Proud region captured through the camera lens

Sometimes, as a journalist, a story falls into your lap that seems just too bizarre to be true.

Michael Rowley beds down in Stourbridge Cricket Club's pavilion after his divorce. His wife claimed during the divorce case that her husband spent more time at the cricket club than at home.
Michael Rowley beds down in Stourbridge Cricket Club's pavilion after his divorce. His wife claimed during the divorce case that her husband spent more time at the cricket club than at home.

And so it seemed when Graham Gough was sent to take a picture of cricket nut Mike Rowley, whose wife Mildred had given him his marching orders over his obsession with the game.

Not merely because Mildred had been granted a divorce for Mike’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’, or even because Mike admitted that cricket came first, and said Mildred would have to ‘make some compromises’ if they were ever to rekindle their marriage.

But because, having been told to leave the family home in Wolverhampton, Mike set up a temporary home – at Stourbridge cricket pavilion. The picture of Mike bedding down in his sleeping bag, beneath a line of shin-pads and bats, is one of Graham’s favourites in a career spanning 67 years.

“That was a fantastic picture, it was on the front page of every national paper in the country,” he remembers.

“I met somebody recently who said he was a friend of his, and that he had been living off the story ever since.”

St Michael's and All Angels, Caldmore, Walsall distroyed by fire in 1964.

It is one of the many evocative pictures to feature in a book by former Express & Star chief photographer Graham, which is being reprinted.

Graham, who celebrates his 82nd birthday next week, began his career in 1954 at the former Dudley Herald. He left to work on the Daily Mirror, before returning to the Express & Star in 1974, where he remained until taking early retirement in 2001.

His book, The Black Country Album: 50 Years of Events, People and Places, captures many memorable events over the decades, as well as the social changes that have taken place in the region.

The Stoubridge Dodger hangs over Foster Street after failing to stop at Stourbridge Station in April 1977. Out of 20 passengers aboard 9 were injured.

One of his more dramatic pictures was of a notorious rail accident in April, 1977, when the Stourbridge Dodger train, which ran between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town railway stations, failed to stop on reaching its destination. Instead, the train crashed through the buffers and finished up precariously balanced above Foster Street in the town centre, in an image reminiscent of the closing scene in The Italian Job. It was no laughing matter, though, as nine of the 20 passengers on board the train were injured.

Les Dunn (68) is doing a job that would terrify most of us. Steeplejack Les, who was repairing the stonework on St Thomas Church, Dudley, Worcs in 1975 was working 175 ft above the main street.

Dramatic, for a different reason, is his 1975 picture of veteran steeplejack Les Dunn from Bilston, who was standing on a ladder 175ft above Dudley High Street as he calmly repaired the stonework on Dudley’s St Thomas’s Church.

“I walked up the steps inside the church, and then just stepped out onto the ledge,” he recalls. “It was amazing what he was doing, he didn’t have a helmet or a harness or anything, he was just standing on a ladder in his work clothes.”

Larry Grayson at Old Hill Market in 1980

In 1980, comedian Larry Grayson, who was one of the biggest stars on television, found time to perform the official opening of Old Hill market. “He was brilliant, he was absolutely great,” says Graham.

“I pictured him a number of times, and he would do anything.”

Prince Charles shares a joke with some of the people he met in Dudley Market Place during his visit in February 1996.

In February 1996, he photographed an even more famous, but very different customer, at Dudley Market, when the Prince of Wales paid a visit. Charles shared a joke with some of the traders during his visit, where he also voiced his sadness about the deterioration of the town’s 19th century fountain.

Bob Abbis with Robbie, Richard and Timothy

Graham captured the last vestiges of a bygone era when he pictured Enville’s last blacksmith Bob Abbis demonstrating his skills to his children. And he captured actors Gordon Corbet and Pat Roach fighting in Netherton for a film about the Tipton Slasher in 1984.

The funeral of Football legend Duncan Edwards at St Francis's Church, Dudley. Duncan was killed in the Munich air crash along with seven of his Manchester United team mates, eight journalists and three club staff in February 1958. This picture was taken from the roof of the church.

Another famous image was the funeral of Dudley-born football legend Duncan Edwards at the town’s St Francis’s Church. The England and Manchester United star was killed by injuries sustained in the 1958 Munich air crash, and crowds lined the street to see his coffin arrive.

“This picture was taken from the roof of the church,” says Graham.

The Black Country Album: 50 Years of Events, People and Places is on sale at Amazon, Waterstones, or The History Press, at £20.

An incredible scene as HMS Invincible comes out of the mist and enters Portsmouth Harbour from the Faulklands in 1982. To obtain this shot I had to climb part way up a harbour crane .

Chief Stoker Dave Tisdale gets a lift from his family and friends who traveled from West Bromwich and Walsall to welcome him home from the Falklands at Portsmouth in 1982.

Dudley High Street in January 1958.

Sam Jeavons with his horses

Alan Gorrod and John Bailey were busy re-constructing a Victorian Closet at the Blach Country Living Museum in Dudley West Midlands, when John was taken short!.

Going croc-eyed with a newly hatched crocodile at Dudley Zoo

Found Farewell for Head Teacher at Red Hall Primary School L Gornal Isobel Baugh in 1996.

Two Black Country kids

Two lads at the door of the waiting room at Arley Station Worcestershire on the Severn Valley Railway.

Getting up steam at the Black Country Museum

The queen on her visit to Wednesbury Town Hall in April 1962 chats to the Mayor Councillor Leonard Waldron with Town Clerk George Frederick Thompson to the right of the picture.

Smoke bellowing out of the machine shop as the fire engine arrives at Hillmans Leather Works, Dudley in April 1958.

Hugh Grant gets a quick kiss from Tara FitzGerald before filming started on "The Englishman Who Went up a Hill But Came down a Mountain" on the Severn Valley Railway in July 1994.

Actors Gordon Corbet (left) and Pat Roach (right) are refereed by Ray Hingley during filming of the bloody bare Knuckle fight between the Tipton Slasher and his rival Tom Sayers for a TV film shot in Netherton in 1984.

This dramtic picture of a balliff smashing down the door of the Coombes family home in Tipton during their eviction in 1965. In the 60's there where many evictions in the Black Country and this is just one of many I covered.

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