This was one of a series of portraits of significant local figures that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ in 1891. While this was not a competition winner, prize of one guinea was given to the best profile of a “well known man”. There are some lovely details about the Tay Ferries here, particularly that after eight o’clock those wanting to cross the river could hire out a small bout for 6s 9d.
There is nobody in Newport better known or more highly respected than Mr John Jackson, who for so many years has had charge of the parcel delivery work in connection with the Tay Ferries. Born in Dundee in 1820, Mr Jackson came to Newport at the age of ten, so that for the long period of sixty-one years he has been a resident in the beautiful suburb on the Southern shores of the Tay. He is almost the oldest inhabitant, there being only two others who can dispute the claim with him—Miss Gibb and Mr Robert Just. Mr Jackson’s father, Charles Jackson, carried on the business of a shoemaker in Dundee and Newport. He was a staunch Baptist, and for forty years, with unfailing regularity, he attended the Baptist Church at Tayport.
Newport Sixty Years Ago.
Sixty years ago, when Mr Jackson first came to Newport, there were no churches, no shops, no schools, and no resident medical man. At that time communication with the South was by stagecoach, and the delivery of parcels coming by coach was attended to by Mrs Brand, whose storehouse for articles arriving by coach, and also for bales of flax from Dundee by the ferry steamer, was the building opposite the pier now partly occupied by the Mission Hall. Mr Jackson entered the service of Mrs Brand, and was for some time engaged in delivering parcels on a hand-barrow. The last boat for Dundee left at eight o’clock, and those who wanted to cross the river after that hour had to hire the cutter, which was managed by four men, of whom Mr Jackson was one. The charge for a single trip was 6s 9d, and Mr Jackson has sometimes made as many as three trips in one evening. In due time Mr Jackson was promoted to the post of Piermaster, and at the same time looking after the delivery of parcels, a duty which he has always discharged with punctuality and despatch. When the daily newspapers were started in Dundee he undertook their distribution in Newport, and all those who have had dealings with him will testify that his branch of his business also has been attended to with unfailing regularity. The punctual appearance of the Dundee Advertiser on Newport breakfast tables every morning for so many years has been largely due to the efforts of Mr Jackson.
The Tay Ferries.
Mr Jackson has seen many changes in the Tay Ferries. When he first entered the service the Ferries were under the charge of the commissioners of Woods and Forests, and the boat on the passage was the Princess Royal, a twinsteamer, with a single paddle in the centre. The Princess Royal had a very large deck for goods, and could carry eight or nine hundred passengers, but she had no saloon; and when a saloon was added her engines were found to be too light for the extra weight, and she was discarded in favour of the Fifeshire. Afterwards the Forfarshire came upon the passage, and then the Dundee. The Newport Pier and the sea wall to the East were built in 1821-22. By and by the Ferries passed into the hands of the Scottish Central Railway, then into those of the Caledonian Railway, and finally they were taken over by the Dundee Harbour Commissioners, and placed under the charge of a Committee, of which the first Convener was the late Mr Harry Walker. Mr Jackson has served under six Superintendents—Captain Scott; Messrs John Leitch, Morrison, Cookston, Ritchie, and Captain Methven. Among those who have commanded the steamers in his day were Captains James Duncan, David Milne, and John Edwards. Another old Ferry hand is David Davidson, who, like Mr Jackson, was in the service of Mrs Brand. Mr Milne, the Newport Piermaster, has been twenty years in the Ferry service.
The Congregational Church.
At the Mr Jackson attended old Forgan Church—the ruins of which now stand in the burying-ground. The minister was the Rev. Mr Nairn, who left the Established Church at the Disruption, and became the first minister of Newport Free Church. In this charge Mr Nairn was succeeded by the Rev. Mr Nelson, and then by the Rev. Neil M’Leod. His successor at Forgan was the late Rev. Dr Thomson. In due time an Independent Church was started in Newport, when Mr Jackson connected himself with it. For the long period of forty years he has held the office of a deacon, and there is no one more regular in discharging the duties of the office than he. All along he has taken a deep interest in Newport Congregational Church, and has stood loyally by it in times when its fortunes were at a low ebb. The ministers under whom he has served are Mr Taylor, the Justs (father and son), Mr Jobson, Mr Fairlie, Mr Tait, Mr Allan, and the present minister, Mr T. W. Hodge. The first meeting-place was the building in West Newport, now occupied by a Club. The congregation also met for some time in the old granary, and by and by the present handsome church was erected. The Congregational Church is extremely comfortable and convenient in every respect. It has a fine organ, and is the only church in the Burgh so equipped. The congregation has had many vicissitudes. At one time there were only twenty members; but when Mr Tait became minister the numbers increased greatly—the evening services being particularly well attended. Since the opening of the U.P. and Episcopal Churches there has been a falling off, but under the present energetic and popular minister, Mr Hodge, the Congregational Church has started upon a new career of prosperity and usefulness, which, it is to be hoped, will be long continued. Its prosperity in the past has been largely due to the energy and devotion of such members as Mr Jackson.
Mr Jackson married forty-six years ago, and his wife is happily still spared to him. His son Alexander, who was well-known in Dundee as a clever amateur actor, now holds a good situation in a business house in London. Mr Jackson is a typical Scotchman of the old school, shrewd, kindly, straightforward, and thoroughly upright in all his dealings. He has a fund of dry Scotch humour, which is drawn upon when occasion serves. Once, when the river was blocked with ice and the ferry passage was interrupted, a gentleman asked him, “Will there be a last boat to-night?” “Ou, ay.” said John, thoughtfully, “there’ll be a last boat, but I dinna ken what time.” Despite his seventy-one years, Mr Jackson is as hale and vigorous as ever, and every day he may be seen pursuing his useful calling. He and his genial, kind-hearted helpmeet are very greatly respected by their many friends in Newport, and all will join in expressing the hope that they may be spared to enjoy the evening of their life “till far ayont fourscore,” and that they will have a hearty Golden Wedding celebration four years hence.