Thursday, April 13, 2006

Proud to be a Brummie

A recent post by Pete about the relevance of Tolkein to Birmingham (and vice versa) had me writing comments and then I thought "why am I doing this?"

And I realized it is because I am a Brummie!

(A word or two about the term Brummie. Wikipedia says "Brummie (sometimes Brummy) is a colloquial term for the inhabitants, accent and dialect of Birmingham, UK, as well as being a general adjective used to denote a connection with the city, locally called Brum. The terms are all derived from Brummagem or Bromwichham, historical variants or alternatives to 'Birmingham'". I think that's accurate enough though of course you don't have to be an inhabitant of the city or have the accent/dialect to qualify.

I was born on the southeastern side of the city - my birth certificate says Solihull but apparently this was because the nursing home I was born in was on the boundary between Birmingham and Solihull and my parents (both Brummies) were then living in Earlswood, a part of Solihull. I suppose there is a certain caché about being born in "Soily Hill" so there you are!

I am not really into genealogy like April is, but my known family tree goes back to around 1860 and all my direct forebears lived in what is now Birmingham (Aston, Bordesley, Handsworth, etc.) so I definitely have Brummie blood. In my youth I spent a lot of time in the city (see this travelogue). And when I visit the city these days there is a certain level of pride that I really connot justify except for the historical relevance that "I cum from Brum".

What has Birmingham given the world? Plenty to be proud of, I would suggest, and here's a list:

An early market starting 1154 that just happened to be near the center of the country. It's current manifestation, the Bullring Shopping Centre, is now world famous!

An early opposition to London and the Establishment. The city supported Cromwell in the Civil War. There's something good about being on the anti-establishment side of the fence!

The Industrial Revolution, Part I - during the Age of Enlightenment (say 1750-1800) Birmingham was a center for invention and change. They must have been exciting times indeed.

The Industrial Revolution, Part 2 - the Victorians took the Age of Enlightment, destroyed it but improved such aspects as mass production, gothic revivals, narrow mindedness, slum habitation for the workers etc. (can you tell I don't like the Victorian era?)

The Great Reformers - in order to curb the excesses of the Victorian exploitation of everything, along came the Quakers and like-minded reformers. George Cadbury and Joseph (Joe) Chamberlain come to mind. Birmingham stopped building slums decades before other cities followed suit.

Civic Pride. An example to the world of a people who, when confronted with the 1960s, gave it their all and embraced concrete like the Victorians embraced terracotta! Then in a complete reversal, that same civic pride attacked concrete with avengence and started to tear it all down in the 1990s!

A strong work ethic and self-deprecating sense of humor.

These form my list. Did I miss anything?