Arts and culture
Barbara with Blind Jack
Blind Jack in bronze
By Carole Green
Knaresborough's local hero, Blind Jack, has been immortalised in bronze and now sits proudly in the town's market place. Local sculptor, Barbara Asquith, worked on the statue in public in a shop window.
Local hero Blind Jack, was born John Metcalfe in 1717 and was best known as a pioneering road builder, pre-dating Telford and Macadam, even though he lost his sight at the age of six. He was a musician of some renown and as a military musician, led the Yorkshire Blues onto the battlefield at Culloden. He is buried in Spofforth and because of his amazing achievements, has become something of a local legend.
Barbara Asquith, a local artist, was given the task of immortalising Jack and, for the first time, worked on public display in one of Knaresborough's empty shops.
"I found it quite daunting at the beginning, but I realise how important it is to the people of Knaresborough. They're paying for it and they're entitled to see it growing and being built", said Barbara when she was working on the sculpture.
The curious were welcome to visit Barbara and the reaction was enthusiastic and positive: "The same people are coming in all the time and they're really enjoying it" explained Barbara.
Barbara works on the sculpture
It took Barbara three weeks to create a life-sized seated model in clay, which was no mean feat, as Blind Jack was a big man!
"First you have to put in an armature, which consists of metal poles, piping and chicken wire to give it the basic support, then you bulk it out. Eventually you start adding the clay," explained Barbara.
Once the model was finished a plastic mould was made so it could then be cast in bronze.
"The foundry sent a delightful man, Terry, who made the mould in green rubber here, in the shop. It took him two days and was a fascinating experience. The public loved that, they thoroughly enjoyed seeing this lovely figure of Blind Jack being encased in green rubber. Then he took something like a mini chainsaw to it and cut it up into bits! It was worth seeing."
Thanks to local community fund-raising £30,000 has been raised. Local historian, Arnold Kellet had often suggested a statue would be a good idea. In 2007, a local working group was set up and an appeal was launched.
The whole project has been a real labour of love for Barbara and no-one will be prouder than her when Blind Jack is finally in place.
Enjoying a 'cuddle' with Blind Jack
"I love Knaresborough, I’ve been here 10 years. I couldn’t believe there wasn't anything to commemorate him in the town and my belief is that the statue will attract people to Knaresborough."
Blind Jack will be seated on a bench round the market cross and visitors will be able to sit next to him. Barbara hopes he'll help make people remember Knaresborough.
"These statues are fabulous, fun things, the first thing everyone will want to do is sit down and have a photograph taken and you’ll see the old ladies will touch his knee!
"With the doom and gloom around these days, anything that brings a smile and is an excuse for some happiness is wonderful."
last updated: 24/02/2009 at 10:31
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