Category Archives: History and Heritage

Tommy Larkin – “Bilston for Bilstonians”

Last night we had the Inauguration of Wolverhampton’s New Mayor Cllr Greg Brackenridge. Marking his term of Office as Mayor of the City of Wolverhampton.

Sadly I have found out that former Cllr Tom Larkin of Bilston passed away, that very afternoon. Tom was a very well know local historian, he was Bilston through and through. I like to think of him as a friend.

He certainly wasn’t enamoured by the then Governments changes to Local Government in 1966, which placed his beloved Bilston into Wolverhampton. Nor the following changes in 1974 which created the West Midlands County Council.

Its true to say that the ‘Bilston for Bilstonians’ – was a slogan that Tom never let die. I had many a debate over the years with Tom, about the move that took Bilston’s independence away. I liked Tom Larkin, his energy, his love of Local History, his passion and drive not to lose the past.

Now I want to wish his wife and family our deepest sympathy and condolences. Long may you live Tom in your writings, and in the memories of your friends and family.

Date for Your Diary-Commemoration Event Wednesfield – Road Closure

A Commemoration Event to facilitate the Commemoration event of the Battle of Saragarhi 1897: This will result in a closure of roads in Wednesfield while the event takes place, on the 12th of September 2021.

• Rookery Street closed its entire length in both directions.
• Well Lane close in both directions between its junctions with Rookery Street/High Street and Kenmare Way.
• High Street closed in both directions between its junctions with Rookery Street/Well Lane and Alfred Squire Road.
Vehicular Diversion Route: New Cross Avenue, Wednesfield Way, Neachells Lane, Alfred Squire Road and vice versa

Happy Birthday Ed Doolan!

Time to Remember…Today would have been Ed Doolan’s 80th Birthday.

Ed was a presenter of BBC Radio WM.

One of the big names of Local Broadcasting. Ed’s show was one of those current affairs shows that attracted lots of Local radio listeners.

Sadly Ed is no longer with us. An Aussie by nationality, and a fierce defender of Brum…take a minute to wish the big man a heavenly Happy Birthday. Plus remember just one snippet of any one of the thousands of interviews he made during his reign of the airwaves here where you live…

Me? I have so many memories where he made me mad, Made me laugh, Today we are told we will be baking in 30 degree heat, and it would not be unusual on a day like today, for Ed to phone me, Put me on the air. Ask me how the regions bus and later trams were doing in the heat. Then he would ask me what level of service we would be operating on Christmas Day and Boxing Day!. Thats my memory for today on Ed’s Birthday? What s your’s…….?

Time to Remember!

Happy Birthday Dad! Born June 28th 1913 – Today would have been your Birthday. Wonder what you would make of the World, if you were still around?

Spent sometime remembering the memories. Life is what we make it. Rest In Peace – content that those you left behind are doing all we can to make our lives, and our communities, fitting for the day and the time.

HRH – The Duke of Edinburgh

HRH – The Duke of Edinburgh
In light of the sad news about His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh the Council’s flag is flying at half mast and will be until 0800am on the day following the Funeral in line with Government Guidance. The Council has posted the following message.

“It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the death of His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. On behalf of the council and the people of the city of Wolverhampton, we extend our sincere condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family as this sad time.”

We will be having an on-line books of condolence and these will be made available shortly via the following link http://condolences.wolverhampton.gov.uk/ . We are awaiting further guidance from Government on key issues over the weekend.

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
prosperity.”

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.

Wednesfield’s Local Nature Reserve- The Curley Wurley!

The good old ‘Curley Wurley’ looking good. In this photo you can see why the old timers who used the canal, called it the ‘Curley Wurly’ as you can see two bends in this photograph. It is more than 225 years old, and used to be a prime route for moving Coal from the South Staffordshire Coal Pits to the Black Country urban area.

Now a much valued designated Local Nature Reserve declared in 2017, it is a very valued local amenity. Some real British iconic wildlife use it as a ‘wildlife highway’. Badgers, Fox, Otter, Kingfisher, Heron.

I am keen to read about what else have you seen, and even perhaps photographed? Please let me know!

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.