New BCS Secretary
My memories of the Black Country Society go right back to the start when my father, Winston Homer,
was one of the founder members. Certain things have stuck in my mind from those very early days
when my father would take me along to various events and indeed committee meetings. We attended
many local shows and fêtes selling books and displaying potential museum artefacts, many of which
had been collected by the very first Secretary, John Brimble. The coach trips were a particular favourite
of mine and always seemed to end up at a decent pub somewhere. Of course, I was much too young to
drink beer back then but have since made up for it by enjoying the occasional pint or two of real ale!
One Saturday morning a few of us turned up at a large piece of wasteland with a lovely gentleman called
Dick Traves. I remember we walked past a small sewage farm, which I have to say was of great interest to me as young lad! We climbed a small hill to get a vantage point and Dick pointed out to us where the village was going to be. Of course, we were on the site of what would become the Black Country Living Museum and little did I know I would one day be working there myself. Those who remember Winston will know he was passionate about the creation of the museum and he always said he wanted to ‘end his days’ there. Well, in a way he did, as we had special permission to scatter his ashes on the museum site.
A long time has passed since I stood on what I now realise were the limestone kilns. A career in education and the charity sector saw me ‘retire’ a few years back, or so I thought. At the time, I was following a personal interest by studying for a Master’s Degree in West Midlands History at the University of Birmingham under our new Chair Dr Malcolm Dick. I have no doubt this helped me gain employment as a ‘costumed demonstrator’, as we were then called, at the Black Country Living Museum. Something I still absolutely love doing.
Family connections with the Black Country include Stourbridge glassmakers on my mother’s side and Cradley Heath chainmakers on my father’s side. When I started to learn about the Workers’ Institute at the museum I very quickly realised that my grandfather, a chainmaker and champion amateur boxer, would have fought there before the First World War. Not only that he would have belonged to the Chainmakers’ and Strikers’ Association, established and run by Thomas Sitch, who my grandfather would certainly have known. By an odd coincidence I now play the part of Thomas Sitch at the annual Cradley Heath Chainmakers’ Festival. Working at the museum I have been able to try my hand at chainmaking, not that my grandfather would have been very impressed with the results!
Over the years I have pursued an interest in writing books. Gradually these have developed from books on local ‘ghosts and hauntings’ to local history. Two recent history titles include ‘A – Z of the Black Country’ for Amberley Publishing and, dare I mention it, ‘A – Z of Birmingham’ for the same publisher.
Since the very early days of John Brimble the various Secretaries of the Black Country Society have done a fantastic job, including of course my predecessor, Judith Watkin. I regard it as very much a privilege to have been invited to join their number and I very much look forward to meeting many more Black Country Society members as your new Secretary.