Using the material that comes to light, together with the detail that can be taken as fact already, the historian makes an interpretation of the past. That is what I am doing. My subject matter is not just Jago Stone. His 20th century world in all its complexity and change is a critical part of my focus. To understand Jago, make sense of the social worlds he inhabited. And always remember the prerequisite of the good historian is the capacity for empathy.
And so to a day in 2017 - last Thursday, in fact, the 16th of February. The day of my appointment at the British Library in London. The British Library opens at 9.30 am. Here is a photo I took of the queue ahead of me shortly after I joined it at 9.15. By 9.32 when the doors opened, the queue had increased nearly ten-fold and snaked around the piazza outside.
|Queuing for the opening of The British Library on 16.02.2017
By 10.10 am I had completed my full registration and was sitting in a listening booth ready for the first of the three twenty minute plays of the item I had travelled overnight from Cornwall to hear. My four and a half hours inside the booth gave me the opportunity to make a full transcript of
the programme in which I had discovered Jago featured. Thanks to staff at the British Library, a copy had been located - no mean feat in itself after all these years. Not until 1999 was there automatic retention of all aired material.
What did I learn about Jago? Below is part of the transcript I made. If you have read 'The Burglar's Bedside Companion' - Jago's autobiography that was published in 1975 - much of this will be familiar to you already. But many of you won't have done so. Certainly all can appreciate a tale well told with a distinctive wit and sense of humour. How far all that follows is actually true is another matter. My biography will be offering a judgement on that question. Much of it will be the case - but not all. Jago needed his masks and his myths.
Part of the transcript of 'The Gaolbird' in the series 'It Takes All Sorts' - Jago Stone is talking to St John Howell about his life as a crook and how he learned to paint while 'inside'. First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 8 June 1971 between 14.40 and 15.00, Jago was then aged 42 and had spent fifteen years behind bars between the ages of 18 and 38.
|Park House, Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire - painted by Jago Stone in 1973 - thanks for permissions from Alastair Mould