Breaking a long and unintentional silence today (sorry) with a post reflecting some great material that’s surfaced from the wonderful Tony Portman who’s contributed so much fine material to the blog over the years – but this time Tony has turned up something extra special for fans of the great Brownhills stunt man, fundraiser and character Reg Morris.
I’ve covered Reg a fair bit on the blog, and I feature my best article about him that wraps up some of his achievements at the foot of this post. He was a much-loved lad who was forever doing some madcap stunt for charity, and one of the most fondly remembered were his stints at pole-sitting – dwelling in a barrel atop a pole – the first of which was outside the Sportsman Pub in Brownhills, and a second more successful endeavour outside the Spring Cottage pub – now Co-op store – in Shelfield, in 1984.
Reg spent over 33 days in the barrel, consumed a fair amount of beer, and attracted a lot of media attention – but the spectacle doesn’t seem to have left much of a photographic record locally.
Thankfully, Tony Portman gave the Young David Evans this week four photos of Reg coming down from the pole, and I think you’ll agree, they’re gold.
The photos show the local fire service getting Reg down on what looks like a warm, sunny day: Local company Strumech provided the ‘pole’ (actually a Versatower, made in Brownhills for years) and a cheque is presented for £432 to charity (I can’t read which, but think it may be a leukaemia one). That was a considerable sum in those days.
I think many will be recognised in the crowd, and I’m sure the blonde man with the cheque is someone notable – but I really can’t put a name to him. Anyone?
I think we can all agree Reg was a fine man who is very sadly missed. Brownhills has never needed a character like him more than now.
I thank Tony Portman for some absolute gold here and also David Evans for his diligent scouting and scanning as ever. Sorry for not being so active lately but I’m getting to things when I can. Stay tuned, I’m not going anywhere and have an immense amount of stuff to post.
If you have anything to add, please do: Comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or shout at me on social media.
Previously on the blog…
Over the years I’ve featured on the blog, and received a very warm response to anything connected with the late, great and absolutely legendary Brownhillian Reg Morris – a man noted for his community spirit, mischief, bravery and willingness to undertake any stunt or challenge, no matter how silly or difficult.
I’ve posted here memories of the great man from his daughter, Marie and also from old pal of the blog Lisa Asby who found a recording of Reg on TV eating daffodils to support a disability support project she was involved with.
But on the whole, material relating to Reg is quite thin considering just how busy and prolific he was, which is rather sad: The lack of coverage matches the lack of carnival material we have too – and Reg often appeared at the annual event. I still find the lack of photos from these well loved events astounding, if I’m honest.
One of the most brilliant things about Reg was he never, ever took himself too seriously. Remarkable archive footage saved for posterity by the wonderful Lisa Ashby.
So I was pleased to see last week that fellow Brownhills historian David Hodgkinson had been delving in his immense collection and pulled out the article featured below from the long lost and sadly missed Walsall Advertiser of Thursday, 21st November 1996 which gives a great interview with the man himself, provides some great memory-jogging photos and also provides an handy list of some of the records Reg Morris held.
I thank David Hodgkinson here and now for his archiving diligence and for saving this one for posterity. Cheers old chap!
Reg was a remarkable man who was well loved and respected throughout the town and wider area – what do you remember of this fine, community spirited chap? Comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or tug my coat on social media. Cheers.
Fire-eater turns his hand to anything for charity
To Reg Morris, breaking world records is like pulling on his socks – something he does without thinking.
Over the last 30 years, the Brownhills man has tried everything from swallowing over eight thousand torches of fire, to spending 30 days in a beer barrel on top of a pole, and even eating a hundred maggots.
All Reg’s world record attempts have been in aid of charity, with Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital being the most regular recipient and most of them have taken place in the borough.
But the stuntman, who is a welder by trade, is now in semi-retirement after injuries limited his ambitions to a new passion – fishing.
Early in his career, the perils of life as a stuntman became apparent to Reg when he had to call off a record attempt after badly burning himself.
Reg had planned an assault on the time record for lying on a bed of nails.
Incredibly enough, however, his first serious injury didn’t come when he was performing a dangerous stunt – the Black Country daredevil set his own bed on fire after falling asleep smoking a cigarette.
‘I had been preparing myself for a bed of nails, but I wasn’t plan-ning on sleeping on a bed of flames,’ commented Reg.
The record breaker’s interest in stunts was sparked at an early age by Paulo’s Circus, which frequently parked up for the winter near Reg’s house in Clayhanger.
‘There was a large field near our house and they would keep the lions and other animals there during the winter, and my summer holidays were spent travelling with them,’ explained Reg.
‘When I was 19 I got involved with Brownhills Youth Centre.
‘The Christmas panto fell through one year and we had to put on some sketches to replace it. I decided to do some stunts like fire eating and bar bending. Several people in the audience liked it and asked me to do the act in other places.’
After a few years performing at pubs and clubs in the area, Reg, who performed under the name Sam’s Son, saw a TV show which was to change his life.
‘I saw some bloke attempting to break the fire-eating record and I knew I could do better,’ he said. ‘The Railway Tavern, in Brownhills, used to be my local and it was the headquarters of the Brownhills Tartans Jazz Band. They needed to raise money for new instruments so I suggested doing the world record in the back room of the pub.
‘I had two hours to extinguish as many single sticks of fire in my mouth consecutively as possible.’
Reg nearly doubled the record by doing 6,119 in the allotted time.
He enhanced his reputation when he appeared at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – but as a fire starter not a fire-eater!
‘One year they were short of a fire-eater for the charity Christmas show so I volunteered,’ Reg explained
‘I had to do a spinner at the end of the show which involved having a brace of fire in my mouth. The combination of paraffin and the festive alcohol was lethal.
‘I got a bit boisterous with it and it shot all over the curtains and everywhere – but they managed to douse out the flames!’
Reg was not so lucky when he went to Tokyo to do a show for the Guinness Book of Records.
Our hero was attempting to break the flame-throwing record in a large studio, when someone opened a door at the wrong time.
The flame blew back in Reg’s face.
‘I breathed it in and did myself some considerable damage.
‘I scarred my lungs and had to stop the fire-eating after that.
‘As a result I’ve still got had bronchitis’
Possibly Reg’s most famous record in the borough was his barrel squat outside the Spring Cottage, in Walk salt Wood, in 1984.
Reg spent more than 33 days 30 feet up in the air in a beer barrel, on the end of a pole.
He prepared for the record pole squat by having his had shaved for purposes of hygiene. The barrel had all the comforts of a normal home, with a sink and a toilet, but no roof.
‘When I was in the barrel I broke two other records’ said Reg.
‘I spent the longest time ever on a toilet – after sitting on it continually for 33 days. And I also got the beer drinking record.
‘While I was up there they were supplying me through a tube attached to a barrel in the Spring Cottage. I drank 11 gallons over 24 hours.
‘I’d still be in the barrel now but AnseIls couldn’t afford to keep me up there.
‘That one is in the Alternative Book of Records by Nick Barwell.’
As well as raising £1,800 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s leukaemia research unit, Reg decided to turn his talents to eating food rather than fire.
Reg raised £150 for the Manor Hospital cardiac unit by eating three-and-quarter pounds of sprouts in six minutes, taking over 12 minutes off the previous record.
More fame was to come when Reg did five record attempts in succession at the Spread Eagle Pub, in Bloxwich, in one evening.
He ate 20 fluid ounces of jelly in 9.6 seconds, 144 prunes in 16.1 seconds, 100 yards of spaghetti in 12.6 seconds, and nearly four pounds of chicken in 8.5 seconds, beating the speed consumption records for each one.
He also equalled the existing record of one minute 13 seconds for eating one pound of cheddar cheese.
Reg still does the odd eating record now, but he is not as prolific as he was: ‘Now it’s got to be for a really special cause,’ he said.
‘My chest has made me partially disabled but I don’t regret that lire-eating attempt.
‘It was an accident, but I would do it all again.’