Burntwood Family History Group
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Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal

January 2010     

Vol. 18 No. 2
Contents of this issue.
From the Chair...
News from the Secretary
Who’s the Daddy?
The Turners of Fusehill Street
Chasetown and the Belgian Refugees
Grave Humour
Reviews of Talks
A Backward Look
Padburys in Burntwood?
Parish Records of St Mary’s, Lichfield (part 4)
Bumper Stickers for Genealogists
Arising From Coal Dust, Part 16
This Issue’s Cover Photograph
From the Chair...
I am delighted to be able to tell you that both Burntwood Town Council and the Adult Community Learning Group (Staffordshire County Council) have given us grants to help us to keep offering the same facilities as last year. Burntwood Town Council has given us £340 pounds towards the purchase of a new microfiche reader. This will be used for the transcribing of Parish Registers and similar documents, as part of our ongoing project. The ACL group has agreed to pay for hire of the rooms we use for our meetings at the Old Mining College. This is a great benefit to us all as it is a lot of money, and without it we should not be able to continue to offer the use of the computer room on a monthly basis. I hope people will continue to use the facilities we have on offer, to make it all worthwhile. I shall be selling the Family History Monthly magazine at the meetings as long as it is viable and hope that a few more of you will purchase one. It is an excellent way of keeping up with the many web sites etc that are available, as well as the interesting articles on all aspects of family history research It seems to be a long way off at present, but we are hoping to organise another trip to the National Archives at Kew in May. I know a lot of you were keen to go again, if only to access the 1911 Census online free, so keep a look out for the list appearing in February. Remember, we do need your support to make sure this visit can go ahead. Hopefully, members of local gardening guilds will also come along to visit Kew Gardens. Best wishes to you all for a happy and healthy 2010 and good hunting! Jane Leake
News from the Secretary
This issue of the Journal is being produced in a slightly different that we hope you will find more ‘professional’. All the preparation work will be done in the usual way by Brian Asbury, Jan Green and me, but the complete printing, collation and assembly will be done by our printers, Colour Graphics. Distribution will be as before and this issue will be sent to all subscribed members.
Colour Graphics is a local privately owned company that has been contributing to the production of our Journal for many years. When their Principal, Steve Birch, started the company, they were quite small and concentrated mainly on photocopying from a shop unit in the Burntwood Shopping Centre. It was from there that they produced the body of the Journal from the time that I took over and redesigned it is an A5 booklet many years ago. They have since expanded into much more sophisticated printing activities and have a national market supplying many types of advertising material. They now operate from a unit on one of the Burntwood industrial estates at 18D, Cobbett Road, Zone 1 Burntwood Business Park, Chasetown, Burntwood, Staffs WS7 3GL. If anyone who reads our Journal has printing requirements, or knows of someone else who does, I am sure they would benefit from a call to Colour Graphics on 08454 564052 or a visit to their website: colour.graphics.co.uk.
I would really appreciate your comments on this issue of the Journal. It will be more expensive to produce this way and will probably increase the cost per issue to each member by 25% to around £1.50 per issue (that includes postage, which has increased from 17p per issue to 30p since the A5 format was adopted), so the Committee would like to know whether our members think we should continue with the experiment for future issues.
October Journal – unfortunate error
I wonder how many of you noticed that in the contribution I made to the last issue, I referred to a note in the St Mary’s Register which read ‘the tax commences from this day’. This note was stated as being inserted on 1st October 1873 – 90 years later than it should have been! I apologise particularly to the member who sent me a note to say that she had searched for some reference to this tax without success. Perhaps she would like to have another go with the correct date, October 1st 1783, as no one else has come up with the answer yet. You will find some more interesting entries from the St. Mary’s Register elsewhere in this Journal.
New microfiche reader
As a result of the group receiving a grant of £350 from the Staffordshire County Council Community Fund, courtesy of Councillor Paul Atkins, we have recently acquired an Eyecom 1200 Reader with image rotation and a 48× magnification. Any member who has taken part in the group’s Transcription Project, and who had the misfortune to have to read from microfiches that have the images running across the fiche rather than up and down, will know how difficult it can be to read them. The new machine resolves this problem by permitting the reader to rotate the image on the screen.
If you have never been involved in the Transcription Project and would like to take part, please contact me and I will put you in touch with the coordinator, Mike Woolridge. If you are outside the local area, you can still participate, provided you have your own fiche reader and a suitable PC with Microsoft Access or similar database program.
There are two phases to the process – the first involves transferring the fiche information into a database, and the second is to check the work which someone else has done for errors and omissions, etc. The checking process does not necessarily involve use of a computer but does require a fiche reader. Local members can borrow a reader from the Group while they are doing the work.
Journal contributions
We are always looking for articles from our members for inclusion in the Journal. Please have a think about your own research and the problems and surprises it may have provided for you. You never know – someone may read your article and provide you with answers or further surprises. A Happy New Year to all our members. May 2010 bring you everything you wish for. Geoff Sorrell
Who’s The Daddy?
A problem for future genealogists is that single women having in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) will henceforth be able to name anyone they like as their baby's father on the birth certificate. New regulations mean that a mother could nominate another woman to be her child's ‘father’. The ‘father’ does not need to be genetically related to the baby, nor be in any sort of romantic relationship with the mother. The second parent, who will have to consent to being named, will take on the legal and moral responsibilities of parenthood. The changes, which came in on April 6 last year, will apply to many of the 2,000 women a year who have IVF using sperm from anonymous donors. The regulations are part of the controversial Embryology Bill passed by Parliament in 2008.
The new rules state: ‘The women receiving treatment with donor sperm (or embryos created with donor sperm) can consent to any man or woman being the father or second parent.’ The only exemption is close blood relatives. Baroness Deech, a former chairman of the HFEA, said the practice would lead to the ‘falsification of the birth certificate’. Geraldine Smith, Labour MP for Morecambe, said a birth certificate should be a true record of a child's genetic heritage. She added: ‘I don't think the state should collude with parents to conceal the true genetic identity.’
Philippa Taylor, of Christian charity CARE, said: ‘We are going to get to the point where a birth certificate is not going to be a true statement of anyone's biological heritage.’ The HFEA said it was unlikely for the actual sperm donor to be named on the birth certificate because the sample is normally obtained from a sperm bank.
The Turners of Fusehill Street by Pauline Stanley
In my family history, Joseph Turner was the son of railway policeman John and Ann Turner. Joseph married Betsy Potts in the December quarter of 1882, the couple then raising a family and staying at 17 Fusehill Street, Carlisle. Their children were John, born 1884, Reuben Potts, born 1885, Margaret Catherine, born 1887, Herbert Stanley, born 1891 and Joseph, born 1896. In 1891 John’s occupation was recorded as postal telegraph clerk, but by 1901 he was an Assistant Superintendent. By then, John was an apprentice joiner and Reuben was a trainee postal clerk. Things had changed occupation-wise by 1911; Joseph was now a Superintendent, Reuben still at the post office. Margaret was still at home and working as a dressmaker, Herbert Stanley was by now employed as a clerk at the Royal Insurance and Joseph, at 15 years of age, was working as an office boy at the Cooperative Society. Things again changed when war was declared. Herbert Stanley Turner joined up and served in the AFC. He became a sergeant, later transferred to the 15th Durham Light Infantry and then became a second lieutenant. According to records on the Commonwealth War Graves Site, he was reported missing, presumed dead, on March 24 1918. As many men joining up made wills, I obtained a copy of his will, which was written and signed on December 11 1917. The will informed me that Herbert had married Minnie Lisgo, who lived at 17 Greystone Road Carlisle, in the September quarter of 1917. Using the Internet, I obtained a copy of the war dairies for the 15th Durham Light Infantry, from which I discovered that on March 24 1918 the battalion was fighting near Ailecourt–le Hoot. The clerk who kept the dairies recorded at the end of each month a list of injuries, and in March 1918 he had noted that 17 officers had been killed or had later died from their injuries. Herbert Stanley Turner was one of those, along with 486 men of other ranks. Mrs Minnie Turner would have received his medals at 17 Greystone Road, Carlisle. The other members of the Turner family continued to live at Fusehill Street and, using records, I found a marriage of a Reuben Potts Turner in 1918 at Ormskirk. I was unsure if this was the right Reuben, but as the middle name was uncommon I ordered a marriage certificate. On this I read that he had married Elsie Helena Moss Child, who had resided at Southport just like Reuben. Nothing is known of his brothers John or Joseph, as their names were not recorded on the headstone in Richardson Street Cemetery. It states that Betsy died on March 3 1937 aged 75 years, Joseph on October 11 1946 aged 90 years and Margaret Catherine on February 24 1953 aged 73 years. Records state that both the father and daughter’s funerals started from 17 Fusehill Street, Carlisle. As the eldest and youngest were not mentioned on the head stone, it may be that they were married and had families of their own elsewhere.
Reel-to-reel tape recorder Recently Alan Betts borrowed an old reel to reel tape recorder from member John Macalester in order to listen to tapes that were amongst his late father’s possessions. He did find tracks on the tapes that contained both his parents’ voices, so was quite pleased. When he went to return the tape recorder to John, he kindly donated it to the BFHG. The tape recorder is now in the possession of Alan, who lives in Alrewas and attends the BFHG meetings in Burntwood. If anyone who is local wants to borrow the tape recorder, please let him know and he can come to an arrangement with you.
New BFHG website The new website is now up and running. The website address is www.bfhg.org.uk The email address is enquiries@bfhg.org.uk
Digital clocks Just a little ‘curiosity’ item: on the 7th August 2009 at 5 minutes, 6 seconds after 4 am, a digital clock would have shown 04:05:06:07:08:09 And on the same day at 34 minutes, 56 seconds after 12.00 noon, the digital clock would have shown 12:34:56:7:8:9!
Chasetown and the Belgian Refugees by John Gallagher
In a recent issue of this Journal I had an article about some Burntwood and Chasetown brothers who had fought and lost their lives in World War I, and now I am following that theme with an intriguing item about the impact of war and atrocities on Belgium in the first few weeks of September 1914. The country’s inhabitants were caught up in the speed of the German army progressing across the lowlands and they swiftly became the dispossessed peoples of Europe. With the country at war, Britain stepped in and offered immediate support, with the introduction of a relief fund initiated by the Prince of Wales and further assistance to the many inhabitants as they made their way to this country through crowded seaports and train stations. By the second weekend of September, 4,000 Belgians had arrived in this country, though this increased noticeably over the forthcoming weeks. Several hundred had already been placed by the Catholic Women’s League by 7.30 pm on Saturday September 12th.
Most of the 100 worn and weary Flemish-speaking women held babes in arms, and they arrived at New Street Station to a marvellous reception. The porters refused to take any money for their services. Two families were destined for Chasetown and, after the transportation from London, they were met by members of the local refugee committee. The eight people came from the neighbourhood of Malines, and two of the party had lost everything on the journey to Antwerp. They had forsaken their homes and lives to escape from the brutalities during the opening weeks of the war. The party consisted of François Destrycken, a plasterer from Rhode St Genes, who said that he had ‘witnessed German atrocities’. Madame Bentens Weide, the wife of a peasant farmer, came with her son Edoaurd and daughter Leonie. She had lost a daughter, ‘who was cut to pieces by the Germans’, and also a son in-law in the fighting. Finally, Monsieur and Madame Ruegony arrived with their son and daughter. They were received by the Roman Catholic priest, Reverend T A Newsome, and two members of the party stayed with Mr Birke along the High Street. Belgian refugees from Antwerp.
At the end of their first week, they made an appearance at the Picture Palace Cinema on the Saturday night, and on the Sunday they attended the Harvest Festival, where they sat in the front row beneath ‘a splendid Union Jack’. Unfortunately this is where the story currently ends. I have been unable to find out how long they stayed in Staffordshire, although the children had started to attend a school at Chasetown. It is possible they may have been relocated at some time in the next few months and then returned to their homeland in 1919. It would be interesting to know whether anyone reading this has any further information on how these people fared during their exile in this country.
Grave Humour
Here are some genuine, but nonetheless funny, examples of out-of-the-ordinary gravestone inscriptions:
Erected to the memory of John MacFarlane. Drowned in the Water of Leith By a few affectionate friends.
Here lie the remains of His grace the Bishop of Sierra Leone, who for the last twenty years of his life was a martyr to gonorrhoea.
After a short, difficult and useless life, here rests in the Lord, Robert Tweddle… 1735, at the age of 32. (Haltwhistle, Northumberland)
Here lies the body of Edward Hide;
We laid him here because he died.
We had rather it had been his father.
If it had been his sister,
We should not have miss’d her.
But since ‘tis honest Ned
No more shall be said…
(Storrington, Sussex)
Life is a jest, and all things show it; I thought so once; and now I know it. (Monument to poet John Gray in Westminster Abbey)
Reviews of Talk Reviewer: Sheila Clarke. November 2009: Adam Garner
Adam Garner is a professional Family History researcher who also gives talks on various subjects associated with tracing your ancestry. In our November meeting, he gave us two talks. The first was entitled: ‘My Family through the Ages’. Adam began by reminding us that our family members leave behind a legacy which helps us to unlock the history of our family. This consists of family photographs, ephemera and keepsakes, which can then be augmented by consulting public records. He demonstrated this by showing us the systematic way he had assembled a record on CD of part of his own family, particularly through family photographs. From these, we saw what people looked like at various stages of their lives and how family likenesses can be carried on through the generations. The clothes people wore and the style of the photography gave us clues as to the date on which the photos were taken, and we could also see what buildings and streets were like in times gone by. First there was a photograph, taken at New Hall, Rugeley, of four generations of his family including a young Adam in his school uniform, taken at the 80th birthday party of his great-grandmother Elsie in 1982. Missing from the photo was his grandfather, who had died from a stroke five years before. The next showed his grandmother and grandfather, taken at Jolly’s in Stoke before his death.
Adam’s grandfather, Frank Byford, had played the accordion in a band called ‘The Frank James Sound’ for around forty years, principally at working men’s clubs in and around Rugeley. We were shown a photo of him and the band at work, and another of Frank when he was much younger, playing in his first band. We were told that Frank, an accomplished musician, also played the guitar. Adam had a cutting of a tribute letter sent to a newspaper after his grandfather’s death. This had been sent by fans Maria and Ken Littler to tell them how much they had enjoyed his music.
Next was a wedding photograph of Adam’s mother taken in March 1966 with her parents, and another picture of Adam’s mother taken with her grandparents. We were shown the 1946 wedding photograph of Adam’s grandparents at the United Reform Church and a photo of one of his great-grandmothers doing war works during a visit of a member of the Royal Family, probably the former Princess Royal.
On the disc were copies of memorial cards for the death of Adam’s great-greatgrandmother Annie Gretton, who had died in 1934 aged 69 years, giving us an idea of how, at that time, memorial verses were printed to commemorate a loved one. A photo of Adam’s great-uncle George Byford, taken in Queen Street, Rugeley, shows how townscapes can change over the years. A photograph of Adam’s grandfather with his beloved accordion was taken when he was about twelve and another group photo shows him aged five, in a class of 1928 at Church Street Infant School in Rugeley. This building, we were told, no longer exists. There was also a photo of Annie Gretton taken at the time of her marriage and another of Adam’s great-grandmother Elsie with her sister, taken around 1910. Memorabilia from the First World War included a photograph of Adam’s greatgreat- grandfather James H Byford of the North Staffordshire Regiment, taken in 1914. James served as a machine gunner and received the Victory medal, the British War Medal and the 1914-1915 star, which shows he served in France or Belgium.
A certificate dated 5th November 1919 show James’s admittance into The Comrades of the Great War. Another certificate commemorated James joining the Church Lads Brigade on July 22nd 1910. Adam found, by following the Byford family back through the generations using censuses and church records, that an ancestor had married a Charlotte Turpin, who had been born in 1831 at Bardfield, Essex. This set him wondering if that branch of the family was related to Dick Turpin the highwayman. Adam discovered that an ancestor, Thomas Turpin, was the brother of Dick. He also found that the alias that Dick Turpin sometimes used, namely John Palmer, came from his wife’s family. In 1980 Adam took a photograph of Dick Turpin’s grave in the churchyard of St. George in York. Richard Turpin was hanged in York on April 7th 1739; a later story connecting him with the ride from London to York on a horse called Black Bess was almost certainly untrue.
Another side of Adam’s family can be traced back from working as servants at Orgreave Hall, near Alrewas, to Sir Giles Allington, grandson of Sir William Allington, who had been on the losing side in the final battle of the Wars of the Roses at Bosworth Field. Adam was also collecting photographs of events in his own life. For example, he had a photo of himself and his father Dave playing snooker for charity in 1980 in Rugeley. He had a photo of himself with snooker champion Joe Johnson, taken in 1986, and another with Gordon Burns, taken on the twentieth anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
Adam’s second talk, ‘Hints and Tips for tracing your ancestors’, gave tips for those starting out on their quest to discover their family history. These included:
1 Ourselves
2 Ask relatives about their lives and memories, but always find corroborating evidence
3 Collect birth, marriage and death certificates already possessed.
4 Photographs and memorabilia
5 Record the information you have
6 Find information about the working lives of relatives
7 Census returns 1841–1911
8 Parish registers
9 The Parish Chest
10 Workhouse records
11 Kelly’s Directories for trades people and business people
12 Wills
13 War records
Adam suggested finding out as much as you can about the customs, lifestyle and world events of each generation, as this would really bring your family history to life.
Your Journal needs YOU!
The Journal is always in need of contributions from members to fill its pages. So, here’s a quick summary of the kind of material we need:
1. Book, Magazine or Website Reviews: Read any good books on family history lately, or found an interesting website that’s helped you in your researches? Or how about the many magazines on the subject that are around? Why not tell the membership about it?
2. Problems with Computers: Not everyone is a computer expert. If you’ve a problem accessing genealogy websites, someone reading this may know an answer. Or, you may have solved a problem yourself and feel it would be helpful to others.
3. Questions generally about any aspect of genealogy research: Again, if you’re stuck somewhere, why not appeal for help from Journal readers? If an answer can't be found before publication, it can be posted up in the journal for readers to supply possible answers for the next issue.
4. Fillers: Finally, we can always use short items to fill up awkward spaces when articles don’t run to a whole number of spaces. Poems, anecdotes, snippets of genealogical lore or humorous items are always welcome. Brian Asbury and Jan Green, Journal Editors
A Backward Look by Geoff Sorrell
I recently came across some press cuttings from around twenty years ago and they make interesting reading. The first is from The Sunday Telegraph, dated 20th August 1989, and is headed ‘Playing the inflation weighting game’. I quote: “The annual inflation rate fell to 8.2 per cent in July, 0.1 percent less than the previous month’s figure and the first decrease for 19 months. Last August’s mortgage rise of 2 per cent will come out of the annual inflation rate next month and it will therefore fall by as much as 0.8 per cent.” Accompanying the article is a list of ‘shopping basket prices’ over 50 years and I have extracted some figures from that list to show what prices were like in 1989. You can put in your own figures for 2010 to compare with these.
Beer per pint 95p
Cigarettes (20) £1.50
Large loaf of bread 50p
Top quality beef per lb £2.71
Bacon per lb £1.62
Milk per pint 28p
Sugar per lb 57p
£1 in 1989 would have bought you £6.60 worth of goods and services in 1969.
The second cutting is from The Sun newspaper dated 30th January 1990. There are a number of photographs at the top of the page, of Simon and Garfunkel, Twiggy, The Railway Children (Garry Warren, Jenny Agutter & Sally Thomsett) and Marc Bolan. The heading is ‘What the World was Singing about 20 Years Ago’ (1970). Coca-Cola had just launched an updated version of the 1970s ad featuring the song ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’, and a girl named Linda Neary who had sung in the choir that recorded the 1970 version had been interviewed on TV. There’s a picture of a very youthful Margaret Thatcher (Education Secretary) with Edward Heath the PM and Quintin Hogg (Lord Hailsham), who was Lord Chancellor in 1970.
Delving into the small print, it is interesting to see the prices of goods in the shops and other items compares with those given in the  Telegraph piece. They quote the price of various things in 1970 and here is a selection for you to think about: Beer at 10p a pint, cigarettes at 26p for 20, bread at 9p a loaf, first class post at 2p, a terraced house for £5,000, a Morris Mini for £600 (annual road tax £25), man’s average wage £25 per week for 46 hours, woman’s average wage £12 for a 38 hour week. A typical house mortgage was for £3,400 with interest at 8.5 per cent.
Padburys in Burntwood? by Jeff Wilson
I received the attached letter some time ago. It refers to the fact that I live in Padbury Lane, Burntwood and the sender, J Neil Padbury, has been researching his family name in great detail. He has found that a very distinguished ancestor used to own land around about Pipe, Chorley and Burntwood. He asked me if I knew anything about this and despite doing a little research myself, I have not been able to get much further. I reasoned that for the lane to be given the name Padbury, someone must have known about its history – but I cannot find who it was.
I have the document that Mr Padbury enclosed and I wondered if any member of the group would like to view it if they think they might be able to throw light on this matter. It is in itself a fascinating document and well worth the read. It refers to the John Rylands University Library in Manchester and the Victorian History (Staffordshire).
Dear Jeff. Since you are clearly squatting on my property and interested in family history, I thought the best action I could take was to send you a recent draught [sic!] of my earliest namesakes. I am reasonably satisfied with my history back to John born c. 1490. Before him there is a gap due to lack of parish records and probably Black Death. Any clues about this gap are likely to come from land ownership. John de Padbury was a squire in royal service and a colleague of Geoffrey Chaucer, and I have about thirty references to his fairly remarkable activities. It appears he could have come from Burntwood and so I am hoping someone in your group may be able to expand on the notes I have already collected. Best Wishes Sincerely Neil Padbury
Parish Records of St Mary’s, Lichfield (part 4) by Geoff Sorrell
In the final part of the Parish Register for St Mary’s Church, Lichfield, which ended in 1813, there were one or two interesting entries. These are listed below. On 27th August 1811, the baptism is recorded of Marianne Laura, daughter of Laurent Hargons (a lieutenant in the French navy and prisoner of war) and Maria his wife. Marianne was born 28th October 1808. What intriguing facts lie behind this  mystrery? For instance, where was Lt. Hargons taken prisoner? Why was he in Lichfield – about as far from the sea as one can get? Was his wife with him when he was captured? Was his daughter born before he was captured or during his captivity? Where was he being held prisoner and was he allowed to have his wife and child with him there? Under what circumstances was he allowed to have his child baptised at St. Mary’s? As France was a primarily Catholic country, had he been converted to the Church of England or was the Vicar of St. Mary’s prepared to accommodate him for some reason?
Historically, this period in the early 19th century was the time of the Napoleonic Wars between Britain and France, so it is reasonable to assume that prisoners were taken at various times and, whatever codes of conduct were observed at that time, it seems as though captured officers were treated well by their enemies. I wonder if there is someone somewhere in France with the surname Hargons who would dearly like to know that one of her ancestors was a prisoner of war in Lichfield? Or someone with an entirely different surname who had an ancestor who was married to Marianne Laura Hargons – of whom they can find no trace in France?
Other intriguing entries include this one. On 1st June 1812, a lady named Ann Flowers attended St. Mary’s Church for the baptism of her daughter, one of her three children. The Register records it as follows: Baptised Ann daughter of George and Ann Flowers born 4th March 1809.
But then this follows: Memorandum. John son of the above named George and Ann Flowers born 26th April, 1796 was christened at Bandon in Ireland in May 1798 according to the testimony of his mother Ann Flowers at whose request this memorandum is here inserted his father being dead. Memorandum. George son of the above name George and Ann Flowers born 26th April 1803 was christened at Malta according to the testimony of his mother Ann Flowers at whose request this memorandum is here inserted his father being dead.
The fact that the two other children were christened in Ireland and Malta would suggest that their father was engaged in a career in the British Armed Forces or Diplomatic Service, which would have enabled him to have his wife and family with him at the time of the births and christenings. George apparently died sometime between June 1808 and June 1812, but this begs the question of why Ann was not baptised until she was over three years of age.
Bumper Stickers for Genealogists
Want something to put on your car’s bumper or rear window to declare your passion for genealogy? Well, here are a few suggestions...
Genealogists do it generation after generation.
Genealogists do it in trees.
Genealogists live in the past lane.
Genealogists never die – they just get filed away.
Genealogy is the only legal hobby where dead people can really excite you.
I trace my family history so I will know who to blame.
I used to have a life, then I started doing genealogy.
It’s hard to believe that someday I’ll be an ancestor.
Old genealogists never die, they just lose their census.
Only a genealogist regards a step backwards as progress.
Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
Warning: dates in calendar are closer than they appear.
Arising from Coal Dusrt (Part 16) Aural Percepotion by Alan Brookes
Joining the school brass band had prompted me to enquire about how to join the Royal Marines as a musician. I took and passed a medical and physical examination in Birmingham, and a week later was informed that I had been successful in qualifying as a boy entrant. Accompanying the letter was a voucher for rail travel to attend a musical audition at the renowned North Western Academy of Music in Liverpool. On an August morning, I set off on the biggest adventure of my life up till then – travelling by train from Wolverhampton to Liverpool all alone. The train was packed full, and my cornet case propped in a corridor became my resting place for the next two hours.
I finally arrived at Liverpool’s Lime Street Station quite bewildered at the hustle and bustle of myriads of people all going in different directions, calling each other ‘wack’. ‘Hiya, wack’ was the common greeting there. After asking directions, I found the Academy of Music in Union Street and entered its grand, arched portico. The interior rooms of the building were large and tall, with musical instruments and sheet music scattered all around. Whilst waiting for my audition, I read posters on the walls describing the lives of the great composers. The air was suffused with other instrumentalists performing what seemed to me to be extremely complicated and difficult musical routines.
After I had waited for what seemed an eternity, in walked a small man who I can best describe as looking like a typical ‘nutty professor’. Spectacles perched on the end of his nose seemed to be all that prevented his unkempt greying hair from falling over his face. He looked across at me and lifted his normally benign forehead into a mass of uniform horizontal wrinkles that resembled a threaded bolt, where his hat could perhaps be screwed down firmly to his head. Coincidentally, his spectacles seemed to drop even further to the very tip of his nose and were at the point of falling to the floor. His loose tie, creased clothes and mannerisms suggested an eccentricity deriving from devotion to his profession.
I later found out he was none other than the chief professor of trumpet and cornet at the Royal Marines Military School of Music at Deal in Kent – Professor Walter Hargreaves. He asked me to play my party piece, ‘Souvenirs of the Opera’ – a medley of famous operatic arias including ‘Nessun Dorma’ and ‘The Barber of Seville’. Despite my intense nervousness, I accomplished the task confidently and well, I thought. “Bravo” he said, smiling, and I relaxed a little, but my nervousness immediately returned at the thought of the next task he might ask me to perform. I knew I was going to have a serious problem in successfully accomplishing it. The professor sat at a piano in one corner of the room, while I was dispatched to the opposite corner, next to where a double bass and cello stood idly by in silent witness.
“Now tell me what chord I am playing,” he demanded, as the outstretched fingers of his right hand descended firmly and sharply somewhere into the middle of the keyboard. My temperature and pulse increased. My mind went blank. I honestly did not have a clue! The melodic harmonics of that overpowering chord echoed up to massive timber frames that were supporting the far-off glass roof which kept out the current inclement Liverpool weather. The instruments standing on their supports to my left seemed to echo and vibrate tauntingly the same chord, long after its initial sound had dissipated. I had received no formal musical education to be able to discern even the basic difference between a major and minor chord, let alone the name or composition of one.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know,” I replied feebly from across the room. “Okay, don’t worry son, let me try another one,” he shrugged. I’m sure he sensed my nervousness. This time he played it stronger and louder. Following the same negative response, he sighed, “One last one, then.” He played another chord which I didn’t know and this time it sounded even stranger than the earlier two. “You should have recognised the last one at least,” he sighed. “That was B flat major, the basic building block of a brass band. It can all be played on the first valve.” He quickly hit the chord again for good measure, as if to reassure himself that he had played it correctly, before his initial ‘B flat major’ chord had even had time to fade into the Liverpool air.
Through the sound of the fading combined chords, he abruptly said “Get your coat on, my son, you’ll be hearing from us.” As I trudged back to Lime Street Station, I realised that I must have failed the audition. Sure enough, two weeks later, I received notification that I was not successful because of ‘a lack of aural perception’. Professor Hargreaves was the first person in my life to discover a small deficiency in my inability to discern high frequencies. I also received with the notification an official looking form requiring my signature, with an offer to continue with a career in the ordinary Royal Marines as a bugle player. In declining, I thought to myself, “If I can’t join the best band in the country, I don’t want to become just an ordinary soldier.” After all, I thought, recalling stories that my Uncle Charlie had told me after returning injured from the Second World War, weren’t they just ‘cannon fodder’? Professor Hargreaves’ aural perception examination had changed the course of my life, and there would be no military career for me.
But there is a saying: ‘What goes around, comes around’. I found this to be so very true, because thirteen years later in 1971 I met Professor Hargreaves again. By this time I had progressed my proficiency as a brass wind player to being the ‘solo baritone’ player with the Newhall Brass Band from Burton-on-Trent. The band had been invited to enter the Premier National Brass Band Championships being held in Cardiff. An invitation was mandatory, following the band’s previous success at attaining the title of United Kingdom second section national champions. Although being conducted by Mr. Albert Chappell, a famous musical impresario, we were the ‘new boys on the block’. We were not considered to be serious challengers that day, but were just there to make up the numbers. After all, we were competing against bands such as Black Dyke Mills, Foden’s Motor Works, Grimethorpe Colliery and the other top twenty-five brass bands in the United Kingdom. Looking at the day’s programme and the impressive list of competitors, my eye caught the entry for the Sunlife-Stanstawe Brass Band, from Bristol, which was to be conducted by none other than dear old Professor Hargreaves.
By now he had retired from the Royal Marines and had a respected position in the brass band fraternity. “Perhaps I may have a chance to meet him again,” I thought. “I wonder if he’ll remember me?” In the competition, our band played the set test piece, ‘Le Roi D’ys’, a rousing and emotional piece of music written in the classical style. The music was technically and physically very demanding, requiring each musician to be on top form. My particular part as solo baritone was extremely difficult, containing a lot of triple and double tonguing. The music contained solo passages for me, where my technique, artistic interpretation and tonal qualities were severely tested. At the conclusion of the competition, the results were announced in the traditional reverse order. This prolonged the suspense of the occasion and enhanced the achievement of the ultimate champions.
Taking the fourth prize was Professor Hargreaves and the Sunlife-Stanshawe Band. “Here we go,” I thought, Professor Hargreaves still reigns supreme. Third prize went to the Black Dyke Mills Band from Yorkshire. Here was a surprise, as they more often than not carried away the top prize as champions. In second place were the previous year’s defending champions, the Desford Colliery Band from Leicestershire. The audience heaved a series of gasps. “Who’s won, then?” was heard in repetitive tones. All the favourites had received ‘also ran’ prizes. It turned out that our band had won! The ‘no-hopers’ – the newly promoted band from Burton-on-Trent – were the new champions by a clear four points, so theirs was an emphatic victory. A major upset had happened and we were all ecstatic. The Newhall Brass Band were duly announced as the new national champions of 1971. We were champions of the United Kingdom! To us country bumpkins from the brewery town of Burton-on-Trent, it seemed utterly unbelievable, but it had happened. It was the first major success for me in my brass band career, and many more national achievements were to follow.
When the clamour had died down a little, I detached myself from my jubilant colleagues and sought out Professor Hargreaves. I found him commiserating with his disappointed bandsmen at only achieving fourth place and  constructively pointing out to them where they would have done better. Waiting for a quiet moment, I boldly introduced myself and reminded him of our first meeting. Of course he could not remember me after such a span of time. “I have seen so many boys over the years,” he replied, in a generous, unnecessary apology. He asked me what I was doing here in Cardiff and I was delighted that he asked that question. Trying to repress my triumphal feelings, I modestly informed him that I had just played solo baritone with the new national champion brass band of the United Kingdom.
Without any change of expression, he instinctively called out to me, “Ah! Congratulations!” He then paused and winced slightly, his spectacles visibly dropping a little lower on his nose. The irony of the situation and of our two completely different meetings had now sunk in for him. He rose to his feet and offered his out-stretched hands to me. With the same ‘threaded’ wrinkled brow, and spectacles now precariously perched on the very tip of his nose, he said slowly, warmly and deliberately, “Bravo, my boy,” repeating the same phrase he had uttered to me thirteen years before, when I had nervously played my cornet for him. Grinning profusely he vigorously shook my hand. “I’m delighted for you my boy – well done.”
Those congratulatory words to me from Professor Hargreaves have remained with me ever since, and on that joyous day, they probably actually meant more to me than our winning the trophy and achieving the accolade as the new champions. No competition success with any other brass band ever came close to emulating the enormous emotion of that day’s triumph, gloriously enhanced by the Professor’s warm and sincere congratulations. “What goes around, comes around,” I thought, because I felt that I had achieved some sort of personal retribution that day in Cardiff. I had satisfied myself that my failure at ‘aural perception’ in Liverpool had been completely reversed.
The celebration cheers of our band, on becoming national champions, were joyous, loud and clear, but none more so than mine. That day I had played to such a standard as to not only surpass the like of Black Dyke Mills, but also to triumph over dear old Professor Hargreaves. My rendering of ‘Souvenirs of the Opera’ in Liverpool in 1958 as a nervous, immature boy, had borne no resemblance whatsoever to the performance of the confident, much more able musician in Cardiff in 1971. How could Professor Hargreaves have remembered me? Of course he couldn’t. His ‘aural perception’ would, however, have noticed the changes that had taken place since 1958.
This Issue’s Cover Photograph St. Chad’s Church, Lichfield
St Chad’s Church can be dated back to the early 12th Century. Prior to that, details are unknown or are sketchy and not confirmed in documentation. There are no written records of what materials the first church was built from when Chad came to Lichfield as Bishop. The original structure could have been made from stone, but more likely it was constructed of wood with a reed roof. There are records that show an early monastery was still in existence in the 12th Century, and some of the oldest parts of the church today can certainly be dated back to that time. The first known stone structure was a Norman church. The tower started to be built in the late 13th Century and was finally finished in the early 14th Century. In the grounds to the west side of the church is an ancient well, built over what was once a spring where, it is said, St. Chad baptised his converts to Christianity.