Pole position

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Reg Moriis – or Sam’s Son – was larger-than-life, and raised thousands and thousands for charity in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Lying on beds of nails, pole-sitting, pushing a ball bearing up the High Street with his nose – feats of daring and silliness were no obstacle. Image from Julie Le Moine.

Reader Tim Chilton commented here the other day on one of my very first local history posts, raising the question of a local author, Coombe House and pole-sitting daredevils. I thought his comment was worth making an article from, as it raises a piece of history I’ve neglected, and another that shows how far this blog has come in five years or so.

Unusually, I’m going to break down Tim’s comment into sections.

Tim Wrote:

A few questions.

Has anyone read the book The Face by john Petty as a description of the area in the very early 1950’s?

Yes, I and several other readers are John petty fans – I commend his work to anyone who wants to see the true postwar Black Country, but it’s hard going; John himself had a turbulent relationship with the town, and sometimes said he was from Stoke.

John is a great, under appreciated local author who really points up the lie of ‘The Good Old Days’. However, his work can be hard going; like Thomas Hardy, there’s not much light in there; it’s any colour you want, as long as that’s black.

I irritated Walsall Local History Centre on Twitter once, when they broadcast the news that they’d had lead stolen from the roof, and I asked if it was as part of a John Petty tribute.. but seriously, if you haven’t, at the very least bag a copy of Five Fags a Day and The Face and read them.

Dave Hodgkinson, one of the most longstanding local history writers is also a massive John Petty fan.

Tim continues:

I can confirm that Coombe House was used by the Engineers in the early 1950’s. My father worked there, and at the weekends gleaned coal from the gardens, Mother claims the seams surfaced there.

Yes. We found out quite a bit about Coombe House, and it’s featured in the Brownhills Cinefilm Club’s film that Brian Stringer kindly donated to the blog last year – for those that don’t know, it stood on Coppice Lane, just after the old, removed railway bridge on the left.

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Coombe House, from the Brownhills Cinefilm Club 1963 film. Click on the image to watch the film.

Coombe house was demolished in the early 70s after a period of dereliction, before which it had been a short-lived nightclub, the Brownhills Urban District Council’s Engineers Offices and before that, the home and surgery of Dr. Bradford.

In the Brownhills film, we see engineers at work. Clearly, smoking at work was not the taboo then it later came to be:

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Engineers pore over plans in Coombe House. Love the phone. Click on the image to watch the film.

It’s perfectly feasible that there was coal in the grounds; the seams were shallow here, and the clay pit behind (now landfilled) opencast coal in the late 70s. Shallow seams right over the common were bellpitted in the earliest stages of Brownhills industrial history.

Tim concludes with a belter:

But my question, in around 1950-2 as a stunt did someone live at the top of a pole? Odd and maybe distorted childhood memory?

Short answer: no idea – can anyone help?

Something rings a bell about a polesitter either outside the Arboretum or near Bloxwich. Can anyone help?

There was, of course, the redoubtable and larger than life Brownhillian Reg ‘Sam’s Son’ Morris, who was a noted daredevil, stuntman and pole sitter who raised thousands for charity over the years via a variety of madcap and brave feats from the 70s-90s.

Reg sadly passed away around 2004, I think.

Reg was a well loved man locally, and was regularly to be found lying on beds of nails or broken glass at the carnival, fire eating or other stuff for charity. Once, he even pushed a ball bearing the length of Brownhills High Street with his nose – he was featured on the local TV news for that!

In 1984 (I think), he undertook a long pole-sit in a barrel outside the Spring Cottage in Shelfield, the tales of which are somewhat legendary. But I think there was an earlier pole sitter, and Reg isn’t who Tim was thinking of.

If you have any ideas, or memories – of Reg too, as I’ve sadly neglected him in the past – please do comment. Either here on the post, or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

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Reg either before or after his pole-sit outside the Spring Cottage in Sheffield, mid 1980s. Image from the Express & Star or Observer; Image supplied by Marie Tallica-Morris.

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21 Responses to Pole position

  1. Mike Stackhouse says:

    Reg sat up the pole, at the top of Lichfield Road, but that would be in the sixties as we had left school. Reg wrote a book while we were at school and the english teacher (at Central Boys) Phylis Taylor was instrumetal in getting it published. I cannot remember what the tile was. He did the pole stunt at The Spring Cottage at Shelfield some time after. Reg did various stunts (Top picture shows the Bed of nails on Holland park). He pulled wagons, Fire engines and other stunts for charity. His daughter contacted me after she had saw an item about him (and that other extraordinary Brownhills entertainer Adrian Wigley) on my own blog. However I do have a recollection of reading about another upthepole stunt being done when i was little, but I never saw that. Reg was originally trained as a metalergist, but I cannot remember for who he worked, His daughter contacted me after my blog was run, to let me know that he had died. She also told me that he went by the name of SON OF SAM and not what he always told me he was called, which was Sams Son.

  2. pat says:

    Reg Morris also did a pole sitting outside the Sportsman Brownhills ,That is where he met his future wife .

  3. Pat Coton (nee Hodgkins) says:

    Reg used to work at Edward Rose Ltd on the Pelsall Road in the sixties and he was Union works covener, for a time. Remember him well, always doing something for charity.

  4. John Anslow says:

    I recall some fellow squatting in a barrel on top of a pole: it was on the corner of Broadway and Lichfield Street, opposite the Arboretum Lodge. I remember seeing him from the top deck of a (number 11?) bus going into Walsall. I guess it would have been about 1955 and the stunt attracted a lot of attention from the local press. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a spate of these bizarre events round the country, and I think the chap returned a year or so later to repeat the performance.

  5. fb. lycett says:

    pole squatting took place on the corner opposite the arbouretum, at club premises owned by a man named Baron Power, among other things, he also owned a small engineering works in Parkside, Bloxwich and served on the essential work order panel in Walsall during the second world war.

  6. Nick says:

    Anyone remember his attempt to eat 98 Mars bars? Did he ever attempt it?

  7. ivor230240 says:

    I can confirm that there was a Pole Squatter opposite the Arboretum Lodge in 1955. I had to travel through Walsall on my away to work in Washwood Heath in the months between Easter and the end of September 1955, it was the year I left School at Brownhills Centrall

  8. david oakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    Going back to the early 1950’s, by the arboretum, the first pole-squatter was a chap called Vic Reeves from Bloxwich. The pole was located outside the “New Yorker” café/restaurant which stood directly opposite the arboretum entrance but on the other side of the road, on the corner of Lichfield street. The event attracted large crowds , most evenings.

  9. Paul Thacker says:

    And there I am in the background, hands in pocket, with my Dad, Mom, Nan, and younger cousin in the pushchair (my sister obscured behind Reg). I have, however, no memory of being there or watching Reg on this occasion. I do remember him sat in a barrel at the top of a pole outside the Sportsman.

  10. aerreg says:

    re reg morris corect his first pole site was by the arbouritum cafe at walsall there is a story about tthe couple who went on holiday from walsall to black pool and booked a mistery tour there only to find out it was to walsall to see the man up the pole i have got a photograph of him but have not yet learned how to put it on screne coombe house was dr bradfords i saw my first domestic fridge there whilste workin as a lad with the chasetown electric company my inlaws lived in the bottom right hand corner flat were foxes row was many time we walked that black pad by the way how many wilf b

    rememember the mini race track of osker johnson it was half way down no not the trotting track that was pool lane another thought who remembers the old wooden surgery ov bradford and pattrson up church hill by the scout master wilf brickley aer reg

  11. aerreg says:

    before we came to live in heath hayes we lived in chester road north in what was known as the3 fire mens houses opposite the hussey arms why the fire mens house retained and full time fire men lived in them iwa

    s a retained byke dashers when the house bell calle the reason i mentioned this is the out crot coal when digging the botom of the the garden the soil had out crop in it there i a phto graph given to me by my father of people digging out crop on coppice side its on the history circiot i have shared it with others on the subject of shares i have one of the the first shares sold bought by my father when they knocked the top club down to pay for the new one it cost a pound sorry i ramble on but you have given me mutch happines god blless aerreg

    • Reg, don’t apologise – you’re a treasure. Thank you.

      Best wishes
      Bob

      • aerreg says:

        hi bob thanks for your comments wen yove got a wick to spare pop in ar dow talk a lot as young david evans and me olld mate bill mayo will tell you but sincerly thank you god bless my apolagies for poor texing ime self taught driving the family bonkers god bless aaer reg

  12. Heather says:

    My dad miss him so much he died November. the 17th of 2004 xx

  13. Mary Scott says:

    I remember being taken to see a man sitting on top of a pole by the Arboretum. My dad was entranced by it!

  14. Pingback: Reg Morris – a great Brownhillian | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  15. Mr r says:

    ……..”The pole-sitter was Vic Reeves of Bloxwich. He spent over 31 days in the barrel on top of a forty foot pole as part of an endurance test, sponsored by the cafe’s owner Claude Roe.

    “The event took place from July 19 to August 19, 1952. This was a world record, and as of the time Mr. Reeves died (June 2001) it still was a record.

    “While he was in the barrel, Mr. Roe fed Mr. Reeves by sending food and drink up on a rope. It is not recorded what he did with the waste products!”

  16. CLIVE POOLE says:

    WEL NEW REG FOR A LONG TIME HE LIVED WITH US IN 3 AVE HI WAS WITH HIME ALL THE TIME HE WAS UP THE POLE A SHELFILD AND BROWNHILLS SPORT MEN GOOD MAN HE DID SOME PINTS

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