John Sharrock Taylor

John Sharrock Taylor

Writer, Genealogist & Patient Choir Basher

My great aunt Margaret Hart, born in 1900, lived to celebrate her hundredth birthday in the first year of the twenty-first century. In 1927 she met an Essex boy who had served, and been wounded, with the King’s Royal Rifles during the Great War. Jack Cockrell’s name suited him: a swarthy, dapper little bantam of a man with an assertive beak of a nose, a perky strut and an unruly comb of black hair which had to be brilliantined into submission.

When she told him she was pregnant Jack did what many a man has done before and since, he panicked and bolted. Margaret’s brothers, fellow Great War veterans caught him before the London train had left Wallgate Station and returned him under military escort to the arms of his beloved. In this tense 1929 wedding photograph the bride is unsmiling, the groom wears an air of thin lipped resignation and his formidable sister, Aunt Lily, looks ready to knit at the foot of any guillotine. It was the unpromising prelude to a happy marriage and Margaret and Jack became my much-loved substitute grandparents
The Kidnapped Cadaver

Wigan's great magnate, Alexander William Crawford Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, died in 1880 in Florence.

His embalmed body was stolen from the chapel on the family's Scottish estate and held to ransome by the mysterious Nabob.

Chapter 3 of A Wigan Childhood

My grandmother Beatrice Adelaide Norcliffe Hart died in 1919 after giving birth to her only child, my mother, also Beatrice Adelaide (left).

My mother was brought up by her grandparents John Shaw Hart and Jane Clough Hart (below) and became a talented competitive swimmer.

My great grandfather 

John Shaw Hart

Brass finisher, crack shot,

 motorcyclist and, apparently, fervent disciple of Bleriot.

The Button Pit Murder

'A crime rivalling in its atrocity and revolting character the most

cold-blooded and horrifying deed recorded in the Newgate Calendar'

3 of A Wigan Childhood.

Wigan Pier as it was

‘My God, Annie!

He’s your Jack again!’

My resemblance to my uncle and namesake, who had been killed when his Wellington bomber crashed in the Second World War, always shocked people who had known him but were meeting me for the first time. My grandmother Annie was disturbingly convinced that I had been sent to her as a replacement for her lost son. Like Will, my younger son, his great-nephew (left) Jack has a timeless young Robert Redford beauty which makes the 1930s clothes seem the last word in style. I wish Annie could have met Will, who is physically so much like my photographs of Jack and has his charm, his easy elegance and his skill at games.

1950s Wigan was a great place to grow up in but not nearly as fascinating as it became when I started my researches and found that so much of my own story was bound up with the often lurid history of the town.  

We tend to think times past were safer than times now but some of my discoveries challenged that cosy assumption. My great, great grandfather John Lowe worked for the Earl of Crawford whose embalmed body was held to ransom by the infamous 'Nabob'. My great grandfather James Sharrock witnessed the execution of Thomas Grime, the perpetrator of the gruesome Button Pit murder and as a child I played football with a serial killer. 

On this page you will meet some of the characters in A Wigan Childhood. You can find  more about them at Digging for Ancestors.