A TRIBUTE TO JIM CRAIG 1947 - 2001
My memories of Jim are of a kind considerate devoted husband and father who crammed into his relatively short life more than some people can only dream of. He was always willing to help, arranging field trips, accompanying groups, identifying fossils and my home was very often a Bed and Breakfast for non-paying guests! His fight against Cancer was very tough, but he was so brave (I can't say the same for me), so uncomplaining and just took it all in his stride. He never gave up that fight and took every medication and treatment that could give him even the slightest chance of prolonging his life. His only concern was always how the family would cope? the answer is not too well. I lost a wonderful man on 24 th September 2001 but he will always be with me, our love is too deep for us ever to be separated. Such a dreadful waste of knowledge, particularly in the “Fossilling” Field where his work had to be left incomplete. I only hope that there are others to carry on where Jim left off. His website will be a lasting memory of the excellent work he did do, and my personal memories are locked in my heart forever. For the purpose of this magazine I shall relate a few amusing stories as I did not want to write about my feelings and emotions as I am sure you have all suffered similar tragedies at some time or the other and know exactly how I am feeling at this present time. In the early days when Jim did not have a car, I remember him getting up at some unearthly hour, walking down to the “Greasy spoon café”, sometimes in atrocious weather conditions, for breakfast then onto a train to some remote spot to collect fossils, arriving back in the dark having found a small fragment or sometimes nothing, but had had a wonderful day. His enthusiasm for his hobby never waned. We met at a pub in Chatham and he was probably the first “gentleman” I had been out with, I was 19 at the time. I know what the attraction was (picture the scene) there was I long blonde hair, in a purple satin mini skirt which barely covered my bottom with matching suede choker, purple tights with diamonds down the side and white shoes! As far as I was concerned I was the “Bees Knees” - I am pleased to say that my dress sense has improved over the years! Bearing in mind that I was a true “Swampy” having only crossed the Kingsferry bridge on a few occasions and here was Jim asking my mum's permission to hitch hike around the continent which we successfully did on two successive years, travelling to Belgium , Germany , Austria , Italy and Switzerland . We did not escape a few hairy moments during these trips. One old man in Germany who we had met in a village pub invited us to stay at his house for the night – We normally slept out in the open, under some motorway bridge with two sleeping bags and sometimes even the luxury of a tent. The old man being somewhat under the influence of alcohol then led us along this dimly lit lane to his house. En route the old man fell straight into a dry ditch lined with corrugated iron. After a lot of clanking and grunting, Jim succeeded in getting him out and safely into his bed. There was also the lady in a very fast sports car who reached down to hand us a peach, veered across the road and we ended up missing a brick wall by a couple of inches. There was also the Lorry Driver and a Car Driver who thought I might come as part of the payment!! When we married in February 1974 we honeymooned in Lyme Regis (a favourite collecting place for Jim) but unfortunately we both had the flu and had to stay in bed most of the week! Jim particularly enjoyed his time with the children when they were small, he taught them to read before they went to school and was the first to change out of his suit as soon as he got home and take them to the park. Our two trips to Florida and Disneyworld were very exciting particularly for Jim as the higher the rides, the faster and scarier they were the better. Luckily both children shared his love, but I sat on the sidelines a real “scaredy cat” When Christmas was approaching there was the shopping for gifts. For some reason the children always chose to go with their Dad. Dad was the generous one who would not just buy a Hi-Fi it would have to be the top of the range Hi-Fi where I would shop for the bargains and return with a Hi-Fi that did the job, I thought just as efficiently, and cost half the price, but Jims was a Sanyo and mine would be a Currys own make! I would also only come home with a handful of presents Jim would come home with bagfuls! One of us had to be a little sensible with money! On one occasion Jim was sitting happily in a quarry, completely alone when he noticed coming towards him in the distance a tall, long-legged female in stilettos and incredibly short skirt (not exactly the type of attire worn in a quarry!) As she approached and began to talk to Jim about fossils and his finds he realized quite quickly by the very gruff voice that this was not a female but a male transvestite fossil collector who was very honest about himself/herself. Its probably the nearest he has ever come to meeting the woman of his dreams ie a Nymphomaniac Palaeontologist! something he always teased me about and the only reason he would ever leave me would be if he met one – luckily he didn't! More work related, Jim had a major presentation to do to 100s of people at a large Banquet in London . He worked hard on his speech, me being the judge and on the day set off with his Briefcase with the speech, neatly typed, and safely in his briefcase, or so he thought. When the time came for Jim to stand up, the first page went perfectly but on turning over he realised that he had run off two copies of page 1 and page 2 was missing . From this point he adlibbed, but the initial shock was one of sheer panic! When we purchased our current house “Toliapicus” as you may or may not know which translated means “from the Isle of Sheppey” (guess who named the house?) we moved just prior to Christmas. Jim had to fly off on business a couple of days before the move. Anyone who has ever seen Jim's collection will know that at this stage most of his study would have been packed and ready for the move – but no. He was due home at 7.30 pm the evening before and he would do it then! The next evening the night before the move I received a call from Jim saying I am in Bournemouth and my car is at Gatwick. Through gritted teeth I asked why? apparently there had been a fire at Gatwick and the plane could not land and he was waiting for the fire to be put under control before he was able to fly back to Gatwick to pick up his car. I believe he arrived home at about 2am , guess who had to start packing the fossils. The move went unbelievably well surprisingly enough.
On a more personal note, we had some very memorable holidays. On our 20 th Wedding Anniversary, I was surprised by a trip to Paris, I had no idea but time off had been arranged with my Boss, the flights were all booked and a trip out for a meal ended up at Gatwick Airport followed by a trip to the Moullin Rouge on our actual Anniversary.On our 25 th Wedding Anniversary we spent a week in St Lucia, had our own personal guide around the island and then on the actual day flew in a six-seater plane across Union Island, being absolutely petrified of flying I was very apprehensive but it was a wonderful experience. As a lasting memory of Jim, although we all have them in our minds, I have offered to pay for a garden to be created outside Harvey Ward in Gillingham , where Jim received most of his treatment. It will hopefully be dedicated to Jim and will be for patients, visitors and staff to sit and relax rather than sitting around a hospital bed which is always very depressing to both patient and visitors. Because of Jim's love of nature I thought this a very fitting tribute. I hope this will be something people can enjoy for many years to come. The Nurses in Harvey Ward are so dedicated to their work and for me, personally and certainly for Jim, the National Health Service is second to none if you are really ill. It is just a little thank you for the wonderful care given to Jim during his many stays over the past two years, they became friends not just nurses. I have been informed that their is a Fossil Crab being named after him ie Craigi and also a palaeontology book being dedicated to him that would have delighted him and in turn has delighted me.
I would like to finish by thanking Fred, Mick and Tony for your contact with Jim whilst he was ill, for the cards received (over 200 in all) and for not only your incredible hard work in helping me with the distribution of Jim's collection to good homes but for your continued support to me, I could not have managed without you.
I myself am coping OK but have decided to consult a professional and see a Bereavement Counsellor as although Jim's illness went on for such a long time and the end was inevitable, when you have loved somebody for 30 years it is so difficult to prepare yourself. My life has to move on and one day, my children have promised me, I will find happiness again, because that is what Jim would have wanted for me, but Jim will never leave me our bond is too strong.