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Haverhill mourns loss of 'force of nature' Jim Morgan after death at 61

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An ‘enormous void’ has been left in the lives of all of his family – and countless others – by the sudden death of one of Haverhill’s most well-known, generous and larger than life figures, Jim ‘Jimbo’ Morgan.

Jim, 61, died in his sleep, on a sofa, at his home in Wratting Road on Friday night/Saturday morning. It was the house that he was born in.

His involvements in his home town were varied. For decades he was a part of the fabric of many areas of community life, including the Centre Stage Company, St Mary’s Church choir, Wratting Lions, Haverhill Cricket Club, Haverhill Rugby Club (where we was a former president) and Haverhill Silver Band.

Jim Morgan at his niece Sarah's wedding last March. Contributed picture
Jim Morgan at his niece Sarah's wedding last March. Contributed picture

He leaves behind his sons Tom, 27, and James, 28, and his eight-month-old grandson, Christopher, who is James’ son.

Tom said: “The thing that everyone has said is that it really will leave a hole in so many things. A lot of people did know him very well.

“I think he has always been a bit of a character. Not to have him about any more; a lot of people are really going to miss him.”

Jim Morgan (right) presents Haverhill Cricket Club chairman Michael Rinaldi with a donation towards the new electronic scoreboard, as seen behind them, in 2018. Contributed picture
Jim Morgan (right) presents Haverhill Cricket Club chairman Michael Rinaldi with a donation towards the new electronic scoreboard, as seen behind them, in 2018. Contributed picture

James said: “He was awarded the Honorary Freedom of the town of Haverhill in 2008. He was awarded that from Les Ager when he was mayor and obviously they were very good friends.”

Tom added: “He was thrilled that he had a grandson, just thrilled and we are happy that he got to have a bit of time with him because otherwise that would have been really sad.”

Until earlier this month Jim has been chair of the Centre Stage Company for 20 years, with the occasional break.

Jim Morgan with Steven Roach and Charlotte Scammerton at a Centre Stage Company panto, Picture: Andy Mayes
Jim Morgan with Steven Roach and Charlotte Scammerton at a Centre Stage Company panto, Picture: Andy Mayes

His long-time friend and fellow Centre Stage member, David Hart, credited Jim with being the ‘driving force’ behind saving Haverhill & District Operatic Society (HADOS), and growing Centre Stage (which was created from HADOS).

He said: “He was a force of nature in everything that he took on.

“He certainly put 150 per cent into it and a lot of it was about helping younger people, about bringing on young people and I think that was really important for him and also keeping the group going, following something that his mum (Lilian) had helped create.

“Everyone is just shocked and stunned. Everyone has said they can’t believe it.

“He was the best man at my wedding. I’ve known him since I was 20 and he was 13. We both joined the operatic society on the same day. This has left a big hole in everyone’s life.”

Cian Harriss, the new chairman of the Centre Stage Company, said on its Facebook group on Sunday: “To say that Jim was an integral part of the legacy of Centre Stage is an understatement as many will know he was a member of one of our founding families.

“Jim had seen the society rise, fall and rise again and even helped shape its future and ensure its continued existence not once but many times over.

“The memory of Jim Morgan lives on through Centre Stage, and we will endeavour to honour him through our future productions. Rest well Jimbo, thank you for everything.”

Jim’s older sisters, Alison, Hilary, Linda and Nichola, told Suffolk News of their memories of their little brother and of the impact of his sudden death.

They said: "Adrian Quentin Morgan was always known as Jim, even before he was born. Alison and Hilary remember dad and mum (Ken and Lilian) referring to the pregnant bump as Jimmy Jam Jar.

"Apparently, mum was carrying the baby in a different way to her previous four pregnancies, much rounder, like a jam jar.

"All four of us sisters were thrilled when a baby boy arrived in September 1960. From the very start of his life, he was of a sunny disposition and an aunt spoke of Sunny Jim, like the character from Force Flakes, and the name stuck.

"Indeed, in later life he paid for more than one entry in the telephone directory as Mr AQ Morgan, Mr J Morgan and simply Jim Morgan.

"Locally the Morgan children were collectively referred to as ‘The Morgan Girls and Jim’ and so many family photos show us all together and we must have seemed like a Sunday School outing at times as we climbed out the family car. Dad always referred to us as ‘The People’ because he recognised us all for our individuality and Jim certainly had that by the bucketload.

"No matter where he was Jim made friends. We remember children would arrive at The Cangle School, moving to the area from London aged about seven or eight and Jim would always approach with a huge smile and a 'you’re new here, why don’t you come meet my friends, be part of our gang'.

"The flood in Haverhill in 1968 saw Jim go off down Wratting Road to school only to find it wasn’t open of course.

"He then played with his mates for a few hours in the flood water before returning home to change out of his school uniform because he didn’t want to spoil it! Once changed he was immediately back down the hill to resume the fun.

"As he was born on 1st September there was some confusion at primary school (The Cangle) as to which year group he should be in and he ended up missing the whole of the ‘top infants’ year (probably year 3 now) because the rules had changed and he should be the youngest rather than the oldest in the cohort.

"This hiatus caused a lot of challenges for him and his school years were not perhaps his most glorious.

"He became a bit of the class clown and disenchanted by the whole secondary school (Castle Manor) experience.

"Dad was very keen on us all doing our best in education and could see Jim was not doing so. Jim’s salvation came in the form of a job at Ciba Geigy, near Duxford, which included day release academics at Cambridge Tech.

"He finally found his focus and started to ‘fly’ as he worked his way through ONC, HND and then a BSc in Chemistry.

"He never went to University instead he was employed throughout further education and his move to IFF in Haverhill in his early 20s was dependant on his being allowed to complete his degree course.

Jim Morgan with his sisters Hilary, Nichola, Alison and Linda outside Boots in Haverhill in 1976
Jim Morgan with his sisters Hilary, Nichola, Alison and Linda outside Boots in Haverhill in 1976

"The Morgan Girls and Jim were all employed at the Haverhill branch of Boots the Chemists during the early 70s.

"The family likeness used to confuse customers when the sisters were working behind the counter and Jim’s hard work behind the scenes in the storeroom as a teenager illustrated his work ethic that prevailed throughout his life.

"He was at IFF for nearly 20 years before being made redundant. At that time, he took the opportunity to move into IT work ultimately as a consultant proving himself as something of a trouble shooter for large companies' IT data challenges.

"We always glazed a little when he started to explain what he was doing at work as none of us did anything similar in our working lives.

"We just knew he worked very hard, sometimes very long hours, above and beyond what the contract required. He always wanted to give of his best.

"Although his work took him around the world to the USA, Europe, Australia and the Far East over the years, Jim always lived in Haverhill.

"He believed in the town and was involved in so many different facets of the community. His love of Rugby from grassroots through to international level is well known.

"The Karaoke Bar at Twickenham will no doubt miss his dulcet tones after England games. As a teenager he enjoyed football and cricket, both playing and umpiring, has been a love too.

"Away from sport his love of music and drama has seen many years involvement with the Haverhill Silver Band, Haverhill Operatic Society and more recently Centre Stage.

"He was always prepared to get stuck in both out front and in the running of such organisations as he knew how important the whole range of arts and sport are to a community; and he loved his home town.

"St Mary’s Church was our family church from the time of mum and dad moving to Haverhill from Swansea in 1954.

"Dad worked for Addis brush factory. Whilst all us sisters moved away for career education, training and work Jim stayed in Haverhill and has worshipped at St Mary’s throughout, singing in the church choir for many years.

"As our baby brother we are all very aware that Jim always ‘had our back covered’. Unconditional love and support accompanied by a wicked sense of humour.

"Sometimes the humour may have been rather close to the mark but you couldn’t help laughing.

"He would enter a room and you would know he was there.

"At family gatherings which he often hosted at Tingewick (the family home) Jim was the soul of the party, very much a driving force.

"Generous to a fault the food and drink was always plentiful and Jim enjoyed nothing better than to see his sons and their nine cousins coming together simply to celebrate being family. "Family has always been central to Jim’s life.

"To say the ‘Morgan Girls’ are stunned by Jim’s death is an understatement.

"He leaves an enormous void in all our lives and we shall miss that huge hug he would give us whenever we saw each other."