WELL-KNOWN watchmaker and jeweller James Porteous Jackson, who served the Haddington community at his High Street shop for about 40 years, has died. He was 81.

Known as Jimmy, he was born in Haddington on December 2, 1938, the only son of Lena (Porteous) and Sam Jackson, and brought up at the family home on Hardgate.

He spent his early childhood being raised by his mother while his father served with the Royal Engineers during the Second World War, spending time in a German prisoner of war camp.

As he grew up, Jimmy was a familiar sight on his grocer’s bike, making deliveries to local houses, and enjoyed fishing on the River Tyne with friends which included “guddling” at the West Mills.

A pupil of the Knox Institute, he secured an apprenticeship as a watchmaker and clockmaker with James Pringle on Market Street on leaving school. There he honed his horological skills, becoming a master at his trade.

He met the love of his life, Isabella (Isa) Paxton, at a dance in the Corn Exchange and they were married at Spott Church on May 21, 1960.

Jimmy completed National Service with the Royal Signals and, on his return home, settled into family life at Beechwood Road. He and Isa welcomed their daughter Avril, who was born in 1961.

Jimmy went into business for himself, opening a watchmaker and jeweller’s shop on Hardgate. He then moved into larger premises at 92 High Street, a former chemist’s, and the family made their home above the shop.

Over the years, Jimmy diversified the business, offering an in-house engraving service which was valued by local clubs and other organisations for medals and trophies, and moved with the times with the advent of battery-operated watches and clocks.

Jimmy prided himself on the family nature of his business, with Lena and Isa playing integral roles in its operation, from buying jewellery, watches, clocks and other stock, to welcoming the public at the counter.

Also popular with customers were the family’s two Cairn terriers, Sandy and Trot, who would often welcome them through the door.

Jimmy supported Haddington Festival and Nungate Gala and, for many years, served St Mary’s Parish Church in Haddington by cleaning and polishing the Communion silver.

He also wound the clocks at the Town House and former Knox Institute, which became Knox Court sheltered housing, ensuring the clocks went forward and back each year.

A former member of Haddington Rotary Club, he was also a keen angler, enjoying fishing trips, including to the Whiteadder Reservoir with friend the late Kenneth Whitson, former proprietor of the Courier.

Jimmy, an avid fan of the work of Robert Burns, was a regular at the annual Haddington Burns Club supper at the former George Hotel.

A keen pigeon fancier since boyhood, his lifelong passion for the sport began while racing with his father as S & J Jackson.

After the death of his father in 1976, Jimmy continued racing solo from a pigeon loft at Langriggs before setting up a loft at Howden Farm, near Gifford.

In 1985, he was to have the biggest win of his life – the Scottish National race from Rennes in France, naming his winning bird ‘Howden Gold’ and picking up the Gold Cup from the Scottish National Flying Club.

Jimmy and Isa retired from the shop in 2004 and moved to a historic cottage at Spott to spend their retirement. Jimmy became a member of Dunbar Castle Flying Club and continued to win national awards for pigeon racing.

Isa sadly passed away in 2010 and Jimmy continued to live at Spott until his death on Monday, November 9, at Belhaven Hospital following a short illness, bravely borne.

Jan Wilson, former chairperson of Haddington & District Community Council, said: “It was a sad day when they retired from the shop, which is missed.

“You could go in a have a wee blether and there was always a welcome.

“Jimmy had a great knowledge of Haddington and was always a great supporter of the festival. He was such a stalwart of the town and did plenty for it.”

Duncan Knox, president of Dunbar Castle Flying Club, said: “Jimmy was a very modest person – never one to boast of his achievements, which were many. He became a close friend to my brother James and me.

“He liked nothing better than to sit in his conservatory and talk pigeons. He was a very interesting man blessed with a great memory. We shall miss him greatly in the club but his memory will live on. Rest in peace, Jimmy.”

Avril Campbell, Jimmy’s daughter, reporter for the Musselburgh Courier and former long-standing East Lothian Courier reporter, said: “I would like to thank James and Duncan Knox, of Dunbar Castle Flying Club, for looking after my dad’s pigeons during his ill health. Their help has been invaluable. I would also like to thank the staff at Belhaven Hospital for the care and attention they gave to my dad.”

Due to the Covid-19 guidelines, a private funeral service will take place at St Martin’s Cemetery, Haddington, tomorrow (Friday). The funeral cortege will pass Jimmy’s former shop at 92 High Street at about 10.20am.