John Thackray was the son of my father's sister Ivy (the Aunty Ivy of the song) - the only and youngest boy in a family of nine. We went to the same school in Leeds, practically growing up together, but lost touch when he went to university - where he picked up the name Jake at Durham university.* I heard of his death in a way that would have had him chortling.I was walking along the Rambla, in the December sunshine typical of Barcelona. I stopped to buy my Saturday Guardian to read Smallweed over a coffee. My eyes lazily strayed across the page and popped at "original lyricist and founding father of the English chanson" Eh ? Whatever the English chanson is, I thought, its founding father must have had his memorial for many a century ! And, there is Thack, first cousin John, staring out of the page ! Would he have guffawed if he had known that Keith Flett was already sucking his gums to get something erudite into the Guardian for the umpteenth time.
*But his old friend Ian Watson says: "Jake was christened John Philip but adopted the name Jake early on when a French friend, or relative, addressed a letter to him as Jacques (though it's hard to understand why)."
When I heard that Jake had died I felt that I was privileged to have known him but I was so sad that I had failed to have kept in touch with him over the years. I was a year behind Jake at School (St Michael's in Leeds) but used to see him in the mid 60's when he called to see his Mum, Molly, who lived just over our back garden fence. Jake was a wonderful observer of life and he captured this brilliantly in his wonderful lyrics. As Jake became more famous I felt that he was out of my reach - but that was unfair to Jake as I know that he always had time for everybody. I thank God for knowing Jake and I know that whatever may have overwhelmed him in this life that he has a sure place in the next because he was a good man.
Having attended the same school as Jake, St Michael's College, Leeds, albeit 19 years or so later, I was pleasantly astonished at a gig in Sheffield in the late seventies, to hear Jake refer to a certain Jesuit who it transpired had taught us both! The unwitting master had scolded him for "making up" the contents of his "what I did in the holidays" essay, and populating it with an assortment of unbelievable episodes and people from the Yorkshire Dales - all of which was of course perfectly true! We have been privileged to share this planet with you Jake. Thanks a million, and rest in peace.
I was a schoolboy friend of John's at Bontddu N.Wales. I was privileged to stay with him in Leeds in 1951 and he came to my home in Woking in 1952. We climbed Cader Idris together and he was great fun to be with. I was very sorry to hear of his death and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Intake School was/is a secondary school in West Leeds where Jake used to teach. He was popular with his colleagues except when he had a few drinks at lunchtime and decided not to come back for the afternoon and they had to take his classes for him. As I understand it from a family friend who was there at the same time, Jake also had an "interesting relationship" with the headmaster due to his views on education and authority. The school had a reputation for good theatrical and drama productions and a number of children from there were employed as extras and actors in a variety of TV and stage productions - the most recent being Scary Spice (whoever she may be).
I just found out - late as usual... What a loss, and so young. It seems like only yesterday, his media interview at Intake. We all crowded into the class room, excited by the commotion, a few of the boys hurling definition jokes around, (David Rushby; smash & grab? Remember? the whole room erupting with giddy laughter, Mr Thackray almost but not quite! And at the end, after a touching rendition of Ulysses, (wag wag, woof woof) he said that if we ever passed him on the street, or came upon him anywhere, we should never be afraid to say hello - in fact he demanded we speak to him, that we would always be a part of his life...ah well, our loss. So sleep well, Mr Thackray, sir...I just popped in to say hello...
I was only 7 when he was teaching with my Dad at Intake in Leeds. I remember having to help shove him on stage at that time to do Old Time Music Hall with our local Arts Guild. He had fretted all through tea that he wouldn't be good enough. As 'Last Will' got it's first airing that night he obviously planned well in advance!!
Didn't know until talking to my dad yesterday that when Jake did our Music Hall it was the first time he had ever had to deal with a live adult audience - no wonder he was terrified!!!!