Sent: 11 February 2008 19:54 From: Athol & Di
The Jimmy I knew was charming, larger than life, in love with life, humble, generous and displayed powers of logic and reason that were truly remarkable. He loved meeting and being with people.
James Erick Ockwell was born in Swindon in the UK. The family moved to Oranjemund on the west coast of South West Africa (Namibia). Jimmy went to school as a boarder at the South African College School (SACS) in Cape Town. This was where I first met him. More precisely in the Notice Board Room where Jimmy, being a boarder and always hungry did his rounds - bumming sandwiches. With this large imposing figure looming over me I gladly supplemented his diet. Upon enquiry I was told he was a good guy - but always give him a sandwich. Some years later at my parent's house I introduced Jimmy to my mother. Jimmy with beer in hand and a very large smile said to her - you make the best egg sandwiches in Cape Town!
At school Jimmy was a good student, but it was sport that he excelled at. In first Team Rugby he locked the scrum in what was the best first fifteen in the Western Province for that year. He and I were in the first Athletic Team. Jimmy's speciality was the discus. He was also the first Team Water Polo Captain. I can remember watching his school team come very close to beating the university first team. He also got colours for swimming. Jimmy held many school records and performed with distinction at inter provincial level.
Jimmy left school and got a job. We stayed in touch and he became very much a part of a great circle of friends that did many things together and who still remain friends and are very much here in spirit today. Jimmy really made the most of the good life we led together. On one memorable occasion Jimmy joined the whole crowd for a holiday at Plettenberg Bay. Jimmy travelling in his VW beetle managed to incur an enormous R500 worth of speeding fines on the way - a lot of money in those days. A week later in the pub Jimmy happened to meet the public prosecutor. He trotted out his tail of woe. After Jimmy had plied this fellow with much beer his story about a faulty speedo cable did cut some ice and after a brief and rather inebriated formality all fines were waived!
Some years later Jimmy decided it was time to move on and join his family in NZ. About this time a wandering Canadian also named Jimmy joined our crowd. They both decided to travel to NZ. The round of farewell parties was endless and hectic. All his worldly possessions were packed up and conveyed to the ship.
When the time came to get on board I remember that I had great difficulty in removing the Jimmy's from the Pig and Whistle Pub and to get them to the ship on time.
Jimmy arrived at the ship carrying a crate of champagne and me his bags! It was as if most of Cape Town had turned up on the ship to say good bye to this very popular character. There was a full out party in the upper deck and lounge. I was relieved when visitors were finally ordered ashore. With a change in wind direction and therefore a delayed sailing guests were able to stay on longer. During this period the call went out that Jimmy had lost his wallet, only to find that at some stage during the on board party Jimmy had removed his black shorts with the Ockwell fortune in his pocket. When they went back on the shorts were back to front and the wallet for a short time remained undetected!
I finally got the mob off the ship and we all went home very late. The next morning I woke very early and took a trip to the dock to wave a last goodbye. I was the only person there but in short order was joined by the two Jimmy's! Apparently the Captain and Jimmy Ockwell had had an altercation about the party the night before and Jimmy's we were only saying goodbye to our friend's line did not deter the Captains decision to throw them off the ship. They must have created quite an impression because there were three decks of passengers looking at us chanting we want Jimmy
They then went to town and book a passage to Southampton leaving the following weekend. Not wanting a repeat event I said to Jimmy don't tell the whole mob - let's just have close friends this time. Even then 50 people turned up to see Jimmy sail away in one direction and his worldly possessions as he put it in another.
Jimmy worked on the North Sea on the oil rigs in the North Sea and lived in Earl's Court in London. Eventually the opportunity arose for me and about eight others to also go to England. We all met up and the result was Jimmy and about six of us rented a house in Wembley. Jimmy was in charge of the rent and bills ... not always an easy task.
This house over the years became a refuge for all our travelling friends, a venue for excellent parties including South African styled braais and spit roasts in all four seasons, much to the amazement and enjoyment of the locals.
During this pleasant time of our lives we made several trips to the continent. Jimmy had the knack of disappearing. He of course had a reputation and this was reflected in his trips to the Munich Beer Festival. It is apparently recorded in some part of Bavarian Folk Lore that James Ockwell joined the elite club of people who attended the Hoffbrau House from opening to closing time non stop for 14 days. Similarly when he went to Pamplona he was heard to comment I didn't see a bull the whole time I was there. His trip to Corfu was centred around the local taverna.
He did these things because I believe he enjoyed meeting and talking to people form all walks of life. He always said I have met some great people!
It was during this time that Jimmy and I had a motor bike accident. He and I and reflected on the outcome of this some months later. Jimmy said to me I am truly glad that this (his arm) did not happen to you because you make and fix things - I am only going to be an accountant!! To me that unselfish sentiment is very much Jimmy - always thinking of others.
Jimmy did enjoy life to the max - but we did talk about settling down. He started his studies again and he also researched the family genealogy. He still found time to go on his nocturnal excursions and on one of these he met Margaret. I met her for the first time early one Saturday morning in our kitchen when Jimmy had sent her down to make a cup of tea. That was the start of another chapter in Jimmy's life. Although we went our separate ways - me to New Zealand and he some time later to Australia we still remained firm friends. A few years ago now Jimmy Tristan Kate and Anne stayed with us during a camping trip around NZ. It was a special time for us all and it was great to see Jimmy as a wonderful Dad.
These are just a few memories that I have of the Jimmy that I knew.
As they say in my adopted country
The giant tree of the forest which sheltered the great birds and the small has fallen to the earth.
For all of us - too soon. Farewell my friend RIP