Jimmy Jewhurst

Jimmy (James William) Jewhurst was born at Rye Harbour in the winter of 1875, the eldest son and one of 11 children of James Jewhurst and Elizabeth Jane Barden. His father died when he was six.
For a while he lived in Rye with his brother Frederick while they worked as fishermen. He married Annie Blackmore in 1902 and settled in Udimore.
Jimmy reckoned he joined the Bonfire Society when he was seven. He was one of their longest serving and most dedicated members. He only missed one event in 70 years, and that was because he was in hospital after a cycling accident.
If you had told him his skill as a woodcutter would be known around the world he would undoubtedly have laughed. But that’s what happened. A snippet in Children’s Corner of the Sussex Express in 1951 set the ball rolling. Cousin Reg wrote: “Mr Jimmy Jewhurst, 77-year-old woodcutter of Udimore, is making faggots – bundles of twigs – in a wood near his home for use in the Rye Bonfire Boys Festival celebrations and he reckons he has made over 1,200 for the occasion.
“Mr Jewhurst, the oldest active member of Rye Bonfire Society, is a true son of the sea. When he was 10 he was one of the crew of a coaster called Diana. At 18 he started fishing in Rye bay and followed that calling until 1940 when he took up wood cutting.”
In 1952, Jimmy was front page news in the Sussex Express because the bonfire was going to be twice the size that year. And the Belfast Telegraph told its readers that as well as faggots, Jimmy was also cutting 400 torch sticks and 100 fire poles.
By 1955 news of Jimmy’s feats had spread further across Britain. The Daily Herald reported that he had been presented with a Toby Jug to mark his 80th birthday and service to the society. He would be taking his usual place in the parade, riding in a boat to the bonfire.
And in December that year, one of Jimmy’s neighbours in Udimore wrote to the Country Diary of the Sussex Express. Mr Osborne had been serving on a ship docked in Dakar, French West Africa (modern day Senegal). When he went ashore and bought a copy of the Cape Argus, which was published in South Africa, he saw a large picture of Jimmy.
Mr Osborne wrote: “The number of times I have seen that bearded face in newspapers abroad is surprising.”