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The Original Four Black Country Singing Miners
The 'Four Singing Miners' were Gornal locals with particularly fine singing voices, namely John 'Jack' Abbiss, Edwin Parkes, Benjamin Parkes and James 'Jim' Massey.
They formed a quartet firstly under the title of 'Four Singing Miners' then 1912 onwards as 'The Four Black Country Singing Miners' to distinguish them from other similar groups of singing miners.
The Four toured England's variety stage during the period 1910 until the outbreak of the war in 1914 and were always well received.
With the outbreak of the First World War, the men tried to enlist, but were directed back to their former occupations working coal.
After the war, the Singing Miners did not persue their professional singing further.
However the quartet continued singing locally for several years more, mainly for charitable causes.
Jack Abbiss became the landlord of the Swan Inn in Lake Street during the 1930s.
Ben Parkes [1875-1954]
Newspaper Obituary, Australia 1954
Ben Parkes was a coal miner with a fine tenor voice and a leading member of the 'Four Singing Miners, apart from mining, he had held a variety of jobs in Gornal, as a builder's labourer, insurance agent and he also ran a furniture shop part time.
Ben Parkes married Alice Beatrice Marsh at the United Reform Church, Ruiton in 1913, Alice was a teacher and local girl from the large family of William Henry Marsh, who were liviing at 1 Himley Road in 1901.
Ben and family emigrated to Australia in 1924, starting out on their epic journey on Christmas Eve, an eight week trip to get to their final destination and start their new life in New South Wales.
Once settled in Australia, Ben turned again to coal mining - working above ground, but as before in Gornal, he could turn his hand to anything, later in life as a shopkeeper.
Benjamin Parkes died in 1954, his wife Alice died in 1946.
William Stanley Parkes [1913-1990].
Ben's Son, William Stanley Parkes, was born in Lower Gornal on 29th May, 1913, he was only 10 years old when the family emigrated.
'Stan' as he became known, lived an interesting and accomplished life in New South Wales, Australia.
Stan Parkes, among other things was an historian, writer and teacher, he was a co-author of the book 'Mines, Wines and People : a history of Greater Cessnock' and several other works.
In 1943, Stan Joined the RAAF and a couple of years later married Marguerite Fernance, they had four children.
He was a keen cricketer, and known for his study of Aborigine cultures.
William Stanley 'Stan' Parkes continued to live in Australia until his death in 1990.
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