Time passes and it is now three months since our former Chairman and Co-founder John Aitchison Jones, better known to everyone as Jack, died peacefully at home in October 2020.
Jack along with Ian Gibb was co-founder of the Earlston Paths Group and served as Chairman for ten years between 2005 and 2015.
The pair met in the Black Bull over a beer and a common interest in walking ignited the idea of forming a Paths Group to develop walking routes in the local area.
Over the years, he jokingly always blamed Ian for getting him involved and used that line in many of the slide show presentations they did together for local organisations.
Jack was formerly a Policeman, and an outstanding one at that. He spent most of his career in the Borders although also served as Director of Studies in the senior division at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan for two years. Jack made his way up through the ranks but it was in CID where he was happiest.
As Detective Chief Inspector he was an exceptional detective, heading enquiries into all major crime including murder, rape and abduction. He was responsible for the arrest of, and then involved in the subsequent investigation into the activities of Robert Black, the multiple child killer. In 1988 he was seconded to the Lockerbie plane crash investigation, initially in charge of the CID enquiry. He retired from the Police Force in 1997 after serving 32 years. In all that time he didn’t have a day off sick!
Following his retirement, Jack started working with Roger Smith, the walking development officer in the Borders and helped set up local path networks and long-distance footpaths including the Borders Abbeys Way. He designed the familiar logo on the signposts on the route and was also involved in the Borders Walking Festival, walking and checking routes before the festival launched.
Jack brought the skills he acquired from this work to the Earlston Group. During his time as Chairman, the small team of enthusiastic volunteers opened up and signposted old and new routes, published a local walks booklet as well as other leaflets. The Group received local recognition being declared Earlston “Citizen of the Year 2011” and in 2015 were presented with the “Community Paths Group of the Year” award by Scottish Walking Charity Paths for All at a ceremony in the Scottish Parliament.
Jack wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and put in many a hard shift with the rest of the volunteer Group lifting and shifting timber to construct paths and bridges as well as barrowing tons of hardcore for path improvements. In his early working life Jack had trained as a joiner and when doing work on the paths he always quoted the old joiner’s rule of “measure twice, cut once”. We still quote him when doing woodwork. He liked a joke and was always ready with a bad pun. He could never lift a piece of fallen tree without some reference to being in “the Special Branch” or “going out on a limb”. Do we miss his bad jokes? Of course, we do.
Jack’s love of walking, shared with his wife Irene, extended to holidays and they spent many happy times in Australia, New Zealand and Austria. Closer to home they enjoyed walking in the Lake District, and Yorkshire Dales and latterly, used their holiday home at Berwick as a base for exploring the Berwickshire Coastal Path and surrounding area.
A move of house to Newstead and an increasing desire to spend more time at the coast, understandably saw him stand down as our Chairman. Irene was still involved with the group as Treasurer and although no longer an active member Jack occasionally attended meetings and remained a staunch supporter of the work of the group.
Without his input and involvement, the Earlston Paths network, enjoyed by so many people today, particularly during the current pandemic restrictions, would not exist.
The Paths Group will mark his contribution to the community by placing a specially commissioned chainsaw carving, donated by path group members, on the Leader Water Path early in 2021.