Sunshine after rain

Gwen James002

A party for a community heroine. Image courtesy Robert Booth, via David Evans.

Here’s a great piece of local history I’m proud and happy to feature here on the blog for readers to peruse: the autobiography of local lady and community champion Gwen James.

The work, entitled ‘Sunshine after Rain’ was published some time ago, around 1998 (it’s dated 1997), and was published in a small, local run as these things often are. Scant information is available online, but it’s a hundred page gem of a book, that gives much information on Brownhills from 1909 until modern days.

Sunshine after Rain has been scanned in what must have been a marathon effort by David Hodgkinson, the great-grandfather of Brownhills history online, without whom, this blog would never have existed. He is a star, a great friend of the blog and a top bloke. Thank you.

Sunshine after Rain is just the thing to read on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or pop it onto your tablet or e-reader to dip in and out of; it also has a great index, unusual in such a book.

You can download the whole work by clicking the following link:

Sunshine after Rain by Gwen James – PDF format – 22 megabytes

It’s a large file and will take a while to download on slow connections.

Gwen James001

Gwen was at the heart of the Brownhills community. Image courtesy Robert Booth, via David Evans.

I won’t say anything about the content yet, as I don’t want to lead the audience, but there will be much to provoke discussion here, and it’s all welcome. Comment or mail me as you see fit.

I hearby pay tribute to Gwen and her tireless work and dedication to the community, something often, and sadly overlooked by the powers that be. A tireless servant to her area, we all owe her a huge debt.

Here’s an article about Gwen from the Brownhills Gazette Issue 23, from August 1991 which says more about this remarkable lady than I in my ineloquence and fumbling ever could.


Gwen James, recognition for a remarkable lady. From the Brownhills Gazette, August 1991.

Thanks to David Hodgkinson the scanmeister, David Evans who sourced the pictures, and of course, to Gwen.

This entry was posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, It makes me mad!, Local History, Local media, Local politics, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Sunshine after rain

  1. Pat Coton (nee Hodgkins) says:

    What a truly remarkable Lady she was. She also ran the Methodist Youth Club in Clayhanger Lane for many years. And I can tell you that everyone took note when she asked you to do anything. She was loved by everyone. My Friend Wendy and I used to walk to her house on Pelsall Road and then walk her down to the Chapel for the club. She was such an interesting lady and had our full attention at all times, we used to have some lovely chats on the way to the club and on the walk back, and often stayed for a chat and a piece of her mums homemade cake before returning home. I loved and admired her greatly.

  2. ivor230240 says:

    The minister is the Rev Tom Shaw who moved to Whitchurch, Shropshire about 1956, the lady to whom the presentation is being made is his wife. Tom was a marvellous character, a lovely man and a powerful preacher.

  3. Pedro says:

    In the second paragraph of the book we come across something that had caused much prior discussion…Coppice Farm!

    ‘My grandparents moved from Pelsall Road to Coppice Side, Brownhills after their tenth child was born, to a very old and historic house known as ‘The Old Tommy Shop* which was the last “Tommy Shop” to close under the Truck Act in 1876 in Staffordshire. At the age of forty my grandfather started to build up his farm. He was born at this house and followed the Marklew family who had been tenants of the Squire MacPhereson for over one hundred years…..

    This links with In the articles “Token of my respect” and “Just William.”

    “William Marklew was born 1858 to Charles and Harriet Marklew at a very old historic house which the Marklew Family had rented from Squire Macphereson for over one hundred years it was known as Coppice Farm……When there first son, ‘Walter’, was born in 1881, they moved out of the farm house and brought a house in Pelsall Road but after the birth of their tenth child the family moved to a very old historic building known as, “The Old Tommy Shop” near to Coppice Colliery Pit No 5 in Engine lane and the Brickmaking Kiln. The people who worked at the kiln were paid in kind at the,” Tommy-Shop” which William ran.

  4. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    a huge thanks to Scanmeister David H and to your goodself.
    kind regards

  5. aerreg says:

    I remember GWEN from early days when the family lived in lichfield riiiioad iwas reared at 113 oposite a mosted respected family the youth club days at clayhanger was very popular and again respected I was priverliged to share fellowship in my later years with the groups who gathered in the school room on one ocasion SOUND SCENCE a sound recording company got permission to record a harvest supper their comments the acuistics were fantastic yes wonderful person family and happy memories my brother ended his days in manchester but over the years he would often ask reg do you ever see so and so from the old youth club we had some great times godbless


  6. Pedro says:

    I think we have another example of stories that get a little mixed up.

    In 1921 Gwen was told that Arthur Cook, the miner’s agent, was leading a big crowd of miners with big sticks and shouting “Out with the black-legs, out with the traitors”. They were on their way to Bug Row Common in Coppice Side where the miners had Slaked out their plot and were digging down right underneath the ground and bringing up tons of coal. This was being sold to big coal depots and factories in Walsall and Birmingham.

    AJ Cook’s politics were just to the left of Brownhills Bob; in 1919 he was elected as miners’ agent for the Rhondda No1 district, and in 1920 left the coal-face. He had gained a seat on the South Wales Miners Federation Executive Council and therefore access to MFGB conferences. In January 1921 was chosen as representative for SW on the MFGB Executive. He certainly played a significant role in the events of 1921, including spending four months in jail, but his involvement was in South Wales.

    The probable confusion would come from the events of 1926 when Arthur had rose to the top of the Miner’s Federation; he was touring the country addressing miner’s meetings. He spoke at Heath Hayes and Pelsall, but was later stopped from speaking again at Heath Hayes by the Chief of police for Staffordshire.

    There is a picture on the Blog showing Bug Row and coal picking which may well be in 1921…

    Although there was a good deal of coal that could be collected and used by the local colliers, I cannot find any evidence that there was sufficient to supply factories in Walsall and Birmingham. In May of 1921 the representatives of South Staffs spoke against the picking of coal that was sold for industrial purposes saying that it should be confined to the pickers’ own homes. There were districts such as Rowley Regis, Cradley Heath and Dudley where much slack was being removed, and as much as 100 tons per day at Old Hill.

  7. David Evans says:

    Hi Pedro
    slowly, and amazingly, the pieces come together! My dear old friend Dolly Wadey ,nee Anslow , now sadly passed away, clearly recalled one of her very early childhood memories, of being carried on her coal-miner father’s shoulders from Walsall Wood to attend a very big meeting of miners on Pelsall Common, in 1926!
    many thanks ,Pedro

    kind regards


  8. Pingback: Twenty six ladies, a trophy and an upcoming school reunion. What do you know? | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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