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Jacker

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Between 1893 and 1905 Stanley Jackson played twenty times for England. All his Test caps were against Australia and all at home. Only once over that period did he miss a match, the third Test against Australia in 1893. He was invited to play then but, Test matches not being treated with the importance they are today and Yorkshire being on the verge of clinching the County Championship, he preferred to play for his county rather than his country.

Jackson’s record at the highest level is an excellent one. He averaged 48.79 with the bat. Only Ranji of his contemporaries comes close, and to do this day a mere ten Englishmen can boast a higher career average. That he played at his best when faced with Australian opposition is clear when that figure is compared with his overall First Class average of 33.83. If his batting alone justifies his reputation Jackson was also a top class bowler. He took a while to warm to the task, barely bowling and not taking a wicket in the first two of his five series, but by the end of 1905 he had the creditable record of 24 wickets at 33.29. His bowling record throughout his First Class career was 774 wickets at 20.37.

The Jackson story is however much more than a cricketing one, as he had business, military and political careers as well. Jackson’s father, William Lawies Jackson, was a peer of the realm, but was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. At 17 Jackson senior inherited the family tannery business on his father’s death. The firm was in a mess and all but bankrupt, but hard work turned its fortunes round. It was first stabilised and then expanded and became an extremely successful and profitable concern. Jackson’s father was also a prominent conservative politician and entered Parliament in 1880. He served as an MP until the Baronetcy of Allerton was created for him in 1902. That elevation made his younger son The Honourable FS Jackson, although on his father’s death the title passed to his elder brother and from there to Jackson’s nephew. The title died with the third Baron in 1991.

The family fortune meant that Jackson was educated at Harrow, from where he went to Cambridge. He was a gifted sportsman and a good enough student to emerge with a degree, albeit without honours. On the cricket field he was outstanding. Those who saw him invariably commented on his immaculate appearance on the field, and the extraordinary maturity with which he played, so much so that he was considered to be the finished article right from the start.

As a batsman Jackson was a right hander. He was, as befits his status as one of the stars of the ‘Golden Age’, a fine stroke maker and was particularly comfortable against fast bowling. Anything short of a length would be cut or pulled to the boundary, and if over pitched an imperious drive would be unfurled. At the same time Jackson was quite capable of displaying the sort of tenacity that those from his county are often renowned for, and he could be dour and defensive, particularly on difficult surfaces.

With the ball Jackson was also a right armer, and bowled at fast medium. He was not a bowler of extravagant movement, and relied more on subtle changes of pace and direction, but had a good off cutter that surprised many batsmen. Contemporary writers and players also talked of deliveries gathering pace off the wicket, what is now commonly referred to as a heavy ball.

After captaining Harrow Jackson went up to Cambridge in 1890. Initially he was a greater success with the ball than the bat, his stroke play being rather more extravagant in those days. By the time he made his Test debut, during his last year at Cambridge in 1893, he had begun to lay the foundations of his reputation for being a difficult man to dismiss, particularly on tricky surfaces. His first Test innings however was the fluent Jackson. England were in a tricky position when he went into bat, at 31-2 after stand in skipper Drewy Stoddart had chosen to bat on winning the toss. Jackson’s partner was Arthur Shrewsbury. The wily old Notts pro dug in whilst Jackson attacked the Australian bowling, and when he was dismissed after the pair had added 137 Jackson was just nine runs short of his century.

In the end the match was drawn but both Jackson and England went one better in the second Test. Coming in at number seven Jackson top scored with 103 as England scored 489 to win by an innings. In the third and final Test at the Oval England drew to take the series, but as noted Jackson was fifty miles away on the south coast at Hove, helping Yorkshire to the County Championship.

It was 1896 before Jackson played for England again. He missed the 1894/95 tour of Australia for business reasons, believing there would be other opportunities in the future. In the end there weren’t. Jackson was invited to tour Australia again in 1897/98, and in 1903/04 he was offered the captaincy, but he had to decline both invitations. In the final analysis the only tour he ever went on was whilst a student at Cambridge, when Lord Hawke took a team of fourteen amateurs to India and Ceylon in 1892/93.

England won the three match series of 1896 by two Tests to one. Jackson failed in the lost second Test. He contributed a useful 44 in the first Test at Lord’s getting out in unusual circumstances. He lofted a delivery from George Giffen towards Joe Darling at long off. It was a high swirling ball but due to crowd encroachment onto the outfield, the catch could not be taken. Jackson had started to walk off. A few words passed between him and Albert Trott as he walked back to his crease. Afterwards Jackson denied that what followed was a sporting gesture, but he spooned the very next delivery towards Darling who completed the catch.

In England’s victory at the Oval Jackson also made a major contribution. Opening the innings for the first time he scored 45, the highest England score of the match. It was a dreadful wicket, ruined by rain and Australia were all out for 44 in their second innings. Even that failure was something of a recovery from 25-9.

The last two seasons in which Jackson played ‘full time’ were 1897 and 1898. In the second of those summers he recorded his only double. In 1899 Australia were scheduled to play the first ever five Test series in England. The first match was drawn by England thanks to a fighting innings by Ranji who was still at the crease on 93 when time ran out for the Australians. Jackson had scored just 8 and 0, although he had taken the first three wickets of his Test career in the Australian first innings. The play itself however paled into insignificance when it became clear that the Test had been the last of WG Grace’s career.

The pressing subject became the identity of the next England captain. Jackson was disappointed not to get the job. He was the senior amateur and undoubtedly worth his place in the side. He was not, thanks to Lord Hawke, Yorkshire’s captain, but did not lack experience of leadership. The man who got the nod was a county captain, Lancashire’s Archie MacLaren. In addition MacLaren had led England, in Australia in 1897/98. On the debit side for MacLaren was the 4-1 reverse his side suffered and that he had yet to play a First Class match that season. In addition it would certainly not have been lost on those involved in making the decision that Jackson had been MacLaren’s captain at Harrow.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the captaincy debate MacLaren was a popular choice with the public so there was little disquiet in the press. Unfortunately for MacLaren however England continued the run of failure under his command the batting, with the notable exception of Jackson (73 and 37) performing poorly at Lord’s and Australia took a 1-0 lead. As the remaining Tests were all drawn that was the final result. Jackson contributed a fine century in the final Test, England’s best showing of the series.

The new century saw Jackson in South Africa. The rebellion of the Boer republics had begun in October of 1899 and Jackson volunteered. He was commissioned into the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment in January 1900 as a Captain and left for the Cape. He was back by late summer having contracted enteric fever. After a long voyage home Jackson had recovered sufficiently to allow himself to be persuaded to turn out for the Gentlemen against the Players at the Scarborough Festival, the closing act of the English season. Despite his long lay off and not yet being fully recovered he scored 134 and 42, virtually a lone hand in the Gentlemen’s innings defeat.

Jackson missed the whole of the 1901 season after returning to South Africa where his regiment were responsible for guarding communication lines. The British did not cover themselves in glory in the Boer War and the Jackson who left Cape Town at the end of January 1902 was older and wiser and, to the end of his days, chose to speak very little about his South African experiences.

Australia were in town again in 1902. MacLaren had led England to defeat the previous winter but it was no surprise when he was reappointed for the home series. For Jackson there was a century on his return to action, which meant he had completed an unusual treble in reaching three figures in his last game of 1899, his only one of 1900 and his first in 1902. The summer was dominated by Victor Trumper and Australia won a compelling series 2-1. The Old Trafford match will forever be known as ‘Fred Tate’s Match’ – had the Sussex debutant scored those four runs at the end it would doubtless be known as ‘Jacker’s Match’. In England’s first innings on an under prepared wicket and in damp conditions Jackson had scored 128 out of 262.

In 1903/04 England, led by Pelham Warner, had unexpectedly returned home triumphant. Jackson was no longer a regular for Yorkshire and even the prospect of the captaincy had not tempted him away from his business and political ambitions. For their attempt to regain the urn in 1905 Joe Darling was persuaded to return to lead the Australian side. He had chosen to miss the 03/04 campaign and after successfully leading Australia in each of the four previous series, including those in England in 1899 and 1902, he was seen as the man to take back the Ashes. There was some suggestion that his other commitments might mean that Jackson was not even going to be available to play. In the event however this time an offer of the captaincy of his country was not one he could resist.

What was to become one long summer of achievement for Jackson started badly. He won the toss in the first Test and batted, as he was to do in each of the five matches. He must have been regretting his decision when he went out to bat at 40-3, the more so when he had to trudge back to the pavilion at 49-4 after the Australian fast bowler ‘Tibby’ Cotter had beaten him with a very fast rising delivery that went on to the stumps via the handle of the bat.

Disaster was averted by the lower order, although 196 all out did not look too impressive once Australia reached 129-1 in reply, even if Victor Trumper was by then sidelined with an injury. At that point however the mood of the game changed. Jackson himself was responsible when, in the same over, he dismissed both of the established batsmen, Monty Noble and Clem Hill, who had each reached their half century, and then skipper Darling. The visitors still managed a first innings lead of 29, but England batted much better the second time round, former skipper Archie MacLaren leading the way with 140. Jackson himself, with an unbeaten 82, ensured that he could declare on 426-5. There were doubtless some observers who felt that he should have declared earlier, and that a target of 402 in five hours would simply result in a draw, but the Australians had no answer to Bernard Bosanquet’s googlies and his 8-107 spun them to defeat by 213 runs.

The Lord’s Test was spoiled by the weather and ended as a draw half way through the third innings. England were in charge again though having taken a first innings lead of 101. Jackson’s contributions with the bat were 29 and 0, but he did take another four wickets in Australia’s disappointing all out total of just 181.

The third Test, on familiar territory at Headingley, began badly for Jackson much like the first had as England slipped to 64-4. The difference this time was that Jackson was not one of the four, and he went on to record his highest Test score, an unbeaten 144. Once again Jackson left Australia a fourth innings target of 402 in around five hours. There was no repeat of Bosanquet’s triumph at Trent Bridge however, and although Kent’s orthodox left arm spinner Colin Blythe briefly threatened something similar in the end Australia batted out time with three wickets in hand.

From Headingley the series crossed the Pennines to Old Trafford where the Ashes were retained. England scored 446 with Jackson again top scoring with 113. He didn’t need to bat again as Australia subsided to defeat by an innings and 80 runs. The series ended at the Oval and after England scored 430 in their first innings (Jackson 76) there were hopes of a 3-0 win. In the event Australia batted much better than previously and comfortably secured the draw. It had been a magnificent series for Jackson. He had topped both the batting and bowling averages and his captaincy had been such that his side had been on top throughout the series, and those early collapses at Trent Bridge and Headingley apart the Australians had never looked like they might win.

For Jackson it was a case of going out at the top as he effectively retired at the end of the 1905 summer. He was persuaded to play four times after that. In 1906 he turned out for the Gentlemen at Lord’s in the centenary of the encounter and for Yorkshire in benefit matches for Walter Lees of Surrey and for JT Tyldesley at Old Trafford. His last hurrah was in 1907 for the Headingley Roses match, played for the benefit of his old Yorkshire teammate David Denton. There were no big scores for Jackson, but he did make a valuable contribution to each match, particularly for the Gentlemen as he showed his amateur teammates how to deal with the Kent fast bowler, Arthur Fielder, who became the first man to take all ten wickets in an innings in the fixture and went on to get 14 for the match in a losing cause.

The MCC certainly didn’t forget Jackson after 1905. He was asked to captain England against South Africa in 1907 and once more against Australia in 1909, despite no appearances at all for two years. He declined both offers.

In 1913 Jackson’s father sold the family business and Jackson was free to concentrate on other matters of business and his political career. Those ambitions were however interrupted again in 1914 by the Great War. He became a Lieutenant Colonel and raised the Leeds Rifles Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment. He left for France with his men in January 1917, but did not lead them in the field. Ill health forced the 46 year old back home, and unlike in the Boer War he did not regain fitness in time to return. Had he done so he would, with his men, have been involved in the Battle of Arras, the Cambrai Offensive and the Battle of the Hindenburg Line. Despite the impression modern popular culture has created senior officers in the Great War did not habitually occupy grand surroundings many miles behind the front. The man who ultimately replaced Jackson as Lieutenant Colonel of the Leeds Rifles was killed in action in May 1918.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that, given his background in business, Jackson’s politics were of the Conservative variety. He became MP for the Howdenshire Division in Yorkshire in 1915. There was a family connection as the previous incumbent had been his father in law. His time in the House of Commons lasted until 1926. Jackson was a hard working back bencher but he did not have the talent for politics that he had for sport. One thing he seems never to have been criticised for on the field was a lack of sportsmanship, and if he ever did aspire to high office his integrity would have cost him dearly.

The most senior position Jackson did have was the important one of Chairman of the Party. He had his successes, most notably his role in persuading his former fag from Harrow, Winston Churchill, to cross the floor and become Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was a job that Churchill did not make a success of, his decisions leading directly to the 1926 General Strike, but he was eventually to make perhaps the greatest comeback of them all.

The most forgettable, for Jackson anyway, aspect of his political career was the affair of the ‘Zinoviev letter’. There had been a general election in 1922 which had returned a Conservative government under Jackson’s fellow Harrovian Stanley Baldwin. One of the great issues of the day was tariff reform and Baldwin was persuaded by party colleagues, one of whom was Jackson, to call a snap election on the issue for 1923. As for their modern day counterparts the decision was not a wise one and with, for the last time in British politics, the three main parties split Labour’s Ramsey MacDonald formed a minority government.

A loose coalition between MacDonald and the Liberals lasted just a few months and there was another election in 1924. In the run up to that the Daily Mail, then as now a mouthpiece for the Conservatives, published a letter allegedly written by Grigory Zinoviev, a leading Russian political figure, exhorting the Labour Party and Trade Union Congress to engage in seditious activities with a view to bringing down the capitalist system.

The letter was undoubtedly a forgery but the resultant publicity helped bring about a Conservative victory at the polls, albeit more by causing the Liberal vote to collapse than by having any significant effect on support for the Labour Party. It was Jackson as Party Chairman who was responsible for passing the letter, received from the Secret Service, to the Daily Mail without anything more than a cursory investigation into its authenticity. One suspects he was pressed by others to take the action he did, but he must have had his doubts. Two years later he was out of Westminster, Baldwin having found a position for him as Governor of Bengal.

Having enjoyed himself in India thirty years previously Jackson was happy to go to Bengal where he spent five years. He was no better equipped than anyone else to curb the unrest in the region but we can be certain that he took his task seriously and tried his best. There was one particular demonstration of courage and humour from Jackson. Shortly before he left he was addressing an audience at the University of Calcutta when a young female assailant fired five shots at him with a handgun from close range. All five missed, prompting Jackson to quip to those around him that it was the quickest duck he had ever made, before continuing with his speech.

Back in England after his stint in Bengal Jackson was effectively retired, but he nonetheless led an active life. He took on another thankless task as Chairman of Selectors for the 1934 Ashes series. Without Douglas Jardine or Harold Larwood England were never likely to be successful but, implacably opposed to Bodyline bowling, Jackson was clearly a safe pair of hands. In time he was President of Yorkshire (he had been President of the MCC in 1921) and of the Board of Governors at Harrow. His luck held too. His London home was bombed in the blitz, but Jackson wasn’t in at the time. He spent much time in Yorkshire, and often visited the nets. He was a great believer in nurturing home grown talent and was always happy to encourage the youngsters. With the assistance of a furled umbrella in place of a bat he was often seen engaging in impromptu coaching sessions.

In the end however Jackson’s luck ran out when, as a pedestrian, he was struck by a taxi in 1946 and sustained some nasty injuries. He made a recovery of sorts, but never properly regained his health and he died a few months later in March 1947. He was 76.

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