CORNER OF YORKSHIRE:
Blind Jack of Knaresborough
HE has to be one of Yorkshire’s most remarkable and multi-talented sons. John Metcalf was born in 1717, the son of a horse breeder. The family was poor, and disaster struck when the lad lost his sight to smallpox when he was six.
Realising the child had to earn his living, John was taught the fiddle. By the time he was entertaining audiences at The Queen’s Head in Harrogate, the teenager already had the nick-name of Blind Jack of Knaresborough. His chief claim to fame is as one of Britain’s first civil engineers, supervising the laying of scores of turnpike roads throughout the North.
He died in 1810 at 93 and is buried in Spofforth churchyard. But his statue sits cheerfully in the market square of his home town, a cobble’s throw from the pub that is named after him.