Category Archives: History and Heritage

My Tribute to Commonwealth Day – Monday 8th of March.

This is the theme of this year (2021) -‘Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’. A theme that underpins the great work that the Commonwealth undertakes each and every year.

I was reminded of the impact of the Comonwealth -during the enormous television coverage of the The Queen celebrating Commonwealth Day in Westminster Abbey yesterday (7 March 2021). Where the work of the Commonwealth was celebrated by all its member States.

Memories flooded back to me of the hard work, but very rewarding experience, I undertook to ensure the City of Wolverhampton, and Wednesfield both played their part in the Commonwealth agenda back in 2006.

I had arranged for the then Secretary General of the Commonwealth Don McKinnon to visit our great and historic City of Wolverhampton. Sir Don as he later became was a former Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Minister for Foreign Affairs. He was Knighted for his work with The Commonwealth.

The date of this important visit by the Commonwealth General Secretary was the 3rd March 2006 . It was a day when I was both nervous yet excited that such an important World figure would be attending our City, and Wednesfield at my invitation. Not only did we meet with the Secretary General in my Mayoral Office at the Civic Centre. I arranged for him to come and visit my Ward of Wednesfield North. The Secretary General was a nice man with a wealth of political experience. We travelled in the car and I chatted with him about Wednesfield and Wolverhampton’s history and achievements.

I took the Secretary General to the Coppice Performing Arts High School, on Ashmore Park. The School were in rehearsals for Les Miserables. We toured the School and the drama Group went through their rehearsals in front of the Civic touring Party. I felt very proud during that visit. Both of the School, and that the performers had a chance to show their talent in front of such an eminent person.

During the visit Mr McKinnon remarked that he had really quite enjoyed the whole day in Wolverhampton. He had spoken relaxed in his manner, with both staff and pupils. He said “it wasn’t that often he would get invited to attend a City , that was not a Capital City. He liked the opportunity of “being in the provinces”.

Quite rightly at the end of my term of Office. I cited the fact that that this was one of my own special highlights of the Mayoral Year – This is what is recorded in the City Minutes -“The Mayor welcomed the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, The Right Honourable Mr. Don McKinnon, to Wolverhampton on 3 March 2006, epitomising the variety, diversity and internationalism of the Civic Diary which bears witness to a vibrant, living City which remembers its history, celebrates its diversity and looks forward to a future of unity and

That sums the City and Commonwealth Day wonderfully! I do hope that we will see the City playing a larger role in years to come.

Note of Interest.

Sir Don McKinnon of New Zealand served as Commonwealth Secretary-General from 2000 to 2008 As Commonwealth Secretary-General, his achievements included: Modernising the Commonwealth Secretariat’s structure and internal organisation. Enhancing the profile of the Commonwealth and ensuring that its work is better known by the general public. Building strategic partnerships with other international organisations, as well as synergies with civil society, in pursuit of the values and objectives of the Commonwealth .Putting young people at the heart of the Commonwealth’s work, promoting youth programmes, particularly in relation to HIV/AIDS. Defending the rights of small states, ensuring that their special vulnerabilities are recognised and their interests promoted on the international agenda. Strengthening the work of the Commonwealth in promoting democratic practices, good governance and respect for human rights. Promoting the establishment of a fair, rules-based multilateral trading system, ensuring that developing countries’ interests are duly reflected in international trade talks. Making a strong stand on the need for developed countries to reduce agricultural subsidies, giving developing countries a fair chance to trade their way out of poverty.

David Bell -Old Time Hack-Or News Ferret

I published this on Facebook first in June 2020.

What a shock to read this, David Bell has been quite rightly, described as an old time Hack. But he was much more than that! Belly was during my time on the County Council a real ferret. He would be hunting out stories wherever he could find them. I regularly met with him to explain one policy or another when I was a County Councillor in County Hall in Birmingham.

We often met in Committee Room 7 (Turks Head) where he and his journalist friends would compete for the exclusive. He and Barry Hammond from the Express and Star, were great friends, but very, very competitive against each other, I became close to both these regional journalistic sleuths, we has some memorable times. Over a long period of time, both these giants of the local Press have now sadly passed away. ‘Belly’, became a great friend,

Over all those decades i knew him you could always have a laugh. Though you had to be careful what you said in his earshot! When the County was abolished by Maggie Thatcher I remember the television interview he delivered, There he was sitting in the lobby at County Hall, surrounded by TV Journalists, and crew. For a change it was’ him’ that was giving the interview, and it was ‘him’ being questioned by the TV Journalists. He loved it.

Rather than just reporting on the News, David, this time was being asked his thoughts, on why the West Midlands County Council had failed…..I gave him some stick over that TV interview as I recall. Then when I created a career for myself in Public transport, we were back in touch. It used to make me smile that he had moved his office, now to the Old Joint Stock.. So I would wander up in an afternoon when I wanted to brief him on a fares rise, or something similar. It was then that I noticed how great the man was. He was no longer wandering the corridors of power looking for a story, or as Barry Hammond used to say “a tale. “You had to now wait in the queue to give him a tale. Behind City Councillors, and the like. Once even it was rumoured the Coroner!

All this to give this great local journalist, A few words that would, you hope, transform the Mails Front Page. Belly made words talk! I am sad to hear of his passing. He was a huge journalistic character, but we had some fun, as well as the pain he gave me, with words that at time made me wince! It was down to Belly that I have gone through my Local Government life, with the nickname ‘Beefy’. One of his story’s are still implanted in my brain- as he described me as “Two chubby cheeks, held together by a whispy moustache.” Or the other one the “Portly politician from Wolverhampton”.

‘Rest In Peace’ David Bell. Hopefully they will raise a statue to you at the Birmingham Evening Mail -They ought too for all those front page stories you captured over the years! So now my old sparring partners pass on to the great Newspaper in the sky- David Bell. Barry Hammond, and of course Ed Doolan All great charachters…BIRMINGHAMMAIL.CO.UK Much-loved ex-Birmingham Mail journalist dies as tributes pour in Legendary ex-municipal editor was admitted to Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley and passed away peacefully in his sleep.

The Day Wolverhampton Welcomed Canada’s Top Diplomat!

I have delved into my Archives, to pull out this piece of history. Early in 2005 I welcomed Canada’s top diplomat to the new City of Wolverhampton. I had been instrumental in the invitation to the High Commissioner, and it still ranks today amongst the most esteemed visits I have ever organised.

I am very proud of the good links it fostered at the time.

I had made arrangements for the High Commissioner of Canada to visit the City of Wolverhampton. We were just five years into the title of ‘City’. We were at that time Britain’s newest City, even though we had a history and heritage that goes back more than 1,000 years.

It was an excellent day and the High Commissioner spent the very best part of that day with us.

It still ranks amongst the most esteemed visits I have ever organised. I am very proud of the good links it fostered at the time, with the Country of my birth.

The Day The City Gave A Train Name Plate to The Black Country Living Museum.

Councillor Phil Bateman said today “On Feb 1st in 2006 nearly 15 years ago. As Mayor of the City of Wolverhampton I presented the name plate of Virgin Trains  ‘Black Country Voyager’ to the Black Country Museum Transport hall.

The City had been presented with the name plate by Virgin Trains in 2002.

Originally three name plates were made, with two going directly on the train, and one being presented to the City.

Back in 2005 I explained that it was a great name plate, and it was an honour for the City and The Black Country to have the name plate presented.

But I strongly felt that there would be far more people seeing the name plate at The Black Country Living Museum instead of it being stored in the City vaults. It would be interesting to see now in 2021 how Many visitors have seen the plaque since it was handed over to the Museum officials.”

Bob Jones -Rest In Peace- You Made Your Contribution !

On Tuesday 1st December 2020, we laid to rest my friend and award winning Labour Party colleague, James Robert Jones. Or as we all knew him as Bob!
!cid_image001_jpg@01CF2C89 Bob JonesBob Jones was not just a Labour Party member he was my friend ‘ of 50 years. He had received a 50 Year Award from Ed Miliband during his time of Labour Leader. We in Wednesfield North were very proud of Bob Jones and his national recognition.

Bob ‘s funeral was a warm yet sad occasion . Reverend Tom Fish from St Albans’ took the service and was very detailed with regards to the different roles that Bob played within his family, and the way he was involved within our community. I was pleased to accept an invitation from the family for the funeral and I was honoured to represent the Labour Party at the funeral.
This Covid-19 Pandemic kept the attendance down to 15.

We all know that the chapel would have been overflowing with regards to people who would just naturally want to be there to pay their own respects. I want to thank Doreen and the family for making a very scarce space available to me so that I could be in attendance.
Bob was a huge character, he was fun at times, stern at other times.

He had a passion for wanting fairness, and freedoms. He held many roles in the Labour Party and Trade Union. He was Chair of the Branch Party, he also served as Treasurer for the District Party. Represented Wednesfield North on the Wolverhampton North East CLP. He was Election Agent for me and other Labour Party candidates over many elections. He was a tough taskmaster in those roles! He was also an active Trade Unionist within the AEUW.

But it wasn’t all about dour elections.
Bob and Doreen enjoyed each others company. Bob enjoyed a laugh and Rev Fish in his descriptions of Bob explained his fun loving character. His love of the family Fancy Dress Party evenings.
Over the next few days I will write more about my friend, and the extraordinary job he did for individuals. Rest In Peace friend, you certainly made your contribution to improving our community and beyond..

35 years ago The Guided Bus

History and Heritage – The Opening of a first Guided Bus trial on the 65 Bus Route in Birmingham, took place 35 years ago.

I was Chair of the West Midlands County Council in those days. It was a history making day .

Here I am greeting my cousin who was the Deputy Leader of Cheshire County Council Cllr Derek Bateman, who was present on the day. Derek played a huge role in the national transport scene, playing a lead role in the Shire Counties transport policies.

It was a high profile day with plenty of TV radio and newspapers present. It was nice to meet my cousin who was leading the Cheshire County Council team on the day.

Rest In Peace! Brian (Benji) Blower.

Mary and I want to offer our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of Brian Blower. We obviously hope that as time goes by the pain and anguish everyone is suffering now dissipates. Then the great memories that we all have of Benji are left for us to enjoy. He made his mark in this community. Now Rest in Peace, old pal!

Paradise and Pigs Tips – Memories of Twenty Years Ago!

Twenty years ago this week Mary and I , with our great friends Ray and Mal Hughes went on a fantastic holiday to
the other side of the World. We went down under and had a great time. One of my most favourite holidays because Ray
and Mal wrote a secret diary. Which they presented to us back home on a spledid night in their home in Wombourne.

Over the next week I will be releasing the bits of the diary….for Mary and I it is a treasure trove of memories, so funny and so well written

I hope those that hang about and read a few sentences gets the full flavour of both the trips, and the character of Ray and Mal Hughes.
Sadly they have both passed on, far too young, but they are always with us locked away in our memories.

Derek Wood – Community Champion

What a week this is turning out to be. Tragedy is never far away as we all know, and Today here in Wednesfield North we will mourn the passing of one of our Community Champions.

Derek Wood of Ashmore Park, one of the finest Volunteers we have here in Wednesfield North, passed away on Tuesday. His family is heart-broken in losing a wonderfully caring Grandfather, Dad, and Uncle. But this huge family loss is also felt in our wider community.

Derek with his beloved Patricia (Ann to all of us here!) was a huge character, for decades. Derek gave his time to others, in Bilston and here in Wednesfield.
Derek also gave his time to other community Groups, the Community he lived in, and to other individuals and organisations across Wednesfield and Wolverhampton. I want to remember him as he was when he was in his pomp!

He was a big cheerful character, always a big laugh! He liked bands and music, liked to enjoy the performance of Marching Bands, always playing jokes. He had a very serious side to him as well. He was very socially aware, he got angered when I talked with him about inequalities.
Derek and Ann were very much a community team.

Our vibrant and active Community Association, will be devoid of that strong voice Derek bought to the events. His personal generosity to the organisation and to individuals. In short, the Derek I knew here in our community, was a very fine individual. Only in November we presented Derek with a ‘Community Excellence Award’ because of his huge commitment to our community.

I for my part will miss his ‘pep talks’! The criticism he gave, the praise, the ‘word in your ear!’ Oh yes, he could scold. He could make his point with a flash of anger to go with it! But he also had a big smile, I want to remember his laughter, the fact that he would sit and chatter for ever on a good day.
Derek you were a big asset to our community, you gave your time to lots of people. Giving time is perhaps the most valuable thing that anyone can give. We all have a short time on this earth. You and your darling Wife gave that valuable ‘personal time’ commodity to others by the bucket load.
Rest in Peace Derek.

This time is now your own – You have played your part here on earth, with distinction, and made the communities you lived in a better place through all your activities.

Mary and I wish to offer our deepest Sympathy and Condolences to the Wood family and friends.

Climate Change Is Coming- Can We Get Wolverhampton to Change?

Climate Change Is Coming- Can We Get Wolverhampton to Change?

Councillor Phil Bateman said today ” I was reading the Guardian today about the policy of the Mayor of Paris. Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to create self-sufficient communities with amenities nearby, to cut pollution and stress.

“Called the “ville du quart d’heure” – the quarter-hour city – the aim is to offer Parisians what they need on or near their doorstep to ensure an “ecological transformation” of the capital into a collection of neighbourhoods. This, she said, would reduce pollution and stress, creating socially and economically mixed districts to improve overall quality of life for residents and visitors.

“Paris is a city unlike any other … it is independent, lively, vibrant. It is capable of inventing a new history without forgetting its past,” Hidalgo said at Thursday’s launch.”

Councillor Phil Bateman added “It struck me that if you looked at Wednesfield North as a Ward of the City of Wolverhampton. We must be part of that Quarter of an hour City already!
Our fantastic Ward is very much near that sort of policy objective that Mayor Hildago of Paris is spelling out for Paris, as being required.

Admitted we aren’t so grand as a suburb of Paris! but we do have the sort of trading and service outlets that give our Ward a very good opportunity to do the sort of things that the Mayor of Paris is intending, as she suggests that she “wants to encourage more self-sufficient communities within each arrondissement of the French capital,”

This in essence means more independent grocery shops, parks, cafes, sports facilities, health centres, schools and even workplaces just a walk or bike ride away. With Global warming a very real threat, and Governments worldwide looking at phasing out fossil fuelled cars and vehicles and creating other transport measures in this new World order that is coming. Maybe just maybe Wolverhampton could already be in the right place to take advantage of this type of policy shift?

Let me explain- The Biggest Estate in Wednesfield North is it happens is Ashmore Park.

Sitting on a frequent bus service, and having bus routes that link to other local neighbourhoods, towns and settlements, we are already in a great position to enhance and help save our local climate.”

Wednesfield North Councillors already join with and encourage our traders to engage with us and run #ShopLocal campaigns. We already urge people to reduce their own carbon footprint by shopping locally.

Councillor Phil Bateman stated “We have been in the forefront of encouraging new homes around the estate by building on redundant land and nuisance anti social unused garage sites.
At its heart on Ashmore Park we have a shopping parade that has a Traditional Butchers, a Green Grocers, a ‘Nisa’ Supermarket, a Housing Agency, an IT Shop, two Beauty Therapy Shop, a thriving Café, a Hardware shop, a Vaping centre, a Fishing Tackle and Bait Shop, a Delicatessens, a Pet Shop, a Betting Shop, a Hair Studios, an Opticians, a Newsagent and Post Office, Dental Services and a Fish and Chip shop, and a Co-Op store. Plus, three Churches, and a Community Park with a Community Hub with all that, that brings! Sat alongside a Cycle Speedway Club with an International reputation.

All of this cheek by jowl with a Nursery School and two Pre-schools, a Community Public House and Two Medical Centres two Primary Schools and Secondary School. This part of Wednesfield North is I would suggest just the sort of ecological transformations that the New Mayor wants the arrondissements of Paris to turn into.

I think that Wolverhampton very much has a number of other of its districts , that with modest investment, could also play a new and exciting role, in a City with more than a thousand years of history. Wolverhampton is a City that has seen decades of changes made, and you know what – it grows and continues to grow year on year.

Councillor Phil Bateman further added “I like the Mayor of Paris’s bold initiative. All the Big Cities of Europe and the World will have to come to terms with new thinking. Wolverhampton is no different than Paris,Toronto or even San Francisco in that situation.

We are already looking at transforming our City Centre. As the retail trade shrinks from City life and Leisure and homes push in to replace city centre failing stores.

The lesson for our Wolverhampton, is that as we make that sort of change and investment in the City Centre to keep our city relevent. My contention is that We need to make a similar investment in our own neighbourhoods and districts. My view is that here in Wednesfield North we are just a short step from being able to deliver all that we need for our locality, we have fab volunteers who work hard to deliver all sorts of social change, from Park Runs through to ‘Wednesfield in Bloom’, they are turning drab grey into green vitality. Initiatives and developments energy and forward thinking. We have that sort of start here in Wednesfield, perhaps we should look with a little more intensity in Wolverhampton. Could we deliver this sort of thinking as Wolverhampton (along with all its neighbours) faces up to the Global Climate Emergency. We as a City Council have already declared!”

Lets believe in Wolverhampton and Wednesfield, lets join in the debate on what should come next!