By Michael Crossland
The Eagle Has Landed writer Jack Higgins, who lived in Wortley for a short time, has died at the age of 92.
Jack, who’s real name was Harry Patterson, was born in Newcastle in 1926, but was soon moved to Belfast by his mother after his father left the family.
During the war, Jack’s mother re-married, moving the family to Leeds where Jack would spend the rest of his young life.
“Leeds always had a great reputation for taking people in,” said Jack, speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post in 1994. “The outsider, the foreigner. It was a great melting pot. Thanks to Adolf Hitler, there were kids like me from everywhere. Refugees from France and the Low Countries. Jews from all over Europe.”
Jack would eventually win a scholarship to Roundhay Grammar School, where he struggled to engage academically.
After throwing a snowball at a school clock and causing it to malfunction, Jack was summoned to the headmasters office, where he was struck with the cane and told he would never amount to anything.
This is a story Jack would proudly recount when receiving his honorary doctorate from Leeds Beckett University in 1995.
During his school years, Jack’s mother worked as a waitress at the Marshall and Snelgrove department store, while his stepdad worked as a band member at what was once the Victory Hotel on Briggate.
When he was 15, Jack left school, taking on a series of jobs including tram driver and circus hand.
During the 1950s, Jack left Leeds briefly to undertake national service, and was stationed on the German boarder for two years.
On returning to Leeds, he studied at Beckett Park Teacher Training College.
This was a tough time for Jack, as he supplemented his learning by working as a labourer at night. “I’d no money, so at half past nine in the evening I would go out to work untill 5am and grab the early morning bus back,” he told The Independent.
Jack then enrolled on a distance learning course at the London School of Economics, where he studied a BSc in psychology, graduating in 1961 with a third-class honours.
From here, he went on to work for four years at Leeds Polytechnique, lecturing in Social Psychology and Criminology. This was after a brief stint working as a teacher at Allerton Grange School in Moortown.
Around this time, Jack would meet and befriend actor Peter O’Toole and author John Braine, who would later become famous for his novel Room At The Top.
Although writing in his spare time, it was during the 1970 that Jack’s career as a writer truly began.
In 1975, he wrote The Eagle Has Landed, which remains one of the best-selling novels of all time, selling more than 50 million copies. The book would later go on to be made into a film of the same name, starring Donald Sutherland and Michael Caine.
It was shortly after writing The Eagle Has Landed that Jack would move to Jersey, dissatisfied with 1970s British tax laws.
During his life, Jack would publish a total of 85 books, and remained a resident of Jersey until his death on Saturday, 9 April 2022.