Fitting tribute to aspiring farmer Jack

When animal-doting Jack William Hawkswell tragically died, his absence left an enormous void, both in the lives of his family and at his North Yorkshire primary school.

Grace Daly, 6, with Ivy, a three year old Devon and Cornwall Longwool. Picture by Gerard Binks

It was during the Easter holidays this year when eight-year-old Jack, of Tockwith, suddenly became ill. Only later was it discovered that he had suffered from a rare and undetected condition, a late presenting congenital diaphragmatic hernia.

Rocked by his passing, his school rallied around. A Yorkshire Three Peaks climbing wall challenge undertaken by pupils at Bishop Monkton Church of England Primary became a sponsored event in Jack’s memory.

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The schoolboy loved animals, showed his own duck at agricultural shows and spoke about becoming a farmer, regaling his parents, Gemma Furniss and Michael Hawkswell, with tales about the animals he would like.

Jack William Hawkswell loved animals of all shapes and sizes.

Known as a gentleman by his teachers, Jack went school dressed like a farmer in a flat cap and boots, and at the school’s memorial service, all the boys wore flat caps in his honour.

It was Jack’s fascination with all creatures great and small that inspired the school to donate the £1,437 sponsorship money from the climbing challenge to animal charity, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST), which protects breeds from extinction. Jack visited the charity’s sales and its stall at the Great Yorkshire Show.

Jack’s mother Gemma said: “We are very proud to have had Jack as our son and are honoured that the money the children raised has been given to the RBST in memory of him.”

The late schoolboy’s parents were invited to Bishop Monkton School for the presentation of funds to the RBST. The charity’s local representative, Lyn Arrowsmith, took some animals - a Devon and Cornwall Longwool ewe and a pair of Crollwitzer turkeys - for the children to learn about.

Gemma said: “It was really lovely to have the animals there because that’s exactly what Jack would have wanted. He had a duck that he took to shows called Evaline; a crested duck and listed as a rare breed. Jack’s Grandma and cousins have continued to show her for him this year and won some prizes, including at the Great Yorkshire Show. And he was fond of his puppy Rex, a border collie we sent off for sheep dog training who he thought the world of.

“Jack helped some friends show their calves at the Rosedale Show last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, he was very proud when the calf he lead around the ring won a third prize in the young handlers’ class. He only had a short life but he lived it to the full. He was a character and had a great personality, he quickly made friends wherever he went. He was a fit and healthy boy who was always on the go, it was such a shock to everyone when we lost him.”

Amanda Coupland, Jack’s former reception teacher, said Jack is sorely missed and that a special ‘Gentleman’s Award’ will be presented annually to a pupil who displays the qualities that made him so well liked.

She said: “Jack was an old-fashioned gentleman. He always held open doors for others, that sort of thing. He was a lovely character, always smiling and had his feet tapping when we had music on in the hall. The children really miss him. We were very fond of him.

“He had a heart of gold and loved animals and insects. If we had a spider in one of the classrooms, it was always Jack who would collect it and take it away.”

Gemma said Jack also enjoyed swimming, riding his bike, building Lego and setting up his huge collection of Britains farm toys.

She wants to raise awareness of the rare condition that he suffered.

“This is an extremely rare occurrence that very few doctors will have come across.”