Welcome to the March 2004 On-Line Edition of

St George's News

Waterlooville's Parish Magazine


a tribute to Jim Bridger (RIP).

"All the world's a stage...and one man in his time plays many parts". That was certainly true of Jim - a man of many parts.

Jim was born on 28th June 1927, in a railway cottage beside the line at Bognor Regis, the second son of a railway signalman who, throughout his childhood, constantly drummed into his head the importance of being on time. That remained with him all his life and for Jim, to be late for anything was to be discourteous to those expecting you.

His Church life began when, having moved to Littlehampton, he was taken to Church by a neighbour where he was enthralled by the High Church style of worship - smells and bells, and was introduced to the intricacies of serving at the Altar.

At the age of 13 he left school and started work for a local jobbing builder, learning skills very useful in later life. At 14 he entered into a three year apprenticeship with Messrs. Duke and Ockenden, a renowned firm of water and general engineering, where he learned to work to exacting standards. To this day you can still see the wind operated Dando pumps that they designed and made on farms where there is no mains water supply. Jim built and installed many of these. Although in a reserved occupation he was eventually released for National Service in the last year of his apprenticeship and joined the RAF to be trained as a wireless operator. On the day he joined up, Hitler heard that he was coming and consequently shot himself. With the end of the war wireless operators were no longer needed so Jim was drafted to the Transport section to train in vehicle maintenance. As his father had taught him that to be on time was important, so his industrial training taught him that things had to be just right, "Attention to detail" was his watchword.

Returning to civilian life, he completed his apprenticeship and served his time as Improver and then Journeyman before leaving to become self-employed. In this way he was able to combine several jobs, being at various times milk roundsman, baker's roundsman, private hire driver and bearer for the local firm of Funeral Directors, landscape gardener and chimney sweep. He was the first man in Littlehampton to set up a vacuum-assisted chimney sweeping business and it was this coupled with his driving job that led to one of his most memorable experiences which I shall have to leave for another time. Later he joined Southdown Buses and was one of the few to hold both a conductor's and a driver's badge. For a while he worked for Beechams as a chemical engineer on their production line and by the time I knew him he was Transport Foreman for Worthing Corporation Water Undertakings, combining the skills of his original two trades.

He loved music and singing and was persuaded by a friend to join the local Musical Comedy Society where he invariably played the second male lead. Making people laugh was also extremely important and it wasn't long before the same friend and he set up a concert party with others known as "Company of Six" - four regulars plus two invited guests, with regular bookings at Residential Homes, prisons etc., both local and further afield. Sadly the Company folded after I joined as the accompanist died and it became impossible to replace him. (For many years now Jim and I have performed as "Just us Two" and it looks now as if I shall have to restyle myself "It's only Me").

In 1972, due to re-organisation of the water industry, he left and we moved to Bantry in County Cork, southwest Ireland, where he soon obtained the position of Manager of a brand new, Company owned, self service filling station, the first of its kind in those parts. Life in Ireland was a great experience and again too long to write about here - another time perhaps.

Returning to England we moved from Sussex to Norfolk, where property was much cheaper, and then back to Hampshire when the severely cold winters of East Anglia disagreed with his chest. Through all this time, wherever we went, the Church figured largely in his life, and he was regularly on call for reading the lesson and as intercessor, eventually becoming Churchwarden at Tangley in North Hampshire.

Adrienne Bridger

 to be continued.

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page last updated 11 March 2004