FLYING the flag for the Black Country has captured the imagination for many over the past few weeks, culminating in Black Country Day on Monday July 14, and there is nothing better than to see a flag in full sail ahead of a stiff breeze, which many buildings in the region have been displaying.
Black Country folk have got behind their standard, with additional bunting dressing several streets, individual homes draped in single banners and cars displaying the flag that is fast becoming more widely recognised. It has become a symbol of pride, a powerful and inspiring talisman, and after years of debate trying to formulate a recognisable boundary for the Dark Region, a discussion that may never be properly resolved, the flag has at least begun the process of identifying the Black Country in a way never before experienced.
There are few more iconic symbols of the Black Country's glorious industrial past than the magnificent steam engine Agenoria which resides at the National Railway Museum in York, and in recent days the Bugle was up in that neck of the woods and took the opportunity to record a photograph of the Black Country flag and the Agenoria in unison, probably the first time this has been done.
Imagine the grand entry the Agenoria would have made in 1829, 185 years ago, as it made its way along the track on the Pensnett Railway, proudly flying the Black Country flag, hoisted high above its pistons, wheels, and superstructure, and blowing full pelt in the wind. It was Tuesday June 2, and a large crowd had assembled to witness the historical event with a brass band in attendance.
It was near the Earl of Dudley's Corbyn's Hall colliery that the drama began. The Agenoria took charge of wagons full of coal and eight wagons filled with invited guests. The Black Country had never seen anything like it before. It was a three mile journey at a steady 7 miles per hour, a moderate speed for us today, but for our ancestors' first experience of a steam engine, this was frighteningly fast. After reaching its countryside destination at Ashwood Basin on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal, the Agenoria and an increasingly large crowd returned to Pensnett. Second time round twelve coal wagons were included in the twenty-wagon train, weighing over 130 tons.
It is reckoned that no less than 920 passengers were on board that day, inside the wagons or clinging on for dear life. It was a spectacle that would never be repeated as the Agenoria returned to its main priority of pulling coal wagons from the collieries to the canal basin. There was probably bunting of a kind in place on the day and perhaps a Union Flag or two, but how well the Black Country flag would have looked on this very historic occasion.
The City of York is one of the oldest in the country with a history that stretches back to Roman times and before. Much of its architecture is breathtaking, a mixture of statues, churches, medieval shop fronts and the magnificent York Minster. The opportunity to fly the Black Country flag with the Minster supplying a superb backdrop could not be missed, and as the visit to York came to an end it was felt the Dark Region had left its mark for posterity.
The Black Country flag is here to stay and to see it flying from the high keep at Dudley Castle and on every other prominant building in the region will help to confirm the identity of this unique part of the country. So don't dish the flag because Black Country Day has passed. Keep it flying with pride in the Bostin Country.