Object In Focus: Jack Clough
Today we share with you a selection of objects that help us tell the story of miner Jack Clough who dedicated his life to helping his coal mining community.
John (Jack) Robert Clough was born in Cramlington in 1922. His family moved to Seghill in 1925. After his schooldays, he followed his father to Seghill Colliery where both worked as faceworkers. His friends and family remember him fondly as Jack.
Like many men and women of service age in the early 1940’s Jack joined the Royal Navy in 1941, serving as a quick firing two pounder anti-tank gunner (known as a Pom Pom) until 1945. He had an adventurous war; on one occasion a ship he was based on came off worst in a skirmish with the enemy. He and his comrades were rescued by the American fleet set to sail into New York City and Jack found himself spending time in the Big Apple as a result. Like many who joined the forces, Jack discovered that military service often opened travelling opportunities, some more unexpected than others.
During his time in the Navy, Jack took part in two military operations at sea. For this he was awarded the Atlantic and Arctic Star medals. The Arctic Star was awarded to those who served on the Arctic Convoys north of the Arctic Circle, during the Second World War. The Atlantic Star was awarded to those who took part in the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous campaign of the Second World War.
On returning from military service Jack married Florence Scott of Holly Street, Seghill. During this time he played at semi-professional football level for local teams Ashington Football Club, where he was Captain in 1946, then for Blyth Spartans. He continued working as a faceworker at Seghill during this time as the professional wage for football players in those days was too low to support a full-time career. Football was a huge part of Jack’s life and he continued to support the game through to later life which saw him supporting Working Men’s Club sides in the district leagues from the Mid 1960’s. Jack recognised the importance of football within his community; after requests to start a new team from local youngsters, he got to work on registering a Sunday League team for Seghill. Jack ran the side successfully for fifteen years, handing it over to his colleagues in the late 1970’s.
Alongside his football work he continued as a miner,
1939-1962-Seghill Colliery as a faceworker
1962-1984-Bates Colliery as a faceworker
Life as an NUM official for Northumberland 1960’s-1980’s.
Jack was a member of the Seghill NUM branch, extended in later years in both official and executive roles. In the 1970’s he was the Secretary for Bates Colliery right up until his retirement 1984. It would only be two years later that Bates would close for good. In the 1970’s Jack was proud to be nominated as one of the Secretaries of the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic.
ASHMM: 2022.6 For Jack’s son John, this photograph stirs fond memories of helping his father during his time as Picnic Secretary. John recalls that prior to the picnic it would be his responsibility as a young 18-year-old to pick the delegates up from Newcastle Central Station and drive them to his family’s home. During this time his mother, Jack’s wife, Florence would serve homemade food for the delegates as well as entertain them and their wives. After the initial home visit John would drive his father and the delegates to the Seghill Social Club, while his mother would entertain the wives of the delegates. John always enjoyed this opportunity, not least because the delegates always tipped him for the chauffeuring – generous amounts of £5 and £10 usually. John recalls that they were all very worse for wear after the Picnic ended on the Sunday.
Photograph of Jack Clough Miners Picnic Secretary, ASHMM:2022.6
Jack Clough enjoyed all aspects of his time working as an NUM Executive Officer from the mid-1960’s through to 1970’s. It was by no means a small task and Jack would work every Saturday morning. He was well versed in industrial law, something which he taught himself through reading books and attending training. Amongst his community he was known to get things done; ‘Jackie will sort this out’, was a popular phrase amongst the community. His kind nature when it comes to understanding the hardships of the communities extended into the advice he passed on to his son. When John was younger, he remembers delivering coal for his dad to the weekly coal allowance. John was under strict instructions not to charge widows for the coal as they had a hard enough time. He would be the point of contact when it came to injuries and insurance claims, and he was a case worker on Mesothelioma claims which often involved long nights of research, putting together case notes under upsetting circumstances. Florence helped support Jack and would type up his minutes on a typewriter.
Jack’s support for mining and industrial law saw him travel across Europe. In the late 1970’s he was part of a group of NUM representatives that went to provide support for Polish miners. During this time, he spent three weeks in that country, where he made a lifelong friend of Polish interpreter Anna. They shared many letters over the years and Anna even stayed with Jack’s family during a visit. During the trip Anna commented on the freedoms in the UK upon visiting Berwick and realising she did not require her passport to cross the border into Scotland. They remained in touch until Jack’s death.
In later years Jack was appointed Justice of the Peace for Whitley Bay in 1978 and would often attend several tribunals per week. He did this for approximately for 15 years, eventually becoming Chairman of the Bench.
In the 1990’s Florence and Jack travelled widely. He had not seen his brother Larry since his emigration to New Zealand in 1951. Soon after Larry visited England in 1990, Jack passed away. The family, including Jack and Florence’s three sons (Jim, Ian and John) have been reunited many times since in honour of Jack’s memory.