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~ Folklore ~
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A couple of Gornal characters of the time who are mentioned on the Gornal postcard, Cogger and Pokey Man (Pokey).
Cogger nickname originated from his job building cogs in the local mines, his real name was Billy Stevens and he was well known for his expertise in building 'cogs' down the local pits.
A 'cog' -a mining term for a man-made roof support, and Cogger was celebrated for his sturdy cogs in the local mines.
Cogger was also well known for his practical jokes, he one of twelve children of Herbert and Rachel Stevens (nee Hickman).
It was Herbert who discovered the "Gornal Monstrosity", the likes of which have never been seen before or since, a multi-legged rat-like creature with many abnormalities and deformities. This grotesque creature was discovered in a cesspit he had been cleaning out.
Herbert kept the vile creature as a talking point for many years at his home in New Street, as to whether this was another 'joke' or not is still open, but nevertheless another bit of Gornal folklore.
Later, the Stevens' became well known for their chippy at 49 New Street, which was fabricated in the 'brew us' [Brew House] out the back.
Archie Williams once described Cogger as "..a tall gangling man, his hands invariably buried deep in his trouser pockets cut on the cross, with a short clay pipe nearly always upside down in his mouth, a Billycock [Bowler Hat] stuck at an angle upon his head and a disarming grin across his face."
Another well known character was Thomas Malpass, he was so name Pokey Man or just 'Pokey' after he had lost his hand in an accident.
A steel hook replaced his hand which he used to good effect in any argument.
He was landlord of the Red Lion Inn in Abbey Road in the early part of the 20th Century.
this aye fur noggin yeds