Its been some months now since we received our first letter on the subject of the Turners of West Bromwich, a family who many from the town remember ran a dairy farm in the early twentieth century. Many readers in the following weeks sent in their memories of the farm, various members of the family and their subsequent careers, and the responses have continued to trickle in even in recent weeks.
And one member of the Turner family who has been mentioned in several readers letters, as well as a couple of Bugle articles, is James Turner, son of the coal merchant, who became a well-known and highly respected art teacher in his home town. We recently paid Jim a visit at his West Bromwich home, and discovered that although he is now well into his eighties, hes almost as busy now as he was before his retirement - and its art and the creation of it that take up most of Jims time.
He began painting as a child at Guns Village Infants School, and immediately began to win prizes for his efforts; something he continued to do at the Grammar School. A distinction in Art and Architecture at A Level earned Jim a place at St Pauls College in Cheltenham, from where he returned two years on to teach art to the children of his home town - many of whom, we know from recent correspondence, remember him well.
Mr Turner, as his pupils knew him of course, began teaching art at Holy Trinity School, and went on to teach at Hill Top for twenty years.
It was a lovely school, with lovely pupils. he recalls with evident fondness. It was heaven.
Jim taught in the town throughout his career, and retired over twenty years ago in the early eighties, with his love of art far from diminished after a working life devoted to it. In fact, he now found he had the time not only to do more painting, but to begin writing poetry, something he had always wanted to try his hand at. He launched himself into both with some relish, and his output has been, and remains, prolific in both fields.
Ive done hundreds of paintings since I retired; sometimes I do about two a week. Jim told us. Very often Ill stay up and paint at night, if I cant sleep.
The walls of his home are now alive with his favourite works from a lifetime of painting, and many more are stored away due to lack of space. The pictures range from some haunting seascapes from his very early years, through one of Jims favourite subjects, horses, to recreations of the family farm he recalls with such warmth from his childhood. He knocks out copies of famous works for his own enjoyment (such as a convincing replica of a multi-million dollar Picasso) and even does a bit of work for the local community, in the form of artwork for All Saints Church magazine. And he still finds time for poetry.
Jims poems are wide-ranging in their subject matter, inspired by everyday observations, musings on advancing age, laments for times past, and, at their most thought-provoking, by memories of his time with the RAF ground crews, experiences which continue to haunt him today. Some of the poems find an apprecicative audience via the church magazine, while others have had an excellent reception from an American poetry association, who endowed Jim with their Editors Choice award a couple of years ago. A brief selection of his works are reproduced here.
Although hes now in his late eighties, Jim Turner shows no sign of slowing either his artistic or poetic output - even though many of his former pupils are well into retirement themselves!