Homing and racing pigeons are strong in the hearts of local folk. There was at one time a huge pigeon keeping culture in Brownhills and Walsall Wood, now sadly on the wane. I can remember being in the Black Cock pub in Bullings Heath, Walsall Wood in the early 90s on a Friday evening and watching as the local club clocked in birds and prepared for the weekend’s sport.
The champion pigeons locally are celebrated – the silhouette of one even made it onto the Walsall Wood Pithead sculpture. A few weeks ago I found some great film in the Mace media archive recording pigeon fanciers at Ogley Club in Brownhills, where I asked about recollections and past champions.
Local chap, friend of the blog and former Crabtree employee Fred Butler responded kindly with a great photo.
Fred responded to the original post:
The champion pidgeon you are refering to, I would think will be ‘Breakaway who was owned and trained by Ronnie Green from the locality.
Ron and Breakaway were registered in the Guiniess Book of Records for their feat, I am not sure as to whether the record still stands.
If readers would be interested I have a photo of RG when he worked with me being presented with a copy of the book by the management of Crabtree.
And later, with the photo:
As requested here is the photo of Ronnie Green receiving a copy of the Guiniess Book of Records to commemorate the inclusion of himself and his champion pidgin Breakaway.
The guys making the presentation was Mr Walter Purser, Manufacturing Director of Crabtree, Mr Peter Williams, Works Manager, and Mr Don Scragg , Production Manager.
This raises a couple of interesting questions, too. I’m still after information, photos and ephemera relating to the pigeon fanciers. This was a massive hobby and little seems to survive in the photographic or historical record. I think we should try and correct that, and Fred’s picture and information are a great start.
Thanks, as ever, to Fred for that.
Secondly, local companies – we had lots, and they weren’t just factories, they were small communities, most now long gone. Crabtree, Edward Rose, Strumech, Geometry International, Superalloys, Ryford, Rowanarc, Flip, Binks Bullows, Lew Ways, Carvers. So many places of work lost, yet so little in the historical archives.
What do you know? Please comment here or BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.
Knowing very little of pigeon racing, I came across a link to a fascinating and sometimes disconcerting mine of information…
PIGEON RACING AND WORKING-CLASS CULTURE IN BRITAIN, c. 1870–1950.
“One miner noted that many of his peers ‘became as knowledgeable about Charles Darwin and his principles of selectivity as he was about Humphrey Davy and the principles underlying the safety lamp”
As a point of interest I would point out that there were two local lads in Fred Butler’s picture. Don Scragg, the Production Manager was born and lived in Lichfield Road, Shire Oak, son of Joe Scragg who drive for Collins’s and was the Sunday School Superintendent at the House of Prayer, Coppice Road in the 1930’s/40’s. Sadly, I believe Don died, shortly afterwards.
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Ron Green was a big friend of my father Johnny Bailes who was a keen pigeon flyer also. He ran the flying club at Ogley WMC. They also raced at the Black Cock pub and Grangemoor in Burntwood and one in Pelsall too. The whole family would be involved. Cleaning the lofts and baskets out..(hoping for pocket money!) I used to type up the results from the Saturday race on an old black typewriter. The whole family went to the presentation evenings! We still have certificates, trophies, photos etc.
I grew up with pigeons my granddad was Denis Hewitt from Coppice Road every Saturday night he would stand waiting for his pigeons to come home. We were only allowed half way down the garden when they were racing and never allowed to make sudden movements. I can still hear him shouting “come on” and shaking his pigeon corn tin and I have just watched the video above and swear he is in the background in the first few seconds!
Bit of info about Geometry International. I started there in 1971 as a 15 year old and it was then called W.J. Harris, making school equipment, My first job was putting the points in compasses or rivettng the 2 legs together. But I moved to the printing press section.
It later changed its name to Geometrix, in line with what it actually manufactured and later on to Geometry international. It was run by the Cook family, Fred and his son Michael, and Ken and his son Robert. Many years later Michaels brother Jeff joined the firm , and Michaels son Jonathon. Obviously confusing with them all being Cooks, we called them Mr [ Christian name] . Mr Fred was a very quiet man, who worked on the shop floor as a tool setter, His brother Ken tended to work more in the office and came across quite stern and boss like. . My fave boss was Mr Robert, an ex policeman and religious man who did a lot with the youth of Aldridge. They were good bosses and Robert especially interacted with the workers,had a laugh and joke and bought them cold drinks and ice lollies in hot weather. Also the occasional cake. There were lots of families worked there, my family alone, my Mom, sister , 2 or 3 Aunties, and at least 4 cousins worked there at various times on different shifts. the day shift 8am -5pm [ with an hour for dinner and a a 10 minute tea break at 10am ] The nightshift worked 5pm – 9.30pm I met my husband there, he was the van driver delivering out work to lots of local people during the day, he also opened up the factory, and worked the day and night shift some days and closed up at night.
There was a moulding section where the plastics rulers, protractors ,set squares were made, at first just clear but over the years all sorts of colours. Then a printing section where the indentations were burned into the plastic on large presses. i can remember we sometimes had orders to print other items, like the lids on those large catering tubs of Kraft margerine. The power presses i think made the metal parts of compasses / dividers and the hand presses shaped them and inserted the points. The warehouse was where they put the whole lot together in pencil cases or tins that were elsewhere.[ erasers pencils and sharpeners were also imported if i remember right] There would be a row of girls, the first might open the case, and put the plastic insert in, the next few girls would add their components and at the end the lovely lady in charge, [ Marg Taylor] would check all contents in and close up and someone would be boxing them up , Their biggest competitor was Helix . At first we worked by the gross, i became an expert at the 144 x table lol but after decimalisation it switched to 100s which was easier. I left to have a baby after 11 years, But Mr Robert got in touch with me and a couple of other girls who’d worked the printers and also left to have children, to ask if we would come back, for a while, They had some rush orders and although they could set new staff on it took a while to build up speed, so we would go in and help out at busy times and then have a break when the work slacked off, I finally left 1995 when my youngest started school as although my parents loved having the kids I thought it was too much them having to do the school runs in all weathers. I thought it was a great place to work and a great bunch of work mates, we had the radio on at times and a sing song, Happy times,