In Memoriam: Richard James

Richard passed away peacefully at his home with his wife, family and friends around him on Tuesday 7th July; he had been suffering from Renal Cancer for around 10 years.

I was asked to write a few words about Richard. We have known each other for nearly thirty years; he was my closest friend. Although Richard was born in Somercotes in Derby, for many years he lived (with his beloved wife of many years Pauline) in the rural village of Clayton, near Doncaster, where he was a popular and well known figure; Richard became an adopted Yorkshireman, both geographically and in attitude terms!

Richard, as most people who knew him will be aware, was also subject to a significant congenital spinal deformity which, during his formative years, required extensive surgical intervention. This impacted on all areas of his life, particularly his education, and resulted in his deciding “enough was enough” after numerous operations. (Richard did tell me that that he would have been five feet eight tall if it had all worked out!).

Richard did not let this serious problem hold him back, however, and he became a very successful business man with his company, Galglass, doing business all over the World. (He was also much loved by his staff, as the eulogy read out at his funeral by his friend and work colleague Jonathan Smith evidenced)

I first got to know Richard and Pauline through a mutual interest in breed dogs, where we exhibited our German Shepherds at shows around the UK.  Richard and Pauline were pretty successful, particularly with their male Kemjon Putz of Richline and, later, their homebred female, Champion Ritchline Fanta (Jo).

Richard was also deeply involved in the working dog sport now known as IPO; This began in the UK in 1990, and Richard was involved from the very beginning, being a founder member of the White Rose club, which I joined shortly afterwards.

With people like Don Harrison, Jim Jackson, Phil Kenyon, Pat Woods and plenty of other committed and able trainers the club was extremely successful, both at club and at national level, winning many major events. There were also some memorable trips to Europe to meet fellow enthusiasts, where a great deal was learnt, and lifelong friendships made; Pauline has indeed received messages of condolence from all over the world in the last few days.

Richard was the heartbeat of this club, and it remains successful and prospers; I am sure that, although Richard will be sadly missed, the club will continue to do well with a new generation (Nick and Kev) at the helm.

Richard was also individually extremely successful in this sport with many dogs, winning the British National Championship on 2 occasions with his beloved Jet, whom he “borrowed” from his close friend Caroline Robertson. Richard, additionally, competed twice at the WUSV World Championship with Jet, and attended again in 2009 with Jake. Richard, Don Harrison, Dougie Bannerman and I had a great time attending the WUSV World Championships in 2004 in Holland. The team had a great spirit of comradeship and support, and consequently qualified well. I think that current aspirants to such competitions from the UK would do well to look back and take heed of this.

Richard also served with distinction as chairman of the then National Organisation (the BSA) and, latterly, on the Executive of the GSDL (working Group). He became a Judge in the sport. It is a measure of the man that he continued with all this whilst suffering from the deadly disease noted above, with which he was first diagnosed in 2005, and has fought so bravely these last 10 years. I consider Richard the outstanding personality to emerge within the sport in the UK, a man of the highest morals and integrity who was, additionally, always ready to help anyone.

Some of my fondest memories of Richard involve his ironic and often dry sense of humour. In the early days at White Rose, he had a dog, Dino, which, to his credit, he managed to qualify to SCH 3, and also represented England at the four nations “international” in Ireland. This dog was pretty crazy, however; it used to require my attendance at the vet whenever the dog needed treatment; Richard wasn’t heavy enough to hold him down, and the dog always wanted to eat the vet! Richard always used to say he had the proud distinction to be the only person to be disqualified in the obedience phase of a national competition, due to the Judge being snarled at by a dog!  Dino was the nosiest dog in a car I can ever remember, driving Richard round the bend and resulting in numerous complex mechanical attempts to deal with this. This did not help Richard’s tendency to drive frighteningly fast however; He was always 2 points away from a Ban!

Richard was always a GSD man. I remember one time, when watching the performance of a Doberman (endearing and amusing as they are) he remarked “I wouldn’t have one of those things if it could drive me home” a true spit your coffee out one liner!

Richard’s sense of humour, hope and bravery I believe stood him in good stead throughout his illness; we have laughed out loud at some very bizarre things over the last few years. He was a man who, throughout his life, never had the fortune of good health, so to be struck down as he was would be considered by many to be a very cruel blow indeed. Richard, however, would have said, reflectively, that he was a lucky man, as if he had been born in Africa, he wouldn’t even have lived out of his childhood.

Tragically, Richard did not beat cancer; he did, however, fight it with great personal courage, energy, stoicism and pragmatism. I like to think, and I hope to some degree that this is also some comfort to Pauline, his family and friends, that Richard, in the end, did manage to beat the long, lingering and undignified end that I am aware was the only thing he truly feared; he passed, with his dignity intact, mercifully quickly in his own home, which is what he wanted.

Richard was a well loved, respected husband and friend, as the attendance at his funeral and subsequent moving tributes attest. He was also a committed family man; although he and Pauline did not have children, the personal eulogy of his friend and neighbour Malc at his funeral evidence this far more effectively than anything I could write, and my son, Jamie, will always remember the support and guidance Richard offered him over many years.

For me personally, when I reflect on what constitutes a remarkable or great man, money, power or position count for little. A man like Richard, however, who overcomes the enormous barriers life placed in front of him, and goes on to achieve what he did, absolutely deserves to be considered worthy of such an accolade. Richard was unique and truly remarkable man; we will sorely miss him.

Chris Bows