Jimmy Savile dead: Sir Jim fixed it for me – a tribute by James Saville (No Relation)
When he found out there was a journalist with the same name as him, his eyes lit up like Christmas
I first met him when working as a local reporter for the Bucks Herald while he was doing charity work at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
And when he found out there was a journalist with the same name as him, his eyes lit up like Christmas.
He grabbed me round the arm, hoiked me towards him, stuck a big fat cigar in my face… and the image was plastered embarrassingly on the front page of that week’s edition.
Sunday Mirror news editor James Saville, above
On the plus side, he became the best contact I could wish for, almost using me as a way to get his wacky latest projects or views on the local health services into the press.
He even put a good word in for me with a national newspaper reporter, to start me on the way to Fleet Street.
But despite this, he was a fascinating character to be around.
Although having no family, never marrying and forever grieving the death of his mother, he treated the world as if it was his family.
I was often unsure whether some of the weird and wonderful things he would come out with were fact or fiction.
It’s hard to remember them all.
He invented the disco. He was a professional wrestler. He had run 217 marathons. He had his own suite at Broadmoor Hospital.
He was blessed by the Pope and had a conversation with him in fluent Italian.
He also once told me that if I ever got in any trouble, then he knew “some very bad people who should be able to put whoever it is in hospital”.
One thing was for certain, his extraordinary work for charity was very real.
He single-handedly raised £10m to build a spinal injuries centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. He also did huge amounts of work for the Princes Trust and, as a result, became friends with royalty.
Once he told me an amazing story about how he was personally asked by the Queen to act as peacemaker to Prince Charles and Diana after their marriage hit the rocks.
I honestly wouldn’t be surprised.
He was so close to Charles that he would invite him to his Glencoe home in Scotland.
Once he hired three beautiful waitresses to serve them dinner, one wearing “H” on her pinny, another “R” and the last “H”, to spell out His Royal Highness.
He was amazing during his rounds on hospital wards, with a genuine passion to make sick people feel better.
Once I went with him to cheer up an 18-year-old lad who had just woken up to find out he’d never walk again after a car accident.
And he just seemed to know exactly what to say.
Always full of jokes, he was one of the quickest-wits you could meet.
And his lust for life knew no bounds.
Only last year he was telling me how he planned to get back on Top of the Pops.
He had a love for Rolls Royces (he once owned three) and Cuban cigars (he used to brag he was the only person allowed to smoke on hospital wards) yet you’d more likely see him jogging down the street in a garish tracksuit and wrap-around shades.
Because he was a rich man who had never been married his private life was always looked on with raised-eyebrows.
Sir Jim once told me a newspaper put “a team” on him for a year to find skeletons in his closet.
He met the Editor at a party, who told him: “You are a hard man to catch, Jim.”
He replied: “Then don’t go fishing in an empty lake.”
I shall have happy memories of him leading a whole restaurant of people on a spontaneous conga out of the door and around the streets.
And that’s how I’d like to remember him.
Long live Sir Jim.