinford, in 1797. He had it seems, been hanged at Worcester, for highway robbery. One ghost story then, that at least has a grain of truth to it, well done Tom.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 31, 2011 at 12:17 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Dudley, Russells Hall, Colliery, Edwin Arthur Dando.


If there was one character who deserved a medal, it was surely Edwin Arthur Dando, one of Dudley's most celebrated medical men. The good Doctor, never turned anyone away who had need of his service's, no matter what side of the tracks they came from. So, on the 17th April, 1910, the chance for that medal came along, although of course he didn't know that at the time. Answering a call to go to a local coal mine, called in some reports, Russell Hall Colliery, but at a subsequent inquest, No. 5 Pit, Windmill End, Netherton, he dashed off, still wearing his night clothes. The pit, and several others, was owned by the Dudley Colliery Company, and it had caught fire, the second time in the last 6 months. He didn't hesitate, for there were men injured and trapped down below, and was lowered with a rescue party. For the next few hours, battling the heat, smoke, and deadly gas, the Doctor treated and sent men back up the shaft. Finally, he himself was sent back to surface, he had collapsed, overcome by the fumes. Two men died, and, but for the heroic efforts of the mine rescue team, and the Doctors dedication to his task, there would have been a few more. It may have come as a surprise to him, just 3 months later, when it was announced that along with other members of the rescue squad, he was to be presented with the Edward Medal, Second Class. He received this award on 23rd July, 1910, the only non miner I can find who was so honoured. To those who havn't heard of this medal, it was composed of two catergories, Industrial and Mining bravery. and in two class's, first and second. The first was struck in Silver, and the Second in Bronze, the ribbon, in both case's, being dark blue, with a yellow/or gold border. It's a rare medal. It was replaced in 1971, by the other civilian bravery award, The George Cross. Doctor Dando, not a very robust man at the best of times, may have had his life cut short by this event, sadly dying in 1923, at the age of 50. He was deeply mourned by the citizens of Dudley and Netherton. There's a photograph of him in the Gallery.


For those with an interest, Edwin Arthur Dando, was born in October 1866, at number 11, Caroline Street, Dixons Green, Dudley. His father, Thomas Dando, was a Coal Mine Charter Master, working for first, the Earl of Dudley, and then a Mr Dudley. Edwin was the fifth of eight children, and was found to be a very clever lad, at seventeen, being sent away to London, to study medicine. He was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons in 1890, and to the early form of the British Medical Association, in 1896. He choose to return to Dudley though, and began a practice in Dixons Green, in a property purchased by his father. ( Compton House ) Mining ran very deeply in the Dando family, most of his relatives having an interest of one sort or another. When Thomas retired, he handed the business on to Edwins younger brother, Hubert Wright Dando, the eldest son, Alfred Wright Dando, having chosen to become an Auctioneer. Edwin of course, became the companies Doctor, and through the family connections, ( the Wrights ) the Medical man for some other mines. When their father died, on 7th January 1901, leaving the family £18,737.9s.4d, Hubert sold up, shared out the money, and effectively retired to become a gentleman, at just 32 years old. Edwin became a well known and trusted Doctor in Dudley and Netherton, and it came as a shock, when he died suddenly on 12th February,1923. He had never married, and what he left behind went to his two brothers, Hubert, and Harold Rupert Wright Dando, a successful local Auctioneer. His estate was valued at £25,963. 8s.1d, not bad for a man from such humble beginnings.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 14, 2012 at 4:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Rowley, Workhouse, Joseph Windsor.


Elsewhere on the site, I have mentioned one William ( Butcher ) Mills, a native of Rowley. Amongst other pastimes, Butcher, Coal mine owner, he also dabbled in supplying provisions to the local Rowley Workhouse. The Parish Clerk, Richard Gaunt, being well educated and able to write, ( there wasn't a lot of competion in that respect in Rowley )  was in charge of the funds. Together with Joseph Windsor,  the " master " of the Workhouse, a man with a less than impeccable character, this was a rather cosy arrangement. That is until the new Rector, George Barrs turned up in 1800. Barrs tackled Mills about the quality of the goods delivered, and accused the three of them of having a " mutually lucrative involvement ". This was just short of saying they were a bunch of petty thieves, which for Barrs, was showing conciderable restraint. The fiddle, for fiddle it undoutedly was, soon stopped, and William Mills lost a fair bit of money. Windsor lost his job, but the crafty Richard Gaunt escaped censure, not that it would made much difference, he also ran the local School, but thats another story.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 6, 2012 at 11:55 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Footballer, Cricketer, and Licensee. Abner Harris.


This next character was one of my grandfathers favourite talking subjects. George ( Abner ) Harris, was born in a little cottage at the top of Gorsty Hill, which was in the old Parish of Hill, Halesowen, or, if it was the other side of the road, Old Hill, Staffordshire,  just a short distance from the little Chapel and the National School, in 1878, the same year as my grandad. My grandmother, a year younger, was at the same school as Abner, and knew the family well. Coombes Wood Football Club, was the works team of the local Tube Works, which went on to become Stewart and Lloyds.  My grandad, who got a job there when he was 14, played for this team, as did Abner Harris,( although he didn't work there, he was a talented young player was Abner. ) as well as spending some time with the Territorial army unit that trained in Grammer School Lane, Halesowen. Abner worked for a time for the Sturman familiy, looking after the Horses and Cattle kept at the Farm which was on Slack Hillock, off Tump Road,  although the old Farmhouse had been sold, and turned into a Public House, The Sportsman. In 1900, the young Abner, by know a a really talented player, was signed by Aston Villa FC, and from then on, grandad and his mates were firm Villa supporters. A great part of the population of Gorsty Hill would catch the train when the team were playing at home, to cheer on their hero. He was with Villa for 8 years, during which he played in every position except Goal keeper, This may have had something to do with his slightly bandy legs, a sure sign of a previous bout of rickets, which affected many youngsters at the time. They were all mortified when he signed for West Bromwich Albion, but after a few pints and a discussion, still went to see him play. In 1913, Abner, possibly looking to the future, purchased the Sportsman in 1913, and turned it into a popular watering hole. It was used by Colliers, Puddlers, Boatmen, and their wifes, it was even on the route of the Gornal Salt Women. As well being a great footballer, Abner was a pretty good Cricketer as well, having a regular team place with Old Hill Cricket Club. They played their games, and were based, at Stewart & Lloyds sports ground, at the bottom of Gorsty Hill. The team won the Birmingham League Championship in 1921. Abners wife, the former Rosannah Dingle, was also born on Gorsty Hill, and was a formidable woman at the Sportsman. Nobody caused trouble while she was around, and the women customers were confined to the big kitchen, the tap room being out of bounds. Chickens roamed freely about the Pub, which had floors tilted at alarming angles in places, the result of the vast amount of mining in the area. After he finished playing football, he was a regular sight around the region, and the Sportsman prospered under his ownership. All went well until 1923, when a big black cloud descended on the family. Abners brother Thomas Harris, used the old out building at the pub to keep a few animals, but was short of a horse for his cart. Hearing that a good animal was beiing sold by Enoch Wheeler, a scrap metal dealer, The two of them went to have a look. In the scrapyard was a large crane with a jib, hanging from which was a large metal ball for breaking the various pieces of iron. As they passed underneath, the ball became detached and in falling, struck Abner on the head. He was killed instantly by the blow. So, in June, 1923, aged just 45, George ( Abner ) Harris was laid to rest in Saint John the Baptists ChurchyardHalesowen. There was a huge turnout, ( my grandfather included ) the coffin, draped with the colours of the teams he had played for, was followed by his widow Rosannah and his only child, Joan Harris. Rosannah died at the Sportsman in 1968, in the place that was full of memories of a great Sporting man, a local legend, and a good husband and father.  When I find them, I will put some pictures in the " Images from the Forums " Album.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 17, 2012 at 11:04 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Traceyh
Member
Posts: 1

thanks for posting this Alaska, interesting reading, and backs up my Dad's stories about his uncle George.

April 25, 2012 at 3:36 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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