There are those who played an important part in Sheepwash and contributing to its fortunes. This page looks at those who are no longer with us.
In Great Bridge, there was only one Fred Perry- and not the former more internationally known Tennis player. As a former Sandwell Councillor for The Great Bridge ward, Fred was also a founder member of The Friends of Sheepwash Local Nature Reserve and Sandwell Swanwatch.
Along with Malcolm Beckley, (former Chair of the group and see below) he also started the CATCH radio scheme in the town (community action tackling crime and harassment).
I remember standing with him CATCH radios in hand in the dark well after 11 0 clock at night on Sheepwash waiting for the police to arrive to deal with some yobs breaking down trees. I remember a man who put on a pair of waders around the age of 78 to help me catch a wounded swan on Sheepwash. I recall a man who would usually be the first to raise the alarm when he spotted a fire on the site from his multi storey tower block flat. But what else would you expect from a man who had served with The forgotten army during WW2, who raised thousands of pounds for The Royal British Legion and could be found every year doing the same thing always giving of his time?
He was an admired figure by young and old, and a cult figure in the area where he knew almost everyone, and most knew him. Despite being deselected by his local Labour party branch, Fred remained for many years the face in the street that people would go to with their problems. He never turned anyone away, and it is a miracle that he and his wife Irene ever managed to get their shopping done in the local Kwiksave.
In truth he never really got over being deselected and felt betrayed by those he had considered “friends”. In a world dominated by the false, Fred remained his uncompromising self- an old school socialist who would give his views instead of playing it safe and saying little. He was a union man, and not one from EQUITY.
His family can be proud that he “retired” with dignity, was rightfully honoured with an MBE he deserved and has left a lasting memory where he will not be forgotten.
I remember a slightly built but deeply committed man- especially to Sheepwash Nature Reserve and The Haines Branch Walkway– which Fred had a great deal in shaping, or trying to. It was rather an insult as far as we are concerned that The Haines Branch Walkway for which he campaigned to be tidied up and become part of Sheepwash was renamed after him as “Fred Perry Walk”. Fred was keen on the history of The Haines branch canal and we do not believe that he would have wanted the name to die out to be replaced by his own.
The fact that the council cannot even be bothered to keep this area clean or honour the scheme to restore the canal structure which he campaigned for perhaps speaks volumes on what they really thought of Fred.
Below is just one example of his indefatigable campaigning for the local area.
Fred acted as the link between the dogma of a council that belatedly honoured him with the title “Alderman” and the people of the community he served so well.
HE WAS THE GREAT BRIDGE.
Malcolm was a dynamic, motivated and committed community activist who could mobilise people into action.
Along with Fred, he also started the CATCH radio scheme in the town. The radio scheme alerted police to potential crimes being committed in the town, though sometimes went well beyond these boundaries. On one occasion I was following individuals with air weapons in another area whilst waiting for the police, and Mac showed up to help- you could always rely on him for that.
He helped on many a swan rescue, including when we went over one night to a canal in Birmingham to rescue a family. It was dark by the time we got home. He also caught a goose with fishing line when we were on a walkabout around Sheepwash with the council.
Mac was a big player in The Great Bridge forum, The Tenants and Residents Association, and became Chair of The Friends of Sheepwash and continued in the role until his death. He was also active in campaigns, including that to save Tipton Baths, and also helping local youths.
He was able to access funding and knew a great deal of contacts, including having the swanwatch badges made and a banner.
Along with Fred, he wanted to improve The Haines Branch Walkway near to where he lived, but the matter was frustrated by political opponents throughout, and it is sad that he was unable to see the plans that had been drawn up become a reality.
He was awarded the title of “Tiptonian of the Year” for his community work for the town.
Terry was one of the original birders of Sheepwash who saw the area transform into a nature reserve. He was also a brilliant artist, and I am pleased that before his death, he gave me permission to use some of his amazing fine art drawings on this website. I just wish that I had more of them! The intricate dot detail is incredible to look at close up, and when pulling this back reveals photo perfect impressions.
Like many of the other twitchers on the site, he became a little disillusioned with the ASB on there and the human element that descended after it became an “urban park”. I used to bump into him at Sandwell Valley quite a few times and would update him of anything of interest that I had seen or heard about on Sheepwash, and he continued to pay the odd visit there.
Terry gave me a great deal of information on the swans at Sheepwash before I started swanwatch, and this was a very interesting set of records which I have kept. He died too young, but his work lives on.