Former Uckfield town councillor and road safety campaigner Jim Molesworth-Edwards has died. He was 86 and leaves a widow Jacqui and two daughters Jonquil and Fran.
Jim competed in national motorcycle sporting trials in his youth and formed an enduring friendship with the late John Surtees, the only man to be world champion on two wheels and four wheels.
He was also a veteran and vintage cars enthusiast taking vehicles to events in Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset.
Move to Uckfield
Jim moved to Uckfield in the year 2000 and became a town councillor in 2003.
He was well-known as one of the pioneers of annual road safety days for schoolchildren John Surtees came along to one of the events to support him.
Jim was honoured for his work by the council which now awards a trophy in his name to the winner of an annual best safety poster competition.
Jim died after a long illness on Sunday afternoon. He had been in Uckfield Community Hospital for many weeks.
Hospital is ‘fantastic’
His widow Jacqui told Uckfield News: “Uckfield Community Hospital is the most fantastic place. The nursing staff, all of them known to us, were wonderful and Jim loved them.
She added: “They look after everyone so well and the atmosphere when you go there is really lovely and caring. I think it would be nice to let people know that if they have to go in there it is brilliant and they will be well treated.”
Jim was born in Broad Oak, near Heathfield, on September 4, 1929, and like his father, Awdry, and other Molesworths through the ages became an engineer.
Matchless and AJS motorcycles
Jim worked at Associated Motorcycles at Woolwich. They manufactured Matchless and AJS motorcycles and also owned Norton Motors, James Motorcycles and Francis Barnett Motorcycles.
While there Jim used to borrow a 1913 1000cc Matchless Twin. He rode it in the Pioneer Run on several occasions and once rode it to Beaulieu.
Motorcycle sporting trials
He started competing in motorcycle sporting trials in 1950 and by 1954 was competing in national events. He organised trials too, starting a centre at Cross in Hand.
Jim was also a veteran and vintage cars enthusiast. He inherited, from his father, 1909 and 1910 White Steam Cars. The 1909 had been dismantled and the 1910 became a non-runner but his father made a lot of new parts for it and Jim intended to get it running but never had time to complete the work and subsequently sold both vehicles.
He also had a 1921 Talbot 16 Saloon and a 1928 Wolseley Straight Eight Saloon. He rebuilt a second Wolseley Straight Eight and used to take both Wolseleys to vintage car events in Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset.
He was a member of the Veteran Car Club, Vintage Sports Car Club, Sunbeam Club, Kent and Sussex Motorcycle Club, Eastbourne Motorcycle Club and Motor Cycling Club.
In 1960 Jim left Associated Motorcycles and bought Ticehurst Motors, at Ticehurst, where he operated agencies for motorcycles and for Austin and Standard/Triumph cars.
In 1965 he sold Ticehurst Motors and, at the same time, retired from competing in Motorcycle Trials. Four years later he set up a successful business selling used garage equipment.
He employed a staff of ten, had a 16 ton Dodge with a Haib loading crane, a 32 ton Leyland tractor unit, and 40 foot Fiat Trailer and three Sherpa Pick-Ups.
Jim said in a potted history of his life: “I used to drive all of them at various times, and particularly enjoyed driving my articulated vehicle.”
In that history he produced a family tree going back to 1066. It includes Robert Molesworth, 1st Viscount Molesworth (1656-1725), and his great uncle Guildford Lindsey Molesworth Edwards who became chief engineer on the Great Western Railway.
His great great uncle Sir Guildford Lindsey Molesworth (1828-1925) was consulting engineer to the Government of India for state railways, and was the first general manager of Ceylon Railways.
Sir Guildford wrote a book which was known for many years as The Engineers Bible. The first edition of the Pocket Book of Useful Formulae and Memoranda for Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers was published in 1862. His sons Henry and Walter assisted him, at least on the 26th Edition, dated 1909.
Special birthday party
A great joy to Jim was celebrating his 80th birthday with a party at Uckfield Civic Centre where he brought together friends from across the years.
Last year, when a party was held to celebrate the transformation of a neglected plot of land to become Keld Close community garden, a special birthday candle was added to the cake for Jim, who celebrated his 86th birthday on the same day.
• Jim featured in an Uckfield News history article published on August 18, 2010 when he recalled devastation of random bombing during World War 2.
Two people died when a cow shed they were working in was hit by a bomb jettisoned by a German raider.
Jim saw the devastation minutes after the all-clear had been sounded.
Condolences from Uckfield Town Council
Members of Uckfield Town Council’s General Purposes Committee observed a minute’s silence in memory of Mr Molesworth-Edwards before the start of their meeting last night (August 26).
They sent their condolences to the family.
Committee chairman, Cllr Diane Ward, said: “To me, he was an inspiration and also gave me a lot of information when it came to becoming a councillor.”
After the meeting, Cllr Ian Smith, who worked closely with Mr Molesworth-Edwards, especially on the town’s road safety days, said he had made a big contribution to Uckfield.
“I met Jim through the work on the council. I started the road safety day and he took a particular interest in this because it turned out he had been quite a famous motorcyclist.
“He knew about safety on the roads. We immediately got on and he was always a willing participant in whatever was being done,” Cllr Smith said.
He went on: “Jim had a great sense of humour and he knew a lot of people, important people which always helps.”
Mr Molesworth-Edwards organised the deployment of the Speed Indicator Display (SID) in the town.
“Jim drove the effort to get teams established to use the SID at places around the town to indicate to motorists if they were within the speed limit, or not.
“He put his heart and soul into that. It was Jim’s job and everything about that was down to him.
“I know at the moment we are thinking about starting it all again, so we shall see how hard it is. It was his baby.”
Press release from Uckfield Mayor and Deputy Mayor
In a press release distributed today Uckfield Mayor and Deputy Mayor, Cllrs Louise Eastwood and Duncan Bennett said:
“We were deeply saddened to hear of the loss of our dear friend and former council colleague, Jim Molesworth-Edwards, who passed away on Sunday.
“Those of us who had the privilege of working alongside Jim on the town council will agree that his indomitable spirit, boundless energy and unbridled enthusiasm for everything he set out to do, made him a very valued member of council committees and working groups, as well as a real champion for those in the community whom he represented so diligently.
“Jim definitely ploughed his own furrow and whilst he was the epitome of the team player, he was also not afraid to voice his concerns if he felt that an idea was not in the public interest, a character trait which won many admirers and the disdain of a few of those people to whom his concerns were directed.
“We believe that a councillor’s role is to challenge where necessary and in his actions, Jim inspired others to believe that this was the right thing to do, too.
“His forthright determination to get things done frequently belied his age and he often worked on projects long after the point where lesser people would have given in to fatigue.
“No greater example of this could be seen than with his masterful stewardship of the Town Council’s Road Safety Day, which he developed from an initial idea into an annual event involving all local primary schools and numerous businesses and agencies.
“Jim himself trod the streets of Uckfield, personally gaining sponsorship and support from local businesses and grew the event to become an outstanding success which continues to this day, with the next event now in planning for 2018.
“We are incredibly proud to say that we have, as of 2017, awarded a cup for the best Road Safety Poster in Jim’s name, as a lasting reminder of his immense input.
“Jim was also the Town Council’s SID (Speed Indicator Display) Coordinator and he would be out and about most weekends with his SID Team, at sites around Uckfield, providing a presence to remind drivers to watch their speed.”
The press release concluded:
“Jim’s interest in town affairs did not diminish after his retirement from council office and he was a frequent observer at meetings right up until his hospitalisation. Even then, he continued to give his apologies.
Thank you Jim
“Many of us will miss Jim deeply, especially our telephone conversations, which often started out as a brief call to check information, but could end some considerable time later, having veered on to numerous subjects and fascinating anecdotes from a full and fascinating life.
“Thank you for inspiring us through your hard work, Jim, but above all, thank you for your loyal friendship.
“We send our deepest condolences and love to his family and many fellow friends.
“God bless you Jim. Rest In Peace.”