It was an age when thousands of children perished from incurable
diseases. In his unpublished memoirs, The Rain Must Fall, a Great
Wyrley miner, Benjamin Edward Walker (1899-1983), described harrowingly
how diphtheria claimed three of his young sisters in a matter of
the early part of 1907 both Pam and Poppy became very ill with sore
throats and could hardly swallow. My parents became very concerned
about them so my father went to fetch the Doctor in his horse and
trap. The doctor diagnosed diphtheria and told my mother that it
was essential that the other children should be sent away from the
infection right away. Therefore Caroline, May and I were packed
off to stay with our grandfather at Hatherton. Mary who was still
being breast fed had to stay with mother who was required to look
after both Pam and Poppy who were both very ill.
In spite of my mother's and Betty's round the clock nursing, poor
Pam died a week later followed by Poppy the day after.
My father came over to Hatherton to tell us the dreadful news
that the funeral had been arranged for later that week.
He also told my grandfather Benny that my mother was in a state
of deep shock and had been confined to bed by the doctor but worse
still it was feared that Mary the baby had also caught the dreaded
diphtheria. The doctor was hoping she would pull through but did
not hold out much hope.
The twins funeral took place at Great Wyrley Church attended by
the family mourners and friends. Grandfather Benny went but Caroline
May and I stayed at Hatherton with Mrs Cope the housekeeper. Betty
with some local help had prepared some food for the mourners after
the funeral when they returned to the house. My mother, although
still in shock had insisted in getting up from her bed and attending
the funeral, leaving baby Mary in Betty's tender care.
After the funeral the mourners returned to Jacob's Hall. Betty
had been anxiously looking through the window up Jacob's Lane for
the return of my parents and when they turned into the drive she
ran out screaming, "Ted, Mary come quickly, I think the poor little
soul has gone. She is lying so still and I cannot get any response
My father just bounded down from the trap and dashed into the
house. A few minutes later he came out and embraced my mother. In
between sobs he said "It's no use my love, she is dead, whatever
have we done to deserve this? We must have a curse on us".
There was no answer from my mother she had just collapsed into
a dead faint. My father picked her up and carried her into the house
and upstairs into bed. One of their friends dashed off in his horse
and trap to fetch the doctor, who came straight away, but he could
only confirm that little Mary was dead. He also of course attended
to my mother but apart from giving her something to make her sleep
he couldn't do much for her. As he said "Time alone is the only
cure for her".
The ritual of another sad funeral had to be faced with all its
trauma, and little Mary was buried in the same grave as her sisters
Pamela and Poppy.
More dark deeds in Great Wyrley: Two horses were found mutilated
in a field at Warwell Lane, Great Wyrley in August, just months after
the son of the Vicar of Great Wyrley, George Edalji, who had been
jailed for seven years for maiming a horse in the area, was given
a full pardon.
The famous author of the Sherlock Holmes novels Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle, who had been a campaigner for Edalji to be freed, claimed
that he knew the true identity of the man responsible for a series
of attacks on cattle and horses in the area over a number of years.
Great Wyrley became the focus of national attention as the police
came under pressure to catch the horse killer. On September 5 butcher
Hollis Morgan, 23, was arrested in Wolverhampton and charged with
the latest crimes.
The case against him was discharged by Penkridge magistrates who
said that Morgan's foolish statements had brought about the charge
and there was no evidence against him.
A bit of a curiosity: On Wednesday an unmistakable native
of the Black Country strolled in to the Express & Star office
and intimated to the sporting editor he had brought with him "a bit
of a curiosity".
There was considerable chirping as he visitor put his left hand
in to a capacious coat pocket and produced therefrom a bird which,
on examination, proved to be a chicken about a fortnight old.
It is one a hatch of seven, and its peculiarity consists of the
fact that it has four legs.
It is a healthy-looking chick and at one took a violent dislike
to its new surrounding, so much that its owner, fearing that the
atmosphere of the sub-editorial department would be too much for
his novelty, quickly transferred the chicken to his pocket and beat
a hasty retreat.
Support for protest women: In February, Mrs Emma Sproson, of
Wolverhampton, was among 61 women arrested as more than 700 suffragettes
made two vain attempts to force entry to the Houses of Parliament.
Mounted police were called out to deal with the riot. Mrs Sproson
was jailed for two weeks, but was buoyed during her stay in Holloway
Gaol by letters of sympathy from friends in the town.
A brass band played outside the prison on February 27 as she and
28 other suffragettes were released.
Mrs Sproson and another Wolverhampton suffragette Mrs Elizabeth
Price, were arrested in a further raid on the House of Commons on
Drowning tragedy: In June three Stourbridge holidaymakers drowned
in the sea at Blackpool. Keen photographer Dolly Gillam, aged 24,
of Worcester Street, had walked down steps to the North Shore to get
a snapshot of the rough sea. Her brother James, 22, and fiance Ernest
Taylor, 27, of Highclere, Norton, were horrified to see her swept
away by a heavy wave and both went into the water after her. They
reached her but were unable to swim to safety and all three perished
in the waves.