~ Folklore, Customs and Characters ~
~ Pig On The Wall ~
The Legend of the 'Pig-On-The-Wall'.
Mention Gornal to a Black Countryman, and it won't be long before "where they put the pig-on-the-wall to watch the band go by" crops up in the conversation.
Perhaps the tale indicates the local humour rather than any simple-mindedness of the natives, still part of folklore of which Gornal folk are proud, it's not unusual to spot a statue of a pig adorning someones gatepost.
"Gornal, where they put the pig on the wall to watch the band go by.
Such was the strength of our local legend, the Bricklayers Arms in Kent Street was re-named 'The Pig On The Wall' in 1985 to commemorate it.
The Gornal version of the postcard.
The folklore was further perpetuated by a humorous postcard fabricated by Gornal persons unknown.
The Gornal card was based on one which celebrated the cross channel swim of Captain Webb of Dawley, Shropshire in 1875.
The original Dawley postcard was produced in 1909, entitled "Who put the Pig on the wall to see Captain Webb's procession pass" and shows a pig poised looking over a wall.
This seems to stem from a story published in 1909 about an old women from Ironbridge who "hoisted a pig on the wall of her pig stye to watch the Captain Webb procession", it is said that the same old lady also went out one night with a candle to look for the 'Comet' that was talked about. Make of it what you will!
The Gornal version which was obviously altered later reads:-
"Who put the pig on the wall at Gornal to see the band go by?
Was it Billy the Boy, Jimmy the Go, Clockweight, Billy on Tho'b, the Pokey Mon or Jacko, Tasso, Cogger, Blossom, Jackery?
No, it was Johnny Longstomach."
It was (still is!) common for Gornal folk to be nicknamed in such a manner, some of those mentioned were local legends in their own right.
Gornal and Dawley are not the only places that claim their 'The Pig On The Wall' origins, Droylsden, near Manchester still has a pub which was named after a similar local legend of the town's folk putting a pig on a wall to watch the annual carnival procession.
1896: Nuneaton Observer 31 July.
Frank Hiatt, labourer, Atherstone, was summoned by George Pinchbeck for a common assault on July 14th.-There was a cross-summons, -lt appeared that the complainant was working in a garden when the defendant called out to him "Who put the pig on the wall?" and other offensive names. Upon Pinchbeck remonstrating with him Hiatt struck him a violent blow in the mouth. -Hiatt was fined úl, including costs, and the cross-summons was dismissed.
When did it all start?
The earliest reference I found to this folklore in the press is from 1895, "A Somerset yokel put a pig on the wall to enjoy the spectacle of a brass band passing by", it seems that around this time "Who put the pig on the wall" was insulting simple-mindedness, as the newspaper report opposite indicates.
Another lightheated newspaper article entitled "Fool Villages", published in 1901, about "Lamberhead Green", a village near Wigan, the article goes on to say "Another tale told of the village is that people put pigs on the wall to watch the brass bands go past"
There is no doubt that a pig was put on the wall in Gornal at some time in the past and probably more than once, but who copied who?
Some of the characters noted on the spoof Gornal card were associated with the Red Lion Inn in Gornal Wood, the pub would have been central to everything Gornal.
Just further along from the Red Lion in Abbey Road was a 'wall' bordering an enclosure owned by Turners, butchers and also a slaughterhouse adjacent, a likely explanation is that one of the above jokers could have put either a pigs head or even a live pig on the wall to watch one of the many processions along Abbey Street.
Whilst others have questioned the validity of the Gornal pig legend and have offered these alternative explanations, the following version strongly denies any such notion.
The pig (tale) controversy goes on...
This account reproduced with kind permission of Jack Falstaff.

The Village Where They Put The Pig On The Wall To See The Band Go By.

Over the years all three Gornals have had this sobriquet attached to them, often in derision, which is a pity - not that any native would take offence, for we have broad backs - but because it all started as our own private in-joke. But that was so long ago that the reality has largely been lost in the mists of time.

The Pig on the Wall story is true enough, and it actually happened in Gornal Wood (though less favoured places may wish to lay spurious claims.. but I wouldn't know about that).

The trouble is there are too few natives left to tell the tale, and, of the few there are, too many have none of the actual facts. It did happen a long time ago, before even my seventy-eight years began, but here is the story told to me when I was a little lad by a lady, now long dead, who was actually an eye-witness.
We have to go back to the time when every chapel with any pretension to respectability (and that was all of them) had an Anniversary. That entailed a procession of the faithful around the locality, the whole congregation walking two by two in their very best clothes, and all on their very best behaviour. They would have a banner at the front and a band of music at the rear.
Most all of the denominations, almost all of the four and twenty jarring sects you might say, had a band. Zoar had one, the Methodists on Himley Road had one, and so on.... but there was one exception... The Ranters.
Now here I have to be careful because they weren't really Ranters, not in the original usage of the term originating in Commonwealth times, no, they were officially Primitive Methodists, but they had been called Ranters since the middle of the nineteenth century, and the name, however unfairly, stuck.
Anyway, the Ranters, being a small and impecunious congregation, had no band, and they felt at great disadvantage because of that. But fate smiled and eventually, sometime in the early 1920s, by a superhuman effort and with considerable ingenuity they managed to muster enough musicians to provide their Anniversary procession with music. All the players were reckoned to be competent and able to read Moody and Sankey at sight, all that is except the bass drummer.
By the time they got round to finding a bass drummer the bottom of the Ranters' musical barrel had been scraped pretty dry. In the end, with a certain amount of misgiving the elders settled on a gentleman (who shall remain nameless) of very short stature. Some unkind folk muttered that stature wasn't the only thing he was short of, but that is a wicked slur - let's just say that he was, in the best British tradition, something of an eccentric.
The day of the Anniversary came, the Ranters assembled and set off in fine style past Zoar and the Board Schools up the hill to show the unbelievers and lesser committed Christians of Lower Gornal just how a proper Anniversary procession should be managed. They were heading for Five Ways and all was going wonderfully, the band in fine fettle, playing away fit to bust, when they reached the point where Temple Street swings to the left to become Church Street and the lesser thoroughfare of Humphrey Street forks slightly to the right, though indeed it is almost aligned straight ahead. All of the procession followed the left curve into Church Street........... all that is except the bass drummer who, last of all in the marching band and hardly able to see over the massive drum strapped to his shoulders, marched straight ahead... into Humphrey Street. Serenely oblivious to his solitary state he marched on, banging his bass drum for all he was worth... marching you might say into his own little bit of history.
It was the chap who lived in the first cottage on the right in Humphrey Street (I think his name was Mr Roberts, but I may be wrong) who, seeing this wonderful lone drummer, shot down the garden to the pig sty, pulled his prize porker up the garden, propped his forelegs up on the wall and said to the pig "Theer mah mon, yoh woh see a band like that agin, Ah'll warrant." Maybe you have to be a Gornal native to see the joke, I don't know, but it certainly raised a laugh from the onlookers and spread joyfully through Gornal Wood, particularly amongst those not of the Primitive Methodist persuasion.

And that's the true story. The proof can be found in a photographic postcard made by the Sedgley Chemist, Mr Eggington, who got the owner of the pig to reconstruct the scene by propping his pig's front feet on the wall for the camera a few days later.

Jack Falstaff