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Camden New Journal - OBITUARY
Published: 3 May 2007

Jim Turner pictured in 1992 when he was mayor of Camden
Ex-mayor who led fight to save old people’s home

JIM TURNER, who has died aged 76, spent part of his retirement working as a Labour councillor, including a successful stint as mayor.
But it was during his working life as a taxi driver and a caretaker on Camden estates that he made his name among neighbours as a kind, caring and hard-working man.
Jim grew up in Athlone Street, Kentish Town, and attended St Dominic’s Priory primary school. He was evacuated at the start of the war. but, as the Phoney War lengthened, returned home to his mum Adelaide and dad Ted in Kentish Town.
Jim was keen on sport, and played football and cricket in the street as a child. His family, while looking through papers following his sudden death last week, found a letter, dated 1946, from St Pancras Housing Association telling Mrs Turner to control her boy Jim, who had been kicking a ball about at the entrance to their flats.
Jim left school aged 14 and found himself an apprenticeship tuning drums. He then became a painter and decorator, working for the family’s landlord, St Pancras Housing Association.
He spent his national service in the Royal Air Force, stationed at Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, and developed a lifelong love of flying. After leaving the service, he learned how to fly gliders, and would regularly visit his gliding club in Gloucestershire, where he would be taken up for flights by younger members.
At his marriage to Olive in 1955 at a church in Clapton, east London, the guests included Barbara Windsor, then a drama student at college with one of Jim’s cousins.
His family was one of the first to move on to the newly-built Regent’s Park estate. He set up woodwork classes for youngsters and took them swimming each week at the Prince of Wales baths in Kentish Town.
In 1960, Jim became a taxi driver, having cycled the streets of London so he could complete ‘The Knowledge’ test. He was proud to hold his taxi driver’s licence, which he kept until a few years ago.
He became a caretaker at Kilburn Gate estate in the mid-1970s and later was appointed a site supervisor, working at estates across the borough. He took early retirement at the age of 58 and was then elected as Labour councillor for Regent’s Park.
He sat on the board of the Eleanor Palmer Trust, and the St Pancras Welfare Trust, and was one of the key instigators in setting up the West Euston Partnership.
Many will remember his principled stance in fighting the closure of Wellesley Road old people’s home. It was a battle he continued throughout his life – he was due to attend a meeting on Tuesday to discuss a new threat to the home’s future.
Jim’s passions included a lifelong love of ballroom dancing, which he continued into retirement. He would say there was not a pub in Kentish Town where he had not danced.
Jim Turner’s funeral is at St Dominic’s Church, Southampton Road, Kentish Town, at 9.30am on Friday, May 11, and at Golders Green crematorium at 11am.

Immense generosity of spirit

THERE were two facets to Jim. First, he was a Labour man. Second, he was a Londoner.
In the post-war years, he witnessed the demolition of slums and the construction of the Regent’s Park estate. St Pancras was a hotbed of political activity. Tenants and trade unionists took to the streets. There were rent strikes.
As a Labour man, Jim sought to ensure that working people had power over their lives. He recognised what the state could do to improve the quality of life of working people.
He was passionate about council housing, both in his work as a caretaker and in his political life. He worked with the giants of the tenants’ movement, Dick Collins, the former Greater London Council member, and Elsie Comley, who chaired Regent’s Park Tenants’ Association.
Jim was a formidable campaigner, whether over traffic-calming on the Regent’s Park estate, the refurbishment of the estate or the closure of Wellesley Road old people’s home. He had a burning anger at injustice, and would always seek to ensure tenants had the right to be heard and determine the changes that would affect their lives.
Jim was a man of habit. On Thursday, the night before his death, he had made his monthly trip for a drink in the mess of Regent’s Park barracks.
As someone who first got to know him when I came to London in 1975, I will remember Jim primarily as a friend. He had an immense generosity of spirit. He always had a story to recount. He was always loyal to the Labour Party.
He never tired of London. He never tired of life. In the shifting sands of political fortunes in Camden, may Jim’s political values and his integrity never be forgotten.
(Former Labour councillor)

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