J B Pick 1921-2015
John Pick, who wrote under the name of J B Pick, was known to
Winamop readers simply as JBP.
He was born in Leicester in 1921, son of Sydney Pick and
Elizabeth McNee. Sydney was managing director of the family firm "Pick
Knitwear" of Dover Street in Leicester.
John was sent to Sidcot school, where his love of Rugby football
and cricket saved him from the worst of the bullying. Following his experiences
there he vowed never to send any of his children to public school! I for one
was very glad of that..
His education did allow him to gain a place at Cambridge
University reading History, but his course was rudely interrupted by the Second
World War. His pacifist leanings lead him to join the Friends Ambulance Service
rather than taking on a combat role. He was registered as a "Conscientious
Objector" and worked in the heavily bombed areas of East London.
When the bombing subsided a bit he volunteered to work in the
coal mines of the midlands. His first books "Under The Crust" and "Out of The
Pit" were written about this period in his life.
During the war he married the love of his life Gene, and soon
after hostilities were over they moved up to the north of Scotland where they
stayed for ten years.
Whilst in Scotland he met the celebrated Scottish author Neil
Gunn and they struck up a strong and lasting friendship. Long philosophical
discussions would take place whilst the rest of the families amused themselves
around the house and grounds of Neil's fine home on the Black Isle.
The Scottish highlands were conducive to writing and Johns
most celebrated novel The Fat Valley about the thirty years war was
written during this time.
John and his great friend Johnny Atkins collaborated at a
distance on a very funny book "A land fit for 'eros" for which they wrote
alternate chapters, each trying to outdo the other in the outrageous situations
which the characters Charlatan and Picklewit got into.
Times were hard at the knitwear business in the fifties and John
Pick was called upon to take up the role of sales manager at Pick Knitwear back
in Leicester. He and Gene set up home in the village of Billesdon where he
edited "The Phoenix Book of Games" and "101 Games For One Player" which were
very useful reference books for indoor games players. Some of these games
appeared in Christmas Crackers as we discovered one Christmas!
When "The Fat Valley" was made into a film starring Michael
Caine and Omar Sharif John finally had some reward for his writing. The film
was called "The Last Valley" and was, and still is, highly regarded.
In 1979 John and Gene moved to Scotland again, this time to the
Galloway hills where he lived until his death. During this time he collaborated
with professor Francis Hart on a biography of Neil Gunn, he reviewed biography
for the Scotsman Newspaper and continued to write his short and vibrant poems,
many of which are featured on Winamop. In 2001 he
was awarded - by The National Library of Scotland - the first Callum Macdonald
Quaich for poetry pamphlets and was nearly locked in the museum basement whilst
attempting to get out afterwards.
His standing in Scottish literary circles was such that in 2014
he was awarded an honorary membership of the Association for Scottish Literary
Memorial by JBP
Forget the poet; he has gone;
His seeing work is done.
Birds don't brood in sorrow:
They sing while they