Remembering Jim Robinson

Last September we said goodbye to one of our most dedicated volunteers – Jim Robinson, who sadly passed away at the age of 72 from cancer. Jim, a retired window cleaner, was a bpha resident at Bury Court in Goldington, Bedford. Here, we remember Jim and the contribution he made to his local community.

“Jim was the sort of person who would do anything for anyone,” says Jim’s long-term partner, Diana. “Over the years, people came to know Jim as the go-to person when they needed help. Often, when he came home, there would be a list on the table of things people wanted help with.”

Building furniture, doing DIY, collecting newspapers, feeding people’s pets when they were away and running bingo sessions in the community room were just some of the things that Jim did for others.

Golden Gardens

As a passionate gardener, Jim was instrumental in the development of Golden Gardens – two green spaces set up by bpha for the local community. Jim Playle, Community Engagement Officer, worked with Jim on the gardens and recalls his enthusiasm. “It was such a privilege to know Jim. He had amazing energy and spirit. He volunteered at the gardens for 10 years and spent every spare minute working there; he loved it. People would joke that he needed a zip-wire from his flat to get down to the garden quickly each morning.

“Over the years he created a wonderful place for residents to relax in and grow food at the Elliot Crescent garden. I vividly remember the first polytunnel and Jim’s delight at the extraordinary crop of cucumbers. After that, a shop was established, selling the garden’s organically produced vegetables to local people.”

Pickled onions

Jim was known for his pickled onions, which many describe as the stuff of legend. Diana recalls: “When we got the first crop of onions, Jim decided to pickle them in our flat using empty jam jars donated by residents. It was a great idea, but the trouble was, our flat stunk of pickled onions for weeks after that. The following year, I told him we had to pickle them in the shelter in the garden!”

Jim and Diana also made pensioner-sized fruit crumbles using apples, plums, blackberries and rhubarb either grown in the garden or donated by residents. The idea was to sell items in affordable and smaller quantities for older people and those living on their own. Thanks to the welcome Jim and Diana provided, the gardens lived up to the slogan on the welcome leaflet: ‘Run by the community, for the community’.

Jim’s skill and hard work didn’t go unnoticed. Over the years thanks to his dedication, the garden received a number of awards, including several from Pride in Bedfordshire, Anglia in Bloom 2011 and the coveted CPRE Quality Mark from the Living Countryside Awards in 2014.

“Over the years he created a wonderful place for residents to relax in and grow food at the Elliot Crescent garden.”

Joe the crow

Jim also had a special way with animals, taming robins and hedgehogs, foxes and mice, as Jim Playle remembers. “I’ve seen him feed pond fish and birds by hand and he developed a special friendship with an abandoned crow, which he named Joe. There was a picture in the local paper of Jim with Joe.”

Jim’s hobbies included fishing and restoring furniture, and he was a life-long supporter of Chelsea Football Club.

“Jim always had a story to tell,” says Diana. “He enjoyed recalling events that had happened in his life to anyone who’d listen. One of those stories was about how he and his friend had a talent for football, with both trying out for professional teams. Whilst Jim’s footballing career didn’t take off, his mate, John Hollins, went on to have an illustrious career playing for Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers and Arsenal. Jim was an obsessive Chelsea fan. He was so proud that John ended up playing for the team.”

Jim’s passing has been a terrible blow to Diana and all those who loved him. Jim Playle said “We’ve lost a wonderful, generous friend who’ll be forever in our hearts.” Donations to Cancer Research UK in Jim’s memory can be made by going to www.memorygiving.com/jameswilliamrobinson