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A miscellany of Christmas tales

By john workman  |  Posted: December 23, 2012

Maurice Chillington's pencil drawing of the ancient High Bullen in Wednesbury.

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The majority of stories we receive here at the Bugle normally fit nicely into a box of their own, often taking up a page, or sometime stretching over several weeks. Then there are stories that only need a few words, or a single picture that says it all; such as this miscellaneous collection.

At the beginning of December our correspondent in the Highlands of Scotland, Ray ‘Tipton’ James, filled his Santamobile (his trusted Morris Minor) with gifts galore and made his annual sleigh ride down to the Dark Region. He told us: "As you can see by the photograph, getting the presents to fit inside the car can be a headache, but I now do it the easy way. I remove the passenger seat, and so far the problem has been eased, and now of course I can bring more stuff back, or is that just wishful thinking? Any road up, yo doe arf get funny looks when people stare at what looks like a bloke driving a Christmas present."

Back in Bugle 1048 at the end of September, Dianne Pye referred to Moor Street School in Brierley Hill. Jean Mills from Dudley Road West in Tividale responded to this and sent us a school exercise book that once belonged to her adopted grandfather's brother, Arthur Henry Mason, who attended Moor Street Board School in Victorian times. The exercise book is dated November 23rd, 1881, and was Arthur's ‘Recitation’ book from which he would recite, word for word, the poems of others to the teacher at the front of the class.

First, however, he had to write the poems down in his book, and it's his competent and neat style of writing that is particularly impressive, an example of writing skill from a young lad at a local school over 131 years ago. The poem we have included is part of ‘Ring Out Wild Bells’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Jean also provided several century-old postcards, and the most appropriate to unwrap is one that was sent to Mrs Mason in Langley from Lizzie on January 15th, 1907, and shows a view of Summerhill in Kingswinford with the following seasonal printed message: "With Hearty Christmas Greetings" - "Sweet remembrance for the past, and thoughts for the present, good wishes for the future". The personal message on the reverse reads, "Dear Sis, thanks very much for the cover I like it very much, shall be glad if you would make a fur for Renie's neck. We had a pig killed yesterday so I have plenty to go on with this week. Hope Will is better, best love Lizzie."

We are always happy to publish the artistic talents of Black Country folk, and after Black Country poet Reg Summerfield had pointed Maurice Chillington of Wednesbury in our direction he got in touch, and has provided a splendid drawing of the half timbered black and white buildings that used to grace High Bullen in Wednesbury. Sadly they were demolished in the 1960s and a lot of the character of High Bullen went with them, but Maurice's cracking pencil sketch has enabled us to savour the atmosphere of medieval Wednesbury once again.

In 1991 Beryl Wilkes was asked to read something at the Black Country Carol Service which was held at Mount Tabor Chapel, Swan Village, Coseley. As a Coseley wench, she decided to write her own Black Country version of the first Christmas, and although it has appeared in the Bugle before (circa 1992), it was worth unwrapping again, twenty years on: "Ar cor goo Joe, ar doh feel well", was all that er cud say.

"Yown gotta goo! Yowl be with me, ar'll help ya all the way."

 They'd gotta goo t' Bethlehem cuz it was census time, an' if they cudn't get theer they'd atter pay the fine.

"Ar'll never mek it", Mary said, "yo know the babby's due, an when we get t' Bethlehem ar bet ther'll be a queue! It's 70 mile t' Bethlehem from Naz'reth where weer from, we cor get theer with me like this."

 An' Joseph said, "We con."

 "Oh Joe, ar'm tired, ar cor goo on, cor goo another mile."

 "Buck up me wench sit on this bench, 'a thee a rest for a while."

 Cuz Mary dae feel very well they 'ad to travel slow, an' wen they got t' Bethlehem there wor no weer t' goo! "Don't worry m' wench," Joseph said, "we'll find someweer soon."

 But the answer was alwiz the sairm, "Ar'm sorry mate, yo cor cum 'ere, we ay got no reum."

 The cupple went to all the pubs, nobody wanted to 'ear, then a landlord showed 'em a stairble an' sed, "Yo con stop in theer."

 Theer w' sum shepherds in a field a cupple o' miles away, who suddenly saw the sky light up as bright as if it were day.

They sid a gorgeous angel oo spoke t' them and said, "G' t' Bethlehem an' find the Son of God lyin' in a manger bed."

 They found out weere the babby woz an' in they went t' see, the Servya of the wairld that God 'ad sent for yo an' me.

"Con we see the babby, please, wot the angel sid woz 'ere? He said 'E's very special and theer's nuthin' for us to fear."

 "Yes, doh be frightened - cum on in, excuse the plairce."

 "Doh fuss," the shepherds said, "Yo know it cud be wuss."

 They went up to the manger weer the babby 'ad bin laid, they knelt before the Servya an' silently they prayed.

The shepherds rose from off their knees an' they said as they turned to go, "'E's a luvly babby, ay 'E?" and Mary said, "Ar know."

 The light at this time of year can be magical both at dawn and dusk, depending of course on the vagaries of the weather, and in January 1979 Stan Warner caught the mood just right when he spied horses in a field in New Invention. The view was from Essington Road looking across open ground and followed a spell of cold weather and a light covering of snow. But alas the view no longer exists and when Stan returned to roughly the same spot in April of this year he found the Coppice Farm Estate has now robbed us of this magical scene.

jworkman@ blackcountrybugle.co.uk

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