My Brush with Fame

By Jean Sunderland

My husband Barry and I were members of Christ Church Summerfield in our teenage years and as such attended church four times a day and then went in the evening to the youth club. No ball games were allowed and certainly no music could be played as I found to my cost one evening when I took my little record player to liven things up a bit. Our Vicar, Mr. Hinett was a lovely kind gentle man but very Victorian in his outlook although he had teenage daughters of his own.

He did approve of us playing table tennis and thus a league was set up with other churches but on the fateful day one of our team members was sick so I, someone who had never played in her life, was put in the team to “make up the numbers “ All went well until it was my turn to play and I was introduced to this athletic looking young woman. Play started, well she started to play, I myself did not even see the ball coming and seemed to be playing under the table. I lost of course and it was then my so called friends told me who I had been playing. It was Ann Hayden Jones.

Ann Jones with the Ladies Shield at Wimbledon

Ann Jones was one of the best tennis players of the 1960’s. She won her Wimbledon title on 4th July, 1969. In the decade before that she was one of the best table tennis players in the world.

Time went by and we then joined the Scouting movement, Barry becoming Group Scout Leader and I took on the role of Beaver Leader at 293rd St. Faith and St Laurence, Harborne. We made many friends and had the privilege of we hope helping young men to become good citizens. There was the very timid little boy who would not get off his mother’s lap. He eventually became a Police Inspector, the very mischievous young fellow who was always in trouble and is today an eminent Solicitor. Never judge the young.

One young man who was a cub named Roger Tonge later went on to become an actor starring in Crossroads as Sandy Richardson, the son of the owner. His first episode was in 1964 but unfortunately he died at the very young age of 35. Roger, who lived in Wolverhampton Road South, quit his £8.00 a week Post Office job to play Sandy.

Roger Tonge

St. Faith and St. Laurence Church, Harborne was packed with grieving fans when he lost his battle with cancer in 1981. Roger’s screen sister Jill – Jane Rossington read the lesson and Jane’s real-life brother the Reverend John Rossington, vicar at St. Faith and St. Laurence, conducted the service.

Another fellow who springs to mind is Phil Gayle, another local lad. We put on a show for parents and friends to raise funds to purchase the land in Hampton Court Road, where Scout H.Q. now stands. Phil and two friends did “ The Three Degrees”, complete with spinning bra tassels. It was obvious he was heading for show business. He went on to become a television announcer and one time contestant in Strictly Come Dancing.

Phil Gayle newsreader

Phil comes from a very talented family, brother Andy well known for Mercedes Benz maintenance and brother Michael, or Mike as he is known, is a well known local author with nine best selling books to his name.

Ed Doolan a well known Australian broadcaster of over 40 years came to Harborne to open a Summer Fair we helped to organise on Tennal School front field ( now sadly a housing estate ). Weather wise it was the most awful day imaginable but Mr. Doolan was kindness itself bringing with him tee shirts and gifts we could sell. I always think kindly of him for all his help in making the day a success. He toured all of the stalls speaking to everyone and purchasing little trinkets along the way.

Ed Doolan in the Pebblemill Studio

Ed’s comment-Thanks Jean for those lovely memories - anyone else out there with a story to tell?

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