Wednesday, 27 July 2011

James Keogh's Sister Clare: a Stalybridge neighbour pays her respects

by Julie Aney

This year it is the 75th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. In November, the Arts & Events Department of Tameside MBC will be awarding a Blue Plaque to local lad James Keogh for his part in volunteering to fight in the Spanish Civil War along with others from the Tameside towns. James Keogh died in March 1938, fighting for freedom and democracy with the International Brigade in Spain. His younger sister, Clare Jackson, was born on 27th June 1932 and died on 11th July 2011,  and was assisting Tameside Trade Union Council in its campaign to get her brother James a blue plaque until the end of her life. It is a tragedy that she did not survive to see it installed. Below, a neighbour of Clare's, Julie Aney, gives her appreciation.

Clare Jackson, reading Northern Voices
I HAVE been a neighbour of Clare & Arthur [Jackson] on Moorfield Avenue my whole life, almost 27 year! Moorfield Avenue is one of those rare places which houses [no pun intended] a real community spirit; we look out for each other and are not only neighbours but many of us would call ourselves friends. It's for this reason that I have many memories of Clare; some which I'll share now.

Moorfield Avenue didn't need Home Watch with Clare around; she was our eyes and ears, no matter what time of day or night! We'd get weekly update of who'd been where, who had had what delivered and the details and full description of any mysterious callers! More often than not she'd know where we were before we did; quite often I'd hear the words 'you were out last night' or 'have you not been to work today, I saw your car up the drive?'. We always said nobody would get away with having an affair or truanting from work or school with Clare around!

But, on the flip side of the coin, her curiosity was what made Clare a wonderful neighbour; if we were at work she'd look out for the postman to take in any parcels to save us going to the sorting office and she'd keep an eye on the houses to make sure they were kept safe whilst we were out. She would bring a weekly magazine delivery to our house which she continued to do during her illness and during her days at Kerry Foods, we would get food and toiletry deliveries too! Her kind and caring nature will be missed by so many.

Clare loved a drink and one of my favourite memories is Boxing Day get-togethers at Clare and Arthur's with all the neighbours. Arthur and Clare were so generous and would organise drinks and food for us to celebrate the festive season. Anyone who had the pleasure of being invited would find the drinks flowing and I'm sure I speak for many when I say Boxing Day evenings was usually feeling the effects!

Clare never lost this sense of humour, even when she was very poorly and indeed my last memory of Clare is one of laughter. My Mum, me and Clare's friend Nell spent a Friday evening with her and were given some of the biggest measures of alcohol you've ever seen; this was straight from work before I'd eaten and needless to say we ended up in fits of laughter at some of Clare's stories. This memory will stay with me forever and is how I will remember Clare!

Clare was fiercely independent and fought her illness with the courage of a lion. Never once did she complain about being unwell and would always insist on making the drinks whenever we visited regardless of how poorly she was. Her fighting spirit and character will be missed from Moorfield Avenue for many years to come.

Wherever she is now, no doubt she will have a whisky in her hand so there's only one thing left for me to say and that's 'Cheers Clare - it's been a pleasure.'

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