Jack Hargreaves; new viewers start here

Jack Hargreaves died 20 years ago. The name is so plain English. It is the sort of name you see rolling up the credits of a black and white movie from the forties. Jack Hargreaves is the source material of history though. More about that later, but first a bit about a life well lived. Of farming stock, born in 1911, he started out training to be a vet, became a script writer and pioneer of inventive radio for the BBC in the 1930s. hargreaves armyDuring the war he served on the staff of General Montgomery in the run up to D Day. After the war he was a print journalist; he edited the landmark and successful British picture news weekly Picture Post, commissioning work from the great photographer Bert Hardy. By 1959, when commercial TV (paid for by advertising rather than the licence that everyone had to buy to watch TV — all of which went to the BBC) was being launched, he was headhunted to a regional TV station on England’s south coast. At hargreaves pictureSouthern TV he was both programme maker and executive. His lifelong love of fishing meant he fronted some angling programmes, while later he became known to junior viewers as the originator and one of the presenters of a (now much too worthy to get on the schedules) science, maths and history explanation series, called simply How.hargreaves how

But his greatest triumph, which will live on for historian and social anthropologist alike, was his series of folksy homespun programmes called Out of Town (later renamed Old Country). In them he used his childhood experience of farming, horse management, wildlife and country lore to spin an utterly charming 25 minutes of honeyed and relaxed communication about the secret objects and practices of a life now disappeared beneath the ground with its practitioners.

Please go to You Tube and watch one episode. Try this one if you don’t believe how knowledge can turn an unknowable bygone as humble as a stick of curious pattern and patina into an evocative story of the way things were. For various reasons only disernable to geekdom, the video link below may redirect you to You Tube, or not. If not, then click on the arrow centre screen and then the little You Tube icon bottom right, which will take you to the video:-


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6 Responses to Jack Hargreaves; new viewers start here

  1. Bless him! He was such a large part of my childhood and yet I had no idea about his life before How and Out of Town. Fascinating. Thank you!


  2. actonbooks says:

    Mine too. Hearing that rippling guitar and seeing him lead than pony and trap across the fields is a tonic to the soul


  3. I just had time to watch one of the shorter bits about visiting the country on youtube before I go out to milk the goats. I’m already planning my evening around him. Just hearing his voice for the first time as an American and I’m hooked.


  4. actonbooks says:

    It’s like having the world’s nicest granddad. No autocue, just a man who knows stuff wanting to share it. I once bought a book of engravings of 19th century hammers. There appeared to be a different hammer precisely and specifically designed from centuries of experience for every single trade and profession. That’s what Jack Hargreaves encapsulates. God, and a stick for catching rats or carrying a bundle, is in the detail. It’s “a thing of purpose”.
    How many goats?


  5. sibadd says:

    Dear Martin. I’m Jack’s stepson. Came across this blog entry by happy mistake. In spare moments I work on the intractable challenge of restoring around 250 “Out of Towns’ (unseen since broadcast) made up of 16″ reverse negative film with sound effects and 1/4” reel-to-reel tape with my stepfather’s commentaries. The archive, in a Birmingham lock-up, goes back to the early 70s and is fragile. I’ve a technical friend in London who – slowly – is synchronising sound and film; the end result still lacking JH in his ‘shed’ – or rather his image. J’s commentary was sound recorded. How to fill the blank spaces – if at all? I didn’t watch a lot of OOTs when younger being out of the country, but also because childhood included much what went into broadcasts; experiences I took as being available to everyone. I so enjoyed your variations on the information assembled on Jack’s Wikipedia entry. https://flic.kr/p/LLBFQ The reason I can stream the ‘Old Country’ episodes is that several generous viewers who recorded the programmes at the time (1982-1984) traced me and sent me the episodes on DVDs. Best wishes, Simon simon@baddeley.be


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