The "On this day" series of Tweets and Facebook posts, put together by Jack Price have proved very popular and have been shared many times. In this blog post, we gather the entries from January to March together, so that they are a little more accessible to those interested.
04/01/1986 Phil Lynott died #OTD in 1986, having previously collapsed on Christmas Day. His last years were deeply affected by drug and alcohol dependency; he is commemorated in West Bromwich with a bust by Luke Perry and a plaque at Sandwell Hospital, his birthplace.
23/01/1766 William Caslon I died #OTD in 1766. Caslon was an influential typefounder: he established the first English national typographic style, beating John Baskerville to the mark. Caslon was born in Cradley in either 1692 or 1693.
30/01/1912 Allegedly #OTD in 1912, ‘It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary’ was penned by Jack Judge. He was performing in Stalybridge, Cheshire at the time, but others, including his family, insist that the song was written in Oldbury or West Bromwich – his native Black Country.
31/01/1916 Despite the Great War having raged on for a year and a half, the Black Country received an unexpected and unprecedented shock #OTD in 1916 when two gas-filled behemoths crossed the English Channel and launched a major air raid on the British Isles, striking the Midlands. At 11:00am, nine Zeppelins set out from their German bases, all sharing the same target – Liverpool. Large patches of fog covered Britain, however, and the nine craft soon found themselves lost and scattered across the country. L21, a brand-new airship, eventually found itself above Wolverhampton at 19:45pm. It was heard in Netherton before coming over Tipton, when the crew began dropping high explosive bombs. The zeppelin then made its way to Bradley, Wednesbury, and Walsall, dropping bombs on each town. L21 thereafter returned to base, but the night was not yet over, and L19 soon visited the Black Country. Having bypassed blacked-out Birmingham, Kidderminster, and Stourbridge, L19 dropped some bombs within the grounds of Dudley Castle, though little devastation was inflicted. Wednesbury, Tipton, and Walsall were again visited by the zeppelins, receiving further damage and more casualties. Thereafter suffering mechanical difficulties, L19 crashed into the North Sea; after the ‘King Stephen’ refused to pick up the airship’s crew, they perished. The air raid was not limited to just the Black Country, but the attack remains central to the region’s memory of the First World War. That night, the zeppelins inflicted 70 fatalities and 113 casualties. Unfortunately, the zeppelin menace was only a taste of things to come…
12/02/1965 Malcolm X visits Marshall Street in Smethwick #OTD in 1965. Visiting on the back of Peter Griffiths election win on a racist ticket, the activist likened the treatment of Smethwick’s ethnic minorities to that of the Jews under Adolf Hitler. He was assassinated a week later.
23/02/1950 The 1950 general election is held #OTD. Labour won overall with a narrow majority, but the new Wolverhampton South West constituency was won by the Conservative nominee, one Enoch Powell. He served the constituency until 1974, and as Minister of Health under Harold Macmillan.
01/03/1967 The inaugural meeting of the Black Country Society is held at the Noah’s Ark, Tipton, #OTD in 1967. The Society was formed to ‘Support, record, preserve, and celebrate the distinct character and nature’ of the Black Country – it continues to do so.
01/03/1968 Baggeridge Colliery closed #OTD in 1968. It was the last deep mine operating in the Black Country. Its closure marked the end of the region’s immense industrial era.
06/03/1922 Following the First World War, John Knowles of the Phosphor Bronze Company in Dudley Port purchased 160 tons of surplus cartridges, intending to recover the lead bullets from their copper jackets. The majority of his employees were teenage girls. A spark from an open fire in the factory ignited some gunpowder that had been left on the floor. The subsequent explosion destroyed the factory’s roof, shattered many windows, and rocked Dudley Port. A total of nineteen girls died.
11/03/1910 Industrialist and Conservative politician Sir Alfred Hickman died #OTD in 1910. On his death, he bequeathed a park in Bilston to the town’s people; the park was afterwards named Hickman Park in his honour.
22/03/1973 Beverley Knight was born Beverley Anne Smith #OTD in 1973. Born in Wolverhampton, she maintains her links with the city to this day. Inspired by soul icons including Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin, her hits include ‘Greatest Day’, ‘Get Up!’, and ‘Shoulda Woulda Coulda’.
28/03/1954 #OTD in 1954, poet and novelist Francis Brett Young dies in Cape Town, South Africa. His ashes were interred in Worcester Cathedral, alongside those of two contemporary Worcestershire giants - Stanley Baldwin and Edward Elgar. He was largely forgotten after his death.