Friday, 17 September 2010

Bill Jackson 1929-2010

My dad had a huge influence on my decision to make a career as a writer, even if I ignored the best bit of advice he gave me. His first contribution - and I can still remember the thrill of it after about half a century - was to introduce me to the library before I was even old enough to be a child member. He'd let me take out books from the children's section on his ticket and began a two or three book a week addiction that has lasted a lifetime.

His second was when I was sixteen, just out of school and had no sense of the direction my life should be going, when he pointed me towards the local newspaper, the Kelso Chronicle and Jedburgh Gazette, which had a vacancy for a junior reporter.

Bill Jackson
He was immensely proud the day I published my first book, Caligula, and probably surprised that he enjoyed it so much, but he recognised the perils that lay ahead when he advised me not to think about giving up the day job. It's to his eternal credit that when I did just that he supported me wholeheartedly in my new career and gave me every encouragement in my writing.

We buried Bill Jackson on Wednesday at a beautiful spot on the hillside overlooking Jedburgh, with views out to the south and east and the hills he loved where generations of my family worked as shepherds. He took ill on holiday and spent eleven weeks in hospital but for the first eight none of us had any idea just how sick he was. In the end he was told it was 'dialysis or die', but when it became clear the dialysis was only delaying the inevitable he took the decision to let nature take its course. The day after they unhooked him from the machine he almost looked his old self, and the family had a lovely day reminiscing about old holidays and memories; his mind was sharp and his sense of humour as keen as ever. He died the next day and the courage and serenity with which he approached the end humbled all of us who witnessed it. His last words were: I'm going home.'

With eery aforethought, a few months before his death he'd given me a 32-page history of his early years growing up on a farm near Jedburgh during the Second World War. It was only then that I learned he'd shipped out as a cabin boy on a merchant ship at the age of sixteen and had seen Canada, the United States and Brazil before he was eighteen. I'd known that he'd served in Malaya in the fifties, but he'd never told me about the jungle patrols he led with his bren gun, the ambushes in which his friends died, or the regret that he hadn't been able to save them.

I gave the eulogy in St. Mary's Church, Jedburgh, and all the time I was talking I could swear he was at my shoulder. I'll miss him.

6 comments:

C. N. Nevets said...

Wonderful memorial to your father.

Mary said...

Dear Doug,

This is beautiful. It had me in tears.

Keep well! My thoughts are with you.

Mary

Iain said...

Doug,
He couldn't have wished for a better and more heartfelt eulogy

Alan Hutcheson said...

Douglas,

I know very well the feeling of having my father by my shoulder as I spoke at his memorial over eight years ago. And he has been there many times since. I count on him still and just as in life he always comes through.

All my best to you and your family.

Alan

Gabriele C. said...

Doug, I'm so sorry. My sincerest condolences. May it be a comfort to you that he was ready to go and left in peace, surrounded by the people he loved.

Janet said...

Lovely - Doug - This also had me in tears. I only knew your father briefly but am sure he was extremely proud. Castlewood Cemetery is a lovely place with great views of Jethart and all the best Jethart Worthies are here. My grandfather was a shepherd too & as a youngster Mum travelled all over the borders with his work. His last farm was at Castlewood - just down the hill from the cemetery.