The founder of Docklands Ancestors, James Legon, died on 17 September 2008.
Those of you who have accessed our web site recently will already be aware of this, but for many other subscribers, this will be the first they have heard of this sad news.
We are all still in a state of shock. Despite the fact that James had been quite seriously ill since his heart attack on 30 April, it is difficult to comprehend the fact that he has actually died. James was only 47, and we have lost him far too early.
It's Esme, here, writing and that in itself is just so unbearably poignant.
It's James who writes the newsletters ! James, not me !
And what wonderful newsletters they were too.
So many of you have written, over the years, to say how much you enjoyed James' ‘ramblings from the shed'. And, you know what, those ‘ramblings' were pretty much how James actually was. You were getting the real James in those communications. He loved all you guys who shared his enthusiasm for family History, and he wrote to you, his cyber friends, just the same way he wrote (and spoke) to his actual (?) friends.
The ParishRegister.com Team want to thank you most sincerely for all your messages of concern and support over these last few months. Our customers, and particularly you subscribers to the newsletter, are very important to us all. And so, although this is difficult and painful, we want to tell you a bit more about James, and write about the last few months and include a bit about the future.
James was an absolute one off. Despite being tall, and a bit scary looking, he was actually a quiet man, with a number of enthusiasms and interests which were very important to him. He knew what he wanted; he knew what made him happy and he just quietly went about doing the stuff he enjoyed. He didn't make a big song and dance about things, just did what he wanted to do, and as his brother, Jonathan said at the celebration of James' life, he did it his way. Because he could be pretty single minded in doing what he wanted to do, there was sometimes, erm, the odd bit of fallout (well, okay, carnage) left in his wake. However, amazingly (and he was proud of this fact) he managed to stay friends with absolutely everybody. No doubt there were many reasons for this happy state of affairs, but one of them I think was that James was probably the least judgmental person I ever met. I never once heard him tell anybody else how to live their lives.
James packed an awful lot into his life
His early adult life was spent firstly training to be a chef (more on this later), and then latterly climbing the management pole in a well known UK supermarket company. In between the cooking and the retailing, he was employed by a bank for a couple of years, and also picked up some gardening skills by working for our local council. Additionally, at some point, he somehow fell into a small part time job doing the books for a national but locally located Buddhist bookseller.
He still had this accountancy job at his death, but about 10 years ago, he decided to leave his main management job, and follow his heart, by doing what he wanted to do. This took a lot of courage, and of course, among other things had the (expected) result of substantially reducing his income. But it was not a decision he ever regretted.
So what were the activities and interests that James pursued ?
Well, you subscribers already know about at least two of them.
James was a very knowledgeable and keen gardener, and yes, in addition, he was absolutely besotted with everything to do with Family History.
Through these pursuits he managed to earn a bit of money, and very important for James - earn money while doing things that he really enjoyed. Perfect !
The enthusiasm for Family History, of course, sprang partly from the enjoyment researching his own ancestors gave him, but it also fitted well with his interest in History generally. James was a great reader, and it was always, always a history book that he had his nose in. At a pinch, any history book would do, I kid you not - I still remember his cries of delight when he found a biography of Lord Birkenhead in a bookcase in my house. However, he particularly liked books on the East End of London and Military history.
He must have read every single book ever written on people like Churchill and Nelson. I'm sure you already know - he surely told you in one newsletter or another!, that one of his ancestors was on Nelson's side and another was with Napoleon.
James was also a very keen cook. And because of his training while still a teenager, he knew his stuff. He liked nothing better than to produce a roast dinner of a Sunday. He always took great care over cooking the meat, but his real speciality was the accompanying vegetables. Typically he would put 4, 5, 6 different vegetable dishes on the table. And what wonderful dishes they were, since he delighted in using different herbs and spices. Ever since I tasted his braised celery, I've been attempting to reproduce it (without success - I think there must have been a secret ingredient that he kept to himself).
Another of James' interests was walking. He liked to get his maps out and devise the most interesting route from A to B. Among other routes, he walked frequently in Epping Forest, along the Lee Valley, through Tower Hamlets, and along the Thames as far as Hampton Court. A few months before his heart attack he had organized, and started publicizing a walk along the River Lee to the Thames (Big River Walk) to be undertaken to help a charity for the Deaf. (James' daughter, Talisa has impaired hearing).
Despite his fear of heights, James also loved hill climbing. His brother, William runs a small business offering guided walks and climbs, and James occasionally joined his brother for weekends in the Lake District. Talisa would sometimes go with her father, and this was a delight for James. He would return, glowing with pride, at the way his lovely daughter had out walked and out climbed everyone else in William's group.
The last few months
On 30 April, James had a massive heart attack.
He was lucky to survive. The superb skill and expertise of the doctors at the London Chest Hospital (in Bethnal Green) saved him. But he survived as a semi invalid with a heart that was 70% dead / damaged.
From the beginning of May onwards he has been receiving wonderful medical treatment. James, himself, paid tribute to the NHS in his July newsletter, and Yvonne, his wife [now his widow] is also full of praise for the doctors and nurses who treated him.
He was in hospital until the middle of July, then home for a bit, then back in hospital awaiting an operation.
On the 8 September, he had this necessary operation on his heart; the aim was to remodel the left ventricle and replumb various other bits. He survived this operation, (there was only a 80% chance of this), and seemed initially to be recovering well. Then, on 17 September, there was a crisis. James was taken back to surgery, the doctors did their best, but James died.
This has been a catastrophic shock to all of us.
Celebration of James' Life
The celebration of James' life at Forest Park Cemetery on Thursday 25 September was a very moving occasion.
We were a motley crew. As well as family and neighbours, there were old school friends, Loughton Gardens customers, friends from Wisdom Books, and Family History colleagues.One of our UK DA transcriber, Anne Marie, also came. James' 2 special drinking buddies turned up, as well as the manager of his local Off Licence (!) and his accountant (!)
The family had chosen three pieces of music. We entered the meeting room to the sound of Annie Lennox singing the song ‘Into the West', from the Lord of the rings.
Midway through the proceedings we listened to Rod Stewart singing ‘Sailing'.
And the celebration ended with ‘Parisienne Walkways' by Thin Lizzy
Well, now, there's something you probably didn't know about the boy !
James was actually an enthusiastic bilingual Francophile. I never got round to ever asking him why, but I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that the French put a lot of emphasis on good food ! James' mother lived for many years in France, and (unconnected) James' first wife, Isabelle, is French. Add in the fact that a trip to France for James involved boats and water, and maybe you will understand why he was such a frequent visitor!
At the celebration, both of his brothers, Jonathan and William, spoke very eloquently, and shared with us some of their memories of James. William also read out a letter written by James' son (James Junior) and a family friend read out a poem jointly chosen by James' mother and Jonathan.
The loss of James is a tragedy for his family and Simon and I (the two non family members of the DA Team) send our heartfelt condolences to;
Yvonne, his widow
his two beautiful children, James Junior and Talisa
Isabelle, his first wife
his brothers, Jonathan and William
and last but not least
to his parents, James Senior and Shirley.
The future for Docklands Ancestors and ParishRegister.com
To be frank, James was Docklands Ancestors and ParishRegister.com. He set up both. And both were based on his enthusiasm, his all encompassing knowledge of the field and his incredibly hard work over the years. Until his heart attack he was working, (as he always had), many more hours every week than is legally permitted, on this, his third baby.
He is irreplaceable.
Yvonne, his widow, has always had a full time job elsewhere. (Someone in the Legon household had to earn some reliable money!) She has, however, vowed that the company will continue.
Docklands Ancestors and ParishRegister.com are James' legacy. Starting from nothing, James has put together a body of work encompassing both Tower Hamlets Parish registers and Company of Watermen & Lightermen records that is immensely valuable. The family are very proud of his achievements, and, indeed have been involved all along. (William told a funny story at the celebration about his clever big brother James taking advantage of his little brother's financial naivety and successfully touching him for funds way back at the beginning.)
James' book, ‘My Ancestors were Thames Watermen' stands as a testament to James' research and knowledge in this area. He himself was immensely proud of having written and got this book published.
Yvonne, and other members of the Legon family, are determined to ensure that James' legacy does not die. To this end, Jonathan, James' brother, has agreed to help keep things going by becoming the part time Managing Director.
Indeed, it has been Yvonne and Jonathan who have been running the company over the months of James' illness. And, I'm pleased to tell you that they've even managed to produce a couple of new CDs. Yvonne is so proud to be able to announce that the following are now available.
Volume 57: St Mary, Whitechapel; Baptism Registers 1758-1774
And Volume 58: St Dunstan, Stepney; Baptism registers 1770-1798
In the pipeline, and coming shortly will be,
Volume 59: Christ Church, Stepney; Baptisms Registers 1842-1860
And Volume 60: All Saints, Mile End; Baptism Registers 1840-1880
It is too early to say yet how much progress we can make with James' dream of transcribing all of Tower Hamlets Parish Registers, never mind the whole of London's but, even if progress now has to be slower than before, it is Yvonne's intention to realize that dream.
This has been a very sad task for me, writing this newsletter.
James, my boy, my wonderful boy, your boy, the boy. Part angel and part complete scallywag.
James often used to end his newsletters with a quote from LOTR, didn't he?
As it happens, about 18 months ago, in a conversation about funerals, James identified some words that he wanted read at his.
You'll be pleased to know that his brother, Jonathan, did just that, and you'll not be the least bit surprised to learn that the quote James chose was from LOTR.
Here it is;
Home is behind. The world ahead
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadow, to the edge of night,
Till the stars are all alight.
Mist and shadow, cloud and shade,
All shall fade . . . .
. . . . . . . . all shall fade.
Esme and the ParishRegister.com Team
Goodbye, Jim, I'm weeping now, again.
Compendium 5 http://www.parishregister.com/parish_shop/default.asp?CatID=235&submit.x=37&submit.y=12