Discovering unmarked Colne witches’ gravestone with Jacko

WORDSMITH: Local reporter John Steven Jackson, left, poses with Geoff Crambie, right. (S)
WORDSMITH: Local reporter John Steven Jackson, left, poses with Geoff Crambie, right. (S)

He was for over two decades a dear friend and colleague who was this very newspaper’s ace reporter and of who the late illustrious editor Noel Wild said: “John has the true gift of being a brilliant chronicler of all things local.”

His name was John Steven Jackson, known to all as “Jacko” and whose tragic early death at just 42 was exactly 15 years ago.

Our picture shows John and I a quarter of a century ago as we replicate the year 1942, when near to the Fox Clough colliery the only Second World War bomb was dropped on bonnie Colne. Here by the huge crater from the German bomb we both look up wearing Second World War tin helmets, loaned to us by our old pal Bill Boyce from his famous shop on Nelson’s Manchester Road.

During the years 1988, 1989 and 1990, John and me did a series of full-page Leader-Times newspaper features entitled “Crambie’s Curious Colne”. These were to be “Jacko’s” most notable and imposing narrative works. The splendid series saw the two of us meeting Colne’s last freeman Frank Wilson, Colne’s last cotton mill owner Clive Hartley, legendary character Sam Ansell and the reputable Rev. Noel Hawthorne M.A. and Alderman Derek Crabtree. We climbed to the top of our Colne Town Hall and the parish church, went into the last air-raid shelter and Fox Clough Coal Mine’s engine house. We found the last evidence of the British Railways Bott Lane Halt and also the unmarked Colne witches’ gravestone. We found the rare and elusive striped zander fish and rode horses up the steep Carry Lane. We climbed to see the gargoyles at Colne’s cemetery chapel and sang “Underneath the Arches” dressed up as Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen under our Primet Bridge viaduct.

It was the best of times with a wonderful wizard of words. John was truly a wordsmith of great renown, with a larger than life persona. His days with us we’ll remember always; his name will forever be in the journalist’s hall of fame.