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Pete_Mc

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Reply with quote  #1 
Whenever I pop in to have a look at this site I see all the fantastic things going on in the traditional archery world in the States and sometimes think that some of Britain's archery heroes go unsung. I know that Jim Belcher has sung his father's praises on here, in different forums, I just wanted to round up a few thoughts and quotes about Jack Belcher and post them in one place.
jack 1.png  jack 2.png 

I didn't want to take any liberties, so got Jim's blessing to repost his words, and add those from a few others that knew Jack better than I did. I had the good fortune to meet him some 30 years ago before my passion for archery really grew. My brother and I were the proud owners of one of Jack's early American Longbows. He taught us how to shoot it, showed us his workshop, and mentioned some of his shooting exploits with some modesty. That's how I remember Jack, a patient, modest man with an obvious gift for archery. Little did I know what a legend he was in the world of archery in the UK.

rog jack jim.png  This is a picture from back in the mid 80s when I knew Jack, and his sons Jim and Roger. As a 'Johny come lately' returner to the archery scene I never knew some of the legends that Jack made friendships with in his rich career in archery. People like Roy King (pictured 3rd from left) who made a name for himself as the English longbow expert, who sadly recently passed away (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/technology-obituaries/6840541/Roy-King.html)

I knew that back then in the 1980s before he emigrated to the colonies, Jim was a passionate and skilled archer like his father Jack. Here are a couple more shots of Jack, and Jim up on the moors in Lancashire shooting the famous 'Union Jack' American Longbows (the second picture is the one you are greeted with on the homepage of Sabden Fold Archers, the last Field Archery Club Jack was president of).
  jack jim 1.png  jack jim 2.png 

After posting these pictures of Jack and Jim Belcher, I'd like to post some of Jim's words about his father to give you a flavour of the man and his work.

In 1959 England, my dad -- Jack Belcher, won a kids bow at the county fair -- that's when it all began.

After reading the book Hunting the Hard Way, my dad, Jack Belcher, wanted a Howard Hill Longbow. You just couldn’t get them in England in 1964. There wasn’t Internet like there is today. Because he couldn’t get his hands on a Howard Hill, he got together with a bow maker named Les Howis of Marksman for pointers and materials to make his own.  My dad made it on a flat former because he didn’t know it was supposed to be reflexed, like Howard made his. And so, between the months of September and October 1964, what I now call the Union Jack was born. Dad was only so-so happy with it at first. He changed the depth of the core, the taper, the width – and after quite a number of revamps, it became the bow it is today.

When first making his longbow, my dad used split Tonkin cane, which he believed was the way to go at the time. He got it from carpet manufacturers, who were using it for the center of carpet rolls. Tonkin cane isn’t very big, and he used to split it by hand, glue them together to make transverse laminations, and put it in the bows.

For many years after creating his first longbow, my dad and many others in the UK shot the bow he now called The Sagittarian Longbow – his birth sign. In the ‘70s, Rex Oaks had my dad make them for his shop in Hampton Court London. The demand soon swamped dad on top of his own orders, so he taught Rex how to build them. Rex then called it The Sagittarius Longbow, which is still being made in England today.

For a reason I never got an explanation for, he dropped the Sagittarian name and called it The Phantom and put a Union Jack flag on it, which he made pretty much until his death in 2010. When I started building the Union Jack over here, I named it for him.

Because the Union Jack is built on a flat former, it always follows the string. And that is why the Union Jack shoots like it does: because it is a natural string follow bow. People make a big deal about string follow now, but the Union Jack has always had that. We don’t build it in; we let it naturally follow the string itself. Not only does it not lose the speed, it has little, if any, hand shock at all.

Without really knowing how Howard made his bows, my dad built a sweet shooting bow. I have yet to see or shoot any other better, no matter what you do with it. It never made any sense to me to make a deflex version of it – just let the limbs naturally follow the string.

We used to shoot against recurves with the Union Jacks because there was no longbow class, just laminated bows and wood arrows. We would always come in either first, second, or third against the recurves with our bows.
jack trophy.png 

People think it’s a disadvantage to shoot the American Longbow, but it’s not at all. They are a simple shooting bow – to shoot it well, you just have to enter into the spirit of it. Otherwise, you’ll struggle.

So after 50 years of continuous manufacture, the Union Jack is still my go to bow. 
Jack was a fantastic archer and Master Bowyer, 1927 -- 2010.
Jim Belcher.

Jim talks about how Jack brushed shoulders with other archery legends and if you go to his Sky Archery site you can look at Jim's collection of photos which show Jack with several of these archery legends. (http://www.skyarchery.com/gallery4_jack.htm)

When Jack sadly passed away his loss was keenly felt in the archery fraternity in the UK. There were many moving tributes paid to him on the UK's Field Archery boards, some of them I'll briefly quote here:

Ian Horrocks, then Secretary of Sabden Fold Archers said, "It is with great sadness that I post the following: Jack Belcher , bowyer and archer of 50+ years sadly died today... Jack was very well known among the NFAS community orignally shooting with the Rossendale Archers, and laterly being Club President of Seedfield Archers before forming Sabden Fold Archers ... Jack was the Club President. Jack was a Great Bowyer with many people using his bows down through the years, and I believe that he was one of the first if not the first to bring the Howard Hill style AFB to Britain." 

Geoff McSweeney, Secretary of Seedfield Archerys added, "After knowing Jack for the past 15 years and personally owning many bows hand crafted by the great man, he will be sadly missed by myself and all at Seedfield Archers. Condolences to his family and all the archery 'friends' that have had the grace to know Jack." jack jim 3.png 
These are moving testaments to a great man, his loss felt by those that knew him personally. He has an obvious legacy, not least the work carried on by his son Jim Belcher whose bows are held in as high regard as those made by his father. It is great to see that the Belcher bows continue to be praised and regarded highly. Jack, and Jim, I salute you both!


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tradlongbow

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Reply with quote  #2 
Pete, I Really want to thank you for writing this biagraphy about Jack Belcher. I told Jim that I was creating a section for his dad in the Legends Section but we needed someone to write a biography, and the one you wrote was wonderful! I wish that I could have met Jack. A close friend of mine used to shoot with on the moors in England.
Thank you very much, Darren

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Pete_Mc

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Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks for that Darren. I feel like I've barely scratched the surface. I gave a nod to Rex Oakes (http://www.teamsagittarius.com/page21.htm) & Roy King but didn't mention Simon Stanley (http://forums.bowsite.com/TF/bgforums/thread-print.cfm?threadid=386684&forum=36) or any of the big names in the States like Ben Pearson or Bob Wesley... still, it's nice to know it was well received. Thanks.
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Canoe

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Reply with quote  #4 
A great read Peter and the photos are great.  The history should go a long way to educate those of us in the Colonies.  I would like to see more on archery in the UK.
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Ben Maher

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Reply with quote  #5 
Pete, I know Jim and own many of his bows . I have on the past acted a s dealer for him and always found him a delightful fellow to deal with. He is a good bloke.
Thanks for posting as you did. Great stuff.

I always enjoy reading about English archers and their adventures , Roving on the moors, Simon Stanley loosing arrows from his massive bows ..... Its a side of our archery connection we do not hear enough of .

cheers mate and thanks again.

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Pete_Mc

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Reply with quote  #6 
Hi Canoe, I think you chaps in the Colonies are doing damn good work shooting right now. We might have one over on you on the history front, but we often look over the pond in envy. I'll make an effort to keep up the taless! Cheers Pete.
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tradlongbow

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Reply with quote  #7 
Pete, we have an American Longbow Class in the TAS Traditional World Championship and a Team Event. It would be great to shoot with you.
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TRADITIONAL BOWHUNTER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND 
May 24, 25, 26, 2019
Farmland Conservation Club, Winchester, Indiana 

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Pete_Mc

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Reply with quote  #8 
Thanks chaps! It's really heartening to see such sincere and enthusiastic replies. I'm pleased you got something out of the bio, I'm equally pleased to have written it and done my little bit to pass on some of his magic. . . Only the other week one of the old hands at the clubhouse held up a battered shooting glove to a young lad, about 10 or 11 who had forgotten his and said to him, "Take this lad, it's one of Jack's old gloves, there's a bit of magic in that!" Whether the youngster took much notice or not, it was the looks in the adults' faces that told me there's more than one kind of magic in this world [wink]

And Darren, if I'm ever Stateside, I'd love to take you up on the offer of a shoot, but truth be told I'm much better with a pen than a bow [frown]

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timking

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Reply with quote  #9 
great bio Pete, us ASL addicts out here appreciate it. An amazing family, with enormous contributions to our sport.

A Union Jack is high on my wish list!

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this season I am shooting...

62" #60 Black Widow MA
62" #59 Black Widow PTF
62” #55 Wes Wallace Mentor
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Ben Maher

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Reply with quote  #10 
Tim, 
A Union Jack is a thing of dangerous beauty !

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LucasK

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Reply with quote  #11 
Very nice bio Pete, thanks!
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Pete_Mc

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Reply with quote  #12 
Thanks very much to all those of you who've read this thread and thanks even more to those who've been kind enough to add in your own thoughts too. It's a great community on here, some really great people. I'm sure Jack would have been touched knowing what a legacy he had. Tim's comment "an amazing family, with enormous contributions to our sport", really capture what I was trying to say. Thanks folks and good shooting to you all.
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Green

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Reply with quote  #13 
Very well done Sir!
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Berny

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Reply with quote  #14 
Nice!
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Pete_Mc

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Reply with quote  #15 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Berny
Nice!

Cheers Berny.
We can hope some folk on here spot the FB group and post up some pics.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1505141826462357/

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David Mitchell

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Reply with quote  #16 
Pete, I'll add my thanks for a well written piece.  I have had the opportunity to meet Jim on a couple of occasions.  In fact, he was at the big Denton Hill shoot this year in Pennsylvania and I had some nice conversation with him.  He had a gorgeous longbow on the rack--his American longbow with green glass on the back and white on the belly.  I couldn't resist!  It should be somewhere near time for mine to be built.  Waiting is getting hard.  I feel like a kid at Christmas whenever I am close to delivery time on a new bow.[biggrin]
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Pete_Mc

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Reply with quote  #17 
Hi David, thanks for your kind words. Since writing that piece I've managed to chat to Jim again. . . First time in 30 years, a great guy. I even got a Union Jack Junior American Longbow off him for my son's 11th birthday. He loves it! He took first place at a Field & Roving Shoot over here in the UK last weekend.

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jpeg IMG_20160918_193623.jpg (455.99 KB, 14 views)


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David Mitchell

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Reply with quote  #18 
Pete that lad has good form.  You have started him right.[smile]  I sure enjoyed the days my son was young and trailing around behind me at shoots and on hunts.  He's grown now and we don't get to shoot together much anymore.  Enjoy these years with your son, they pass all too quickly.
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