Edgar L. Jackson (1946-2019)

Ed at his retirement from the University of Alberta in 2007.

A couple of days ago, my elder brother Ed passed away, in Edmonton, Alberta, after a long illness. He was 73.

Born on 7 July 1946 (in Congleton, Cheshire in the northwest of England) he was the third child (of four) of Fred and Lilian Jackson, and christened Edgar Lionel, presumably ‘Edgar’ after our Dad’s younger brother Edgar, and ‘Lionel’ after Lionel Head, proprietor of The Congleton Chronicle where Dad was staff photographer.

Ed was just over two years older than me, but three academic years ahead. He and I were post-war ‘baby boomers’. Our eldest brother Martin was born in September 1939 (just three days before the outbreak of WWII), and our sister Margaret was born in January 1941.

Here we are in about 1951/52 and again in November 2006.

When I started school in 1953, Ed looked after me as we took the bus from the High Street in Congleton (not far from our home on Moody Street) a mile or so southeast of the town to attend the village school in Mossley. And we’d travel together every day until we moved from Congleton to Leek in April 1956.

Outside 13 Moody St. and a Mossley School photo, probably around 1955.

In Leek, our parents enrolled us in the local Roman Catholic primary school, St. Mary’s, just a short walk from where we lived (above our father’s photographic business) on St Edward Street. Together, we joined the Cub Scouts, 5th Leek – St Mary’s.

And we had one more thing we enjoyed together: playing skiffle.

And this image was used for a number of years (sadly no longer) on one of the exhibits at The Beatles Story museum in Liverpool.

This is our great-nephew Sammy in front of that exhibit several years back.

Later in 1956 or, more probably, September 1957, Ed won a scholarship to attend the Roman Catholic grammar school, St. Joseph’s College, in Trent Vale, on the south side of Stoke-on-Trent, a 28 mile round trip every day.

So, by 1957, our paths in life had already begun to diverge. I also attended St. Joseph’s College from September 1960, and by then, Ed was already headed towards his ‘O Level’ exams. In 1964 he’d applied to university and was accepted to study geography at the London School of Economics and Political Science (the LSE). His ‘A Level’ exam results for admission were not promising. He achieved a D grade in geography, E in Latin, and an ‘O Level’ pass in economics. Certainly no indication of what was to come.

However, in July 1967, he graduated with a First Class Honours BA degree in geography, apparently one of only two Firsts awarded that year in geography across the whole of the University of London! Comparing that with the situation today when, in some university departments, up to half the degrees awarded are Firsts, Ed’s achievement is especially remarkable.

Moving to Canada
Not having expected to accomplish so much academically, Ed took a job in marketing in London (with Unilever, I believe) after graduation but he soon realised he wanted to pursue graduate studies. He applied to study for a master’s degree at the University of Calgary in Canada. So, in August 1968, and having just married Christine (his first wife) they set off for a new life in Canada. Ed eventually became a Canadian citizen.

By 1972, he and Christine had separated and ultimately divorced. After completing his MA in Calgary, Ed transferred to the University of Toronto to study for a PhD, undertaking research on the west coast of North America (in California and Alaska) to evaluate population responses to earthquake hazards. He was awarded his PhD in 1974, and after a short spell teaching in Toronto, secured a permanent position in the Department of Geography at the University of Alberta in Edmonton in 1975, where he remained until retirement in 2007 as a Full Professor.

In Toronto he met Linda, and they married before moving west to Edmonton. They had three children together: Patrick, Nicholas, and Katherine.

Life at the university
As Graduate Chair in the Department of Geography for several years, he was a member of the committee which managed the merger with the Department of Geology to become the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences in 1995.

I recall that Ed—as a human geographer—was increasingly isolated in the merged department among geologists, atmospheric physicists, and the like. Human geographers were in short supply. His research ‘focused upon a variety of topics related to leisure and recreation, including the relationship between outdoor recreation participation and attitudes to the natural environment, satisfaction in outdoor recreation, and conflict. In the last twenty years of his appointment he concentrated largely on constraints to leisure participation and enjoyment, an area in which he published many journal articles, book chapters, and contract reports for the Alberta government.’

I hadn’t, however, appreciated just how highly regarded Ed was in his chosen field.

He was an Associate Editor of the Journal of Leisure Research from 1988 to 1995, Secretary of the Canadian Association for Leisure Studies (CALS) for two three-year terms (1987-1993), and President of CALS for 1996 to 1999. He received both the Allen V. Sapora Research Award and NRPA’s Roosevelt Research Award in 1995. He was elected to the Academy of Leisure Sciences in 1989 and was President of the Academy for 1995-1996.’

One of his most important contributions to the field of leisure research was the 2005 book Constraints to Leisure, which he edited.

Earlier today, I came across this appreciation, written by Peter A. Witt in the Journal of Leisure Research at the time, I believe, when Ed received the Roosevelt Award: ‘Ed Jackson is the leading figure in North America, and indeed the world, in promoting an understanding of constraints to recreation and leisure participation. Over the past 15 years, he has not only undertaken pioneering conceptualization and research in this area, but has also stimulated the research of others and helped set the agenda for future constraints research. No piece of research will be published any time soon that does not use Ed Jackson’s work as the foundation for its contribution. This assertion could only be made about the contributions of a few people from our field, most of whom have already received this award.’

Icelandic geography and jazz
Ed had two passions (apart from his family): Iceland and jazz.

At the end of his first year at university, Ed was one of the leaders of a 1965 student expedition from the LSE and King’s College London Joint School of Geography to Iceland. Over following decades he returned to Iceland on a number of occasions, making many friends there.

A panoramic view of Akureyri on the north coast of Iceland, where the 1965 expedition was based.

Ed put together this impressive collection of photos taken around Iceland.

Ed with Chris Barber after a concert in Bristol, UK in 2003.

Turning to jazz, Ed was an aficionado of the music of Duke Ellington, and I guess he must have had most if not all of his recordings. But I’ll remember Ed for the other jazz love in his life: the music of trombonist Chris Barber and his band. This was a passion that went back more than 50 years. Together with colleagues in the UK and Switzerland, Ed helped develop and curate the Chris Barber web site, although his participation as one of the web masters tailed off in recent years as illness incapacitated him*. Read, in Ed’s own words, about his involvement in that project, but why he became such a devotee of Chris Barber’s music.

Jazz is not my thing but Ed did introduce me to some of Chris Barber’s music, and one track in particular, on Elite Syncopations (originally released in 1960), became a firm favorite of mine.

I can think of no better way of remembering Ed than through listening to Chris Barber (double, triple or more tracking, and accompanied by Lonnie Donegan on banjo) playing Cole Smoak (composed by Clarence H. St John in 1906). Just click on the album cover to listen.

The last time I saw Ed was in November 2006 when he and Linda and their children came over to the UK for a ‘farewell visit’. Linda had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier that year. We met up at a reunion of cousins near Derby; I flew back from the Philippines for the event. What a wonderful evening we had. Sadly Linda passed away in mid-2007. It was not long after that Ed himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was the treatment that caused him so much distress and his slow decline over the next decade or more.

Ed and I had never been particularly close, apart from those early Mossley school and skiffle days in the 1950s. After he emigrated to Canada, we saw each other on just a handful of occasions. In July 1979, Steph and I (and 15 month-old Hannah) attended a conference in Vancouver, and then traveled by road to Edmonton, staying with Ed and Linda for a few days before traveling home to Costa Rica where we were living at the time. On another memorable Christmas in 1986, Ed and Linda, and young son Patrick, came over to the UK, and all the family got together at my sister’s house in Newport.

Christmas in Newport, South Wales in 1986. Standing, L-R: brother-in-law Trevor, Mum, Steph. Middle row, L-R: Linda, nephew Alex, brother Martin, nephew Bruce, sister Margaret. Front row, L-R: sister-in-law Pauline, Ed (holding Patrick), Mike, my daughters Philippa and Hannah.

In recent years I had seen, from various photos that Ed had posted online, just how the aftermath of cancer and surgery had ravaged his health. He was often in great pain. He’s now at peace.

Yesterday I contacted Patrick who replied: ‘My father had been suffering from a long list of medical conditions and complications for a long time. His health was in steep decline over more recent months. In retrospect, it seems as if he was preparing for this by getting various affairs in order over the last few months. It is my strong belief that he was ready for this, and wanted to be free from pain.’

I can’t finish this tribute to my brother without recounting an act of heroism by Ed more than 60 years ago. It was a fine summer Sunday afternoon, and Ed and I and some friends were enjoying ourselves on the banks of the River Churnet, about a mile from home in Leek. I fell in and, out of my depth and unable to swim, was in serious danger of drowning. Hearing the cries from friends who saw me slip, Ed sprinted along the river bank and dived—without hesitation—into the river, dragging me to safety.

Thanks, Ed. So long . . .


* Andreas Wandfluh, Ed’s co-webmaster posted this tribute on the Chris Barber web site.

16 thoughts on “Edgar L. Jackson (1946-2019)

  1. Patsy Jacobs says:

    A wonderful tribute to your brother!
    R.I.P. Ed


  2. Martin Jackson says:

    Great post, Mike…


  3. Diana Manning says:

    Happy memories also of my cousins Ed & Mike as young boys staying at Waverley, Woodville….where family & friends were always so welcome. Thank you Mike…. a great tribute.


  4. David Jones says:

    What a lovely tribute to your elder brother who achieved so much.


  5. Lisa Panes says:

    Nice read. Some lessons learned. Condolence to the family


  6. Martin Jackson says:

    That is a very good re-working of the Blog, Mike. Thank you for putting down all that we as a family really might have had difficulty in doing so ourselves…


  7. shaunnmunn says:

    RIP Ed. You gave the world a lot of things to ponder, and left a family that misses you dearly.

    What a fine tribute! It’s not the heartbreak from the span of years, or miles of separation, but cherished memories and loving pride that echo through the words I read. Words about a good man written BY a good man. I get the connection. A great legacy shared with the world; we are the better for it.

    Sincere condolences to you and yours.

    ♫ I wanna be in their number, when the Saints go marching in! ♪


  8. Lewis Heath says:

    Interesting and touching tribute.


    • Mike Jackson says:

      Lewis, I regret that Ed never got in touch with you once I’d made contact again with Alan Brennan. Ed had been very ill for several years, and withdrew into himself.


  9. Clive Aldenhoven says:

    I am afraid I inadvertently introduced him to Ellington – East St Louis Toodle Oo. He became a little obsessive with it bit at least it provided some respite from Chris Barber.
    Thanks for a smashing appreciaion


    • Mike Jackson says:

      Thanks Clive. I had wanted to get in touch with you and Gerry, but couldn’t remember your surnames. So a Google search was out of the question. All the best. Mike


  10. Janet White says:

    Thanks Mike for this wonderful tribute to a full and worthwhile life. I only had a window into it from 1965-67 but I’m glad I knew him. Happy memories.


  11. Most evocative and touching tribute to your brother, Mike, whom I got to know when Ed took the post at the U of A in 1975 (I was in graduate school then embarking on my PhD, also in Human Geography). He and Linda had me over to their house on many an occasion, and on one visit Ed introduced me to the music of Duke Ellington (I still have a cassette compilation of the Duke’s that he put together for me — and Duke is playing right now, even as I tap the keyboard). We lost touch after I graduated from the U of A in 1980, over four decades ago, but Ed is most fondly remembered.


  12. Chris. Gough says:

    Mike I have just re-read your father’s booklet ‘Gathering no moss’ c.1978 which he gave to my father, Les Gough. Our two fathers grew up in the Uxbridge Street area of Burton on Trent where your grandfather was a brewery worker. Our family visited Hollington most summers [for the damsons] and I can remember attending your grandparents golden wedding do.
    I stayed with you parents along with Martin & Margaret around about 1947 at Congleton for two weeks during which time Martin taught me to swim. I still have a photo your dad took of me and my brother sitting on the steps to the cottage at Hollington in 1947
    Chris. Gough


    • Mike Jackson says:

      Hi Chris, I remember your family very well indeed. I believe I also have a few photos in which they appear. I’ll have to look through my archives. If I don’t have them, my sister Margaret does, or Martin perhaps (he now lives in Portugal).


  13. Stewart Carson says:

    Wow I just found this. I was searching the internet to see if I could track Ed down for a coffee just now. I took one course from him for my BSc over 30 years ago but it was fantastic. What a great tribute.


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