Skip to main content

Autumn 2018Interview with John Swinden

The 'Singing Jeweller' and 'Man of Rochdale'


You have one of the most recognisable businesses on The Walk, J & D Alexander. How did you end up there?

The shop has been a jewellers for around 50 years. I was the manager for years before I became the owner in November 2002.

I found jewellery a very enjoyable thing to learn and I took to it like a duck to water. It fits my personality and is part of who I am. One of the most interesting pieces I’ve seen was a mourning ring from the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the 1750s.

How did you come to be known as ‘Rochdale’s singing jeweller?’

50 years ago, I entered a talent contest singing ‘Strangers in the Night’, by Frank Sinatra. I didn’t get anywhere, and I didn’t sing again in public until around 2011. I perform under the stage name John Alexander. I’ve even had three auditions for The Voice, which was a good experience.

Tell us about raising money for charity...

I’ve always tried to raise money for local charities through singing. I couldn’t tell you how much I’ve raised because I’ve never kept track. I’ve supported the Moorland Children’s Home and many individual worthy causes, and given tens of thousands of pounds of gift vouchers away for jewellery.

I do all that I can purely because I’m blessed to be in a position to do so and I love doing it.

How did it feel when you were crowned Man of Rochdale?

I am a big supporter of Springhill Hospice, which gave me the award last year: I was gobsmacked and I’m very rarely lost for words. I did get very emotional about it because I don’t do anything for the recognition.

When they gave me the award, it made me realise that people in Rochdale appreciate what I do.

What do you love most about Rochdale?

I’ve lived here for over 35 years. I like the people because they’re friendly, honest and open, and I’ve always had lots of genuine support.

Rochdale is a very historic place, which I love. I like that Lisa Stansfield and Gracie Fields were from here; Gracie would sing to anyone, anywhere. I’ve also been privileged to sing in one of the most historic town halls - Rochdale - in Europe.

Do you have any singing dreams?

As an ex-Hillsborough lad, I would love to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone to the Kop at Liverpool.

I’d also love to sing at the centenary Remembrance Parade, as my uncle died during the war when he was just 18.