When Google failed to supply an answer about one of the city’s late great politicians, Jon Griffin reached for a trusty old friend, the Birmingham Post Year Book. He looks back fondly at the region’s go-to directory in an age before the internet.
It began as a quick look back through the archives – and became a glorious sepia-tinted journey to a distant world.
One of Birmingham’s post-war political giants, Sir Neville Bosworth, had died, and I needed to check the facts of his astonishing 46-year career at Birmingham City Council.
For once, Google was unable to fill in all the gaps of an extraordinary political odyssey – so I dusted off a faithful friend which had lain unloved and ignored on a bookshelf for far too long.
The 1979-80 Birmingham Post Year Book and Who’s Who contained more than 40 lines on the rich detail of Sir Neville’s extraordinary career, and even displayed the great man’s home telephone number at his address in Four Oaks.
In the foreword to the 31st Year Book, then Lord Mayor George Canning says of the mighty tome: “I have always found the Birmingham Post Year Book and Who’s Who so invaluable, that it is difficult to envisage how one would cope in public life without such a useful publication.” He wasn’t joking.
This newspaper’s Year Book may be no more – but it’s difficult to envisage a more comprehensive guide for an unashamed exercise in nostalgia for anybody looking for a glimpse of what life was like here in Birmingham over 30 years ago.
Entirely at random, I was able to glean an astonishing variety of facts and figures....
Under the ‘Association Football’ section, Aston Villa’s president was listed as AT Gill, the manager was R Saunders (soon to win the old First Division), the secretary’s job was vacant and the Outer Circle buses, 39, 6 and 7a would get you to the ground.
Birmingham City (founded 1875 as Small Heath Alliance) included the aforementioned Mr Bosworth among its directors, along with C Coombs, J Wiseman and H Dare, and the manager was Jim Smith (no mention of his famed Bald Eagle epithet).
In the Cricket pages, the president of Warwickshire CC is Brigadier Sir Richard H Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, BT, CBE, LLD, DL, JP. The chairman is Cyril Goodway, captain John Whitehouse and general secretary Alan Smith.
Ordinary membership for an under 65 resident within 15 miles of Edgbaston cost £13 whilst the same category for over 65s (or 60 in the case of ladies) amounted to £6.50.
Even more exotically, but still in the sports section under Yachting and Water Sports, we are told: “You don’t have to be a member of a sailing club to enjoy dinghy sailing in Birmingham. Provided you have a dinghy, 75 pence and a life jacket, the wearing of which is compulsory, you can now enjoy a day’s sailing on the half-mile long pool in Brookvale Park, Erdington.” (courtesy of the council’s Amenities and Recreation Department).
We learn that more than 1,000 fishing clubs were affiliated to the Birmingham Anglers Association, the largest organisation of its type in the country, with a total membership exceeding 60,000.