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A Tribute to

Jethro Tinker

1788 - 1871

Celebrated botanist and entomologist

Photo of Jethro TinkerTwenty years the junior of John Bradbury was one Jethro Tinker who also became a well known botanist, particularly in the vicinity of Stalybridge where he lived all his eighty three years. Although he did not embark upon perilous journeys abroad his work was nevertheless of considerable significance.

Early Life

Jethro Tinker was born in September 1788 in a cottage at North Britain Farm. This was a delightful setting at the head of the Brushes Valley high above Stalybridge. The farm was demolished earlier this century when the ground was cleared by the waterworks authority but the area remains largely unspoilt and popular with those seeking respite away from the towns and cities. It is no wander that such an environment inspired Tinker's early love of nature.

Little is recorded of Tinker's family life. His father was a respected man, a hand weaver by trade who moved to Mottram when Jethro was eighteen to combine this work with the role of village schoolmaster.

Prior to this move the young Jethro worked as a shepherd on the moors above Hollingworth for Mr Gartside of Thorncliffe Hall. It was also during these years that he was a pupil of John Bradbury.

Work in the Mills

The move to Mottram took place When Tinker was eighteen. Initially he became a weaver like his father but with the advent of power looms he returned to the thriving town of Stalybridge where he progressed from an operative weaver to overlooker and ultimately manager at Cheetham Mills. He lived at Brierley Street close by the entrance to Eastwood Park.

The Naturalist

Long hours at the mills did not detract from Tinker's enthusiasm for natural history and throughout his life he collected specimens of wildflowers, mosses, insects, moths, butterflies and shells all of which were beautifully collated. He became a familiar figure amongst botanists especially through his work with the Linnaean Societies which existed in many towns to promote the study of natural history. He often presided over local meetings and was eager to import his considerable knowledge to newcomers. He was well liked as evinced by one of his fellow botanists Who wrote of Tinker:

"A good botanist and entomologist and an enthusiastic admirer of nature, whose open countenance and straightforward conduct plainly showed the kind heart within him ".

Excursions into the countryside after leaving the mill were popular with Tinker who would readily walk twenty miles to areas like Buxton to collect particular specimens.

Later Work

Photo of Hypnaceae SpecimenLeaving the mills in later life, Tinker worked as both a shopkeeper and a publican but the job for which he was most suited was his final one that of gardener at Eastwood.

In 1858 aged seventy Tinker's contribution to natural history was acknowledged When friends presented him with a public testimonial.

A Long Life

Even in his early eighties, Tinker is recalled as a man of fine physique, tall and straight limbed. He lived with his son-in-law, Mr Worthington, on Mottram Road where he died in March 1871 aged eighty three years. He was buried in Mottram Churchyard. Friends and admirers immediately resolved to raise money for a memorial which was duly unveiled in Stamford Park amidst much ceremony in July 1874. Children dressed in white carried bouquets of wildflowers. The memorial is a stone column surmounted by a bird about to take flight from a bed of bulrushes with carvings of insects and flowers around the base. The inscription reads :

"Our local Linnaeus. Erected by the friends and admirers of natural history. 1874. A field scientist from youth to old age."

The Legacy

Tinker's family gave his collection of specimens to the museum at Highfield House in Stamford Park but sadly these suffered neglect over the years and in 1915 were reported to be in a very poor state of preservation. The museum itself was demolished in 1954 and the Stalybridge Librarian salvaged what remained of the collection. Today the surviving collection is cared for by Tameside Museums & Galleries Service - about a hundred specimens each preserved on a postcard covered with tissue paper and labelled in Tinker's own hand. Each specimen bears testimony to the valuable work of a humble and self taught man. It is possible to view this collection by appointment, please telephone 0161 343 2878 and ask to speak to the Curator.

Blue Plaque for Jethro TinkerA fond tale of Tinker is often recounted to show his enthusiasm for his studies. In his later years whilst on a march through Ashton after a church service, he spotted a rare butterfly. Dressed in his Sunday best he tried to catch it in his top hat. Failing the first time he chased through the Crowds for fully two miles until he was finally successful.

Blue Plaque

A blue plaque to commemorate Jethro Tinker is sited at the entrance to Stalybridge Country Park.

Photo of Jethro Tinker reproduced by kind permission of the Local Studies Unit, Manchester Central Library