of the Jack books was the Reverend Alan Cliff. He was born in Morecambe,
Lancashire in 1936. His father was a doctor, as is his brother, Kenneth.
However, Alan took a different route. After attending both Oxford and
Cambridge universities, thus ensuring that he cannot lose the Boat Race,
he became a Methodist minister in 1960. He also married Rosemary, his
wife, in 1960.
After an initial stationing in Gorleston, near Great Yarmouth, he moved
to Edinburgh where he became the youngest Superintendent Minister in
Methodism at the time. In 1974 he moved from Scotland to Wales where
he took charge of the Wrexham circuit.
Forced to take early retirement in 1987 on health grounds, he and Rosemary
moved to Rhyl . They have four children and nine grandchildren.
It was suggested to Alan that he take up writing as an aid to recovery
from his health problems. In 1990 he self published 'British makers
of 0 gauge, 1890 - 1990', which sold 1,200 copies.
He wrote over three hundred articles for model railway magazines including
'The Chronicle of Lock's Siding' in British Railway
Modelling. Locks Siding, we believe, is the longest running continuous
monthly series by a freelance writer in the history of the world's model
railway press. He also wrote for Words, Cambrensis and Linkway as well
as other small literary magazines. In 1995 he won the Jo Cowell competition
for article writing and in 1997 won the best humorous article competition.
He was also the author of an introduction to Christianity for teenagers
and adults called 'The Grand Rescue'.
Alan had been a railway enthusiast all his life and always had model
layouts of different gauges lurking in various corners of the house
and garage. One of these was a small layout representing a typical siding
area and was called Lock's Siding, after the family business, Locks
the Hatters of London. He and Rosemary had also been owned by cats for
a number of years, prominent amongst which was a black and white shorthair
called Jack who took delight in interfering with the Lock's Siding layout.
This inspired Alan to introduce Jack as The Station Cat into the 'The
Chronicle of Lock's Siding' from whence he developed the character in
a series of childrens' books based on Jack's adventures.
'Jack – Special Agent', a story from 'Jack
the Station Cat and the Space Aliens' was short-listed for
the 2003 Goodchild prize for Excellent English, the second time one
of Alan’s stories had been included amongst the six finalists.
At the time, Alan was the only children’s author known to have
been short-listed for this award.
Alan was elected as a full member of the Welsh Academi in 2006.
After a long period of ill health, Alan eventually passed away in October
2020, leaving behind a legacy of literature, written for both the young
and the young at heart. He would hope that his works continue to provide
enjoyment and entertainment for many years to come.