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By Frances Francis and Jon-Paul Carr, 2012
John 'Jack' Harrison

Jack Harrison
Jack Harrison
John Harrison, or Jack as he was commonly known, was born in Bozeat on 15th October 1888. He was the son of Arthur Frost Harrison (1860-1931) and Martha Ann Harrison (nee Tomkins) (1862-1918) who were both natives of Bozeat.

By the time the 1891 Census was taken the Harrisons were living in the High Street in Bozeat. Arthur is recorded as boot finisher. The family of Arthur and Martha Harrison consisted of their children: William James (born 1881), Edward (born 1884) Harriet Mary A. (born 1886) and Jack (born 1888). Between 1891-1903 Arthur and Martha Harrison had further children: Susan Rebecca (born 1891), Frederick (born 1894), Edith (1896), Sarah Emily (born 1898), Dorothy (born 1900) and Arthur (born 1903).

In the 1901 Census the family were still resident at Bozeat. Arthur is recorded as a shoe finisher, William (aged 19) and Edward (aged 14) are shoemakers, Harriet (aged 14) is a boot closer upper and Jack (aged 12) has no occupation listed, indicating that he was still at school. The school leaving age had been raised to 13 in 1899 and remained so until 1918 when it was raised to 14.

The Harrison family moved to Rushden in 1909. This is verified by the fact that Jack's sister, Sarah Emily is recorded in the South End School Admission Register. She was admitted to the school on the 4th October 1909, being transferred from Bozeat School. The family at this time were living at 30 Crabb Street.

By 1910 the family moved to 12 West Street. On the 2nd May 1910, Jack's youngest brother, Arthur (born 1903), is recorded as entering the South End School and this was given as his address.

When the 1911 census was taken on the 2nd April, the Harrison family were still at 12 West Street. Arthur and Martha Harrison, were aged 52 and 48 years respectively. It records that they had been married for 31 years and had 11 children, 2 of whom had died. Arthur was a labourer with the Rushden Urban District Council whilst Martha was a housekeeper (probably meaning she kept home for the family). They still had 5 of their children at home. Jack (aged 22) who was a building trade labourer, Susan (aged 20) and Edith (aged 15) both working in a boot factory lift making (a type of insole), Emily (aged 12) and Arthur (aged 7) and still at school. There was also a granddaughter residing with them; she was called Edna Harrison aged 1. It is thought that Edna was the daughter of Susan Harrison who later married Frederick Jarvis in 1915.

The Harrison family still lived at 12 West Street in 1914 when they received news that Edward Harrison had been killed in action on the 23rd October 1914. His name is recorded on Rushden War Memorial. Edward had seen service with The Worcestershire Regiment and had previously taken part in the Boer War (1899-1902). By 1914 the Harrison's eldest child William was living in Australia.

Jack Harrison, the fourth known child of Arthur and Martha Harrison; it is stated that when Jack left school he became a farm worker. He started boxing when he was 15 years old in 1903, when he fought his first fight at Wollaston at a boxing booth. In the early days of his career, Jack toured local feasts taking on anyone in the boxing ring.

Jack joined the forerunner to the Territorial Army, the 3rd Militia Battalion, The Bedfordshire Regiment whilst he continued his day job as a farm labourer. In 1907 at 5ft 8½" and weighing 148 lbs, Jack joined the regular army, serving with the Grenadier Guards and developed a successful boxing career in the army. At the Guards Caterham Barracks he won their heavyweight novice competition within three weeks of joining the army.

Official records state that Jack started boxing in 1907 when he won three competitions and knocked out three men on the same day. In 1908 Jack fought Pte. Dan Voyles (Irish Guards) at the London City Athenaeum (better known as The Thieves Kitchen) in Throgmorton Street and drew with him, fighting four rounds with a broken jaw. In 1909 he sustained a broken arm in a fight when he beat Pte. Dan Voyles in the Household Brigade Heavyweight competition semi-final.

Jack left the Grenadier Guards in 1909 having had 100 fights. He returned to Rushden to live, where he obtained a job in the road repairs gang for the Rushden Urban District Council. He also became a member of the Rushden Athletic Club in Newton Road where he carried on boxing.

It was around this time that another boxer, Jim Driscoll (1880-1925) discovered Jack Harrison, who Jim described as a mere novice. Under the tutelage of Jim Driscoll, Jack soon developed into a champion. Jim Driscoll, who was also known as 'Peerless Jim' was a Welsh featherweight boxer who learnt his trade in the boxing ring and used it to fight his way out of poverty. He went on to win the British Featherweight Championship and the coveted Lonsdale Belt in 1910. He was all set to push Jack to the limits of his boxing career.

Rushden Argus, 2nd February  1912

Rushden Man Wins at the Ring

Much interest was shown at the National Sporting Club on Monday night in the meeting of Jack Harrison (Rushden) and Dai Thomas (Cardiff). [part of a longer article]

On the 20th May 1912, with 'Peerless Jim' training, Jack Harrison won the British Middleweight Boxing Championship and the prestigious Lonsdale Belt. He fought against Private Pat McEnroy (Irish Guards) at the National Sporting Club, Covent Garden in a twenty round contest.

The Northampton Mercury for the 24th May 1912 stated:

Harrison had always proved himself a stout and stubborn fellow, a worthy opponent at all times for anyone his own size and weight. McEnroy, built on different lines, claimed an advantage of close upon three inches in height, and, bearing in mind his undoubted improvement and his long experience was as much fancied in his immediate circle.

The Contest
Harrison was boxing to orders, and, knowing that the soldier possessed a formidable right, he took no risks. He contented himself with continual lefts, and whenever McEnroy became audaciously inclined the Rushden man would vary the attack on the body and again restore the balance of points in his own favour. Both men showed fine footwork, but Harrison was the better judge of distance, and he has evidently learnt from Driscoll the knack of hitting from all sorts of angles. Harrison wins his matches by persistent attack. He never allows his rival a moment's relaxation, and it says much for McEnroy's splendid condition that he was going just as fast at the close as his conqueror. The Guardsman was quite as strong as Harrison, but he is inferior to him as a boxer. On last night's showing Harrison would seem to lack the punch that solves all questions in one instant, but I do not think this is really so (writes "Astral" in he "Daily News and Leader.") He boxed with a becoming restraint conscious of his superiority, but determined not to imperil his chance for the championship by risking too much. His willpower is very marked, and McEnroy, despite his fine nervous pluck and determination, obviously felt the stronger clash of personality. He must have known he was fighting a losing battle, but, like a good soldier, he went down with his colours flying.

After winning the Championship, Jack had five further fights in 1912 at the National Sporting Club (NSC), London, winning all of them. On the 8th August 1912, Jack set sail from Liverpool on the ship S.S. Adriatic for New York. His occupation was on the ships list as an Athlete and it was recorded that he could read and write. His next of kin was his father Arthur, of 12 West Street. It also records that Jack was married [to Ann Whitmee (born 1890 Rushden) at St Mary's Church, 23rd Sept 1911, she died in 1914].

Whilst Jack was in America matches were set up with some of the best American black boxers. The American press was also full of information about the newly arrived English Champion. It was stated in the Pittsburg Press of Monday 22nd September 1912: 'Having no other men to conquer in his own country, he is here to meet the best we have at the middleweight limit'. On the 23rd September 1912, Jack fought Eddie McGoorty (1889-1929) at Madison Square Garden, New York City. He was knocked out in the first round, after which McGoorty claimed himself the unofficial World Champion! Jack's last fight in the USA took place on the 11th December 1912. That morning Jack woke up feeling unwell, and his manager put this down to nerves. As the day went on Jack became sleepier, but still went into the ring to fight Freddie Hicks at the Fairmont Club in New York City. Jack was knocked out in the first round, and he believed that he had been doped in some way before the fight.

Jack returned to England, and on the 17th March 1913 fought Harry Lewis, an American, at the NSC, Covent Garden. Jack didn't defend his British Middleweight Boxing Champion title in 1913.

The First World War saw Jack volunteer to re-join the army, on the 14th May 1915, as a Private in the 23rd (Service) Battalion The Royal Fusiliers (1st Sportsman's) where he boxed for his regiment. He was later transferred to the 106th Labour Corps where he served as a Corporal.

In the summer of 1918 Jack married widow Mary Jane Fathers who already had a son, called Frederick Fathers (1909-1987). Jack and Mary had twin sons, John Frost (Jack) Harrison (1919-1996) and Herbert Henry (Bert) Harrison (1919-1993), and a daughter Joyce (1925-2002). The twins joined the Royal Navy in the Second World War and both were boxers, although they were not as successful as their father.

Jack Harrison retired from boxing in 1924 having competed in 36 contests. He won 21, lost 12, drew 1 and others 2. He returned to work as a labourer for the Rushden Urban District Council. Jack lived at 136 High Street South, Rushden before moving to 67 Highfield Road, Rushden. He would often visit local schools dressed in his white boxing outfit to help with PE and boxing. Jack also ran a boxing club based at the Rushden Windmill Club in Glassbrook Road where he had his own chair and beer mug. He was well liked and respected by the local community and even when he was 80 years of age would walk 20 miles a day.

Jack died at Park Hospital (now Isebrook Hospital), Wellingborough on 16th December 1970 aged 82, his wife Mary having died on the 17th December 1968. He was cremated at Kettering and his ashes interred at Rushden Cemetery in Newton Road.

 Jack Harrison's Career Fights
© Research complied by Miles Templeton and Richard Ireland to whom thanks are given
for permission to publish the details. see also:
Nov 7 1907
 Trooper Daly  Gladstone Hall Windsor
Nov 7 1907
 Trooper Wells  Gladstone Hall Windsor
Nov 7 1907
 Trooper Cowles  Gladstone Hall Windsor
Jan 16 1908
 Darkey Limpman (Bow)  National Sporting Club Covent Garden (Heavyweight novice competition 1st Series)
Feb 19 1908
 Trooper Mellish (Life Guards)  Gladstone Hall Windsor
Apr 8 1908
 Pte Healey (2nd Coldstream Guards)  Barracks Chelsea (Brigade of Guards Heavyweight Competition Semi-Final)
Apr 8 1908
 Murray (Scots Guards)  Barracks Chelsea (Brigade of Guards Heavyweight competition final)
May 14 1908
 Trooper Mellish (Life Guards)  Athenaeum London
Jun 1908
 Herbert Hall (Meat Market)  Beechwood Club Slough
Mar 19 1909
 Pte Snow (Lambeth)  Tower London (Heavyweight open competition 1st series)
Mar 19 1909
 Ward  Tower London (Heavyweight open competition semi final)
Mar 19 1909
 Herbert Hall (Meat Market)  Tower London (Heavyweight open competition final)
Apr 22 1909
 Pte Dan Voyles (Irish Guards)  Barracks Chelsea (Household Brigade Heavyweight competition semi-final)
Mar 14 1910
 J Phillips (Northampton)  Athletic Club Rushden
Oct 17 1910
 Joe Buckingham (Luton)  Athletic Club Rushden (Buckingham described as Heavyweight Champion of BDF)
Oct 24 1910
 Bill Welch (Northampton)  Corn Exchange  
Dec 12 1910
 Bill Welch (Northampton)  Northampton  
Jan 30 1911
 Bill Welch (Northampton)  Victory Hall Kettering (Midlands Heavyweight Title)
Mar 27 1911
 Pte Dan Voyles (Irish Guards)  National Sporting Club Covent Garden 
Dec 18 1911
 George Beckett (Southampton)  National Sporting Club Covent Garden
Jan 29 1912
 George West (Ashford)  National Sporting Club Covent Garden
May 20 1912
 Pte McEnroy (Irish Guards)  National Sporting Club Covent Garden (British Middleweight Title)
Sep 23 1912
 Eddie McGoorty (USA)  Madison Square Garden New York City
Oct 12 1912
 Young Sammy Smith (Philadelphia USA)  National AC Philadelphia
Dec 11 1912
 Freddie Hicks (Detroit USA)  Fairmont Club New York City
Mar 17 1913
 Harry Lewis  National Sporting Club Covent Garden
Sep 15 1913
 Nichol Simpson (Hetton-le-Hole)  St James Hall Newcastle (Simpson boxed for the British Middleweight Title 1914)
Nov 3 1913
 Gunner Burrow (Gibraltar)  Victory Hall Kettering
Feb 23 1914
 Jim Sullivan (Bermondsey)  National Sporting Club Covent Garden (Sullivan was British Middleweight Champion 1910-1912)
Mar 2 1914
 Arthur Johnson (Grantham)  Victoria Hall Kettering
Mar 18 1914
 Ike Pratt (Middleborough)  Oxford Street Ring Middleborough
Mar 20 1914
 Sid Doyle (Islington)  George Skating Rink Northampton
Apr 24 1914
 Pte Ponsford (RMLI)  Cosmopolitan Gymnasium Plymouth
Jan 28 1924
 Harry Gold (Baling)  Cossington Street Baths Leicester
Aug 23 1924
 Fred Phipps (Northampton)  Football Ground Rushden
Blue Plaque - see no 20

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