1932 - 2011

A summary of the eulogy by Rupert Clarke at Alan Jacques’ memorial service on 6th April 2011

Alan’s birth certificate records his full name as Ernest Alan but it seems the Ernest part soon fell into disuse. However the loss of one name didn’t seem to bother Alan as over the years he acquired plenty of others. They ranged from “Tanky” when he was in the police force to Yogi Bear to Jakey and to many of his bellringing friends of my generation he was simply known as “The Boss”.

Alan was a real character, a “one-off” and someone who was very different from anyone most of us had ever met before. I am sure that none of us will ever meet anyone quite like him in our lives again. He lived a very full and interesting life and those of us who knew him well were aware that there were three things that were particularly close to his heart. These were his cap, his pipe and his boots. There weren’t many hours in the day when he wasn’t attached to all three of these; but contrary to some of his friends’ suspicions, Hazel says he has never slept in his boots. It didn’t matter what time of the year you went to his house, even in the height of summer he would be sitting in his armchair puffing his pipe with his cap and boots firmly in place.

First and foremost Alan was a family man and his family meant everything to him. He and Hazel married in 1953 and it was clear to everyone they were devoted to each other. They had four daughters and were proud grandparents and great-grandparents. Alan particularly enjoyed their family visits to Valley Road where he always helped Hazel in the kitchen and ensured that when the visitors left they were presented with plenty of his fresh home-made bread and cakes.

At the age of 12 Alan had a life-changing experience – although he probably didn’t know it at the time. His dad who was a local village ringer at Woodhouse Eaves, taught him to handle a church bell. This started a ringing career that was to last for the whole of his life and gave him immense pleasure and satisfaction. Soon he was cycling to Anstey for their practice night and shortly after that to Leicester Cathedral practices as well. Redvers Elkington of Anstey had recommended the young Alan to Harold Poole and as many will know he couldn’t have wished for a better mentor or a more enthusiastic environment to make progress as a ringer and particularly as a peal ringer. Even at a relatively young age Alan’s ringing style was effortless and his striking flawless. Soon he started ringing heavier bells in a way that was the envy of many of his contemporaries.

It was well known that Alan never kept any records so at the moment we do not know how many peals he rang in total. His first was on 10th June 1946 and his last was on 30th January 2002. The computerised data base recording of all peals that have ever been rung has now reached back to 1957, and shortly before Alan died, Richard Brown was able to present him with the details of every peal he had rung from 8th December 1957 to his last peal in 2002. In that period he rang 1004 peals and I know that it gave him great pleasure to remember the towers he had visited and the many different ringers with whom he had rung. Alan was a very keen member of the National Guild of Police Ringers and he and Hazel attended many of their meetings which are held in different locations throughout the country. He was President of the Guild from 1980 to 1983 and again in 1986 when his successor was unable to complete his term of office. From 1983 onward he was Life Vice President of the Guild.

For many years Alan and Hazel went on ringing tours to different parts of the country, especially those organised by Garry Mason and Jim Fisher. They also went on Bob & Ruth Smith’s tour to America in 2005 which they thoroughly enjoyed even though Alan, throughout his life, could see no point in foreign travel at all. He was not just a peal ringer and was perfectly happy to spend time helping learners and less experienced ringers. In recent years he has regularly attended practices here at The Oaks in Charnwood; at Barrow on Soar and at Ashby de la Zouch. He was a member of the Leicester Cathedral band and on Sunday mornings he would always travel to Leicester to ring there for morning service and then go to St Mary de Castro to join their Sunday morning band. He will be missed by many ringers throughout the country.

After completing his National Service in the Military Police in 1950  Alan joined Leicester City Police and subsequently Leicestershire Police for a career which lasted over 30 years during which he received two commendations. He served as a village policeman in Leicestershire and Rutland which involved moving house frequently. He spent his last years as a station sergeant in Loughborough and enjoyed the life taking a pragmatic and sympathetic view of local policing. A senior member of Leicestershire constabulary paid Alan the ultimate compliment when he said he had learned far more about how to be a good local policeman from Tanky Jacques than he ever learned from all the courses and training days he had been sent on by the force. He also cared about young people and their relationship with the community he served. Many youngsters have been put back on the “straight and narrow” after a good telling off from Alan, often in the presence of their parents. He considered this a better option than seeing a youngster get a criminal record at an early age.

The social life of being a local policeman resulted in Alan making many long-term friends. He was a keen golfer and continued to play for police teams  in retirement, going regularly on the annual police golf tour to Skegness which kept him in touch with many of his old colleagues. When backache made golf difficult for him Hazel persuaded him to join her bowling club where he made many new friends.

Being the very caring person that Alan was, he became very upset and worried when Hazel had to undergo a serious heart operation in August of last year. When she returned home he nursed her until she was given the all clear by her doctors in October. How tragic it was that barely a month later he was made aware of his own devastating illness throughout which Hazel and their daughters worked tirelessly to make Alan’s last few weeks as comfortable as possible. He remained very cheerful to the end and  if one did not know that he knew otherwise, it would not have been difficult to have believed that recovery was an option.

Alan will be sadly missed.

May “the Boss” rest in peace.


E. Alan Jacques – a tribute

I first met Alan when I was in my early teens. We shared a love of ringing, sport and, for several decades, the same employer. Alan was known by several names; Boss and Al or Alan to his ringing friends and Tanky to his colleagues in the Leicestershire Constabulary. Latterly, whilst in Leicester Royal Infirmary, the nurses always called him Ernest.

Alan learnt to ring at Woodhouse Eaves, the village of his birth which he always affectionally referred to as ‘Wooders’. He eventually moved to Leicester Cathedral where he remained a member for the rest of his life. As a ringer Alan had no peers. Light or heavy, rough or easy going, Alan would ring any bell with rhythmic excellence. He never bothered which bell he rang and when asked where he wanted to ring his reply would always be, “I’ll have what’s left”. In his eightieth year he still rang the tenor at Leicester Cathedral as accurately as anybody, hardly ever making method mistakes. Whilst he could ring on any number up to and including Surprise Maximus he was happy ringing rounds and call changes for the less experienced and, if you really wanted to make him happy, then Double Norwich Court Bob Major was the method of his choice.

Alan kept no records of his ringing achievements but rang well over 1,000 peals and visited countless churches all over Britain. He visited Ireland with the Leicester Cathedral ringers in 1949 and, due to the fact that there was no food rationing over there, he is reputed to have eaten over twenty fried eggs at one sitting. Latterly he visited New England on a ringing tour organised by Bob and Ruth Smith.

His work with the Leicestershire Constabulary took him all over the counties of Leicestershire and Rutland but he always maintained his links with Leicester Cathedral. Until his health dictated otherwise, if Alan was available for ringing he would be there on a Sunday morning. Weddings, special Services, Training Courses, Alan would help anywhere if he could.

Sunday morning in the Cathedral belfry would see Alan arrive, throw his flat cap on the table and speak to the gathered assembly. Every lady in the belfry would also benefit from a hug and a kiss. No one ever walked into that belfry without Alan welcoming them and engaging them in conversation.

A dedicated member and supporter of the National Guild of Police Ringers he was an outstanding and loyal President.

Alan’s sense of humour was legendary. Droll at times and as sharp as could be at others. He had that wonderful ability of making fun of himself; he never took himself too seriously. Some years ago on a Cathedral outing to the Welsh border our coach was parked outside the church at Chirk. A visitor to the village heard the bells ringing and, upon seeing ringers standing outside the church, enquired where we were from. Upon being told that we were from Leicester Cathedral he asked if Alan Jacques was there. I was standing with Alan as this visitor came through the door, immediately recognised Alan and identified himself. “Do you remember me?” he asked. Alan’s reply which had us collapsing with laughter was, “Yes. I lent you five pounds. Have you come to pay me back?”

After his National Service in the Royal Military Police, where he was employed guarding troop ships in Liverpool, Southampton and Harwich, Alan joined the Leicester City Police, transferring some years later to the Leicestershire and Rutland Constabulary. Despite being a big and powerful person I never saw or heard of Alan being angry or even annoyed. He was the archetypal British bobby in the finest traditions of the Service. The stories attributed to Alan are numerous and to recall them all here would require an edition on its own. I heard of at least two separate occasions when Alan was set upon by youths who were not only troublesome but also worse the wear for drink. Apparently when the van turned up to assist him he was leaning against the wall smoking his pipe whilst his attackers were laid out.

I have referred briefly to his love of sport and he was a regular footballer in the Leicester Thursday League where he was initially a left half. Apparently someone had the bright idea that Alan would make a good goalkeeper. All went well until in one game, which Alan’s team spent mostly in their opponent’s half, he decided to swing from the crossbar which promptly broke in two. As his football career waned he played golf and, in more recent times, he and his beloved wife Hazel, played lawn bowls at Mountsorrel.

Rarely without his pipe into which he put a tobacco which he used to cut from a solid looking piece of twist of dubious origin, he displayed regular evidence of mishaps. He probably possessed few shirts or jumpers which hadn’t got tell-tale burn holes. One day he walked into the belfry and my wife, Sue, remarked on his new jumper which had no burn holes. Alan took off his jacket and informed us that he had merely put his jumper on back to front. Sure enough, the back of his jumper was full of perforations. On one occasion whilst he was the village policeman in the picturesque village of Morcott in Rutland Alan could be seen quite visibly as he cycled down a country lane due to the smoke from his still lighted pipe exiting from his trouser pocket.

Alan treated everyone with respect and, in his last post as Station sergeant at Loughborough, he was ideally suited to deal compassionately with all the prisoners that came into his care. Alan would treat everyone with consideration.

During the 1960s and the days of regular protests against sports teams from South Africa appearing in this country Alan was on duty outside the Leicester Tigers stadium where the East Midlands were due to play South Africa. Due to the large numbers of Apartheid protesters the police presence was huge including police horses. During the pushing and shoving which increasingly took place one young female protester fell into a pile of horse droppings on the road and promptly burst into tears. Amidst the mayhem Alan gave the girl a helping hand and said to her,” You shouldn’t have come me duck”.

Alan went through life at his own pace always finding time for ‘a bit of baccy’. One young police officer, having just returned from the Training School, was sent with Alan to deal with stray sheep on a quiet country lane in East Leicestershire. Arriving at the scene Alan took his pipe out of one pocket and a paper bag out of the other. Alan gave the paper bag to his young colleague who quite naturally enquired the purpose of it. Alan said to him, “In yonder field there are lots of mushrooms. Go and fill this bag while I decide what to do with these sheep”.

He had a novel way of dealing with the masses of correspondence that came his way as Station sergeant as he explained to us. “I put it in two piles. The stuff I can deal with I keep. As for the rest I divide it into four separate envelopes and send them to a selection of stations round the Force. By the time they arrive back here I might be on rest day.”

Upon his retirement Alan, in common with all retiring officers, was invited to see the Chief Constable. Recognising the tremendous support throughout his police career from his wife Hazel he asked that she should accompany him. As far as Alan was concerned the Boss, as Alan always affectionally referred to Hazel, had been as much an employee of the Leicestershire Police as he had, particularly when they lived at Morcott and their house was situated on the busy A47.

Retirement from the Police Force saw Alan work for a local undertaker. He told us how there had been a faux pas at Loughborough Crematorium one day when the deceased entered to Harry Secombe singing “If I ruled the World”. It should have been,” I walk with Thee” said Alan with a straight face. He enjoyed the work though and told me that he enjoyed a good sing and “there was always a good bit of snap afterwards”.

He also worked as a security officer at the National Coal Board owned Coleorton Hall near Coalville until he eventually retired completely.

Of course Alan never really retired. The extra time allowed him to bake his own bread in the traditional way, dig gardens for old people and build what is probably the only three-sided shed in Leicestershire. A place of refuge where he could puff on his pipe, watch the birds and listen to his favourite music.

Alan took the news of his illness in a way that filled us with admiration. Walking from the belfry shortly after his news he said to me,” You and me buddy, we’re used to dealing with life and death”. I said, “You’re right Al but it’s normally somebody else’s”.

Alan’s boots always shone and as I arrived in the Oncology Ward during one visit I saw Alan’s boots by the bed and his flat cap on the bedside cabinet. A fully dressed Alan informed me that he was ready for the off as soon as he was released. I enquired whether he had been allowed to wear his boots and cap whilst he had radiotherapy.

Up to and including our last visit to see Alan he remained positive and full of humour. The visits literally flew by and one occasion at his house, which coincided with a visit by two former colleagues, had tears rolling down our cheeks as we reminisced.

Alan was very proud of the Gang as he referred to his four daughters, Glynis, Val, Alison and Hilary. He was also much loved by his two grandchildren and great grandson. His family has lost a quite unique human being whilst Leicester Cathedral and the Exercise in general has lost a man whose boots will probably be impossible to fill. If you wanted good advice there was no better person to approach. A wonderful friend to me, my family and many more. No one can have anything other than fond memories of Alan Jacques.

GARRY MASON

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