In 1702, on this day, a young lad was born in London, England. His parents were average folks, but Jack Sheppard was born into poverty. His dad was a carpenter and even though he died when Jack was quite young, the boy seemed to enjoy watching his father work and became quite adept at it as he grew. When his father died, Jack was only six years old and because his mother was unable to support her family, she sent the boy to a workhouse where he became a cane chair builder’s apprentice.
This story is sort of like what happened to my own dad, who happens to have also been born on this day 97 years ago. My father’s dad was a tailor, but the family struggled to make ends meet in their early years. Eventually his father left the picture. No one seems to know what happened to him, but one day he simply vanished. There is speculation that he had accumulated gambling debt and was killed or ran off to escape being done in. Whatever the case, there’s a lot of mystery connected with it.
My dad had to go to work at a very young age as well to help support his mother and three siblings. This seems to be a common thread in the beginning lives of young men during depressed times in history. My dad lived during the depression. Jack Sheppard lived in a time when poverty ran rampant on the streets of London.
By the time Sheppard reached the age of 20, had begun to show great promise as a carpenter. He also was a small man of only 5’4″. My dad was also short in stature. Jack became popular in the local pubs because of his quick with. My dad took a second job as a bartender and was good at it too. People enjoyed his funny personality as well. By this time in my father’s life, however, he was getting married and thinking about having a family. Jack had his thoughts on other things. He took up a relationship with a prostitute and became part of a gang of thieves.
In 1723, he discovered that he could make more money stealing than he ever would be able to legitimately. During this time he became a master at picking pockets and breaking into locked buildings. Later he used that skill to break out of prison four times. His story was fodder for many tales to follow. The Oliver Twist story from Charles Dickens, seems to be directly related to this errant fellow. Many operas were also based on the story of Jack Sheppard.
My dad never lived a life of crime, but he may have, had he not married my mother. She loved him more than he’d been loved in life and that love provided the motivation for him to succeed.
Jack Sheppard gained notoriety as an escape artist and because of his humble beginnings, the public made him into a sort of hero for the poor. His antics finally led to his execution by hanging when he was only 22 years old. I wonder what would’ve happened to the poor boy, had he continued as a carpenter rather being led astray.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JACK SHEPPARD AND MY DAD!