Last night (Tuesday, 29th March 2016), Walsall lost one of it’s greatest citizens: Historian, raconteur, photographer, chronicler of change, cyclist and friend to thousands, Jack Haddock.
Jack’s loyal friend, Robert Selvey, posted the following message on Jack’s appreciation page on Facebook a few hours ago:
It is with real sadness that I post to tell you all that Jack Haddock hung up his bicycle clips yesterday for the last time. He passed away peacefully in the Manor hospital at teatime. He had been ill for a short while but mercifully was comfortable with no pain at the end. He was immensely proud of the record he has left for the town so I hope we will all keep his memory alive, both here and in our hearts. Goodbye old friend, I for one am richer for your friendship.
Jack Haddock, born in Hospital Street in 1927, lived in the same council house until his death, and spent his free time recording his beloved town – trains, busses, buildings and people. Jack spent lots of time at the Local History Centre and was never too busy to talk, never too proud to help. A true gentleman, kind and funny – he was always in conversation with someone.
This blog, and so many involved in local history in Walsall and beyond, stand on Jack’s shoulders.
He was a great photographer, recording many thousands of images that provide a remarkable record of Walsall and beyond; Jack authored several books, as well as starring in a video about his life for Walsall Housing Group.
What Jack gave us was not glamorous or attention seeking. It was the gift of a kind, thoughtful uncle – a history and gentle guidance to treasure. In an age where anyone making a Facebook page and learning to use Google image search is calling themselves a historian, Jack was a very rare person indeed: he recorded, curated and created material for us all to enjoy. And he shared it freely, with great pride.
Jack was also a remarkable cyclist – you always knew when he was in the History Centre because you’d see the trusty bike there; he rode many thousands of miles and I hope I’m still riding like he was in such advanced years. Never again will I be passed in Leamore by a wee dot of a man gliding effortlessly past me, smiling gently.
The civic elders of Walsall, in my view, never showed Jack the appreciation her deserved: While happy to laud fading pop stars, a man who had done more for Walsall’s history than any other I know remained relatively overlooked, and in my mind Jack should have been awarded the Freemanship: but then, Jack was already a free man of Walsall. He knew this town, he wandered it’s streets and paths and Walsall will never know a more faithful son.
I spoke with Jack many times, and his influence echoes through the Brownhills Blog and all my work online; he remains an inspiration to me, and I wish I’d known him better.
I don’t know where you’ve gone Jack, but if there’s a loco shed, I just know you’ll be in there, camera round your neck, stood by the stove, chatting to the railmen and laughing.
Rest in peace old chap.