I was born in Southport, Lancashire (now Merseyside); my family origins are to be found in the wild hills of Westmoreland. I trained as a teacher at St Peter’s College, Saltley, qualifying in 1968 and have now worked as a primary school teacher in Birmingham for well over forty years. I am the author of two primary school assembly books which were published by the Oxford University Press and which, at the time, were groundbreaking, presenting as they do stories from world religions for use in primary schools: Assembly Stories from Around the World 1983 and Heroes of the Faiths 1985.
I have long been interested in history, especially the history of individual localities. Secondary school history when I was a lad (and it may still be) was the study of wars and treaties, prime ministers and kings. What I enjoy is finding out what happened on the spot I’m standing on, who the local people were, what did they do and how they were affected by national events. And I particularly love finding evidence of the past in the buildings and the landscapes of the present.
Staying in Birmingham after qualifying, I soon became interested in the city’s history and studied part-time at Birmingham University for an MA in the history of the West Midlands. My dissertation was a study of how the Gothic Revival in architecture and the arts in general impacted on the restoration of the ancient churches of Birmingham.
My first introduction to Birmingham’s history was a slender booklet entitled ‘Our Birmingham’ first published by Cadburys in the 1940s. This used to be standard fare in all Birmingham primary schools but is now a rarity. I decided many years ago to start writing an updated version of the booklet, with an emphasis as much on the villages that make up the modern city as on the centre itself. But then computers were invented and the amount of material I was able to collect began to grow much too great for a book.
And then I met Mike Hodder, the City Archaeologist who gave me access to the Birmingham Sites & Monuments Record comprising many thousands of entries of archaeological finds and historic buildings. The material became too big for a Word document but then the internet was invented and anything became possible!
I set up a website in 2008, A History of BIRMINGHAM Places & Placenames . . . from A to Y – billdargue.jimdo.com, which now gets over 10,000 hits a month, and it’s good to eventually see a Birmingham history book for children now on sale, Children’s History of Birmingham – Discover History on Your Doorstep by Mandy Ross.
I’m an enthusiastic though not very accomplished bellringer in my spare time, former captain of Castle Bromwich bellringers at the church of St Mary & St Margaret where I have been ringing for some 30 years. I have lived in Castle Bromwich most of my married life and have published some historical booklets and trails on the history of the church and village. I’m now involved with the Castle Bromwich Bell Restoration Project, trying to refurbish the rickety bell installation at our church at a cost of some £100,000. Find out more at the Castle Bromwich Bell Ringers’ website at cbbells.webs.com. Donate via PayPal if you’d like to help us!
I do not claim to be an expert on the history of Birmingham and its districts; I’m just an enthusiastic amateur, so readers should not take my word as the last word on anything. The material here is a compilation of material from a great variety of sources. If you’re doing your own research, do cross-check it for yourself! And if I can be of any help I am very happy for you to contact me via this website.