Before the water level rises to such an extent that the residents of Brownhills and Walsall Wood are all encamped on Shire Oak Hill waiting for the waters to recede, I’d like to wish all readers, contributors and friends of this odd little blog a very merry Christmas and a very happy, peaceful and prosperous new year.
This, it is almost impossible for me to believe, is the fourth Christmas greeting post I’ve written, and upon writing each of them, I’ve always expected it to be the last one. I can’t see that there’s much left to our local history to explore or write about. However, every time I feel like that, something new tumbles out of the ether and it’s all go again. I have no idea where it all comes from, and even less where it’s all going. As long as there’s stuff to write about, I’ll keep doing it as long as folk like you keep reading.
For those who like keeping track, the traffic to the Brownhills Blog has continued it’s trend of doubling every year. It’s currently doing between 7,000-10,000 hits a week, a figure that again, I feel is utterly unjustified. I can, however, see a trend to level out now, and think it’s probably now at the maximum it can achieve.
This is the 1,380th post, and there are about 5,000-odd original comments. None of this would have been possible, or indeed, worked at all if readers like you hadn’t got involved and so tirelessly donated time, historical ephemera, comment and support. This year, with my job becoming far more demanding, I just couldn’t have done this without the contributions of David Evans, Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler, Andy Dennis, Gareth Thomas, Ian Pell, The Stymaster, Richard ‘Wee ginger sausage’ Burnell, David Oakley, Ann Cross, Lisa Downes and Trevor in Australia. There has also been a huge cast of others who’ve stepped up and commented, written articles or answered queries, so please don’t be offended if I haven’t mentioned you in person.
The man [Howmuch?] deserves an extra special slap on the back for constantly listening to me being boring, making wild assertions and doing lots of running around. Without his tireless work, many articles here wouldn’t get to see the light of day. He really is a great pal and partner in crime.
Another thing that this year filled me with pride was seeing David Evans selflessly organise the talk by Gerald Reece, which raised so much for MacMillan and proved to be such a great night’s entertainment. To see blog readers and the folk of Brownhills come together for such a thing was inspiring, humbling and wonderful. David and Gerald both selflessly donated huge amounts of time and energy to that event which I’ll never be able to thank either of them enough for.
Gerald Reece, too, has accepted my challenges to his work and knowledge with extremely fine grace and humility. If I can ever write anything in a way that’s even 10% as thorough and engaging as he does, I’ll be a very happy man.
The Walsall Local History Centre are vital to what I do, as are other local bloggers and the online community. The YamYam, and it’s creator, Mark Blackstock have continued to promote me and the Walsall online community extensively (not forgetting Paul Daniel, whose top flight geekery keeps it running), and the support of great local writers like Linda Mason, Aiden MacHaffie, Stuart Williams, The Plastic Hippo, Jayne Howarth, Kate Goodall, Susan Marie Ward, Kate ‘Lichfield Lore’ Gomez and others has been crucial.
There’s a revolution happening – Walsall and South Staffordshire has one of the most vibrant, diverse online communities I know. Explore it. Join the conversation.
I know that many folk find what I do and write annoying, or irritating. I make no apologies that I’m very opinionated and have very definite ideas about the things I write about. I do like to think, though, that whilst readers may not agree with my views, the history stuff I do is worth something. When I talk about history here, I know I’m scarcely right. What’s important is the conversation, and the recording of it. Time and time again we’ve got together round an enquiry, assertion or question, chewed the fat and hammered the truth out. These things continue to shake out, be they small lost squares of housing, the history of local industrial dynasties, or odd and forgotten towers on railway embankments.
What is most important to me is establishing and recording our collective history through conversation, memory and existing media like mapping. Recording that conversation in it’s entirety, unedited, is vital to this. I actively invite readers to prove me wrong, argue the toss or challenge accepted wisdom. It’s by having this conversation here that stuff moves forward. We are now in an age where local history belongs to all of us, not just a few self-appointed experts. It is our duty to challenge what they say, what we ourselves know and record stuff accurately for the coming generations. Let’s continue to kick over the statues together.
So on this wet Christmas Eve morning, when it seems like it’ll never stop raining, I wish all readers, contributors and above all, friends, a happy Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous and wonderful new year.
Thanks to you all.