Obituary: James Edward Smith (Jim Smith) of Manchester and Cornwall. Born 18th April 1950 – Died 21st January 2023.
Once upon a time, when someone died, there would be a notice in the newspaper, in recent years that will be discoverable online if someone searches. However, not everyone chooses to do that nowadays so obituaries have to be published elsewhere. Many people don’t get one at all as there is no central place to do so. So this little corner of the internet will host Jim Smith’s obituary, written by his son.
Jim Smith (Jimmy to some) was born on the 18th of April 1950 to James Wilfred Smith and Georgina Smith. They lived on Cambert Lane in Gorton, Manchester.
Here he is aged 12 in 1962.
Jim was first married in 1969 to Sue (grandaughter of Bouncing Billy Barker), and I was the product of that marriage in 1970. He divorced Sue in the late 70s.
We lived first in a small terraced house on Knutsford Road in Gorton.
Jim Smith started working for himself part-time as a roofer and builder around 1969 in between his other work. In the early 70s, he used to work for Quiligotti doing commercial tiling all over the country which involved much working away. I always knew when he had come home late at night as he always brought me back a Dinky toy car and left it where I could see it in my bedroom so I’d see it when I woke up.
His first vehicle I remember was a mustard-coloured Reliant Regal three-wheel van (the Del Boy one) in the early 70s. These were very popular then as you could drive them on a motorbike licence. There is a famous story in the family of him taking his father (also Jim) out for a drive in it one day. They went round a roundabout and the passenger door flew open. He navigated the roundabout with one hand on the steering wheel and the other one clutching his Dad to stop him from falling out of the car. Nobody wore seatbelts in those days.
In the early 70s, we moved to a semi on Furnival Rd in Gorton. This was proper social climbing back then as the new house had a garage and a garden back and front. I went to his old primary school nearby, Peacock Street. I remember we had a big Scalextric set up in the garage and we used to make candles there as these were the 70s power cut days. We also did the ‘boy’ stuff there: fixing and making things. I learned to be practical in that garage. I learned skills there I still use today.
In the mid-1970s, we were social-climbing again, we moved not only from Gorton to Reddish (which was a very aspirational thing to do at the time), but to a Grocers shop on Gorton Rd, predictably renamed ‘Smiths’.
We lived over the shop. During this time he had many jobs all at once. He was a shopkeeper, he was still a part-time roofer and builder, he owned a part share in a taxi company, Cornish Cabs in Gorton, and was a taxi driver there. And he drove for a bakery in the night. I often used to go with him on the bakery round at maybe 4am, and to Smithfield Market to collect stock for the shop. We used to have bacon butties with brown sauce at the café there. He never really had time to sleep back then he worked so many jobs.
While he was a taxi driver at Cornish Cabs, he met June, who later would become his second wife in 1981.
By the early 1980s, he was full-time self-employed as a roofer, plumber and builder and living with his second wife and her kids on Capital Road in Openshaw, M11. Being self-employed and owning outright a large detached house with an underground garage and an annexe in the early 1980s, he embodied the entrepreneurial spirit and self-reliance emblematic of Thatcherite values. His accomplishments stood as a testament to the era’s emphasis on individual initiative and hard work, a source of immense pride for him and a reflection of the transformative economic landscape during that time.
The business was very successful and had to my recollection up to 13 employees at one time. His skill enabled him to get some very specialist and highly skilled roofing work, work at some very prestigious houses in Cheshire, work for many large companies, and also some work in London. My first ever trip to London was with him when we were all working on a large house in Golders Green and living on the job about 1985.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Jim Smith expanded into property development, purchasing homes requiring refurbishment and selling them for a profit. Simultaneously, he took on the role of a landlord, with a number of rental properties. Learning alongside and from him during this period equipped me with the skills and confidence to join him in property development during the 1990s and 2000s.
On those many ‘retirements’. ….
He ‘retired’ quite a few times but never really did. One day, at the height of his success in his building business, he decided it was time to voluntarily close down, semi-retire and move to Cornwall to buy a caravan park called Sunny Meadow in Hayle.
This was a complete shock to everyone. But he did it, made a success of it, and later sold it and bought another house in Cornwall. And another rental property down there too.
While in Cornwall, he took up diving. Often diving shipwrecks off the Cornish coast. That became a new passion, and in time he became a dive leader. He’d want me to tell you that he was not a PADI dive leader, which he called, “put another dollar in”. People in the diving community will understand that.
He did other types of water sports too, and had a couple of jet skis for a few years.
It looked like he would stay in Cornwall forever as he was very happy there. However, a few years later, as fast as he and June went to Cornwall, they decided it was time to come home. So they sold up and returned to Manchester, and settled in Denton.
In the 2000s, I did a lot of stuff out in Estonia and Russia. My Dad (Jim Smith) had never been to the former Soviet Union. I had a car to take out there and a red Ford Mustang to bring back. So we had a proper lad’s road trip. A week driving through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – and back again. And what better way to travel than in a red Ford Mustang?
How many men have travelled from the former Soviet Union to England in a red Ford Mustang? Jim Smith did.
Jim Smith was an astute businessman who didn’t suffer fools or lazy people gladly. He enjoyed much success in business. Those traits together with his tenacious work ethic taught me a lot about business.
His father, James Wilfred Smith, emerged from humble beginnings in early 20th-century Manchester. Initially renting a house on Cambert Lane in Gorton, he later bought it and then bought the house next door—an uncommon feat for the time. Reportedly, this decision was driven by his desire to select his own neighbours. He rented it to students he approved of.
Inspired by his father’s enterprising spirit, my father, too, ventured into property ownership, becoming a landlord. This ethos of self-initiative and property investment continued to resonate, eventually influencing my own trajectory. The work ethic instilled by my father, and ultimately rooted in the values passed down from my grandfather, forms the foundation of my journey from modest beginnings to present success.
My father, Jim Smith, helped, encouraged and supported me in many of my own businesses over the years. Even taking a part share in my skip hire business in the 90s. He even spent a while driving our skip truck delivering and collecting skips in the late 90s after one of his many ‘retirements’.
I wouldn’t know half of what I know today without his knowledge, guidance, and help. Only last year (2022) I sought his advice about hiring a particular employee (the guy didn’t get the job). In many ways, he became our ‘consultant’ in his later years. Like a non-executive chairman in many ways. Even in my own business, when he visited, it felt like the real boss had arrived. Everybody liked and respected him. My son’s middle name is James as an honour to him.
In his later years, he retired once more. Maybe for the fifth time. He still fixed our roof now and then (as you see below), but spent much of his time on his allotment in Gorton. The fact that he had an allotment by Debdale sparked a sense of nostalgia for me, as it was just a few hundred yards from where my maternal grandfather, Eric Scruton, had his allotment—a place where I spent a lot of time as a small child in the 1970s.
We got occasional deliveries of homegrown produce and eggs. We all thought his passion for growing was a bit odd as he seldom ate vegetables himself. He was well known for saying he didn’t want “anything green” on his plate.
Music was always a big part of his life. One of my earliest memories is of the Rolling Stones belting out of our huge radiogram at Furnival Rd. He was a big Stones fan in the early seventies. When he used to take me out on a Sunday afternoon as a kid, listening to The Old Record Club on Radio One was a must for both of us.
He gave me my taste for Rock and Roll, and in later years Rock ‘n’ Roll dancing became a huge part of his life. He learned to dance. He and June travelled up and down the country attending Rock and Roll venues and were regulars at all the main North West events. He was into the Rock and Roll and dancing in a big way.
It was that passion that encouraged my wife and I to learn to dance ourselves. I used to have two left feet – now I can jive.
The last gift he gave me was his hobby.
Contact his son >here<.