Neville James Speakman
1927 - 2007
Jim Speakman was born in Small Heath on the 4th November 1927. So
he was a Brummie by origin but, as the Rev. Chris Thorpe expressed
it at Jim's funeral, he came good and ended up a true Black
Countryman. He was still in Small Heath in the Second World
War, when a bomb dropped near his home, wiping out his school -
which promptly reconvened in the street.
Even at that age Jim was
anxious to help others. When Coventry was devastated by bombing he
cycled all the way there to see if he could help in that distressed
On leaving school Jim started work in the chemical industry and
worked, mainly in pollution control, at the Four Ashes works that in
due course came to be a Shell facility. He stayed there throughout
his working life.
Jim met his wife, Rose, in typical fashion: he protected her from
an undesirable in a bus queue in Solihull. And then he spent a lot
of time and effort in tracking her down again. In 1951 they moved
into Five Oaks Drive where they lived for fifty years, always on
excellent terms with their neighbours, who they supported and were
supported by. They had two sons, David and Tim, and many happy
family holidays and weekends were spent in a caravan at Machynlleth.
||Jim in typically cheerful pose, with Brad
Purshouse and Trevor Genge, at a meeting of the Black
Country Memories Club.
Jim's public service started when he moved to Five Oaks Drive and
continued until only a short time before his passing. Something of
the extent and value of this work is indicated in the tributes shown
below. And here we remember chiefly his efforts in establishing the
Black Country Memories Club of which he was, from its inception,
Vice Chairman and Publicity Officer. He always maintained excellent
relations with the local press and got the club much publicity -
whilst never obtruding himself. He was a tireless stalwart and his
twinkling smile and friendly good cheer endeared him to all the
|Jim with Horace Morris. This photo was originally
captioned as "Two Patriarchs", and patriarchs they
At his memorial service at St. Mary's church, on the 28th
September 2007, two addresses were given:-
Brad Pursehouse said:
I am quite sure that many of you here today have known Jim a
lot longer than I have. If my memory serves me correctly,
although I knew of him, I first met him at the initial meeting
of a group that became the Black Country Memories Club. We were
both on the original committee and, although my own involvement
sort of petered out after two or three years, Jim continued with
his work in the Black Country Memories Club right up until very
Then he appeared at the Wolverhampton Over Fifties Forum were
he was the Press and Publicity Officer. He also became the Vice
Chair - he must have been in office about seven or eight years.
Jim also chaired the Public Safety Sub Group of the Forum, which
has numerous successes to it's name, the 20mph speed limit in
City centre and no drinking in the streets, to name but two - we
don't have time to list all Jim's successes.
About six years ago I became involved with The Signpost which
is the Over Fifties' newspaper which comes out quarterly as a
wrap around on the Chronicle. I became Joint Editor. Who with?
You guessed it. Jim Speakman.
Over the last ten years or so Jim and I have worked together
as colleagues and as friends in the groups I have mentioned and
on other projects that were offshoots from those groups. You
always knew that Jim was going to be there, he was going to be
involved. He was going to work hard to make things happen. He gave over forty years of his life working voluntarily to help
make his adopted home town a better place: special constable,
town councillor, Neighbourhood Watch coordinator, Crime
Reduction Panel, etc. etc..
I believe that he deserved some recognition for his tireless
work for our community. He was invited to a reception at
Buckingham Palace on December 7th 2004. I feel greatly honoured
that he asked me to attend as his guest. It was good to see him
sitting there discussing his life's work with various Dukes,
Duchesses and a prince. I feel that his reward should have been
greater than that. His name was put forward early this year for
consideration by the Ceremonial Section of the Cabinet Office.
Unfortunately these awards are not made posthumously. It was
with great sadness that I had to notify the Ceremonial
Secretariat of Jim's death. To me Neville James Speakman, you
will always be an OBE.
At a Black Country Memories Club exhibition,
Jim cheerfully tries on a World War I helmet
- made in Bilston, of course.
Alan Bickley said:
I first met Jim over thirty years ago, when he was elected to
be a Councillor for Bilston North. There are others present
today who will remember him at that time: Tom Larkin , Dennis
Turner and doubtless many others.
Jim was a Conservative Councillor and joined their Group in
the Town Hall. It was immediately obvious to all that he was not
of the usual run of Councillors. He wasn't combative, he wasn't
loud, he wasn't aggressive - as some of us were.
Jim would listen - he wanted to listen, he could see both
sides of the argument. We all could see that this man preferred
to look for the best in every one, to help to the best of his
ability - a gentle man in the real sense of the word.
Perhaps he may have felt some sense of relief when he ceased
to be a Member of Council - he was certainly able to devote all
his talent, and ability, to many other worthwhile activities,
which have been very widely acknowledged.
Jim was a founding member of The Black Country Memories Club,
the original Vice Chairman. I was just an interested member who
joined later. It was clear to me, and to all, how dedicated he
still was to helping others, how selflessly he pursued his many
and varied roles in life.
It was Jim, and Tom Larkin, who persuaded me to stand for
election as Chairman, when the vacancy arose in 2002. The
members of the Club, and especially the Committee members were,
and are, well aware Jim's tireless efforts to promote the Club,
its publicity and activities. Without his friendship, and total
support, the Club would not have been so successful - and I
would have been a poorer Chairman.
I always thought of Jim as a contented man, a happy man, and
that grew out of his love for Rose, his wife, and his family.
His son David has said "there were always people coming and
going in the family home ". Without Rose's steadfast support,
Jim knew, and we know, that he would have found it difficult to
pursue his public life.
We know Rose will miss Jim so very much, as we all will.
Perhaps it may be some comfort to her and her family to know
that through his life's work, and constant endeavour, Jim,
himself, has become a Black Country Memory that will never be
God bless you, Jim Speakman.
Jim makes a point
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