John Henry (Jack) Wilkinson – An Appreciation

Jack Wilkinson

ourCondolemcesIt is with much regret that we announce the passing of Jack Wilkinson on July 23rd.

Jack's contribution to Ampthill was immense, as a player at Number Eight for the 1stXV where he earnt a fearsome reputation for tackling, as an administrator as Chairman of Mini & Youth, as a volunteer where he could be found getting his hands dirty and supporter where he continued to attend home games despite recent health issues. A fuller appreciation of Jack's contribution to Ampthill & District RUFC will be published in another article soon.

Our sincere condolences to all the family.

The service will be at St. Andrew’s Church, Ampthill on Friday Aug 17 at 12:30, the dress code is rugby shirts (if you wish, of course). Afterwards there will be a celebration of Jack's life at the rugby club.

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Many of Ampthill Rugby Club Members, Current, Former Players and Friends have been in contact expressing their sadness and feelings of great loss upon hearing of the passing of our friend and Life Member Mr John Henry (Jack) Wilkinson, who died on the 23rd July 2018, at Bedford Hospital.

Jack was born on the 12th May 1943 in Ampthill. He was married to Jenny on the 28th of February 1964 and they were together until she died in February 2001. Jack leaves three Children, Tracy, Debbie and John, also eleven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Until his death Jack lived in Katherine’s Gardens, Ampthill.

So many of you will have known Jack locally, seeing him zipping around the town on his mobility scooter. I would like to share some memories to the Membership so that you all have a greater understanding of Jacks relationship with our Club and of him as a person.

Jack’s early school days were with Bedford School and later he moved to Stratton Grammar School, Biggleswade, where he would cycle to and from school daily. Having learned his rugby at school he was actually called upon to play for Ampthill for the first time (at senior level) when he was only 15 years old, not something that would be permitted today!!

After making a noticeable impression with the Club, there was a short break in his playing career while he completed service in the Merchant Navy aboard the Queen Mary. His service started as a Steward and he progressed to position of Head Wine Waiter.

When he returned home to Ampthill, the Rugby Club beckoned once again. From that moment Jacks love for the Club and his overwhelming enthusiasm for supporting the Club’s development were clear for all to see. There are so many memorable moments in Jack’s time with our Club that I would need the whole of the coming season to share them all, however, here are a few of the many memories Club Members have shared over the past week or so.

It is easy for the current Membership (me included) to simply accept our present set up as being the norm but a recent presentation by David Williams and Tony Rogers gave us a real understanding of the Club’s growth since its inception. Believe it or not, we were not always playing at Dillingham Park!! In 1971 a small club house was built by the Members near to the Nottingham Rooms. This was not without its problems. On one occasion, during the construction, one of the walls was blown down overnight. Funds were tight so Jack and other Club Members cleaned the cement off each and every brick by hand, one by one, so that they could be re-used.

When the club eventually took up residence at Dillingham Park, in October 1996 Jack’s endeavours continued. He and others erected the white railings around the Clubhouse Pitch and marked out the pitches at the start of the season. Other jobs were to include helping with fundraising ideas, such as Oompah Nights, Racing Nights, and the 200 Club.

While playing for Ampthill Jack was known for his tackling. “If you were hit by Jack, you would stay hit”, one of the Members recalls. In modern times he would probably be described as an ‘Enforcer’ on the pitch.

Jack was also a founder member of the ‘Ampthill Bionics’ team (in the early 1970s). They are a forerunner to the current ‘Vets’ section of the Club.

His strength and fierce playing style does not easily reconcile with the Clubman who dedicated substantial time to the development of the Mini and Youth Section of our club. He became one of the first men to support the creation of this section of the Club at a time when Mini and Youth Rugby was a twinkle in the eye of the RFU. Jack, and David Williams, were clearly forward thinkers when it came to the games future development.

Jack became Chairman of the Mini and Youth section in the 1996/97 season. Far from being too high powered to help, he would still work in the kitchens, clean the changing rooms and perform ground maintenance duties.

As a Coach within Mini and Youth Section he developed an age group all the way through to the seniors ‘Twice’ – a feat that to my knowledge has not been repeated.

On the social side of the game he organised the annual Mickey Mouse Golf Competition then would shoot back to fire up and run the post golf BBQ. Another annual event (The Ox Roast/Family Fun day) would see him pulling a night shift (with a few team mates) to supervise the cooking of ‘The Beast’

A Clubman is a phrase used by people in and around Sports Clubs but what does it mean? I believe it to embody the ethos of a Rugby Club. It is the person who sweeps the changing rooms, picks up the litter, refurbishes the Club in the closed season and who is prepared to turn out for whichever team require their service because ‘you are playing for OUR Club’. I believe this describes a man I was honoured to describe as a friend, Jack Wilkinson the ‘Clubman’.

There is one overwhelming phrase used by those who have been in touch about Jack. That phrase is that everyone has said that Jack was one of life’s real gentlemen.

Jacks funeral will be on Friday 17th August 2018, 12:30pm at St Andrews Church, Ampthill. Following the Church Service, there will be a Cremation at Bedford Crematorium. This is exclusively for family only.

The service will be followed by a Celebration of Jack’s life at Ampthill Rugby Club where all are welcome. The dress code is ‘rugby shirts’ (for those who wish to wear them).

The Family have requested no flowers. Donations, if wished, to Ampthill Rugby Club Mini and Youth Section (either via the Funeral Directors or to a member of the Club Committee).

Alex Radley
Chairman
Ampthill and District Community Rugby Club

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