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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 city 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 typical cheerful mode 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 members.

Jim with Horace Morris. This photo was originally captioned as "Two Patriarchs", and patriarchs they indeed were.

Two Patriarchs

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 recently.

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.

Jim cheerfully tries on a World War I helmet  

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 forgotten.

God bless you, Jim Speakman.

Jim makes a point

Jim makes a point

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