Annette Bradney is the epitome of the modern woman chainmaker, but at present, instead of lighting the forge to make chain, she is lighting up the lives of dozens of local school children, keeping them enthralled and entertained with her own unique style of teaching the art, the history and the mystery of the Black Country's chain making industry and its traditions.
Her most recent venture into the classroom world was a visit to Old Hill Junior & Primary School to keep an appointment with Year 5 and their teacher Miss Priest. As usual Annette had with her a bag of chain making tools, lengths of different sized chain, and plenty of A4 sized pictures showing herself making chain and chainmakers of old, all valuable aids to give the children a practical understanding of the subject. She told them that chain making is very much part of the region's industrial heritage and they should sometimes spare a thought for the hard lives some of their forebears experienced, working the 'ommer 12 hours a day, six days a week.
She then broached the subject of the women chainmakers’ strike that took place in 1910 and the struggle the woman had to win the right for a living wage. Accompanying Annette to Old Hill School was her friend and member of Timbertree Primary and Junior school PTA Sam Bishop, who over the past few weeks has brought her love of handicrafts into Cradley Heath's social history arena.
Using any spare time available Sam has designed and made five individual and distinct banners for children to march with as part of the annual Woman Chainmaker's Festival on Saturday June 9th. After the unveiling of Luke Perry’s statue in Mary Macarthur Park at 11.30, the children from five local schools, Timbertree, Reddall Hill, Temple Meadow, Old Hill and Corngreaves, will march with their banners held high to Bearmoor Park in Cradley Heath, where an afternoon packed full of historical anecdotes and entertainment will commence after their arrival.
Sam brought one of the banners to Old Hill School to add the finishing touches, and employed the services of four young apprentices to glue the final letters into place, for words that read "Rise Up! for Mary Macarthur."
In 1910 Mary Macarthur was very much the driving force who galvanised the women chainmaker's woe into positive action and she would no doubt have applauded Sam's time and effort and the support she received from the children, to remember such an important moment in the history of the Black Country.