Dapper snapper Dick Jeeves, my friend, showed the footballers a thing or two about charm
PUBLISHED: 17:38 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:38 04 October 2019
Keith Skipper shares memories of his old friend Dick Jeeves, who has died, aged 89
Pictures from the past invariably creep out of my memory box as telling reminders of people and places I knew and admired during testing early chapters of a lengthy Norfolk adventure story.
Dick Jeeves, who died recently at 89, was the first press photographer to show me how to combine straightforward newsgathering with joyful faces, sunlit acres, rural defiance and unwavering faith in truly local values.
I started my reporting career in fast-changing Thetford during the autumn of 1962. I had travelled to grammar school in Swaffham for seven years before receiving what many friends dubbed "a foreign posting" to a town I had never visited.
It came as a big shock to my country-boy system and I suspect Jim Wilson and John Kitson, my initial mentors in how to cope with an overspill of drastic alterations, wondered how many editions of the Thetford and Watton Times I could survive in a strange land.
The arrival of photographer Dick from Norwich headquarters to chase up a list of illustrations to go with topical stories brought a measure of much-needed solace and precious evidence of traditional countryside virtues defying the charge of change beyond trees, heaths and headlands.
He found scope on his weekly visit for the odd Breckland ramble when I joined him to take in the delights of uplifting spots like East Wretham, Hockwold, Kilverstone, Shadwell, Santon Downham, Weeting and West Harling.
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Muddy track to a lonely farm, forest worker munching sandwiches under a beanpole pine, postman pedalling in time with his whistling or village churchyard bathed in flowers set Dick's creative juices flowing.
Retirement parties and golden and diamond weddings found him masquerading as a proud family member recording for posterity. He advised me strongly to make sure all salient details were tucked away in a notebook before accepting invitations to indulge in a glass of homemade wine.
We mulled over eye-watering memories of some of those potent celebratory brews I sampled when we teamed up to cover Norwich City away matches many autumns later. Thwaites Ale on a wet night in Burnley and a rather peculiar mild beer whose name I can't remember in Stoke seemed a bit tame in comparison.
I reminded Dick several times how our Breckland safaris helped restore my confidence in Norfolk's ability to cling on to vital characteristics despite growing pains set in motion by Thetford's call to Londoners and an emerging fashion to see this region as ripe for massive development.
Dick's 40 years on pictorially poetic missions for the EDP and associated papers yielded a rich and important harvest of vibrant images sliding into history across fields, lanes, hamlets and ponds still out of reach of sprawling estates and roaring traffic.
His matinee idol looks and sartorial style certainly put scruffy reporters to shame. Yet a quiet and unflustered approach to all manner of jobs made him the ideal companion over a pint to put the world in a more gentle perspective.
Dick would chortle gently at epithets such as "dapper snapper" but I can't argue too fiercely against suggestions he might have been this area's "poster boy" in a golden era of local press photography. I worked alongside a host of endearingly idiosyncratic characters providing pictures to go with my freshly-minted paragraphs on weekly journals, including Brian Smith and freelance Ronnie Newell in East Dereham and Les Gould and his freelance son Ivan in Great Yarmouth Other areas were served just as effectively by faithful servants like Norman Taylor (North Norfolk), Alfred Lovett (Lowestoft) and John Hocknell (King's Lynn). Chief photographers Don Rudd, known invariably as "Chiefie", and Tony Kemp along with EDP picture editor Terry Hutson, kept paternal eyes on it all from Norwich. I renewed old friendships and forged new ones with the camera corps in Norwich during my seasons as Canaries football correspondent. Dick Jeeves was often present home and away poised to capture big moments in league and cup fixtures. Perhaps his measured approach, smart manners and easy smile would have proved handy on the pitch now and again. You don't get booked for charm, sent off for being polite or lose any points for showing pleasure in your work.
A celebration of Dick's life will be held at Greenacres Colney Wood on Friday, October 11 at 11am before a private cremation. Afterwards, family and friends are invited to the Fat Cat pub in Norwich for a pint.