Was yer ferther a miner?

Postcard view of the Grove Colliery, from the book 'Brownhills and Walsall Wood on old picture postcards' by Jan Farrow.

I had a lovely email from Janet Whittaker, who regular readers will remember asked last week about the grave of her grandfather, John Bernard Whittaker. John died in the Grove Pit Disaster in 1930, and Janet, her family having moved away from the area, enquired as to the whereabouts of his grave. On Sunday, I posted photos of the grave, and details of how to find it.

Hi Bob,

I couldn’t believe it when I opened the mail this morning and saw that you had not only put yourself out to find the grave, but taken the pictures and provided us with such detailed information.  I thought we had probably left it too late to find before the memorial service on the 2nd. I can’t thank you enough,  I am hoping that you might be at the service and we can thank you personally,  although I think it will be very emotional for us.

My father Arthur Whittaker was born in 1915 and had one brother Howard.  My father had to identify his father as my Gran was too upset.  Howard did not have any children so my 3 brothers and myself are the only direct relatives of John.  My father had Alzheimer’s before his death in 1999 so we have very limited information about the past as like many people we left it too late to take an interest.

I used to visit my gran Leah Whittaker (nee Dunn) who lived in Lawley Close. My Gran had a niece that lived in Browhills that we also used to visit.  I remember the working mens clubs as my father always used to get up and sing, and my Gran used recite  poems.  Going back to John Whittaker he had 15 brothers and sisters, my brother Terry has done quite a lot of work on the family tree, but we have yet to find any direct descendants. John’s brother Samson used to play for Aston Villa for several years.

Thanks again Janet

It was a real pleasure to help here. This is the kind of thing I love doing – direct engagement with the history of our area, and even though the subject matter is tragic, there is a kind of completion that this story has encompassed that brings a certain satisfaction. In a way, the circle is unbroken.

I wish Janet and her family well. It seems appropriate at this point to quote that son of Browhills, miner, chorister, poet and balladeer, George Fullelove. George founded the Brownhills Male Voice Choir, lived in High Street, Brownhills and the octagonal brick shelter at the bottom of The Parade in Brownhills was erected in is memory following his death in 1956, and a road on the Catshill estate was also named after him.

Was Yer Ferther A Miner?

Was yer ferther a miner like mine
Did he work in the dirt and the grime
Went to work on a byke, used a bow saw and pike
To dig out black diamonds that shine?
Was yer ferther a wrecked body like mine
Through working in dust, no sunshine
His shuky was his light, damaging God’s given sight
Deep in the dark bowel face of the mine?
Did he take a piece of best Sunday cake
Ter give to the pit pony, whose poor limbs ached
As he dragged a pit tub through rubbish-sludge
So mine owners their profit could make?
Did he bath by the fire in a tub
Un yer mother his marked back did scrub
Scratch caused by low roof, scars plain making proof
Of the days of pit-props and horse hoof?
Did he often sit and tell the old tale
Of disaster and pain that prevailed
When the roof tumbled in – rock ripped at the skin
And sight of widows – children their faces pale?
But if you asked this old ferther of mine
Ter tell yer about it, his old eyes would shine
No sad tale to tell, of the Muck – the Hell
But would proudly boast
‘Ar them days of hard work were mine’.
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6 Responses to Was yer ferther a miner?

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