Stonnall People and Places
by Julian Ward-Davies BA Hons
Gordon Mycock - a Life
Gordon the infant, at Ryman's farm, Wall, about 1931
Gordon attended St Peter's School and then secondary school in Walsall Wood. He was a choirboy at Stonnall Church and he received his first character reference from the vicar of the time, Rev E L Freer.
This helped Gordon obtain his first job as an apprentice mechanic. He loved all things mechanical and especially motorbikes. Thus, eventually he was delighted to find employment at BSA Motorcycles in Birmingham.
Gordon the boy, at the front, behind 95 Main Street, Stonnall, about 1937
After the collapse of the British motorcycle industry, Gordon spent most of the rest of his career working for Aveling Barford, a heavy engineering company. Consequently, he travelled extensively to some of the remotest parts of Africa, the Middle East and Indo-China to service its earth-moving vehicles.
Gordon's love of motorcycling induced him to enter the sport of scrambling, in which he was a fearless and successful competitor, riding a BSA Gold Star to numerous victories and six championships.
Gordon the teenager, in one of the Lower Farm fields, Stonnall, about 1944
Having been called up to the RAF for his National Service, Gordon thereafter took a life-long interest in the welfare of ex-servicemen and their families.
Gordon was an action-man. Even though he had been diagnosed with a serious illness in his 70s, he did not allow himself the indulgence of self-pity or any notion of giving up. Right up to the end of his life, he doggedly pursued his interest in motorcycle restoration and a large number of classic British machines were brought back to pristine condition as a result of his efforts.
Gordon was a Stonnall boy through and through. In his early life, he engaged fully in village culture: as a schoolboy, a church chorister, a sportsman, a member of the youth club and as a participant in the gangs of women and children who used to pick fruit and vegetables in the fields around and about.
Gordon the young man, outside Elm Cottage, Stonnall, about 1950
As a direct result of this love for Stonnall, Gordon became involved in the History Group from its inception and so a deep-rooted friendship commenced.
I first met Gordon in 2010 when, in person, he wanted to make an historical point about the enclosure traditionally named Well Meadow, now better-known as the playing fields. From that moment an informal partnership formed, during which we embarked on a mission to explore local history and which led ultimately to the creation of Stonnall History Group, its website and our, by now, huge collection of historical photographs and other documents.
Gordon the daredevil, leading the pack at a racetrack near Brownhills, 1950s
But by no means did things stop there. We went out on many excursions, if not adventures, to examine this or that historical feature, from the Manor House cellars, to Grove Hill, the Crooked Hedge in Mill Lane, the churchyard and many more besides. Also, Gordon was not shy of physical effort and he took the fullest possible part in our excavations in the Triangular Field, not to mention the work he put in to help clear the churchyard. He had, by the way, no doubt whatsoever that we had found the remains of St Peter's Chapel in the said field.
Moreover, Gordon had his own story to tell. For many of us of a certain age who entered the old school before its demolition and replacement, Old Stonnall had been a fleeting childhood experience of the mid-1950s. Long and detailed conversions with Gordon, however, revealed crystal-clear, first-hand recollections of the village that evoked people and places from at least two decades before all the housing developments of the late 1950s and after.
Gordon Mycock, 1929 - 2015, at the Grove Hill footroad, Stonnall, 2011
I encouraged Gordon to jot down these details as they occurred to him, which he engaged in over the succeeding months. Eventually, together we stitched them into a cohesive story, becoming a comprehensive account of his family and his early years, Memories of Old Stonnall. It has become one of the most popular articles in our website.
In the last few weeks of his life, I assured Gordon that people would still be reading his account of Old Stonnall in hundreds of years - and I am now more certain of that than ever.
© Julian Ward-Davies 2015
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