Old Jack Taylor
by Rob Smith
The house on Skinnerthorpe Road looked
very old and you could see it was in need of some major repair
and attention. Following coverage in The Star in
October 2002 improvements were promised, but when I visited
I wasn’t sure that anyone should be living here. At
the age of 76 Mr Jack Taylor still is.
Entering via what should have been a modern
kitchen I smelt the damp and dry rot that infested the house.
The old man’s breathing was a rasp and I knew if he
was dying that his living standard had become a main cause.
Old Jack lives alone with no central heating or damp proofing.
There is very little in the way of modern amenities –
no shelves, cupboards or cooking facilities inside the kitchen.
Old Jack was born in Sheffield Royal Infirmary
and has lived in the city all of his life. Having retired
from Forge Masters as a steel dresser in late 1994, Jack bought
his house fitted with Collins Gas Fires built in the 1980s.
These gas fires were installed on every wall including the
bedrooms and I realised this is the only way Old Jack has
been able to keep himself warm through many winters. “I’ve
been visited by a private housing scheme called Stay Put,”
explained Jack. “They have charged me and say they’ve
spent over £4,500.” I shook my head because I
couldn’t tell what had gone wrong here, because Old
Jack was living in sub-modern and very unhealthy conditions.
The Star reported the plight of Jack
and his recently deceased friend Stefan, claiming Bob Kerslake
(Council Chief Executive) had given the go ahead for the agency
Stay Put to begin a repair programme. To quote The Star: “This
week Council workmen began replacing gas fires, parts of the
kitchen, the roof and repairing internal damage inside the
property… they are still trying to find a long-term
solution to the pair’s plight.”
I spoke to John Hurd of Yorkshire Metropolitan
Housing Foundation and Stay Put. They claim to have done upgrading
work and he informed me that the total cost of repairs to
the house was £4,900. “We fixed roof slates, repaired
three gutters and placed in a sink unit. We also plastered
two rooms damaged due to leaking from the toilet. We eased
the front door, replaced locks and put two new gas fires in,
including flue lining and gas terminals.”
I asked John if he was aware that Jack had gas
fires in his bedrooms – it being illegal for anyone
to have a working gas appliance in sleeping quarters. “Oh
yes, but the old man promised us he wouldn’t use them.”
Old Jack has no central heating system and
I began to wonder how many more single elderly house owners
are struggling proudly, un-noted by people and with misguided
services claiming to look out for their welfare.