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Bloxwich Wakes 2018 – in pictures

Several distinctive Pat Collins trucks
Several distinctive Pat Collins trucks

With the absence of Bloxwich Carnival this year, Pat Collins Funfair, long associated with both the carnival and Bloxwich itself, stepped in to fill the gap with a new (but actually old) event, the Bloxwich Wakes Festival, on Friday – Sunday 3rd-5th August 2018. And although the event didn’t draw the crowds that the carnival usually does, especially on Sunday, charity stallholders have reported a worthwhile turnout.

Stuart Williams of The Bloxwich Telegraph visited the wakes in brilliant sunshine on the Sunday to meet participants and take pictures for this photo feature.

Pat Collins Bloxwich Fete & Gala, Wakes Ground, 1965
Pat Collins Bloxwich Fete & Gala, Wakes Ground, 1965

The tradition of Bloxwich wakes goes back centuries, but from the late 1800s-early 1900s, Pat Collins, ‘King of Showmen’ and proprietor of the original Pat Collins Funfair, used to hold the Bloxwich Wakes, later officially known as Pat Collins Fete & Gala, here in the village every August, and it was a much-anticipated local tradition  until the Collins family left in the early 1970s.

Pat Collins Funfair is no Mickey Mouse operation!
Pat Collins Funfair is no Mickey Mouse operation!

The ‘wakes ground’ site is now the ASDA supermarket car park, but in modern times, Pat Collins Funfair has traditionally been held in the King George V Memorial Playing Fields, near to the entrance in Bealey’s Lane, Bloxwich.

Revellers were guaranteed a super welcome
Revellers were guaranteed a super welcome

The ‘new’ Bloxwich Wakes Festival was organised by the modern proprietors of the current Pat Collins Funfair, Mr Anthony Harris and family, and in the spirit of the old Bloxwich Wakes offered not only their traditional giant funfair, but also arena events on the Saturday and Sunday with live music, plus live wrestling, charity stalls and more.  Naturally, though, the real star was all the fun of the fair, as it always was with Bloxwich Wakes!

Traditional wrestling, 1970s style!
Traditional wrestling, 1970s style!

To view a larger image, just click on any of the pictures shown here.

Owen Allen and Demi Woods of Thespian Arts were amongst the performers
Owen Allen and Demi Woods of Thespian Arts were amongst the performers
Janet Cook, a fundraiser for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.
Janet Cook, a fundraiser for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

For info on the Bloxwich Branch of the Royal British Legion, follow this link, or the RBL and the Poppy Appeal in general, via this link.

Becky Weeks, Suzanne Williams and Cheryl Jones of Walsall RSPCA
Becky Weeks, Suzanne Williams and Cheryl Jones of Walsall RSPCA

For more info on the Walsall Branch of the RSPCA, follow this link.

Bryan Tilt, fundraiser for St Giles Hospice Walsall
Bryan Tilt, fundraiser for St Giles Hospice Walsall

For more info on St Giles Hospice, follow this link.

Shelby Hillback, Sadie Allen and Owen Allen of Thespian Arts
Shelby Hillback, Sadie Allen and Owen Allen of Thespian Arts

For more info on Thespian Arts, who are based in Clayhanger, follow this link.

Donkey rides - seaside style!
Donkey rides – seaside style!
The ever-popular Alfonso Urso serves from his classic BMC ice cream van
The ever-popular Alfonso Urso serves from his classic BMC ice cream van

For more info on Alfonso & Son’s Icecream, follow this link.

Riding high on the Super Star!
Riding high on the Super Star!
Crash-bang-wallop on the Dodgems!
Crash-bang-wallop on the Dodgems!
Scream - you know you want to!
Scream – you know you want to!
Shooting Gallery and Hook a Duck
Shooting Gallery and Hook a Duck
Flash dancing on the Tagada
Flash dancing on the Tagada
The Ghost Train and bungee jumping
The Ghost Train and bungee jumping
Going for a spin on The Sizzler
Going for a spin on The Sizzler
Your chance to fly Super Star!
Your chance to fly Super Star!
Definitely a Sunday Smackdown in progress
Definitely a Sunday Smackdown in progress

All pictures copyright Stuart Williams. Persons pictured may post these images on their Facebook pages, but no other publication or commercial use is allowed without permission.

For information on future events, be sure to keep an eye on the Pat Collins Funfair Facebook page and the company website.

 

Bloxwich Wakes return as new Festival

Bloxwich Wakes Poster 2018

With the absence of Bloxwich Carnival this year, Pat Collins Funfair, long associated with both the carnival and Bloxwich itself, has stepped in to fill the gap with a new (but actually old) event, the Bloxwich Wakes Festival, on Friday – Sunday 3rd-5th August 2018.

The tradition of Bloxwich wakes goes back centuries, but from the late 1800s-early 1900s, Pat Collins, ‘King of Showmen’ and proprietor of the original Pat Collins Funfair, used to hold the Bloxwich Wakes, later officially known as Pat Collins Fete & Gala, here in the village every August, and it was a much-anticipated local tradition  until the Collins family left in the early 1970s.

The ‘wakes ground’ site is now the ASDA supermarket car park, but in modern times, Pat Collins Funfair has traditionally been held in the King George V Memorial Playing Fields, near to the entrance in Bealey’s Lane, Bloxwich.

The ‘new’ Bloxwich Wakes Festival has been organised by the modern proprietors of the current Pat Collins Funfair, Mr Anthony Harris and family, and in the spirit of the old Bloxwich Wakes will offer not only their traditional giant funfair, but also arena events on the Saturday and Sunday with live music, plus live wrestling, charity stalls and more.

Opening hours are:

  • Friday 3rd August 2018  5pm-9pm
  • Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th August 2018 11am-6pm.

Admission is free, but rides etc cost extra.

For more information, be sure to check out the Pat Collins Funfair Facebook page and the company website.

 

The Bloxwich Telegraph is Back!

Read all about it graphic

Yes, after a much-needed period of hibernation, The Bloxwich Telegraph is back!

Following a trial roll-out on Twitter and Facebook using some of our best stories from the last few years, which it’s clear that you’ve enjoyed revisiting, as of this weekend we’ve upgraded our hosting and we’re back in action, so expect both improvements to the website and regular updates from now on, using a combination of news posts, articles and social media.

Since its foundation in 2006 as The Bloxidge Tallygraph, The Bloxwich Telegraph has aimed to support local people, publish local news and promote local events in Bloxwich and district plus more recently, through our social media, Willenhall.  Now, we’re also looking to extend some coverage to Walsall town centre.  We’re interested in everything from church and club events to major local developments.

You are invited to send in your local news stories and press releases, no matter how small, as well as events info and reports, via this site’s Contact page (which you’ll find under the About menu tab).  You can also get our attention through our Twitter feed @BloxTelegraph

We’re also glad to continue helping to relay news from other local sources, and will be actively doing so via social media.  Be sure to tag us on Twitter – if it’s locally relevant, we’ll give you an RT!  Local news can also be posted on our Walsall North News Facebook page.

It will take time to get everything moving again, so give it a while and keep coming back. If you want to keep updated with all our news posts, be sure to subscribe using the button on the front page.

Watch this space!

Stuart Williams

Editor & Publisher

Walsall Advertiser ceases publication

Walsall Advertiser final issue

Sad news today is that the popular Walsall Advertiser newspaper has ceased publication after 40 years and 2,059 editions, leaving the Wolverhampton Express & Star-published Walsall & Willenhall Chronicle as the last of our local borough-focused conventional weekly print newspapers.

Historic

The Walsall Advertiser, a Tamworth-based paper which has long been owned by London group Trinity Mirror, which also famously closed down the historic Walsall Observer in 2009 after 141 years of continuous publication, was a well-liked and substantial freesheet, although perhaps not so much by the earlier publishers of the Walsall Observer, then West Midlands Press, which was badly shaken at the time of its arrival in the town, and was eventually also forced into being given away.

In January 2017, the Advertiser, which was not the first paper of that name in the town (the original being published by Victorian printer and publisher W. Henry Robinson and his father J.R. Robinson from 1857), was merged with another Trinity Mirror freesheet, the Great Barr Observer, in a move which the then-editor said brought together two “cherished news brands”, though no local papers have actually been published in Walsall for many years, nor have there been any local newspapers present in the town since the Express & Star pulled out of their new, purpose-built Walsall offices in 2009.

Observing the Advertiser

Separate editions of the Walsall Advertiser and the Great Barr Observer continued to be published for each area, featuring localised front page and sports coverage, and were variously known as the ‘Walsall Advertiser incorporating the Great Barr Observer’ or ‘the Great Barr Observer incorporating the Walsall Advertiser’ depending on where distributed. The Advertiser and Observer also retained their own websites until last year, when they were absorbed into the Birmingham Mail website under the banner of what is now Birmingham Live. Perhaps the writing was on the wall for both papers from that moment, as they have now both folded for the last time, and will surely be missed by local readers.

Continue reading Walsall Advertiser ceases publication

Bloxwich Carnival Senior Citizens’ Party 2017 pictures posted!

Party lunch is served at the Stan Ball Centre for Bloxwich Carnival Senior Citizens Party 2017
Party lunch is served at the Stan Ball Centre for Bloxwich Carnival Senior Citizens Party 2017

Thursday 13th July 2017 saw the traditional annual prelude to Bloxwich Carnival – the Senior Citizens’ Party – take place at the Stan Ball Centre in Abbotts Street, Bloxwich. And a great deal of fun – and food – was had by all!

This traditional celebration for local people from care homes and local groups is laid on annually by Bloxwich Carnival Committee, using funds raised by Bloxwich Carnival. They are supported on the day by 196 Squadron Walsall ATC, care home staff and others.

Air Cadets from the local 196 Squadron help members of Bloxwich Carnival Committee and supporters in serving partygoers
Air Cadets from the local 196 Squadron help members of Bloxwich Carnival Committee and supporters in serving partygoers

Each year since 2006, at the invitation of the Committee, The Bloxwich Telegraph’s editor Stuart Williams has also had the pleasure of supporting the event by photographing it and making pictures available online.

Larry and Kate of 'Kate's Party' in full swing
Larry and Kate of ‘Kate’s Party’ in full swing

This year hundreds of local senior citizens streamed in by minibus to be rousingly entertained by traditional and other popular songs from ‘Kates Party’ – professionals singer Kate and instrumentalist Larry – who regularly provide entertainment for the over 50’s (tel 07969 755229) and had some partygoers dancing in the aisles! There was also bingo, and a tasty party lunch and other refreshments for all. Continue reading Bloxwich Carnival Senior Citizens’ Party 2017 pictures posted!

Queen’s Silver Jubilee Walsall Visit – 40th Anniversary Exclusive

A friendly Walsall police sergeant shows his radio to curious children in Lichfield Street as the crowds wait
A friendly Walsall police sergeant shows his radio to curious children in Lichfield Street as the crowds wait

Today marks forty years to the day since Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II honoured the borough of Walsall with a very special Royal Visit to mark twenty-five years of her reign – her Silver Jubilee. Many of our readers may well remember that day. We certainly do – and we have exclusive pictures to prove it!

The day of the visit, Wednesday 27th July 1977,  had dawned grey and chilly, but there was to be nothing chilly about the reception which the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh would receive; indeed their route into town was lined with people up to twelve deep, despite hours of waiting.

Waiting for the Queen to arrive, Walsall Police enjoyed the occasion as much as the people
Waiting for the Queen to arrive, Walsall Police enjoyed the occasion as much as the people

The Royal motorcade arrived some twenty-five minutes behind schedule, and the crowds, made up of all ages from throughout the borough, had been there for up to seven hours. Despite this, there was an air of excited anticipation; even the local police on duty in Lichfield Street seemed to be enjoying the sense of occasion.

Walsall policemen on duty for the occasion proudly show off their medals.
Walsall policemen on duty for the occasion proudly show off their medals.

Press photographers had not been wasting the waiting time, and both they and reporters from local newspapers had been doing the rounds of the crowds, taking likely pictures for publication and gathering quotes and comments to take back to their editors. Many members of the public had their own cameras at the ready, unsurprisingly. Notably one Stuart Williams, then aged 16, now editor of The Bloxwich Telegraph.  Stuart had placed himself carefully on the Council House side of Lichfield Street, hoping to get some interesting pictures with his new Russian Zenith E camera. The professional pressmen had the best gear and the best access, but Stuart and his rather slower and clunkier camera were ready for action nonetheless. He took a few pictures of the crowds and police, and even targeted one of the pros who was busy snapping away at an excited group of young royalists nearby. Then waited patiently. Continue reading Queen’s Silver Jubilee Walsall Visit – 40th Anniversary Exclusive

Bloxwich Carnival 2017

Bloxwich Carnival

Yes, it’s that time of year again! Bloxwich’s biggest and best public event of the year, our annual Carnival, is almost here, and is all set to land in King George V Memorial Playing Fields on Saturday 5th August 2017. Apart from the traditional Pat Collins Fun Fair, there’ll be a host of stalls, attractions and arena events on offer – with FREE ADMISSION! And as always, it will be a feast of fun for all the family!

Bloxwich Carnival will be open from 12 noon to 5pm, with arena events spread throughout the afternoon. Times may be viewed below – scroll down to view. Main admission is as usual on foot, via the Bell Lane/Bealey’s Lane entrance. There may also be limited parking via the Stafford Road entrance.

Flyin Ryan follows Jumpin James over the Council truck
Flyin Ryan follows Jumpin James over the Council truck
Special attractions

Apart from all the fun of the fair, and various other smaller independent rides and attractions, special attractions this year include:

  • Flyin Ryan Stunt Riders
  • Elaine Hill Sheepdog Trials
  • Pete the Animatronic Dinosaur
  • Armitage Birds of Prey
  • Mad Dominic

Please note that while admission is free, rides on the Pat Collins Fun Fair and other rides are charged for individually. Continue reading Bloxwich Carnival 2017

Bloxwich Flag launched in heart of the town

The Bloxwich Flag Launch - Julie Hikins and the Mayor of Walsall fly the new flag at The Bloxwich Tardis. Click to download large version.
The Bloxwich Flag Launch – Julie Hikins and the Mayor of Walsall fly the new flag at The Bloxwich Tardis. Click to download large version.

Saturday saw the launch of a brand, spanking new flag for Bloxwich, in the presence of the new Mayor of Walsall Cllr Marco Longhi, while local Bloxwich West councillors Louise Harrison, Matt Follows and Brad Allen, the recently-elected MP for Walsall North Mr Eddie Hughes and others looked on.

The flag, as far as we know the first of its kind for Bloxwich and district, has came about as a result of a competition for local people and schools, at the instigation of a Bloxwich Flag Committee formed by the heritage-minded organisers of the Bloxwich Old & New Facebook group Martin Morris and Tony Kulik plus local councillors and others. The editor of The Bloxwich Telegraph, Stuart Williams, acted as historical advisor to the committee. Continue reading Bloxwich Flag launched in heart of the town

Remembering Harold Parry – 100 years on

Parry with Poppies

I was reminded this past week of the centenary of the passing of a man who I usually think of in November, the month of remembrance, poppies, services and parades. A man who is probably not as well known as he should be, but of whom I have written several times in the past. Harold Parry, Bloxwich’s own War Poet, who like so many others, made the ultimate sacrifice for king and country in the Great War of 1914-18. And that centenary is this Saturday, 6 May 2017.

Harold Parry (‘Hal’ to his friends), son of Alderman, mine engineer, colliery proprietor and landowner David Ebenezer Parry and Sarah Parry, of ‘Croxdene’, Bloxwich, was born on 13 December, 1896, one of twins.

Croxdene in the late 1960s.
Croxdene in the late 1960s.

After studying at a junior school in Bloxwich (probably the National School, High Street), Hal won a scholarship to Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, where he became an outstanding pupil, head of his House and captain of the school’s football and cricket teams, as well as a cadet officer.  While studying there, he won the Queen’s Prize for History and in 1915 won an Open History Scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford.

Exeter College, Oxford (Wikimedia Commons).
Exeter College, Oxford (Wikimedia Commons).

Hal volunteered for army service in January 1916, being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, and after training at Rugeley he transferred to the 17th Battalion, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps, on the front line in France.

Badge of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (Wikimedia Commons).

Before the war, Parry had been a prolific writer of poetry.  The bitter experiences of the trenches, at the Somme and in Belgium, soon made him turn again, this time for relief, to poetry, both reading and writing, and letters home to family and friends.  He could express himself clearly in both prose and verse, and his writings are important in that they reveal what the young men who died in “the war to end all wars” thought about their experiences in that terrible conflict.

A trench on The Somme, 1916.
A British trench on The Somme, 1916.

One of his shortest poems, ‘Tommy’s Dwelling’, written in the field, tells of the ever-present water and mud which was the curse of the trenches:

Tommy’s Dwelling

I come from trenches deep in slime,

Soft slime so sweet and yellow,

And rumble down the steps in time

To souse “some shivering fellow”.

I trickle in and trickle out

Of every nook and corner,

And, rushing like some waterspout,

Make many a rat a mourner.

I gather in from near and far

A thousand brooklets swelling,

And laugh aloud a great “Ha, ha!”

To flood poor Tommy’s dwelling.

German dead at the sunken road in Guillemont during the battle of The Somme.
German dead at the sunken road in Guillemont during the battle of The Somme.

Just two days after a battle, on 14 October 1916 Hal wrote to his sister’s friend Isabel “The average Fritz is as sick at heart over all this destruction as we are. We are preached a doctrine of frightfulness, and yet is it not sufficiently sad to think when you come across an unburied dead German, perhaps this day his wife and children mourn for him, and in the future can know neither peace nor comfort? I must confess it distresses me beyond measure, for I am not a soldier at heart.”

“The real evil in this conflict is not of the individual so much as of the powers that be.  If these dignitaries could only be sat in the trenches for a wee short space, and made to carry heavy coils of wire for long distances up long communication trenches – blasted by the incessant force of the guns, I could guarantee that their war would not last longer than the time to fix up provisional peace terms.  Let Dot read this letter, but not my mother or father, it would make them grieve and I don’t want that.”

Band of the 5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment in the ruins at Ypres.
Band of the 5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment in the ruins at Ypres.

Sadly, like so many soldiers Hal was fated to die young, killed in action on 6 May, 1917 by a German shell at Ypres, in Flanders, while moving from his billet to safer quarters in the cellars nearby.  He was just twenty years old.  Writing to Hal’s father, his commanding officer said “He was a splendid youngster, and a most capable and keen officer, much loved by all.  Had he been spared I am sure he would have made a great name for himself as a soldier.”

Second Lieutenant Harold Parry, Walsall Pioneer, 19 May 1917.
Second Lieutenant Harold Parry, Walsall Pioneer, 19 May 1917.

Instead of making his name as a soldier, in the decades following his death Harold Parry instead become known to posterity as a war poet.  A posthumous volume of letters and poems compiled by G.P. Dennis ‘In Memoriam: Harold Parry’ was published, showing he was exceptionally gifted for such a young man.  The letters show above all his extreme cheerfulness and loyalty, even in the face of danger and death.  Some of his poems are also published in ‘Songs from the Heart of England’, an anthology of Walsall poetry edited by Alfred Moss with a foreword by Jerome K. Jerome.

G.P. Dennis wrote of him “Harold Parry was no saint, he had with the rest of us his faults and failings and annoyingnesses; but that the evil in him was less than most, and that he fought it harder,  that the good in him was greater, and that he used it better – of these things his friends are certain.  He always tried to do what he believed was right: what more can a good man do?”

Such is the measure of the man.  His good name and his words live after him, and he is not forgotten.

Harold Parry is buried at Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, West Flanders, Belgium.  His headstone bears the inscription “Death is the Gate To the High Road of Life And Love is the Way (Harold Parry).”

Its twin, rather more careworn after a century, honours his name in Field Road Cemetery, Bloxwich.

I usually go there to ponder on the life of a Bloxwich man and the folly of war in cold November. This time around, in the sunlit spring, I have visited that small, forgotten shrine of remembrance and placed flowers for the centenary of his passing. I placed them today. Perhaps others may do the same tomorrow, and think on the apt words of another poet, Mary Elizabeth Frye.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Monument to Harold Parry at Field Rd Cemetery, Bloxwich.
Monument to Harold Parry at Field Rd Cemetery, Bloxwich.

Ironically, although Harold Parry has a monument at Bloxwich, and there are a number of similar stones there, he is not listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s list for Bloxwich Cemetery, he is listed at  Vlamertinghe. But there are also many men who are listed as buried here, via this link, and they are all worthy of remembrance.

Lest we forget

Bloxwich Telegraph links up with Rediscover Bloxwich

Local rock legend Noddy Holder meets the project group at Walsall Academy, Bloxwich (Pic Stuart Williams)
Local rock legend Noddy Holder meets the project group at Walsall Academy, Bloxwich (Pic Stuart Williams)

In 2016, young people and staff from the Walsall Academy in Lichfield Road, Bloxwich (site of the former T.P. Riley Comprehensive School) joined forces with Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team, video producers and digital media specialists Catcher Media, local writer and Bloxwich Telegraph editor Stuart Williams, Walsall Local History Centre, Walsall Council Regeneration and other local people on a very special Heritage Lottery-funded project to literally focus on the history and heritage of Bloxwich through the eyes, ears and voices of the school’s students, local people and other contributors and through the camera eye of Catcher Media.

What’s it all about?

The basic idea of the project, known as Rediscover Bloxwich, was:

What if each Bloxwich building or street has a story to tell? And what if some of these stories are fascinating? Or scary? Or funny? And what if they make you think about Bloxwich in a new way? Re-discover it.

So Walsall Academy students set out to find out about Bloxwich’s heritage, and to tell that story back to Bloxwich residents. They talked to celebrities, their own families, older people and historians.

The Rediscover website and the film they made pools all of the information, photos, interviews and stories that came to light throughout the project.

The project is also being followed up by the production and installation of a range of related public heritage art pieces set to be installed in Bloxwich centre later this year.

Rediscover Bloxwich logo

What’s on the site?

Apart from information about the project and the main video content itself, there are also a number of pages which offer links to more resources, several video clips of extra interviews of local people and Bloxwich rock legend Noddy Holder of Slade fame, and several pages themed on local Bloxwich heritage topics, with historical information, covering everything from Bloxwich pubs and local myths to industry, churches, fairs – and the Bloxwich lion! Information is also provided about the planned heritage artworks, and credits and acknowledgements.

Linking up for Bloxwich

The Bloxwich Telegraph, whose editor Stuart Williams was commissioned to act as Historical Advisor to the project, is proud to announce its formal – and now digital – links with the project, the film and the resulting website.

From time to time we will highlight aspects of the project from this site and and on our social media. To this end we have now installed a permanent direct link to Rediscover Bloxwich on our main site menu, and via clicking on the Rediscover logo in the right-hand column of every page.

We hope you enjoy finding out about Bloxwich’s past, through Rediscover Bloxwich and via the pages of The Bloxwich Telegraph.

For further information, please click on the following link or any of the others highlighted in this news item.

Rediscover Bloxwich