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Work on West Bromwich article led to me finding link with my great grandfather Black Jack

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 15, 2014

By Mike Fenton

  • E W Bache's signature

  • E W Bache (centre) with Royal Party. The future King Edward VIIIth is on right hand side

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DURING my research on last week's George Salter & Co article I stumbled upon a personal family connection to the aforementioned Ernest 'Bill' Bache, one I had never expected to find in a proverbial month of Sundays.

Before my father died in 2010, he recalled how his Grandfather, John Fenton, a Salter's worker, was locally known as 'Black Jack'. At the time I attached little significance to this. However, when I found myself overwhelmed by information I had unearthed, my father had already succumbed to dementia, memories becoming increasingly unreliable.

Details then surfaced, absolutely confirming the existence of 'Black Jack'. It transpired that anyone who met him never forgot the encounter.

Despite his generally amiable countenance he was known to be inherently obstinate. A company outing to Blackpool exposing these traits in great measure. On their return from their seaside escapades, the Salter workers were journeying back to their train for the trip back home. However, 'Black Jack' had different ideas.

He placed himself in the centre of a narrow pathway offering to fight anyone crossing his path!

With time was growing ever short, Ernest 'Bill' Bache, chairman of George Salter & Co, made his timely appearance. On doing so he calmly said: "You wouldn't fight me, would you?" Jack replied, "That's right, me old friend Bill!" Peace had been brokered and the train and passengers commenced their journey. What makes the social aspect of the story ever personal is that recently I was fortunate enough to purchase two Salter ironmongery catalogues; one dating from 1931 and the other from 1924.

The 1924 catalogue, however, has special significance, as on the front cover are the initials E.W.B.; at the time I heeded little attention to this.

However, on the inside front cover, in glorious sepia coloured ink was the signature of one E. W. Bache.

How could I check its authenticity? I recalled that the 1911 Census is personally signed by the head of the household.

At great speed I opened up the relevant census document and there to my joy and relief was the unmistakable signature of 'Bill' Bache.

I now had in my possession the personal catalogue of one of Salter's most significant characters, a man who appears to have had several encounters with my Great Grandfather.

Further investigation told me E. W. Bache's address was Nicholls Street, West Bromwich, which bordered the road where 'Black Jack' resided. It seemed my Great Grandfather must have crossed paths (and quite literally so!) with his 'gaffer' on several occasions.

Conjecture allows me to speculate about the conversations the Salter's Chairman and my family ancestors may have had as they perhaps walked together early in the morning en route to their respective work and departments at the factory.

Other stories portrayed Black Jack's short temper but as my Great Grandfather isn't here any more to defend himself, I'll let history make its own judgement.

Have you found any unusual links while researching your family? Send us your memories and photographs to editor@blackcountry bugle.co.uk or write to us at 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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