Harborough salutes one of its sporting heroes

A Green Plaque has been unveiled in the town to honour formidable boxer Jack Gardner

Friday, 30th July 2021, 12:20 pm
Updated Friday, 30th July 2021, 12:22 pm
Front, Dan Harrison (Leicestershire County Council chairman), Vice Lord Lieutenant Lars Tharp and Stephen Bilbie (chairman of Market Harborough District Council) unveil the green plaque in the memorial gardens at Market Harborough.

Brilliant Market Harborough boxer and all-time sporting great Jack Gardner has been saluted in his hometown.

A Green Plaque has been unveiled in the town to honour formidable fighter Jack as his delighted daughter said her late dad would be very “proud”.

Gardner fought for Great Britain at the emblematic London Olympics in 1948 and became the heavyweight champion of both Britain and Europe.

The Green Plaque to Jack Gardner.

The plaque paying tribute to his magnificent career was put up yesterday (Thursday) on the side wall of Market Harborough Building Society overlooking the Memorial Gardens.

It was formerly the Working Men’s Club where superfit Jack used to spar on the upper floor.

The special ceremony was very well attended, showcasing the tremendous esteem in which the boxer is still held – over 40 years after his death.

Both the boxing and sporting worlds were well represented.

John Tillotson (Market Harborough Civic Society), Dan Harrison (Leicestershire County Council chairman), Vice Lord Lieutenant Lars Tharp and Jack Gardner's daughter Jackalyn Bradford-Turner unveil the green plaque in the memorial gardens at Market Harborough.

And veterans from Jack’s old Grenadier Guards unit were there alongside members of the Market Harborough branch of the Royal British Legion.

Beaming with pride, Jack’s daughter Jackalyn Bradford-Turner, who lives in Market Harborough, said: “Dad would be so proud to be commemorated in this way.

“I want to thank the people of Market Harborough and Leicestershire who voted for him to receive this honour.”

She added: “He would have been 94 now - so for people to still remember him is a great honour.”

Front, Dan Harrison (Leicestershire County Council chairman), Vice Lord Lieutenant Lars Tharp and Stephen Bilbie (chairman of Market Harborough District Council) unveil the green plaque in the memorial gardens at Market Harborough.

Jack was nominated for a Leicestershire County Council Green Plaque by Market Harborough Civic Society.

Unveiling the plaque, the county council’s chairman, Cllr Dan Harrison, said: “Jack Gardner was a hugely talented boxer, who won some of the biggest titles available in his sport, as well as representing Great Britain in the London Olympics in 1948.

“Jack’s sheer determination and courage made him a formidable opponent in the ring.

“And in becoming British and European heavyweight champion, he joined the stellar cast of boxing heroes who became household names.

“There is no doubt that Jack’s huge talent and hard work earned him a place among boxing’s greats.”

Cllr Harrison added: “I am pleased and proud that the residents of Leicestershire have chosen to honour Jack with this Green Plaque.

“I am delighted to be able to unveil this lasting tribute to him.”

Jack was born and died in Market Harborough.

He joined the Grenadier Guards, an elite unit, at the end of the Second World War in 1945 when he was 19.

That’s when Jack launched his meteoric amateur boxing career.

Hard-punching Jack won the ABA Heavyweight crown as well as the Army and Imperial Services Heavyweight Titles in 1948.

He also climbed into the ring to box for Great Britain in the Olympic Games in London that year.

Jack turned professional in December 1948.

He took part in a novice tournament where he amazingly won all his fights by knockout in the first round.

In November 1950 Jack became the Heavyweight Champion of Great Britain and the British Empire as his career hit new heights.

He was crowned European Heavyweight Champion in March 1951 - but hung up his gloves in 1952 after several defeats.

Jack made a comeback in 1953 with five straight victories.

But he was never able to regain his British Heavyweight title after getting injured.

Jack finally retired at the age of 29 with a record of 28 wins, 23 by knockout, and six losses, two by technical knockouts (TKO) due to vicious cuts.

He retired to run his farm in Market Harborough with his new wife Grace and died in 1978 aged just 52 of a brain tumour.

Jack’s ashes are scattered beneath a Grenadier apple tree at his beloved Ash Tree Farm, between Market Harborough and The Langtons.

Part of the farm is still run by his son Jim Gardner.

A display of Jack Gardner memorabilia, including items from the 1948 Olympics, boxing trophies, medals and photographs, were donated by Jack’s family to Harborough Museum, where they take pride of place among the collections.

You can find more information on Harborough Museum and its opening times at www.harboroughmuseum.org.ukAnd you can find more information on the Green Plaque scheme here: www.leicestershire.gov.uk/greenplaques