John Sharrock Taylor

John Sharrock Taylor

Writer, Genealogist & Patient Choir Basher

Great Aunt Margaret, born in 1900, celebrated her hundredth birthday in the twenty-first century. In 1927 she met an Essex boy who had been wounded in the Great War. Jack Cockrell’s name suited him: a dapper little bantam of a man with an assertive beak, a perky strut and a 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. An unpromising prelude to a happy marriage. Margaret and Jack were my much-loved substitute grandparents.

My mother  Beatrice taught many Wigan girls to swim.

My Great Grandfather

John Shaw Hart

Brass Finisher


Crack Shot

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, 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 Jack and shares 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.