John “Jack” Jackson: A Tribute
John Frederick Jackson B.E.M.
7th January 1935 – 15th July 2011
Ave atque vale! (Hail and farewell)
I first met Jack, as he was universally known, on a sunny Sunday morning in June 1955. I had been persuaded to try a 25-mile time trial from Salfords, south of Redhill, to Horsham and back. Jack was also riding – on a tricycle! An odd choice, I thought, but there was a method in Jack’s odd choice. He was after the club 25-mile record, which was less difficult for a trike as they were slower than bikes. My first impression of Jack was of a burly young man, a luxuriant mop of curly hair (which I envied!), and thick, pebble-lensed glasses. The morning was fast for racing – warm, very light winds. Jack duly got his record!
Jack joined the Anerley in 1951 and was immensely proud of the club’s history and traditions, able to quote screeds on the stars of yesteryear. So much of a traditionalist was he that he fought tooth and nail to keep the club all male but, when finally outvoted in 1977, acceded gracefully and even grudgingly admitted that perhaps he had been wrong!
Jack worked in light engineering as an apprentice tool-maker for Creed’s of Croydon and liked to visit Bletchley Park, the code-breaking centre during the war, and admire the Creed’s teleprinters used there. In 1963, following Creed’s closure, he moved to University College, London, and remained there until his retirement, working in their civil engineering department.
Touring was Jack’s chief interest as a cyclist, and he rode widely in England and Wales with various Anerley club-mates, often undertaking distances which were farther than was wise, given the short times available and the often inclement weather. He never yearned for expensive, ultra-light bikes, making do with run-of-the-mill models, and then handicapping himself by loading the capacious saddlebag with a multitude of heavy tools.
Having finished his apprenticeship he was liable for two years’ National Service and chose to become a REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) craftsman, serving the greater part of his time at NATO Headquarters in Paris. It seems that he enjoyed life in France! On completion of National Service one had to do three years’ Territorial Army service. Jack enjoyed this so much that he managed to prolong it for 30-plus years! His value to REME earned him his B.E.M. in later years.
In October 1962 Jack met June at a jazz club in Streatham where he used to go stomping. Love blossomed and quite quickly they married, in June 1964. In time they had Helen and Colin.
Aside from cycling, Jack’s other passion was windmills. He rode the length and breadth of the country over the years tracking down obscure, often dilapidated mills, photographing and making notes of them. He also took a leading role in the running of Shirley Windmill for the public’s pleasure and benefit, with the staunch help of June.
When Jack joined the Anerley there were a handful of pre-war members, virtually all no longer active. There was also Jim Ballard, a policeman by profession and a somewhat unconventional one. He taught Jack a few tricks of the trade, often whilst riding along puffing his pipe! One could describe him as a loveable rogue. Jack thought the world of him. In recent years Jack assumed the mantle of elder statesman of the club, respected and loved by all. He didn’t follow the herd; he was an individualist with his own style.
It has been an honour to know you, Jack. We, the Anerley Bicycle Club, offer June, Helen and Colin our deepest sympathy.
Whatever you know him as, John, Jack, Jacko, I knew him as my Dad.
Holidays spent at aerodromes, steam railways or looking for windmills.
Two weeks ago in town, fly past, recognised Merlin hum and sure enough spirfire.
Can recognise post or smock mill from 20 paces.
Great maker and make doer. First bike seat – aero elastics – ride to biggin hill to see planes.
Learning to ride my bike up and down the pavement and Dad pushing with a broom handle, and Dad taking Meg on hers there too.
TA – Remembrance Day parade – children sneaking onto the balcony, not allowed, smell of Trevor’s curry.
Anerley picnics – always arrived before cyclists – not sure how we got there as mum doesn’t drive – obligatory cricket match
Driving the Morris minor on holiday with pink roof box and orange tarp. Never lost it in car park, except when it got stolen!
Driving with my friends to various locations to drop off or pick up something for college all in the back of the minor waving and making faces at passersby!
Trips to Frensham Ponds, Bluebell woods, Box hill, Bluebell railway, always with the inevitable camera!
Girl brigade – orienteering classes. So patient with a group of 15yr old girls who, to be honest, were not entirely concentrating on the job in hand. Speaking to Jackie, we reckoned we were a good group – me, Jackie and Joan and Donna. Rachel’s group were determined to get lost, she reckons.
Learning to drive, double declutching for first gear, and Dad cringing at the crashed gear box. Never did get the hang of the starting handle!
Cooking never a strong point though he made excellent tea, especially when camping with the Hutsons, he’d be first up and would bring us a cup and we’d stick head out and drink it.
On our Gold D of E expedition, in the Brecon Beacons, he undertook the supervisor role, driving and sleeping in car, he also managed to cook the best bacon sandwiches one windswept night we got lost!
Always know someone who could…wedding, called in all his favours, Ian got our rings, catering – Trevor, and then there was the car. I think he enjoyed it more than me. He looked so proud driving here with the top down!
Coming to stay in Tostock – house sitting and looking after the dogs. Always said never feed them treats, but seemed to sit really close to him during meals and always looked disappointed when I came back.
Fixer – never too fancy, but did the job. Our shed will not be so tidy. Bixes and little tins labelled screws, nails.
So many memories.
Cycling when they came to visit me in Thailand. Came back said met nice Thai soldiers. Realized then he’d cycled over the NOT open border into Cambodia. So unfazed!
Arguing politics over the dining room table before I’d left school.
Answering the bell at the bottom of the garden to let him in when he came home from work.
Rattling his spoon in his cup when he wanted a second cup of tea.
Standing next to him, tuneless singing in church.
The Jackson whistle I still can’t muster.
When he was unwell following his last surgery, he had a turn in ITU. The verses that kept going over in his mind were the verses of Psalm 23- even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death you are with me…and he told mum he know God was with him in it.
So, my memories can be happy, coz I know he is now with his father God in heaven and we will see each other again…..and I bet he is up there exploring heaven on 2 wheels!!
FORMER SGT JOHN FREDERICK ‘JACKO’ JACKSON
It is with deep regret that I write of the death of 23319022 Sgt John Frederick Jackson on the 15th July 2011 at the age of 76.
Jacko trained as an engineer and joined the ranks of the REME in National Service 15th Sept 1956, in the trade of gun futter at SHAPE, BAOR. He transferred across into the TA on the 13th July 1958, serving with 151(GL) Regt, 210 Sqn LAD and in 1967 took up the post of LAD SNCO at 135 Field Survey Sqn RE. He served for 33 years, 31 in the TA and 27 years at 135, discharging in 1990. Jacko continued his ties with the unit and ran the WO and SNCO mess bar for a further 5 years and was a keen member of the SE REME association.
Jacko’s service was exemplary and his commitment to the TA and 135 RE, were recognised by the award of the TAVR Efficiency Medal with three clasps, The Lord Lieutenants Certificate and the British Empire Medal. He was offered promotion at other units, but his loyalty to 135, meant he served 27 years in the rank and post.
I have known Jacko since I was 18 years old and he embodied the ethos of the REME by his professional standards, positive attitude in any situation and his old school pride of getting ‘the kit back on the road’. As a young VM crafty, I would take the offending part to him and return with the obligatory brew to find an ingenious repair or replacement, created in the ‘mashy’ wagon. His engineering skills were legendary and every 6 months a new idea was developed and presented to the GEMS scheme, who financed our brew fund admirably.
Outside of the TA his main passion was cycling and even in his seventies he would ride over one hundred miles in a day. Jacko made friends easily on his travels and over three hundred attended his funeral, to say goodbye. His loss is the end of an era and I feel privileged to have known him.
AS DES REMEMBERS JACKO.
As a late comer to the Anerley Bicycle Club I never saw Jacko riding his trike, but it has been the subject of many yarns. Yarns that leave a vivid picture in my mind, and it’s how I will always remember him. As you can see from the club records above, Jack’s heydays were in the 1950s, and it was this decade that spawned many of the yarns.
In his record breaking days Jack was a lowly paid engineering apprentice, and investing in a trike would not have left much small change for anything other than his passion for cycling with his mates. His special mates in those far off days, and for many long years and many long miles, were Norman Greig and Bill Higgins.
A typical summer weekend for Jack, would be work on Saturday mornings (which we all did in the early 50s), home for lunch, then a check over of his racing trike in preparation of a Sunday morning time trial. Then he would meet his mates and together they would cycle to the local railway station to drop off their tents, sleeping bags and other camping accoutrements, which British Rail would transport to a point near the race venue. No money for the comforts of B & B in those cash strapped days!
This particular yarn was about one such weekend when they took part in a 25 mile T.T in the Crawley area, camping overnight at Pound Hill woods.
How they faired in the race is lost in the mists of time, but perhaps they did well and had a celebratory pint or two because what we do know, is that short of funds it was decided that it would be a cheaper if Jacko carried the tent and camping gear back home on his trike, rather than send it back by rail. Being the accommodating person that he always was, poor Jacko set off doing his best impression of a loaded Chinese rickshaw!
As mile passed after mile, Norman and Bill noticed that Jacko was obviously tiring with this heavy load, gradually sinking down in the saddle. Or so it at first seemed. It was only a few miles further on that it became evident that it was not Jacko sinking in the saddle, when with a loud “crack” the bowed and over loaded back axle of the trike broke!
The story tellers never said how Jacko got home, or how he fixed his trike, but knowing Jacko and his D.I.Y engineering skills, I expect somewhere, the axle is still churning out the miles!