I've been asked to say a few words about Jack, or 'Tiger', as most
of you knew him, but he led such a long, full life with many interests
and passions in his 90 years that to sum him up in just a few words
is actually very difficult.
Jack and his prize blooms.
Jack was born on July 14th 1913 to Lewis and Clara Ayres. He had
two sisters, Noreen and Edith, and spent the whole of his life in
and around Helmdon. He attended Helmdon School and even worked for
most of his life in the village.
He married Ruby Hatton in May 1939 in Culworth Church, and they
went on to have two children, Michael and Doreen. Ruby, as many
of you know, sadly died in January 1983.
When Jack left school he started work as a farm labourer, but soon
moved to work on the Railway, around Helmdon, as a labourer and
then as a Chief Ganger. He loved the railway and maintained an interest
in steam trains for the rest of his life.
He also had many pursuits outside of work. He was passionate about
cricket, and played for Helmdon for many years. I'm told he had
a reputation as a hard-hitting batsman, or a slogger, as he was
often called. When he retired from the game, he was the groundsman
for many years and was later honoured with lifetime membership of
the Sports Club.
For the whole of his life, Jack was a keen supporter and member
of the Grafton Hunt, a subject which divided opinions within our
family, and caused many colourful debates. Hunting was one of the
main passions in his life, and every Saturday in the winter he could
be seen shouting and running madly across local fields. When Jack
was in full cry, there were few horses that could even keep up with
him. He kept his enthusiasm for hunting right to the end of his
life. Even in his late eighties, when the hunt turned up along the
railway line next to the house, he still showed an amazing turn
Jack was also musically inclined and used to play the drums. Firstly
as a member of a skiffle band performing in The Bell, and later
as part of a duet playing local pubs and clubs. He loved to go out
entertaining the locals most Saturday nights with his drum kit,
kazoo, bow tie and huge frilly shirt. He also had a mouth organ
which he used to attempt to play for myself and Donna, but we both
soon came to the conclusion that drums were definitely his strong
As I mentioned earlier, he led a very full life. He also managed
to find time for other hobbies such as fishing, shooting and rabbiting
- he kept ferrets for many years. He loved the countryside, and
always had a dog by his side.
But Jack's main passion was gardening. In the summer, the gardens
of Station House were full of colour from his chrysanthemums, dahlias,
sweet peas and roses, and his garden, allotments and greenhouses
were always brimming with fresh vegetables. He used to attend many
local village shows, and won many prizes and trophies. Who can forget
the sight of his unbelievably large onions at Helmdon Carnivals
of recent years ?
He loved his garden and used to cram every inch with produce. Once
he gave a small overgrown plot to Dad at the top end of the garden
to grow some vegetables. Dad spent the whole weekend busily clearing
the plot, digging and preparing it ready for planting, only to find
that when he returned from work on Monday evening, Jack had re-claimed
the freshly prepared land and it was now full of his Brussel Sprout
He was also very protective of his garden. Myself and his other
grandchildren can all fondly remember being chased around the house
by Jack, and his belt, for accidentally stepping on the garden or
cutting the corner of the lawn on our bikes.
Jack loved to be using his hands, and liked to make and mend things
around the house. His greenhouses, for example, were made from old
railway signal boxes. One of his endearing qualities though was
that he didn't always get it quite right. For example, he could
create a door out of wood which was strong enough to keep an elephant
out, but would take ten men to actually close the latch !
Another good example of this was his sidecars. He always loved
bikes, and, in fact, we believe he inherited his nickname of Tyger
because of the amazing speeds he could reach on them between Helmdon
and Culworth. He used to maintain the bikes himself and make his
own sidecars, and used to travel everywhere with Ruby in his creations.
One day, while on the way to Banbury, he couldn't believe how well
his bike was going, and how much time he was making up. He was just
about to congratulate himself on his bike maintenance skills, when
he looked down and realised the sidecar - and Ruby - were no longer
there. In fact they had become detached near the Thorpe Mandeville
junction, and were now in a ditch. Luckily, despite an ear bashing
for Jack, there were no other injuries.
Jack had a unique personality. On one hand he could have a fiery
temper, but on the other he could make you laugh and had some wonderful
stories to tell. Despite his temper, though, you would never hear
him swear. He was also very sharp and perceptive. If someone stole
one apple from a tree of many hundreds he would know it was missing.
I remember when we were younger we used to wait until he was out
to borrow tools from his garage. We were always careful to cover
out tracks. To replace the tool in the correct place before he returned,
to put the garage keys back exactly where we found them, and even
to leave the lock at the exact angle at which we found it. Despite
this, his first words to us when he got back were always - 'Have
you been in my Garage?'.
Jack celebrating his 90th birthday in 2003.
In his later years, Jack concentrated mainly on his beloved garden,
but always found time to watch televised cricket matches in the
summer. He also enjoyed attending Helmdon Fellowship activities
- lunches, teas and outings. He used to have a great deal of fun
with his many local friends and, I am told, particularly enjoyed
the Spring Lunch trifles.
There is one thing we can say for certain today, and that is Jack
will be sadly missed by all of us - his family, friends and the
local community. I would finally like to add that, although today
is a very sad and solemn occasion, I think that we can all take
great comfort in knowing that Jack had a very long, full life, he
had many passions and interests, was generally in good health throughout
those 90 years, and always had his family living with him, right
up until the end, and there are very few people who can claim that