It was with great sadness we learnt that JR Dawson had passed away this week. JR was a phenomenal volunteer, a friend to many people and the original face of the original Calne Community Hub. He will be greatly missed by us all.
In tribute to JR we would like to re-run an article originally written in 2014 by local volunteer reporter – Mary Waters.
People often say that if you want something done then you should ask a busy person. Well, if you want something done in Calne you could do worse than ask JR Dawson.
You may know JR from a plethora of activities: Am Dram; The Lions – Father Christmas etc. etc. but when I chatted to him I wanted to know how he ended up being the ‘face’ of the Calne Community Hub and working there three days a week. So, how did he end up in Calne doing all this voluntary work?
JR was born in Darlington but moved to London at an early age. He had a rather enterprising father who had many businesses and had in fact helped set up the association that promotes and sets standards for Master Locksmiths. JR was a normal teenager; self-confessed Goon show and music fan but when his dad decided he should join the army JR rebelled and started mixing with Bohemians in London. Bohemians were artists who spent a lot of time talking in bars and were quite a tourist draw in those days. JR said that, ‘The tourists would talk, ask what we did and buy us drinks.’ However, when the Hippy movement started he became disillusioned ‘All the hippies wanted was to cadge drinks; they had no tales to tell.’ Tourists soon lost interest and the bohemians moved to Cornwall; visit St Ives and you can see their legacy.
Meanwhile, JR’s father brought another hardware shop in London and decided that JR should run it. JR married, had two daughters and his parents decided to move back to Darlington. JR took over the shop and became a Master Locksmith.
In 1978, after his first marriage broke up JR met his wife, Sally, who was originally from Devizes. When they had their first daughter they decided that London had changed and that they would look for somewhere safer to bring up their family. They visited Wiltshire often to see family in Devizes and decided to settle in Calne. ‘That was in 1988,’says JR, ‘and I have loved it ever since.’
For a while JR stayed in London, coming to Calne every weekend. It wasn’t easy to start a new business in Calne at that time and he gained some work as a screen printer. Then in 2000 thrombosis hit JR and he became registered disabled and was unable to stand, or sit for long and decided to take early retirement. What next? JR said he decided he would not, ‘Sit around all day,’ and looked for volunteering opportunities.
A local councillor had seen a lantern parade at an international sports event and decided this may be something that would work in Calne. JR agreed and joined the Calne Community Area Partnership (CCAP) and helped set up the hugely successful annual carnival and lantern parade. Later, he became Vice Chair in the CCAP for a while and decided to assist with the Calne Hub, which had not been hugely successful so far.
JR had the energy, drive and enthusiasm to offer his time, with regular opening hours and helped involve local groups, agencies and organisations. ‘It’s been a great success,’ he says, with some well-deserved pride.
At the end of our main discussion JR also mentioned he had lived in Paris for a while and this opened up a whole new conversation about his experiences. He earned a living by painting in Paris; worked as a Roadie for a group called, ‘World War 3’, did locksmith work for celebrities such as the Beatles, Bros, and the actor, Lesley Phillips. Oh, and there was the time Santana asked him to be his roadie. He said no, ‘If I’d known they would last as long as they did I would have been set up for life,’ he said with a wry smile, though, no evidence of regret.
I told JR he should write a book about his life; a small article like this can barely do justice to such a wealth of experience. Did he miss it? No. ‘Life is just nice now,’ he said. ‘No more itchy feet.’
What a nice man, he is so happy with his wife, his four daughters and the life he leads. What a busy man! ‘Things keep coming in that I want to do,’ he said.
I have a feeling that many people have many reasons to be very thankful for JR coming to settle in Calne.
(Mary Waters 2014)