How Pc39 found his musical beat

Joe Davies in his original 1946 police uniform with Lady Wulfrun, the fairground organ he operates.

Many Black Country folk will be familiar with the sight of Joe Davies and the sound of his fairground organ Lady Wulfrun at functions in the area. And most of us wonder how he manages to be in so many places supporting so many causes

Joe grew up in Shropshire and hoped to follow a career in the haulage business but the Second World War came along and he found himself driving tank transporters rather than civilian transport.

While serving in the Royal army Service Corps he took advantage of a scheme that allowed servicemen to apply for a post-war job in a local police force.

Wolverhampton's Chief Constable was keen to recruit servicemen and the servicemen themselves knew that joining the police would enable them to be released from the army fairly promptly, as soon as the war was over.

Joe came out of the army in 1946 and immediately became Pc39 in the Wolverhampton Borough Police.

In the cells beneath Red Lion Street Police Station, Joe was issued with his uniform by Ike Howell, who was Wolverhampton's Pc1.

This was followed by 13 weeks training at the Ryton on Dunsmore Police College and then he immediately returned to Wolverhampton to start working nights, based at Red Lion Street.

At first he was shown the ropes by a senior constable, but was then turned loose on the beat all on his own. New recruits started on a suburban beat and as they showed promise they were moved towards town centre beats where they were expected to be able to look after themselves.

Joe describes post-war Wolverhampton as "pretty rough", and the night shift had to deal with a great deal of drunkenness and fighting.

A policeman on the beat could only summon assistance by blowing his whistle or telephoning from a "police pillar".

Joe's work on the streets lasted two years before he was sent away for training in the traffic department. Joe dealt with a new innovation - the introduction of police cars fitted with radio.

Joe was in the traffic department for six years, but in 1954 he passed his sergeant's exam and was rewarded with a return to the town centre's streets.

Joe's career saw further promotion and success but something must draw him back to the streets because, in retirement, that is where he is to be found with his fairground organ.

Joe's 1946 Wolverhampton police uniform was the first item that he "preserved" - starting on a trail that has led to the preservation of much larger items.

He later purchased a Lister engine complete with corn-grinding mill and water pump. The three items were displayed on a trailer that Joe took to the annual Bromyard Gala.

Invitations then followed to other preservationists' events. Joe was hooked, and eventually bought an ex-showman's living wagon of 1929 vintage.

One thing leads to another and a showman's van needs something to tow it. This time Joe bought a Scammell tractor unit, and soon the van and Scammell tractor became a familiar sight on Black Country roads making their way to hundreds of local events.

Then a showman has to have something to show. His wife Margaret solved this problem by presenting Joe with a McCarthy keyless street organ mounted on a traditional three-wheel carriage. It was a 65th birthday present that guaranteed Joe a busy retirement.

Five years later Joe acquired a bigger fairground organ, built into a trailer. Once again built by McCarthy, this organ was christened Lady Wulfrun. Joe and Lady Wulfrun have been seen all over the Black Country, all over Britain, and have made several European tours!

Both organs were used to provide Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, with a welcome to Wolverhampton when she came to open Bilston Street Police Station in July 1992.

The late Princess shook hands with Joe, dressed in his Pc39 uniform, and enquired about the history of Lady Wulfrun.

Nothing stands still, even in the world of preservation, and the larger organ needed a larger tractor unit, so the old Scammell has now been replaced with an 1972 ERF vehicle.

Now in his 80s, Joe still enjoys his part in the world of preserving showland heritage, and the music of his fairground organ and street organ has brought pleasure to thousands of people, and has helped raise thousands of pounds for charity.

Meanwhile many of us would like to think that Joe has become one of Wolverhampton's best known ambassadors.

Thanks to Express and Star Newspaper for this report




If yoh want ter step back in time, look out un lissen fer Joe Davies un ‘is fairground organ. It’s sumut wot ull stick yer memry ‘owever lung yoh live. Yoh con bet yer bottom dollar wheerever this ode copper goz sumbody knows ‘im. No wonder at it neither, this octogenairen 'as bin about a bit I tell yer. ‘E wuz born in September 1922 at Baschurch, Shropshire un wuz educated at Longnor skewl, Dorrington skewl un Shrewsbury Boys High Skewl.

  Wen ‘e left skewl ‘e drove oss un cart fer a few 'ears. In 1942 Joe jined the R.A.S.C. un wuz lerter transferred ter the Airborne 779 Company. Army service took im ter France, Belgium Holland un Germany. This modest mon ‘as got a boat lood uv memries un I’le try ter put yer in the pikcher wi’ sum.

  After demob ‘e jined Wolverhampton Pleece Force wen the chief constable wuz Norman Goodchild O.B.E. “A great gentlemon wuz our chief who knew all his men and their families” ‘e recalled.

  In 1954 Joe wuz promoted ter sarjent, the fust post war copper in Wolver’ampton ter achieve that. 'Ang on a bit, this keen uz mustard officer wuz promoted ter inspector in 1963 un in 1966 ter chief inspector.

  E wuz mewved ter Brierley ‘Ill un wuz promoted ter Superintendant while ‘e wuz theer aer’kid. ‘Ow about this then, in 1972 Joe wuz transferred over ter Brummigem City un wuz in charge uv traffic operershuns fer the West Midlands. It wuz a yederk in them days un it’s twenty times wuss now ay it ode pal? H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth opened the N.E.C. in 1976 un that wuz Joe’s last royal escort job.

  “It wuz icy mornin un all the motor cycle officers did a great job", ‘e mused.

  Wen ‘e jined the pleece force fust in 1946, by the way, ‘is werges wuz foher pound ten shillin a wik!

  Oh ar, ‘e wuz a motor cycle pleece team rider un a member uv the Wolverhampton Motor Cycle Club unall just after the second werld war. ‘E formed the West Midlands Pleece display team un they rode at fetes un carnivals evrywheer. Crowds watched th’ode Bilston Carnivals un in 1968 Joe did the motor cycle commentry ‘cus ‘ede got a dislocated shoulder. It’s trew ter say th’ ode coppers wuz respected by the public ‘ears agoo ay it?

  They got about, got ter know people un definutly day stond no messin about or cheek off anybody. Sum uv our readers in Llandudno un uther plairces ull remember th’ode copper I bet. ‘E led the Llandudno Victoria Festival May Day Parade ‘ears wi’ ‘is push bike!

  Now then, we’me cumin on ter a very intrestin time in the life uv Joe Davies. Sumut uz rare uz pink feathers on a rockin ‘oss aer’kid. After leavin the pleece force ‘e bort ode fairground showmon's van in 1980. Along wi’ is wife Margaret they’ve travelled all over the country.

  In 1992 ‘e bort ‘is fermus fairground organ ‘e calls “Lady Wulfrun". They cud dew wi’ ‘im playing it at the Wolves ‘ome gairms ter get spectators in the rite frendly spirit. Wen it’s lit up un playin ode sungs, it duz yer the werld uv gud a real tonic!

  It’s got dozens uv plaks pinned on the front - souvenirs uv festivals un fetes - a real education ter see it! I’me ‘ere agen, I neely forgot Joe wuz the fust volunteer pleecemon at the Black Country Museum in 1983. Oh ar they’ve toured the low countries on the continent un ‘e appeared on German T.V.

  The fairground organ e’ze got wuz built by fermus Paul McCarthy at Basingstoke. Evidently this wuz in 1990 in th’ode tradishunal style un its a real eye opener mate. Wen it’s gooin, memries cum floodin back uv th’ode fairgrounds, gallopin roundabout ossiz un evrythin I tell yer. Wot a pleasure ter chat ter Joe un Margaret at their ‘ome in Henwood Road near Tettenall College, Wolverhampton. They wuz married on June 2nd 1947 at St. Phillips Cherch, Pennfields.

  They 'ave dorter Helen, tew grandoters Alexa un Verity un their great grandson is nairm Chanan.

  Margaret werked at George Masons at Worcester Street, Wolverhampton un wuz then a children’s nuss at Himley Sanatorium. Wheerever they travel sumbody ull cum up un remind ‘em wheer they sid ‘em afoher.

  Joe still wears ‘is very ode blew serge pleece uniform at events. In addishun ter 'is war medals ‘eze got the pleece lung service un gud conduct medal. ‘E ort tor be in the New ‘Ears ‘Onours List fer the pleasure ‘eze gid people evrywheer, I shud think.

  Oh ar, ere’s wheer yoh con see im on Tuesday December 28th ode pal. The Black Country Live Steamers ‘ave got open day at The Bratch pumpin stershun, Wombourne. I tell yer, it’s upliftin ter meet th’ode copper un see “Lady Wulfrun” in acshun.

  Keep warm un tek extra care crossin th’oss road!  

  Cheerio now ‘H.H.’

The is the Salop Club's traditional start to their ring events, pictured by Paul Bishops at Onslow Park in August 2007.  The formation starts with showman's engines led by Joe Davis and his cycle, and 85 years old Joe, a former policeman from Wolverhampton has done this annual duty for years and years.
The full article appeared in the copy of 'Steaming' magazine from the National Traction Engine Trust.

The steam engine on the left (Number 1) is being driven by a policeman from Yorkshire.