Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jackson, William (1815-1866)

JACKSON, WILLIAM, ‘of Masham’ (1815–1866), musical composer, was born at Masham in Yorkshire on 9 Jan. 1815. He was the son of a miller, and as a boy worked in the flour-mill or in the fields. At an early age he showed an interest in music and in the mechanism of instruments. After mending some barrel-organs for neighbours, he induced his father (equally inexperienced) to help him in the construction of one, a task the pair accomplished during leisure hours in four months' time. Jackson then made a five-stop finger-organ. He had taught himself to play on fifteen musical instruments, studying scores from a library, as well as Callcott's ‘Grammar of Thorough Bass.’ His first efforts in composition were some tunes for a military band, and twelve short anthems. In 1832 Jackson was earning 3s. 6d. a week as a journeyman miller; but after taking a few lessons at Ripon, he was appointed first organist to the Masham Church, at a salary of 30l. In 1839 Jackson went into partnership with a tallow-chandler for thirteen years. In 1852 he settled in Bradford as a music-seller, in partnership with one Winn, and became organist to St. John's Church, and afterwards to the Horton Lane Independent Chapel. He was conductor of the Bradford Choral Union (male voices), chorus-master of the Bradford musical festivals of 1853, 1856, and 1859, and conductor of the Festival Choral Society from 1856. Jackson came with his chorus of 210 singers to London in 1858, and performed before the queen at Buckingham Palace.

Jackson did not live to conduct his last work, the ‘Praise of Music,’ composed for the Bradford festival of 1866. He died at Ashgrove, Bradford, on 15 April 1866, leaving a widow and nine children. His son William, organist at Morningside Church, Edinburgh, died at Ripon on 10 Sept. 1877.

Jackson published: 1. An anthem for soprano and chorus, ‘For joy let fertile valleys ring,’ 1839. 2. A glee, ‘Sisters of the Sea,’ which won the prize at Huddersfield, 1840. 3. ‘103rd Psalm,’ 1841. 4. ‘The Deliverance of Israel from Babylon,’ oratorio, 3 parts, Leeds, 1844–5, first performed at Bradford, 1847, and favourably criticised. 5. ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel.’ 6. A service in G.' 7. Church music in vocal score, London, 1848. 8. ‘Singing Class Manual.’ 9. ‘Mass in E,’ four voices. 10. ‘O come hither!’ and 11. ‘O Zion!’ anthems, 1850. 12. Oratorio, ‘Isaiah,’ 1851, produced three years later at Bradford. 13. Another ‘103rd Psalm,’ 1856. 14. Cantata, ‘The Year,’ words selected from various poets, London, composed for Bradford festival of 1859, published in that or the following year. 15. Several glees. 16. Slow movement and rondo, pianoforte. 17. ‘O Happiness!’ vocal duet. 18. Songs, ‘Breathe not for me,’ ‘Come, here's a health,’ ‘She's on my heart,’ ‘Tears, idle tears.’ 19. Sixty-three hymns and chants (Bradford Hymn-book harmonised), 1860. 20. Glees. 21. Symphony for orchestra and chorus, compressed for pianoforte, London, 1866. Jackson was the author of ‘Rambles in Yorkshire,’ a series of articles published in a newspaper.

[Eliza Cook's Journal, ii. 324; Musical Times, iii. 229, xii. 289; Sheahan's Hist. of the Wapentake of Claro, iii. 239; James's Hist. of Bradford, Supplement, p. 128; Musical World, xliv. 252; Grove's Dict. ii. 27, iv. 685.]

L. M. M.