I was born in Dudley Road Hospital Birmingham, brought up in Erdington, Birmingham, and have lived in Hampshire for the last 45 years, so you might be wondering why I have such fond and powerful memories of Heath Hayes.
Well it all started for me as far back as I can remember, because all of my mother’s family are from Heath Hayes and Hednesford, and a large family it was too. My Grand Father, Bill Lyons, was born in Hednesford in 1890, and he was one of 12 children. The Lyons family was well known in the area in the early part of last century for their sporting ability. Bill played for Hednesford and moved to Aston Villa just before the first world war, but the most famous of the brothers was Alf (Tommy) Lyons, who also signed for Aston Villa. His medals included a 1909/10 First Division Championship medal and a 1913 FA Cup winners medal. Between the brothers, which included Jim and Albert, they played in two FA Cup semi-finals and served seven different league clubs.
As I said, my memories of Heath Hayes started way back in my life, probably in the early 50’s when we would catch the 20 past the hour Harpers from Kingstanding Circle to Five Ways. I can see it coming round the Circle now with Cannock via Cross Keys just above the drivers head. I can also see the route, Aldridge, Brown Hills, Norton Canes. We would get off the bus and walk up Wimblebury Road to my gran and granddad’s house. It was a fair way up, past Stafford and Bank St and the school, almost level with the old 8s pit. The memories of that old house are still so vivid in my mind, the kitchen always smelled of Vim, and there was bits of newspaper hanging up in the outside loo. I also remember the back garden, and you could stand in it and see right the way across to the Hednesford Road and St John’s church, where my gran and granddad are buried. It was next to a house that was demolished because of pit subsidence, owned by a family called Forrester. A large house was built in it’s place.
My uncle (Bill Lyons Jr) lived in Wimblebury Rd for more than 50 years. His house was one down from the corner of Bank St, next to the Gough residence, a name also well known in Heath Hayes in those days. He worked down 8’s for some time, and my grandad was a lookout in his later years. I always come to Heath Hayes when I’m up in Brum, and I popped into see him a few years ago, just before he passed away. I also took the opportunity to walk up the overgrown path to the old pit, and managed to get as far as the concrete base for the baths, just a few yards from the down shaft. As a kid, me and my cousins used to climb over the field gate and get as far as the pit reservoir, that wasn’t too long before the pit closed in the early 60’s.. One of my cousins, Robert Hunter (father called Bob, who’s brother was Reg), was the head choir boy at St Johns (he still lives in Cannock) and I always visit my grandparents grave when I’m in Brum. I was very disappointed to find it desecrated a few years back, and the last time I was up, I found the whole graveyard overgrown. It was very sad and upsetting to see, and I hope the Parish council have been able to do something.
A treat for me and my cousins would be a walk down Bank St on a Saturday or Sunday evening to The Cons, were we would enjoy the band playing in the back room, with a bottle of Vimto and a packet of Smith’s crisps. I also remember there being at least one bowling green out back, and I wonder if it is still there. Other memories include us visiting our Aunty Vi and uncle Bob (Hunter), but they moved about so much you never knew were they were going to be, my aunty was a serial and constant mover. They lived in Bank St, Hednesford Road (just south of the 5 Ways island), Chapel St right next to the Post Office, Pye Green and Cheslyn Hay. They also lived in a big old house which I think you accessed from Lower Road down by the Cross Keys. My aunty used to tell me that Lillie Langtry went there but I don’t know if that is true or not.
Those memories always draw me back to Heath Hayes, they will always be powerful, always be strong and I will carry them with me for ever.