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William R Morgan

William Robert Morgan

William Robert Morgan was born at Little Dawley in 1832 and in 1851 he was a coalminer in Oldbury. In 1871, he was living in Dawley with his wife, Elizabeth and children, and his occupation was a “Photographic Artist”.

William Robert wrote at least two ballads, both about mining incidents that happened within a couple of weeks of each other. The first one was about the Pelsall Hall Colliery disaster that occurred on 14th November 1872 and where twenty two men lost their lives. Six of the men were natives of Dawley, and the feeling in Dawley, at that time, was very sympathetic towards the sufferers, many of whom have personal relatives and friends in the neighbourhood. A fund was set up in the Dawley area, for the relief of the widows and children, and the total amount collected amounted to £8 - 3s - 4½d, (£8·17). A lot of this money came from the sale of the ballads.

The money was being delivered to Pelsall by the vicar of Dawley, when Dawley’s worst mining accident occurred at the Springwell Pit on 6th December 1872; three weeks after Pelsall. The Springwell Pit, where eight men died, was situated in Little Dawley where William Robert was born, and from the baptism of his son, William Richard, we know that he was an “Inn Keeper” in Little Dawley in 1869. It is very likely that William Robert knew some of these men and their families, and given his mining background, he was very likely drawn to pen the ballads and give the proceeds to the funds in both occasions.

I believe that William Robert died in 1902; probably in Bilston, where he was living in 1901. He would have been sixty nine years old.

Jeremiah Morgan also wrote at least two ballads; one about the death of three colliers who fell down the shaft at a colliery at Ketley on 6th December 1851. In this case, sabotage was suspected because someone had partially cut the winding rope before the incident. The other was about a murder of a travailing salesman at Stirchley in 1867. The ballad details the circumstances leading to the discovery of the body and the handling of the main suspect at the trial, but does not give the verdict at its end. He was eventually acquitted. This might indicate that the ballad was written in about June 1868. Jeremiah was born in about 1814 at Lawley Bank and he lived in this area up to about 1871 when he was lodging at a house in West Street, St. Georges. He had been a Grocer & Beer Seller up to about 1858, when it looks as if he fell on hard times. He married three times and had six children with his second wife, Sarah. He died in 1872 and at the time, he was living at the Brockholes near Ironbridge. He was buried at Madeley. His parents were Samuel & Ann and his grandparents; George & Margaret Morgan who link him to William Robert.

The third and youngest of the Morgans and the one who made a living out of ballad writing was Samuel Thomas. I have found eight ballads credited to him but I suspect there is more. He wrote mostly about life and minor incidents in and around the Ketley area where he lived most of his life. He did write one about the Red Lake murder in 1900 and one about the Kemberton Pit tragedy in 1910 when seven men lost their lives.

He was born at Lawley Bank in 1868 and was living at Ketley Bank in 1871. In 1881 he was at Lawley Bank and in 1891 he was back at Ketley Brook where he spent the rest of his life. He remained unmarried and died in March 1928 at the age of sixty years. His father was Enoch Morgan who was the brother of Jeremiah and therefore, Samuel Thomas was the great grandson of George & Margaret.

By Malcolm Peel