Jack Fisher – Last of the Great Ones

On the first yahrzeit (Jewish anniversary) of Jack Fisher’s passing I’m moved to tell a part of the great man’s story.

Jack was born in Brighton to parents who fled London to escape bombs dropped by Zeppelin airships in World War I. He was born into a world at war that still relied on the telegraph and horses and died 100 years later in a world with nuclear weapons, the internet and electric cars.

He was conscripted into the army during World War II though invalided out for bad eyesight just as his regiment set sail for St Nazaire during the battle of France. The boat was hit by a shell killing his whole unit before they had a chance to disembark.

He was soon demobbed, the way he tells it he accidentally fired his officer’s pistol while cleaning it. Instead of a court martial for the officer (a Major who shouldn’t have handed him a loaded weapon) the army decided it might be able to win the war without Private Jack Fisher and let him go.

Out of the army he embarked on a career in women’s fashion that coincided with the end of the war and a hunger for consumer goods. Together with his brother Dave he pioneered the mass production of garments and sold them wholesale to high street giants like C & A. By the early 1980s he’d retired, now living in Regents Park he already bought a stable in Newmarket and concentrated on a new career as a tycoon race horse owner. He had some notable wins, especially with the horses MySilv (named after my grandma) and Brady. So much so that the Racing Post wrote a story about him on his 100th birthday:

Jack was one of a generation of successful young Jews in the post WWII era that included Jack Cohen founder of Tesco and Jarvis Astaire the boxing promoter. In the age before overseas travel was the norm they would all head down to Bournemouth to celebrate Passover together at the Green Park Hotel. The hotel advertising read:

“At the Green Park Hotel all of your kosher needs will be fully met! We have separate facilities for milk and meat, our fish are all fully scaled and freshly caught in the North Atlantic, it’s all fresh, and of course – no pork!”

Sometimes dressed up as Groucho Marx, sometimes (often) dressed up in drag, Jack was the unofficial MC.

In later years he took his children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren to Eilat, Israel for Passover holidays year in, year out. In word and deed Jack was a family man. He was also a philanthropist, an orphanage in Israel near Be’ersheva called David Fisher House and another near Jerusalem stand as testament to Jack and Dave Fisher’s philanthropy.

I was proud that he managed to see my book published before he passed away and even prouder that on his 100th birthday he received a visit from Chief Rabbi Mirvis.

I’m now 39, married with two daughters. It’s only now that I realise just how hard providing for a family really is. My grandpa looked this world in the eye and the world blinked first. He lived his life the way he wanted to. He found success where so many others fail. He raced champion horses, lived for several months a year in Miami and other months in his home in Bournemouth. He provided for his family and did far more and he made it look easy.

He had that steel, the grit you need in order to make it in the world of business but he didn’t mind telling me that working in a job you love is worth thousands.

By any metric you choose Jack Fisher made a success of his life. On this, his first Yahrzeit I remember the man I called Pops, who taught me so much about the world, about family and whose favourite sayings included:

“I’m going mad…you coming with?” and “Whatever it is, I’m against it!”

I Miss him today and always but will always be thankful when I think back to the time I spent with him to have had him in my life. He was one of the great ones, maybe the last of them.

Jack Fisher 1917-2017.