35.12 – John, James William and Mary Ann Jackson

This grave originally had a notation on it saying that the existing stone – a sidestone lying flush with the ground – was for James William, and the missing one was for Mary Ann Jackson; but when we got there and had a prod, we found not Mary Ann, but John. Who were this family?

John Jackson was born in Oldham in 1853. His father Samuel died when he was young, and his mother Sarah remarried to Peter Pearson, and they and John’s brother William moved to Todmorden in time for the 1861 Census. John’s stepfather was a carder, and John followed along after he finished school and became a scutcher in a cotton mill. As the family lived at Dobroyd it’s reasonable to think they will have all been working at Waterside for the Fieldens.

Mary Ann Wade was born in 1859 in Rochdale and had a similar story to her future husband; her father James died when she was young and her mother remarried to John Taylor of Walsden, moving her young family there and having two more children. That’s how John and Mary Ann came from out of Todmorden to settle here, meet, and marry at Christ Church in August 1880. Their first child (and only one of two to survive), James Willam, was born in December.

James William grew up staying close to family – in 1891 his uncle James Wade was living next door – and in 1901 and 1911 can still be found at home with both parents. When WW1 came he left home at long last and enlisted in December 1915, joining the 75th Reserves Battery of the Yorskshire Regiment. He received a Victory Medal during his service with them, but later was “combed in” to the Machine Gun Corps.

James William’s army records survive and allow us to get a faint idea of what he looked like. He was slight even by the standards of the day – 5 feet 1.5 inches tall, a 32″ chest, and weighing 104lbs, only 7 and a half stone!! His physical development is listed as “fair”. This might be why he was in the reserves, but as casualties mounted up and many (including a young Winston Churchill) pushed for a second front to be opened, men were needed to replace those who had been lost particularly amongst the gunners and riflemen. Those troops suffered disproportionate casualties and many were moved from reserves or the service corps into these regiments to make up the numbers.

John Jackson died in June 1916, at a reasonable age. James William died just over a year later, at a less reasonable one. The newspapers reported that he initially was marked as missing after being wounded in battle and sent to a dressing station, and despite him theoretically being booked in at said station it took until July 1918 for him to be officially pronounced as having died on the 26th August 1917. He is remembered on the memorial at Tyne Cot.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Earnshaw and Steven Wright’s The Fallen Sons of Todmorden

Mary Ann lived for nearly another 20 years, dying in August 1936 at her home in Lydgate, on Glen Terrace – the other side of the town centre from her long time home of Shade.

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