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Colleagues: Jimmy Humphries – Movietone

Rank Laboratories Denham 1967 Movietone

In 1962 Movietonews was established at Rank Laboratories, Denham and had been since December 1961.

About this time, there was an addition to the camera staff at Denham.  Jimmy Humphries, who had been the Movietone cameraman based in New Brighton, had decided he wanted to end his career in or around London.

Jimmy had been base up North for years and it was always a mystery as to why he would transfer to Denham only a few years before retirement.

Paul Wyand loved to tell the story about staying up late listening to the radio when he heard the news that the “Empress of Canada” was on fire lying alongside Gladstone Dock on the Mersey.  He immediately rang Jimmy Humphries.  “Jimmy, the Empress of Canada is on fire”.

What do you mean ?”, said Jimmy.

Look out of your back window” said Paul.

He held on.  A moment later Jimmy returned to the phone “Bloody Hell, it’s on fire from end to end – I’m off”.  He got an exclusive coverage.  The first shot he took was from his back window.  Those were the days when the newsreel cameramen were the journalists.

Jimmy Humphries was the Movietonews cameraman based in New Brighton.  I believe that he took over there from Jack (J.L) Ramsden (affectionately known as “t’old lad”), who came to London when war started and became a war correspondent cameraman. Ramsden then returned to Soho, first, as Production Manager and then as Editor.  Jack Ramsden died in 1968.

SS Flying Enterprise

Jimmy Humphries would regularly turn in news stories from the north-west.  He was among the cameramen assigned to the story of The Flying Enterprise.   This was a story concerning the foundering ship that took a long time to sink.  Cameramen were rotated on the accompanying tugs and Humphries, together with Hilton Craig, were in a small boat that went out to meet Captain Carlsson and Englishman Captain Dancy, who had boarded the sinking vessel to try to take it in tow.

In 1961, when I returned to Movietone from a period in Australia, I met Jimmy for the first time.  I was Assignments Manager then and, of course, assigned him all of his jobs over the next four years.  From time to time, he would accompany us to our daily lunch, first at “The Ferryboat Inn” on the road to Harefield by the River Colne and later at “The Swan” in Denham Village.

I never understood the reason that he relinquished his post in New Brighton to work in Denham so close to his retirement, perhaps it was a personal or family matter.  When I went with the camera crew to film the 1961 Grand National, we were welcomed there by Jimmy.  He had booked our hotel, acted as host on a nearby pitch and putt course where we played a form of golf  all morning.  In the evening before the big race, he invited us to his club which was under the arches alongside “The Cavern”.  It was a riotous evening and well remembered.  It must have been shortly after that he went south where we found him at Denham.

It is all a long time ago but the only job I can specifically remember assigning Jimmy to was to cover the showing of the first wooden indoor athletics track in Britain, the story was called “Winners On Wood”.  This was temporarily constructed in the Car Park alongside The Empire Pool at Wembley.  The reason that it is difficult to remember individual assignments is because I was handling around ten a day. I believe that running track is still in use in Birmingham.

I have a staff list of January 1964 and he does not appear on it, indicating that, by then, he had retired.  Jimmy died around 1965.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2011.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For more articles in the Colleagues series click here.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. I remember Jimmy very well from the Grand National Days

    December 2, 2011

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