Andrew Jackson just has to be one of the most remarkable souls that ever entered the orbit of my world, and anybody else’s for that matter.
It was a kind of mutual regard for many things from fine wine to poetry and music and always well up for a spot of lunacy thrown in.
So many heartwarming incidents that are now relegated to the enclosing folds of memory. They are still as vivid now as the moment they happened.
He was a superb Doctor, taking a great pride in diagnosis and with a finely tuned passion for the bizarre, from the old lady who came into his surgery, in Grassington to ask for his help as her tortoise was ‘off colour’, to rolling up to our Narrow boat at East Marton with some Chablis for a ‘natter’ that rambled on into the night. They often did and the great man put all the empties into a bag, waved a flamboyant ‘goodbye’, ambled down the towpath and drove off – into a tree.
‘Who put that there,’ said he.
He took a great pride in his compendium of so many things and initially it was music that pulled us together and his phenomenal voice was a factor I called on many times from local concerts in the Dales to big events on the Continent. In a way, we spurred each other.
He loved to write, and looking back the village will remember the many pantomimes he wrote; the plays he acted in, and on occasion directed.
We were both fascinated with the ancient worlds, and the mysteries that emanated from them. In particular the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and closer to home, the ancient settlements in Britain. We had both in different times checked out the monoliths and atmosphere surrounding ancient monuments such as the Rollright Stones where our boy camped one night inside the circle and said he was ‘scared stiff’ for he was not alone and being watched by beings from another time.
On the albums I wrote for Magna Carta, I used here and there, soliloquys, which was an idea well worked by Shakespeare, and it was only a matter of time before Andrew’s Thespian talents entered our ranks and blew people away.
The zenith, amongst so much was our concert in the Royal Theatre Carré, Amsterdam-a huge production
featuring our boy in a monk’s habit to a big audience. I could not help but notice, Andrew’s tones and the timbre of his voice held several thousand people spellbound.
Emotionally, our lives followed similar paths taking us wherever the Muse would have us go.
I wrote The Visitor, which people liked, and it wetted Andrew’s literary appetite and his pen gathered speed across countless pages.
‘Too many adjectives’, he boomed majestically, having read it.
‘Too many my foot’, I retorted, and in a way I was proved right.
One day he dropped in, a day when the Dales winter weather was firing meteorological ice balls at the land and all and sundry in passing.
We betook ourselves on a mind flight to Karnak and then Abu Simbel, the portals of which portray in giant stone statues the majesty of Ramses the great..
‘Where did you get those?’, he said, looking over my shoulder at the wall festooned with papyrus and artifacts from across the known and unknown world.
A set of hieroglyphs had caught his eye.
I had got them from various sources from Ugarit in ancient Phoenicia to Thebes: from Luxor to Saqqara and so on.
He became transfixed muttering to himself.. and then proceeded to translate them on the spot.
I was impressed.
‘Too many adjectives’, I said.
He was a keen Morris dancer too, and Wicca held a fascination for him. We nattered for hours on that one and tended to agree on the power of the elements and the push and pull of the Seasons; that there were powerful factors in Nature that defied definition.
Then there was Jackson the Punk.
The village blinked at that one.
With Paul, a friend of his, they set up a set of amplifiers and fuzz and distortion pedals, and heavy on enthusiasm and a tad downwind on skill, assaulted the audience with a thunderous barrage of electronic mayhem.
The crowd were stunned, to put it mildly and as one elderly and lovely soul commented afterwards, shaking her head, ‘for heavens sake, what was that? Andrew has taken leave of his senses.’
The sound level went up and then up, and then the whole pocket sized Jodrell Bank exploded, showering fragments of electronic mayhem on a startled crowd
As one wag put it, ‘Doctors can get away with everything.’
And indeed they did and can, but Andrew and his original partner, Ian were a phenomenal pair.
He mourned the fact that going out with his leather Doctor bag was what it was all about, but times change.
I recall one time, travelling along the road into the village and held up behind a long queue of traffic. I wandered along the queue, and there was a crumpled motor cycle crashed into the wall, and a bloody body of a young man on the road.
Tending him just behind the ambulance, was Andrew.
I’ll never forget that day. The lad, I learned later, had a broken back and multiple abrasions. As an exercise of skill and true caring, Andrew was superb. He treated the lad as if handling gossamer and I watched fascinated. He was there well over an hour and a half. The lad died. The wall had taken its toll, as it had done with so many before, but to Andrew the same level of caring was part of his ethos.
We had a pint later, and he just shrugged and said, ‘with a back injury a wrong hairsbreadth move can mean the difference between life and death.’
He shrugged and with an ‘all in a day’s work’ kind of remonstrance, said ‘there are aspects of the job can never get any easier.’
He had a swig of his pint
‘the other week there was a head on smash on the Skipton Road’… the bodies were unrecognisable, and, always the worst bit, I knew them all.’
He mused..’a head was missing,’… I found it in the hedge bottom.’
And that was that. All in a day’s work.
An hour in Andrew’s company was an hour of pure gold. And we had a lot of Jackson Gold in my time in Grassington.
It has been a shock, for everyone assumed that he was as durable a a limestone causeway, but it was not to be.
Like so many I shall miss him very much, and the many hours of ruminating on the wonders of our world, and it’s people..
Go well old friend and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
With love and memories (and adjectives)
Chris Simpson, February 19th, 2021.
Chris writes: ‘Andrew was at the very last concert in Ripley on January 31st, 2020. He had a poem/song called the Jazz Cafe. I worked out an arrangement unbeknown to him and we gobsmacked him on a rehearsal. It is superb and we have it on film. The clip includes my introduction and Andrew’s poem to music. A fitting end to a great man.
I knew of the poem as he read it to me once. I said ‘we should do that with music.’
‘Yes’ said he, forgetting all about it.
I sorted it out with the band.
He turned up and was blown away.
Still can’t believe he’s gone.’