Swindon's 160 greatest headline makers...part 6
Updated 4:12pm Thursday 31st July 2014 in By Barry Leighton
TO celebrate the Adver’s 160th anniversary this year we present a Swindon Roll of Honour comprising 160 headline makers from the history of our town.
Here you will find those whose work and achievements have helped raise the standing and profile of both the town and the borough, or who have striven to improve the lives of ordinary folk.
It includes the greats of industry, commerce and technology along with those who have gained prominence through sport, arts, culture and media.
We have attempted to cut through the strata of Swindon life to include some of the town’s many colourful characters…along with two horses, a dog and one or two who have brought infamy crashing down upon us.
We enter the second half of the countdown with part six in our series of ten.
Swindon singers such as Dave James and Jane-Marie Osborne have achieved success on TV talent shows in the past but Jahmene truly captured the nation’s heart during the 2012 X Factor.
Taking time out from stacking shelves at Asda in West Swindon, 22-year-old Jahmene Douglas enraptured millions of viewers with his pure and soulful gospel voice.
A shy, modest lad off-stage, Jahmene became the sweetest of soul singers in front of the cameras. He was narrowly edged into second place in the final but has a potentially big future ahead.
His heartfelt rendition of the Etta James’ song At Last prompted X Factor judge Louis Walsh to describe him as a “revelation,” adding “a star is born.”
Jefferies, Richard (1848-1887)
Revered by many in Swindon, Jefferies was a writer probably best known for his depictions of rural life that were inspired by the countryside around Coate where he was born and spent his early years.
A diverse range of novels, poems, essays and books flowed from Jefferies who was also a contributor to the Swindon Advertiser.
His novel Bevis (1882) has been hailed a children’s classic while The Story of My Heart (1883) is an introspective depiction of his thoughts and feelings.
However, it is the way he described nature in works such as The Amateur Poacher and Round About a Great Estate that garnered most admirers.
Today, Swindon has a Richard Jefferies Museum and a Richard Jefferies Society in honour of his life and work.
Joffe, Baron Joel (1932-) CBE
As a young South African lawyer, Joffe represented Nelson Mandela in the 1963/64 trials when the nation’s future leader was expected to be executed on charges of revolution and sabotage.
Joffe helped get the sentence commuted to prison. Forced out of South African he helped found Hambro Life financial services in Swindon which became Allied Dunbar and later Zurich, one of the town’s largest employers.
Over the years he was heavily involved in fund raising for a variety of local causes and was the chair of Oxfam for six years.
Awarded the CBE, he later became a Labour peer during which time Baron Joffe of Liddington has fought for the legalisation of physician assisted death for the terminally ill.
John, David Murray (1908-1974) OBE
Known as Mr Swindon, Murray John, the son of a Welsh Baptist minister, became the architect of the town’s spectacular post war regeneration.
Appointed Swindon town clerk in 1938 – at 30, the youngest in the country – he held the position until his death 36 years later.
Murray John was behind Swindon’s status as an overspill town that sparked a major growth in population which in turn drew in a diverse range of new businesses and investment, off-setting the declining fortunes of the railway works. It was his foresight that also saw the council acquire the derelict Lydiard House for a pittance (£4,500) which, over the decades, it has magnificently restored.
Wiltshire’s tallest secular building, the 83 metres high David Murray John Tower in the town centre, was named in his honour two years after his death.
Joliffe, Harold (1914-1969)
When the Wyvern Theatre opened in 1971 a plaque graced the new building with the inscription “Harold Joliffe, Pioneer of Arts in Swindon.”
Holding the title of Swindon’s chief librarian for quarter of a century from 1943, he became a driving force for the promotion of arts in a post-war town that was a cultural desert.
Joliffe created a programme whereby hundreds of societies or groups were set up to focus on all areas of art and culture.
From poetry readings to musical concerts, Joliffe had a hand in a huge variety of arts-based projects that transformed cultural life in Swindon.
Kelly, May (1927-2010)
Among the many Irish people who came to Swindon during the 1950s, one-time Irish dancing champion May launched a school in which she instructed local youngsters on the intricacies of reels, jigs and hornpipes.
For quarter of a century she taught traditional Irish step dancing to an estimated 700 children.
Because of May, thousands of people have enjoyed Irish dancing displays in Swindon since the 1960s at weddings, festivals, fetes and charity events.
Many of her pupils went on to win competitions and Irish dancing continues to flourish here today after several of May’s students launched their own successful schools.
A number of their students have represented Swindon at the world championships thanks to the lady known as the town’s “mother of Irish dancing.”
Kibblewhite, James (1866-1941)
Local folklore has it that every day Kibblewhite ran the six -mile journey from his home in Purton to the GWR works where he was a machinist, and then back again.
Middle distance runner ‘Kibby’ trained hard to earn his place among Swindon’s sporting greats.
At Stamford Bridge in 1889 he became the world record holder for three miles, achieving it in just under 14 and-a-half minutes.
His GWR workmates clubbed together to finance some professional training. He responded by winning three English AAA one milers, taking the four and ten mile events twice while collecting a string of other national titles during an 11 year career.
Upon his death, the Advertiser hailed Kibby as “one of the greatest figures in the amateur sporting world.”
King, Henry and Edward (late 1800s-early 1900s)
If you were partaking in the fashionable late 19th Century pastime of bicycling through the streets of Victorian Swindon then the chances are you were riding a King.
Coach and carriage builders by trade, Henry and Edward had already experimented with new-fangled but rather uncomfortable cycles.
However, they decided to focus solely on the bike following the breakthrough introduction of the pneumatic tyre that made the experience far more palatable.
From Wood Street premises in 1891 they launched the King Brothers’ Napoleonic Cycle Works, building popular branded machines such as the Peregrine, Quadrant and Viking.
Lamarr, Mark (1967-)
The TV presenter, radio DJ and comedian grew up as Mark Jones on Swindon’s Park South estate, attending Park South and Oakfield schools.
At 17 he left for London where he quickly made a name on the stand-up comedy circuit before being hired for Channel 4’s The Word.
Quick of wit, razor of tongue and with a genuine love and knowledge of great and obscure music, Lamarr is probably best known for hosting TV’s Never Mind the Buzzcocks rock quiz from 1996 to 2005. He has presented numerous BBC radio shows mixing a vast range of musical genres such as rockabilly, soul, punk, ska, reggae, country, gospel and rap.
Lamarr has been critical of his home town but enjoys the occasional walk around Coate Water during return visits and has said: “I’ve got no problem with it (Swindon).”
Limmex, Samuel (1842-1945)
“Beds, beddings, guns, rifles” said the turn-of-the-century sign outside SJ Limmex. For nearly 160 years the store on the corner of High Street and Wood Street sold just about anything that could be termed hardware.
It was already well established when Samuel Limmex took it over in 1884, rebuilding and extending the premises.
A skilled tinsmith who made some of the shop’s products, he transformed the business into a Swindon retail institution where for many decades helpful, uniformed staff espoused a traditional form of personal service.
To the shock of many, the business suddenly closed in 1999 after no-one could be found to take it over.
Lipsey, Daryl (1963-)
Three years ago Lipper was crowned Swindon’s greatest ever ice hockey player.
The Canadian star joined the Wildcats in 1986 and stayed for nine seasons as an inspirational player and coach.
The man known as Mr Swindon Ice Hockey also returned for further spells before retiring from the sport in 2006.
Fondly remembered for some thrilling performances at the Link Centre, he remains the Wildcats leading scorer with 883 points.
Lollipop, Tommy (circa late 1800s)
“Twenty for a penny, 40 for tuppence, ten for ‘a’penny, and five for a farthing.” It was a familiar cry at Swindon’s weekly markets during the latter half of the 19th Century.
Every town needs its characters and Tommy Lollipop was unquestionably one of ours.
Sporting a “rusty” high hat, Tommy sold his home-made black and brown boiled sweets that were “wholesome and shiny” and “nicely flavoured with peppermint.”
In his book A Swindon Retrospective 1855-1930, Frederick Large says Tommy manned the same spot in High Street during Monday markets… invariably surrounded by children.
“Tommy always received a liberal amount of patronage… some of his patrons consisting of people of rather high degree.”
Ludford, Shirley (1953-)
If there is such a thing as the Voice of Swindon then it is surely Shirley’s.
She has been an almost constant factor behind the mike in Swindon since joining the town’s pioneering Viewpoint community TV/radio station in 1977.
Swindon-born Shirley became a presenter/producer with BBC Wiltshire Radio in Swindon and Wootton Bassett-based GWR, and also set-up Swindon’s Talking Newspaper for blind people.
Six years ago she launched Swindon 105.5 community radio where she continues as station manager, media trainer and all-round motivator.
Over the years Shirley has become involved in countless community events and fund raising initiatives for which she has received a number of awards.
Macari, Lou (1949-)
Swindon Town was at its lowest ebb, 17th in the old Division Four, when former Scotland and Manchester United star Lou Macari took over in 1984/85 for a memorable five years at the County Ground.
Under Macari’s strict fitness regime, Town stormed to promotion the following season, breaking 14 club records and achieving a league record for the highest number of points ever gained (102).
The next year saw Swindon again win promotion in dramatic style, beating Gillingham at Selhurst Park in a play-off final.
Town almost made it to the old First Division for the first time by reaching the play-offs in 1988/89, after which Macari was lured to West Ham.
MacPherson, Charles (1899-1977)
A successful optician, Charles MacPherson was an angry man in 1932 at an anomaly in Swindon’s bus services.
He mounted a campaign which led him to stand as a councillor – a position he held for more than 40 years.
MacPherson was Mayor of Swindon in 1944/45 and, with wife Phyllis, attended no less than 57 World War Two victory dances and 234 street parties within a week or two. Endless cups of tea were proffered and dutifully consumed.
He became a Freeman of Swindon for services to the borough, while also attaining the unofficial title “Father of Swindon Council” before stepping down at 74.
Manners, Jenni (1952-2012) MBE
“A guiding hand,” “our heartbeat,” “a true champion of the less fortunate,” “an inspiration.”
There were no shortage of plaudits from a wide range of people when Jenni Manners sadly died of cancer in 2012.
Jenni dedicated her life to helping victims of domestic abuse and was a tower of strength at the Swindon Women’s Refuge which she ran for 31 years with a mixture of compassion, kindness and professionalism.
Since the refuge was set up in 1977 until she was forced to step down through illness in 2008, Jenni had helped 6,375 women and 9,263 children.
In 2003 she was awarded the MBE for her sterling and selfless work.