Motorcyclist, rock climber, electrician, occasional inventor – Keswick man Jimmy Pritt loved nothing better than an adrenaline rush in a jam-packed life.
It was rather against character that it ended peacefully, when he passed away at Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle on Tuesday 21st April 2020, aged 80.
Jimmy was born and brought up in Workington and when he was barely into his teens he developed an interest in racing bikes. The mid to late 1960s was littered with big-name bikers, such as former world champion Phil Read and the flamboyant Bill Ivy, and Jimmy raced against these and other superstars of the sport all over the UK and at the Isle of Man TT.
His favourite track was Oulton Park in Cheshire – “great bends, lots of interest” – but it might have been more because he had one of his most spectacular crashes there. “I came off at this sweeping corner doing about 140mph,” he recalled. “I must have bounced five times and skidded a hundred yards before I crashed into some straw bails. My helmet was dented but my head was just about all right.”
And he was a demon rider on his ‘home’ track at Silloth where, because he knew every bump and dip, “he was incredibly fast” according to friends.
He was also a rock climber, scaling cliffs such as Gable Crag on Great Gable, Shepherd’s Crag in Borrowdale and Dow Crag in Coniston. However, the climb that gave him the most pleasure took place right in the centre of Keswick.
“We were doing some rewiring at the old courthouse (in Bank Street, now a JD Wetherspoon pub) and I thought it’d be a crack to climb onto the roof – a rock climb – and not bother with ladders,” he said. “I remember sitting up there watching the world go by eating my sandwiches for lunch. Those were the days.”
Jimmy was seldom lost for words, but on one memorable occasion he became tongue-tied at just the wrong time. Back in the late-1950s he was strolling down Keswick’s Market Square when the familiar gait of a big man walking towards him caught his eye. It was Hollywood actor John Wayne, of all people, who was staying at Armathwaite Hall.
“I did a double take,” Jimmy said. “Then I said to him, are you John Wayne?” The ‘Duke’ nodded and answered: “That’s me, fella.”
Jimmy was dumbstruck: “I wanted to ask for his autograph but no words came out. He said ‘nice to meetcha’ or something like that and walked on.”
Tribute by Jimmy’s friend Clive Hutchby