High roller

Clipping taken from an unspecified paper, dated only 1971. Supplied by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.

I’ve received a curious little snippet from a reader of the blog who wishes to remain anonymous. This clipping from an unknown paper specified only as ‘from 1971’, is an interesting snapshot of the life of Brownhills businessman Ralph Ferrie. Ralph passed away a long while ago now, and I’m unclear what happened to his not inconsiderable empire. I believe he lived at Shire Oak House, on the Lichfield Road at Sandhills, which was converted to a nursing home a couple of decades ago. Little seems to exist online about the man who owned and operated a number of commercial vehicle businesses – Brownhills Commercials for one. After his passing, his empire just ceased to exist. Very puzzling.

Ralph played a large part in the social and civic life of the town, his Rolls being the one that usually led the carnival procession. There’s actually a street named after him that crosses Pier Street – Ferrie Grove – but I believe that’s the only municipal nod to this seemingly larger than life character. I’ve mentioned him before here on the blog, but his life still seems a little opaque; rumour was he made a lot of money from war scrap, possibly in a yard near the Fox Covey between Aldridge and Walsall Wood, but I’ve never seen proof of that. He was a leading light in the local Round Table and did much for charity, or so it would seem.

What happened to Ralph’s businesses? His vehicle collection? There seems to be little remnant of this once dynamic commercial force. Any reader contributions on the matter are most welcome.

It’s worth noting that McNeillie, mentioned in the article as the vehicle restorers, still exist and are one of Walsall’s world famous businesses, specialising in the armouring of ordinary vehicles.

A taste of former glory has been revived for a vintage 1928 Rolls Royce coupe.

Rescued from the scrap heap by Mr. Ralph Ferrie, of Brownhills Motor Sales, it has been renovated at considerable cost and will now be added to his considerable collection of cars and commercial vehicles.

The coupe was discovered in a petrol station at Donisthorpe, Leicestershire, and Mr. Ferrie arranged for it to be brought to Walsall.

The renovation was carried out by S. McNeillie, a Walsall firm of coach builders, and on Thursday last it was champagne all round as the Rolls was re-launched.

In 1937 the car was bought by Dr. Herbert Cubitt Lacey of London who subsequently changed the body from a coupe to a saloon and registered it with a new number.

The Rolls has now been converted back to a coupe and its original number restored.

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11 Responses to High roller

  1. David Oakley says:

    Hi Bob, The Ferrie family was well-known in Walsall Wood well before the creation of Brownhills Motor Sales and if Ralph was a larger-than -life character in Brownhills, well, so was his father before him in Walsall Wood in
    the late ’30’s and the wartime 40’s. Charles Ferrie was a farmer, farming Grange Farm just off Walsall Wood Road, Aldridge. The farm did have some fields adjoining rhe fox covey so they could well have been used at a later date for purposes other than farming. I picked potato in those fields during the war, Charles Ferrie would be driving the tractor and being a man of uncertain temper would roar loudly at any picker who hadn’t cleared his length of potatoes by ther time the tractor came round again. Incidentally we were paid two shillings (10p) a day for eight hours of back-breaking work!
    Charles’s first love appeared to be horses and I think the embryo metal scrap and motor side of the business was left to elder son, Ralph. There was a younger son, Wilf, who worked on the farm as a teenager but I’ve no idea what he went on to do in later life. Charles had an enthusiasm for “trotters”.
    the American style racing with lightweight rigs and could often be seen in the streets of Walsall Wood putting a trotter through its paces. I understand that he
    built a trotting track in Brownhills West, somewhere close to Chasewater. Would that be the later site for Brownhills Motor Sales? Whether the track ever went into full commission, I don’t know, but I understand that the only other working track was at Prestatyn. Truly a minority sport.
    Charles also owned a “Brake” which was a horse-drawn charabanc which would seat about thirty people. On Sunday evenings in the summer he would run trips into the local countryside, loading up at the front of the “Brickmakers Arms” in Salters Road.
    Charles Ferrie never cared for appearances, a large man, wearing a cloth cap slightly to one side with a coloured neckerchief about his neck, he had the appearance of a typical horse-dealer of the time, but I’ll always remember him as the only farmer who provided a hot drink for his potato-pickers, mid-morning, and I worked for quite a few as a lad, during the war.
    I understand that Grange Farm and its land was sold for housing in the time of the Ferries, if so, the proceeds from the sale would have gone a long way towards the capitalisation of the subsequent Brownhills enterprise and its success in which, apparently Ralph played such a major part.

    • Thanks, David, that’s a remarkable post. I’m digesting that carefully. There was clearly something going on unp there, as even kids in the 70’s and 80’s were finding huge quantities of what appeared to be unfired bullets (just the bullet is elf, not the casing), in such quantities and distribution as you wouldn’t get from just a firing range.
      Trouble is, nobody seems to remember much about it.

      Cheers for a wonderful contribution


  2. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    Mr Ferrie’s car had a personalised number plate, I believe. The fox covey “yielded” numerous live things, including some sort of mortars, which were inert. The bullets weren’t! …..or so I believe! Perhaps avid readers may be able to add to this! HIs big house had a sign, “The Private residence of…” .


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    hi i was born on grange farm and am the eldest daughter of ralph ferrie and love this blog thanks for keeping my fathers memory alive thank u ………

  5. marie munn says:

    Hi i am one of five daughters Marie Munn (nee Ferrie) the youngest daughter of Ralph Ferrie i to wish to thank you for keeping my fathers memory alive.

  6. Susan says:

    Susan Abnett (nee Ferrie)
    Hi I am the Second eldest Daughter of Ralph Ferrie our Mother was lily Ferrie
    I wish to thank you for keeping our Fathers memory alive .

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