WHO WROTE IN EQUAL MEASURE ON RUGBY AND JAZZ
HAS DIED AT THE AGE OF 87
Although Jack's death was reported in the Manchester Evening News on 4th December 2014, by Neil Barker, had it not been for Chris Lee, ex-Jazz columnist with the Manchester Evening News (1980s-90s), and the appearance of his report in jazznorthwest.co.uk , we might have missed the tragic news about Jack McNamara! He has died aged 87. Jack, often known as "Jack Mac", was an old friend to a great many of us local Jazzers; mostly because, although he was mainly a Rugby critic, the depth of his knowledge of Jazz was second to none.
Most of us local musos knew Jack well, once he got involved on the Jazz side of the Manchester Evening News. He put himself about with great vigour and sometimes wrote massive columns on local Jazz. I think he either filled in temporarily, or took over around 1971 or '72, after the late Alan Stevens ("Jack Florin", of "Jazz Roundabout", "Solo Spot", and Radio Manchester fame) retired from his freelance work with the MEN and eventually emigrated with his family to the Isle-of-Man around 1974. Alan was still freelancing occasionally for the MEN in 1974, though, because he covered my first 'flute marathon' at the Warren Bulkeley, Stockport, eventually reported in the GBR for 1975. At one time, another great columnist, Tony Holt, was in charge of the Jazz column, notably between 1976 and '77. For another period of indecision regarding the running of the column, perhaps before Tony Holt, John Robert-Blunn, mainly a general Music critic, but also an ardent Jazz, fan took over. Then, it became Chris Lee's turn, through to the 1990s. Jack's reporting of Jazz was unbelievably "on the button" from the moment he stepped in.
Jack was, however, most definitely a Sports Reporter on Rugby League, with the MEN since the mid-1950s when he came from New Zealand and settled in Alkrington, Middleton, later becoming a Jazz critic, replacing the great Alan Stevens. He straddled the Jazz and Sports desks simultaneously largely in the 1970s. He was equally hyper-proficient regarding his Jazz reporting. He didn't just take up a post in order to fill in; he was already an expert critic of Jazz and, like our other old mate, the late Peter Wheeler, of the BBC and Granada, etc., Jack soon got to know every performer on the Jazz scene by name, and built up databases about almost all of us, as Alan Stevens used to do. Jack was methodical in his records of performers, accurate to a fault. and just as passionate about Jazz and its many interpretations, as he was about Rugby League, its players, members and management.
A very popular, jovial man, who paid attention to one's every word, Jack made as many friends on the Jazz scene as he did on the terraces of the Greater Manchester sports venues. There was a strange juxtaposition here, too; many Jazz bands (mainly Traditional) played at all types of sports supporters' clubs. So there was, for several decades, an affinity for Jazz at the sports clubs. It was part of the general ethos in Rugby clubs, in particular, from the mid-late 50s to at least the 90s. The De La Salle, for instance, is still operating in Salford - Jack's regular stomping ground for Rugby. As Jack was in the Manchester area since the mid-50s, it is possible that he acquired a taste for Jazz during his first years in the area, at some Rugby venue. Whether or not that is an accurate guess, he certainly knew his Jazz and its more worldwide exponents. When he wrote about the mainly American "Giants" of Jazz, he always did so to the highest possible degree of professional journalism whereby their dignity would always be preserved in full. His sense of respect for all performers was without equal.
Knowing that I dabble in a few languages, Jack once greeted me in his native Kiwi patois 'Mauri', at the Victoria Hotel, Hardman St., behind the MEN, where I was playing in the Manchester branch of the Old Fashioned Love Band (1972). He said "Tenna kweh pakkeha" at the beginning of the evening. I had to wait until the very end of the session to find out that it meant:
"Greetings white man". He was one of the nicest people I have known in any walk of life. But that's how Jack came over to everyone who was honoured to have known him. His like will never pass this way again; Jack was unique.
Hundreds of us have lost a great friend and supporter. What a gap he leaves! May I extend my condolences, through your website Fred, on behalf of those of us who had the great honour and privilege to know Jack personally through our work, to Pam his widow, his daughter Ann and his son Jackson, and his grandchildren, and to all of his other friends in the world of Rugby.
According to an obituary in the Manchester Evening News by Neil Barker, dated 4th December 2014, the funeral is likely to take place in the New Year. To be advised. Although Jack had retired in 1990, he was still working through the London tabloids until at least 2010, when I last tried to get in touch with him.
Rest In Peace, Kiwi Jack, surrounded by the roar of Rugby "Hakkah" and the soothing sounds of the Jazz, that you loved so much.
I’m an old pal of the late Jack McNamara....rugby league
department ! However, Jack went a long way to enhancing
my interest in Jazz. Jack’s daughter Ann who lives in
Toronto, has received a copy of Joe’s tribute to the the
Great Man. I attach details of Jack’s funeral
arrangements, of course your friends and colleagues
would be most welcome to say farewell to a very special
The service will be followed by a reception at the Old Boars Head, Long Street, Middleton, M24 6UE. All welcome but, to assist with catering arrangements, could you please email Jack's daughter Ann at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend. No flowers by request but donations can be made to the Willow Wood Hospice, Willow Wood Close, Mellor Road, Ashton-under-Lyne, OL6 6SL.
One of Jack’s favourite sayings was “ keep writing that
good stuff, I enjoy reading it “