On 27 January 1998 Ramblers demonstrated at the Treasury against the scandal of inheritance-tax exemption in exchange for public access which was not publicised. One of the leaders that day was Jack Ibbott, who died on 27 December aged 91.
Jack was treasurer of the Ramblers 1987-97 and then vice-president. He was married to Margaret for 64 years.
In the tradition of Ramblers’ treasurers, such as Wally Smith before him, Jack was more interested in the campaigning than the money, and he was always willing to spend the money on campaigning.
As a former district auditor, he was helpful to Ramblers’ volunteers in advising how to complain to the district auditor if their local authority was not spending money on its statutory duties on paths.
He particularly enjoyed the inheritance-tax campaign, which began with Paddy Tipping, former MP for Sherwood and Ramblers’ vice-president, asking parliamentary questions. Then Jerry Pearlman, the honorary solicitor, wrote a report, Give us some quo for our quid!, in which he exposed the answers to those questions. Jerry revealed that inheritance-tax payments were being given to landowners in exchange for access to 261,926 acres, but the land itself was a secret so no one could enjoy the freedom for which they were paying. A few years later the campaign culminated in the Whitehall rally, which was filmed for the Channel 4 Dispatches programme, The Lie of the Land. Jack was pleased to expose the iniquity of these payments.
Jack, who lived in Kennington, just south of Oxford, was a member of the Ramblers’ Vale of White Horse Group and for a time its chairman, before he stepped down to become chairman of the kindred Oxford Fieldpaths Society. Jo Bird, who was also a member of the Vale group for 20 years before moving to County Durham, recalls that Jack joined in a great many activities with the group, such as path clearances.
He helped with the long campaign to win a bridge over the River Thames on the Thames Path at Bloomers Hole, Lechlade, on the border of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. When in March 1993 the Countryside Commission announced the winner of the design competition for the bridge, Jack, as Ramblers’ treasurer and Oxfordshire Area vice-chairman, handed over a giant publicity-cheque, which had been raised by Oxfordshire Ramblers.
Jack was a staunch opposer of path diversions and Jo Bird recalls that at a Vale council meeting, a path diversion being proposed between Stanford and Charney Bassett. Jack’s riposte was ‘over my dead body’. It was thrown out at an early stage.
We remember Jack with great affection. He was a lifelong socialist, though of course disillusioned by Blair. Behind Jack’s gentle exterior there was a fighting spirit, a strong belief in equality, and a spine of steel.