Legendary Walsall historian Jack Haddock passes away

March 30, 2016 in Jack Haddock, Local History, Obituary by Stuart Williams

Jack Haddock, the two-wheeled time traveller (pic Stuart Williams)

Jack Haddock, the two-wheeled time traveller (pic Stuart Williams)

It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of a local history legend in Walsall, Mr Jack Haddock, at the age of 89.

Jack, known to his mates as ‘Fish’ since Royal Air Force days, was a local historian, photographer and oral historian, and was active in recording and helping preserve the history of his home town from the 1950s until last year, when time finally caught up with him and he fell ill over a period of several months.

He passed away peacefully in his sleep at the Manor Hospital, Walsall at 6pm yesterday, 29th March 2016.

A life well-lived

Jack was born John Frederick Haddock on 17th September 1927 in Hospital Street, Walsall. In 1928 his family moved into their new council house in Webster Road, Walsall, and Jack lived there ever since. In fact he was to become the longest-standing tenant of Walsall Council and later of Walsall Housing Group, a feat which was celebrated by WHG in 2013 by which time he had lived there for 86 years!  As a result Jack’s name was spread across the national newspapers as well as the local media, and WHG published a booklet about him and his home, entitled ‘The Home That Jack Built’, which can be downloaded from the page linked here.

Jack had a lifelong interest in transport of all kinds, road, rail and canal. Having studied at North Walsall School during the 1930s and the second world war years, he began work aged 14 at the Walsall Corporation bus depot on Bloxwich Road, Birchills, and stayed there for four years.

From age 18 he served in the Royal Air Force as a driver and mechanic, and after that worked in the metal trade, having his own small business manufacturing ornamental items. He never married, yet lived a simple but happy life and had hundreds of friends and probably thousands of contacts in his various interests.

A two-wheeled time traveller

Jack Haddock was a remarkable and proficient daily cyclist, and was rarely to be seen off one of his stable of touring  bicycles. In his heyday, he thought nothing of cycling fifty miles or more each day, and once did 17,000 miles in a year, wearing out three sets of gears! In fact, at one time he was the oldest customer of Russell Cycles in Stafford Street, Walsall, being a loyal customer there since his youth. In recent years, age and infirmity forced him to slow down and take it easy.

A superior snapper

A keen and skilled amateur photographer for decades, Jack recognised the need for recording the changing historic townscape and local transport, and from the 1950s he spent his life doing this with his camera.  He also became one of the first oral historians in Walsall to tape record local people’s memories, especially railwaymen, during the years when steam was giving way to diesel and electric. And last but not least he was a writer, making many copious notes about the areas of local history which interested him, and collecting relevant memorabilia.

Jack Haddock eventually published two books based on his memories, recordings and photographs: ‘Walsall Remembered’ (edited by Ruth F. Vyse of Walsall Local History Centre), Tempus Publishing, 2004 and ‘Walsall’s Engine Shed’, Railwaymen’s Memories 1877-1968, Tempus Publishing, 2006.

Thanks to Jack’s work, an enormous audio-visual record of Walsall during a time of enormous change has been preserved at Walsall Local History Centre, and the town owes him a great debt of gratitude.

Friend and historian

Jack was a great friend to Walsall Local History Centre and its staff for thirty years, and to the original Walsall Archives Service from the late 1970s. We often saw him several times a week, when he came here either to work on his growing collections or simply to chat about times past. As everyone who knew him will tell you, he was an absolute mine of information, with a remarkable memory right up to the end.

We are already missing Jack, he leaves a hole in the local history community and in Walsall which cannot easily be filled, and we are extremely fortunate that all of his local history work, especially his thousands of local, mainly transport, photographs are preserved for posterity here at the Centre. He absolutely will not be forgotten, by his legion of friends and colleagues in every community and by history itself.

Details of his funeral are not yet available but we will advise when we have this information.

Appeal for memories of Jack

Jack Haddock’s long-standing and close friend Rob Selvey is trying to gather memories of Jack throughout his lifetime, and even brief snippets will be welcome. Please email Walsall Local History Centre on localhistorycentre@walsall.gov.uk or leave a comment or memory below or on Facebook with your name if you would like to contribute anything.

Memorial exhibition

We are already preparing a Jack Haddock memorial exhibition, to be entitled ‘The Two-Wheeled Time Traveller’, and will make an announcement about this shortly.